Saturday, May 2, 2015

Lou Gehrig's 2,130 Consecutive Game Streak Ends May 2, 1939

On This Day in History May 2, 1939: New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig's streak of 2,130 consecutive games played which began on June 1, 1925, came to an end when the ailing slugger removed himself from the lineup. Gehrig was replaced at first base by Babe Dahlgren.

The article Gehrig Voluntarily Ends Streak at 2,130 Straight Games by James P. Dawson from the New York Times dated May 3, 1939 quotes Gehrig:
Gehrig visibly affected explained his decision, quite frankly.
Gehrig and Dahlgren
"I decided last Sunday night on this move," said Lou. "I haven't been a bit of good to the team since the season started. It would not be fair to the boys, to Joe or to the baseball public for me to try going on. In fact, it would not be fair to myself, and I am the last consideration.
"Its tough to see your mates on base, have a chance to win a ball game, and not be able to do anything about it. McCarthy has been swell about it all the time. He'd let me go until the cows came home, he is that considerate of my feelings, but I knew in Sunday's game that I should get out of there. 
"I went up there four times with men on base. Once there were two there. A hit would have won the game for the Yankees, but I missed, leaving five stranded as the Yankees lost. Maybe a rest will do me some good. Maybe it won't. Who knows? Who can tell? I'm just hoping."
It is refreshing to see a professional athlete come right out and say that they can't do it anymore and to continue to do so would provide a disservice to the team and the paying public. It is even more refreshing to read about Gehrig putting everyone ahead of himself which contrasts highly to today's "Me Me Me" environment we find ourselves living it. It makes you wonder how the media would have treated Gehrig's decline in he had played today.

Gehrig would not play another game after his last game on April 30, 1939. Gehrig would be the diagnosed with the disease that would bear his name, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) on June 19th, which was Gehrig's 36th birthday. Gehrig would succumb to the disease less than two years later on June 2, 1941.

The game of Baseball would never be the same.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- The official website for Lou Gehrig
- Lou Gehrig's official statistics from Baseball Reference

Friday, May 1, 2015

Brooklyn Robins vs. Boston Braves Play To A 1-1 Tie May 1, 1920

On This Day in Baseball History May 1, 1920: The Brooklyn Robins (aka Brooklyn Dodgers) play the Boston Braves to a 1-1 tie at Braves Field in Boston. Why is this game significant? Well, the two starters of the game Brooklyn's Leon Cadore and the Braves' Joe Oeschger pitched against each other for 26-innings. Yes, you read that correctly: 26-INNINGS!!!

The game was called at the end of the 26th inning due to darkness. Remember folks, that in 1920 there were still no night games since lights had yet to be installed in Baseball fields. Though the game is considered the longest game in MLB history in terms of innings played, the game pales in comparison to today's games in terms of time. The game took only 3:50 for 26-innings to be played. The Yankees/Red Sox matchups can barely finish a game in nine innings in that short amount of time, let alone squeeze in 26-innings.

I love how the article BROOKLYN AND BOSTON BREAK BIG LEAGUE RECORD BY BATTLING FOR TWENTY-SIX INNINGS from the New York Times dated May 2, 1920 described the game in its first paragraph:
The Robins and the Braves celebrated May Day in this ordinarily peaceful city by staging a prolonged, heart-breaking struggle for twenty-six innings at Braves Field and bombing to bits all major league records for duration of hostilities. When darkness drew its mantle over the scene, forbidding further battle, both teams were still on their feet, interlocked in a death clutch and each praying for one more inning in which to get the knockout blow. 
As far as results in the chase for the pennant go the game was without effect, for the final score was 1 to 1. In the matter of thrills however, the oldest living man can remember nothing like it, nor can he find anything like it in his granddad's diary worth of comparison. Heart disease was the mildest complaint that grasped the spectators as they watched inning after inning slip away and the row of ciphers on the scoreboard began to slip over the fence and reach out into the Fenway. Nervous prostration threatened to engulf the stands as the twentieth inning passed away in the scoreless routine and the word was passed from the knowing fans to those of inferior baseball erudition that the National League record was twenty-two innings, the Robins having beat the Pirates by 6 to 5 in a game of that length played in Brooklyn on August 22, 1917...
Now the old-timers in the stands began to whisper to each other with tense facos that the big-league record was twenty-four innings, established in an American League game in the Hub on Sept. 1, 1906, on which occasion the Athletics downed the Red Sox by a tally of 4 to 1. The Robins and the Braves didn't care. They didn't even know it. They simply went along in their sublime ignorance and tied this record, then smashed it, and by way of emphasis tacked on a twenty-sixth session.
Now that one interesting way to describe this game. There is no way that in today's game we'll see a twenty-six or more inning game, being played in less than four hours WITH both starting pitchers finishing the game. No way. Well, maybe as part of Strat-o-Matic. If any of you out there do it in any gaming platform, let me know.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- The Boxscore of the Brooklyn Robins vs. Boston Braves played on May 1, 1920 from Baseball Reference
- 8 Longest MLB Games Ever Played by Matt Reevy from the Sports Cheat Sheet dated April 14, 2015

Jimmie Foxx Debuts May 1, 1925

On This Day in Baseball History May 1, 1925: At the age of 17, Future Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx makes his debut for the Philadelphia Athletics. In the game against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium, Foxx pinch-hits for pitcher Lefty Grove and has a hit in his first major league at-bat.

Foxx would only appear in 10-games in the 1925 season and play parts of the 1926 and 1927 seasons before becoming a regular player and feared slugger for the A's and the Boston Red Sox.

Here is the boxscore for Jimmie Foxx's debut from the May 2, 1925 edition of the New York Times.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- The Boxscore for the May 1, 1925 matchup of the Philadelphia Athletics and the Washington Senators
- Click here for Jimmie Foxx's career statistics from Baseball Reference
- Jimmie Foxx by John Bennett from the SABR Baseball Biography Project
- Jimmie Foxx page from the National Baseball Hall of Fame website

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Willie Mays Hits Four Round-Trippers In One Game April 30, 1961

On This Day in Baseball History April 30, 1961: Facing the Milwaukee Braves for the third consecutive game and looking down the barrel of an 0-7 slump, San Francisco Giants outfielder Willie Mays broke out of his slump with force. Mays became the ninth player (at the time) to hit four homeruns in one game. In clubbing the Braves with four homeruns, Mays drove in eight runs while homering in the first and third off Lew Burdett, in the sixth off of Seth Morehead and in the eighth inning off of Don McMahon. The opportunity to hit a fifth homerun in the game was oh so close for Mays but he would be stranded on the on-deck circle as the last out of the ninth of at 14-4 game was made by Jim Davenport.

In the article Mays, 0 for 7 Against Braves, Feared Slump Would Continue from the New York Times dated May 1, 1961 was quoted as saying the following of his achievement:
"I don't know what happened to me," he said afterwards. "When the game started, I didn't feel I would come out of my slump. But on my first time at-bat, I was seeing the ball better. No, I didn't use a different bat." 
"When you hit two homers in a game that's something you don't expect anymore," Mays said. "Hitting four is hard to believe!" 
He admitted that he "might have pressed" if he had gotten another time at bat in the ninth, knowing that he could break the record 
No player has ever hit five homeruns in a game. Here is the list of the players (and dates) that hit four homers in a game before and after Willie Mays did it on April 30, 1961
  1. Bobby Lowe (05-30-1894)
  2. Ed Delahanty HOF (07-13-1896)
  3. Lou Gehrig HOF (06-03-1932)
  4. Chuck Klein HOF (07-10-1936)
  5. Pat Seerey (07-18-1948)
  6. Gil Hodges (08-31-1950)
  7. Joe Adcock (07-31-1954)
  8. Rocky Colavito (06-10-1959)
  9. Willie Mays HOF (04-30-1961)
  10. Mike Schmidt HOF (04-17-1976)
  11. Bob Horner (07-06-1986)
  12. Mark Whiten (09-07-1993)
  13. Mike Cameron (05-02-2002)
  14. Shawn Green (05-23-2002)
  15. Carlos Delgado (09-25-2003)
  16. Josh Hamilton (05-08-2012)
The article #TBT: Mays hits 4 home runs in one game by Chris Haft of has a series of anecdotes from some of Mays' teammates at the time including Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda about the four home run game.

Here is the boxscore for the April 30, 1961 game between the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Braves from the New York Times dated May 1, 1961.

With the current power outage in MLB post-PED's, who do you think will be the next player to hit four homeruns in a game. Mike Trout? Nelson Cruz? Giancarlo Santon? We'll have to see if, and when, that happens.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- The Boxscore for the April 30, 1961 matchup between the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Braves from Baseball Reference

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Browns Send 2 Players to Japan As an 'Independence Day' Gesture April 28, 1952

On This Day in Baseball History April 28, 1952: In an interesting (and possibly) first time event between Major League Baseball and the Nippon Professional Baseball League, the St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck sends John Britton Jr., a third baseman and James Newberry a right-handed pitcher to the Hankyu Braves of the Pacific League of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. 

The article Browns Send 2 Players to Japan As an 'Independence Day' Gesture from the New York Times dated April 29, 1952 quotes Browns owner Bill Veeck:
"As Japan gains its independence, as the world's newest Democracy, we of the St. Louis Browns are happy to aid the mutual relations between the United States and Japan by sending two of our American ball players to the Japanese pro leagues. In Japan, as well as in America, baseball is the national game, and we feel this gesture of the part of American baseball will go a long way towards cementing good relations with the Japanese."    
Veeck was always one prone to hyperbole as part of the entertainment side of the game, Perhaps he was sincere in his statement.

What I found curious is why was Abe Saperstein involved in the negotiations. Now I already knew that Saperstein was the owner and coach of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters but the article stated that he was also a stockholder in the St. Louis Browns. After a little research online, I found out something else. Saperstein was the owner of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues. The article Birmingham Black Barons from the Black Past website states:
Photo Courtesy of Agate Type
The Black Barons played in three different Negro Leagues throughout their 40-year baseball career, including the Negro Southern League (1920-1923, 1931-1940), the Negro National League (1924-1930, 1941-1955), and the Negro American League (1956-1960).  In the 1930s, the team was bought by Tom Hayes in Memphis, Tennessee which forced the Black Barons to move back to the Negro Southern League.  However, in 1940, the ownership switched again to Abraham Saperstein, who moved the Black Barons back up to the Negro National League.  Under Saperstein's ownership, the team flourished in the Negro National League, winning three Negro National League pennants.  Much of the credit of the Black Barons' success can be given to all-star pitcher Satchel Paige and rookie outfielder Willie Mays.
Both Britton and Newberry were Negro League veterans who played for the Black Barons. The Baseball Reference Bullpen listings for Jimmy Newberry states:
Jimmy Newberry pitched in the Negro Leagues for 9 seasons, the Manitoba-Dakota League for 3 and the minor leagues for three. He made history, though, as the first black pitcher in Nippon Pro Baseball after World War II. He was briefly the staff ace of the Birmingham Black Barons and was one of the favorite players of owner Abe Saperstein, who often gave him advances on his salary.
In terms of John Britton, his listing on the Baseball Reference Bullpen states:
John Britton was a Negro League infielder for 11 years and played two years in Japan, where he made several notable firsts. He was a third baseman.
There was a mention of both players in September 11, 1952 issue of Jet Magazine under the headline Negros in Japanese League To Return Home stated:
Infielder John Britton and pitcher Jim Newberry, first American Negro players in Japanese professional ball, are slated to return home. Britton, playing third for the Hankyu Braves of the Pacific League, was hitting .320 while Newberry had won 10 and lost 7 games for the same club. Both are St. Louis Browns property.
So how did they do in the Land of the Rising Sun? According to the aforementioned Baseball Reference Bullpen listing for Britton:
Britton went to Nippon Pro Baseball in 1952 along with Jimmy Newberry. He was sent by the St. Louis Browns to the Hankyu Braves, making it the first deal of a MLB team sending players to a team outside of the US or Canada. Britton was the first gaijin in Hankyu club history. He hit .316/.338/.416 in 1952, not almost entirely as a contact hitter. He was the first foreign player ever picked for an All-Star team when he was on the Pacific League squad that year. He finished 5th in the PL in batting average.
Britton slipped in 1953, batting .276/.286/.331 with only 3 walks in 448 plate appearances; he only struck out 13 times, though. That was Britton's final season in professional baseball.
Baseball Reference Bullpen listing for Newberry states:
In 1952, Jimmy was signed by the St. Louis Browns and sold with John Britton to the Hankyu Braves. The first black pitcher in Nippon Pro Baseball since World War II (Jimmy Bonner had played briefly in 1936), he went 11-10 with a 3.22 ERA. He was 9th in the Pacific League in ERA and made the PL All-Star team.
While Britton retired after the 1953 season, Newberry would play for a number of of teams in the Texas minor league system. He would stop playing professional baseball after 1956.

On a side note, the listing for Newberry makes a mention of a ballplayer of the name of Jimmy Bonner who briefly played in Japan in 1936. Bonner played for Dai Tokyo of the JPBL. According to the informative post Jimmy Bonner from the Agate Type blogpage dated October 12, 2014:
Thanks to Rod Nelson, the other day I read this piece by Dexter Thomas, Jr., part of his “Negroes in Tokyo” series.  As it turns out, Jimmy Bonna was really James E. Bonner, a 5’10”, right-handed submarine pitcher who was signed by the Dai Tokyo club of the new Japanese professional league with a great deal of fanfare. He was said in the Japanese press to have gone pro immediately after graduating from middle school, and to have played for the Oakland Oaks of the PCL (though this couldn’t be correct—the Oaks certainly weren’t hiring black players in the 1930s). He had supposedly once struck out 46 batters in three games played over two days, whiffing 22 in one game. 
Unfortunately, Bonner didn’t live up to the hype. He was wild, walking 13 batters in four games, while striking out only two. His final record was 0-1, with a 10.24 ERA—although he did bat .458, 11 for 24 (as a left-handed hitter). Dai Tokyo finished in the cellar, 5-21. He last time up in Japan he tripled but got thrown out at home. He was released on November 18, and left for the United States on the same day. Bonner would never appear in Japan again. The next black American players to join the Japanese league were Johnny Britton and Jimmie Newberry in 1952.
It is amazing to read that a black ballplayer played in the Japanese Leagues a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color line in MLB.

I'm going to post this on the Pro Yakyu community page on Google+ to see if the gals and gents of that community can add anything else to this post.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- EARLY BLACK BALLPLAYERS IN JAPAN from the Agate Type blogpage dated February 20, 2013
Japan’s First Black Baseball Player by Dex Digital from the Negros in Tokyo dated October 7, 2014
- John Britton career statistics from Baseball Reference
- James Newberry career statistics from Baseball Reference
- Jimmy Bonner Bullpen page from Baseball Reference

Monday, April 27, 2015

Week Three Points and Highlights

Week Three of the 2015 season is in the books and here are a few things I came across.

- Nelson Cruz
The other day I posted the following tweet:
I think I have to amend that tweet. With every homerun Nelson Cruz hits, the entire Seattle Mariners team's smiles get bigger and bigger. What a difference a year makes.

Last season I made mention that while I understood why Robinson Cano signed with the Mariners, I questioned the decision since he would not have much in the way of protection in the lineup. Well, things change this season with the offseason signing of Nelson Cruz. Again, what a difference a year makes.

Last season, Cruz signed for a budget $8-million with the Orioles coming off a 50-games suspension resulting from the Biogenesis scandal and put up an MVP caliber season for the Orioles. Now Cruz is batting after Cano in a lineup that is re-markedly improved along with a solid rotation. For the season Cruz is putting up a slash line of .324/.361/.750 with 9 homers and 20 RBI. So far the M's are sitting tied for 4th place at 7-11 with the surprising Houston Astros sitting pretty a-top the American League West 11-7. I can see the Mariners righting the ship and starting to club the ball. We'll see what happens as the season moves along.

- How About Those New York Mets
I mentioned that last week I would talk about the Metropolitanos. Well, the Mets ripped off an 11-game win streak including a 10-0 homestand against division rivals Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves. In doing so, the Mets tied a franchise record set by the 1969, 1972, 1986, and 1990 who all put up 11-game winning streaks. It stopped at 11-games when the Mets lost the first game of the Subway Series against the Yankees.

What I find impressive is that the Mets have done so without a number of players including captain David Wright and starting catch Travis D'Arnaud who both are missing time on the DL. In their place is Eric Campbell and rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki and both are producing. And what can I say about The Dark Knight: Matt Harvey. Its hard to believe that Harvey missed a season to Tommy John surgery. This kid is a total stud.

So far he's gone 4-0 with a 3.04 ERA with 22 hits allowed, 31 strikeouts and only 3 walks for a WHIP of 0.94. His swagger and confidence seems to be slowly seeping into the entire team. As Travis D'Arnaud said during the Mets vs. Yankees telecast on ESPN, the team believes that they can will. Who knows, if they can continue to win as division rivals Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins struggle, the N.L. East might just be their's to lose.

- A brief history of the Mets' eleven-game winning streaks by Chris McShane from Amazin

- Didi Gregorious and Tino Martinez
People fail to realize that it is very difficult to step in the shoes of a Baseball legend. Some might say that it is even harder when the legend plays for the New York Yankees. I notice that Yankee fans are being critical of Didi Gregorious' performance so far with the Yankees at shortstop. Not only is he learning a new league, he's doing it in the long shadow of future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

Look at the back page of the New York Daily News the day after the Yankees traded for Gregorious. Just the headline alone shows the expectations that have been placed on Gregorious. And this was before the season started and Gregorious was struggling. The situation reminds me of how Tino Martinez struggled at first base for the New York Yankees at the beginning of the 1996 season.

Martinez was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Yankees in a December 7, 1995 trade with Jim Mecir and Jeff Nelson for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchock. Martinez was already a solid first-basemen for the Mariners and similarly to Gregorious, his performance at first was shadowed by recently retired career Yankees legend Don Mattingly. Again, as with Gregorious, Martinez struggled amid great and lofty expectations but as the season progressed, he settled in and was a main player in the 1996 Yankees World Series Championship season.

People need to give Gregorious a chance. I mean a REAL chance. Not a month. Not two months. At the very least give the kid a full season to show his mettle. He's not going to be Derek Jeter. We've already seen him play. We just need to see Didi Gregorious play his game. Maybe he excels. Maybe he becomes the Yankees version of Royce Clayton.
who had the dubious honor of having to replace Ozzie Smith at shortstop for the Cardinals in 1997).

Nearly 20 Years Later, Another Yankees Replacement Is Struggling by Billy Witz from the New York Times dated April 18, 2015

- Waino done for the season?
The news coming out of St. Louis is not good. Reports state that Adam Wainright was placed on the DL with an left ankle/achilles tendon injury. If he tore the achilles tendon, his season is done. The Cardinals always seem to be able to fill spots due to injuries and according to the article Martinez, Wacha and Lynn Allow Cardinals to Absorb Adam Wainwright Injury by Anthony Witrado from Bleacher Report dated April 25, 2015, Witrado believes that:
There might not be a team in Major League Baseball more equipped to absorb the blow of losing their ace right now than the Cardinals. They have a rotation packed with front-line pitchers in their 20s, and all three of them have sub-2.00 ERAs through each of their first three starts this season.
Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez—both 23 years old—and Lance Lynn, 27, have helped Wainwright pitch the Cardinals to a 12-4 record. Those four are the reasons the rotation led the majors with a 2.06 ERA entering Saturday, a number lowered to 1.97 by Wainwright's four shutout innings before the injury.
It would seem that Cole Hamels would be a suitable replacement for Wainwright in the rotation. The question is, are the Cardinals willing to trade from their surplus of prospects in order to get Hamels. Since in this situation, the Phillies hold the seller's advantage, the Cardinals might have to overpay if they want Hamels services. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's see what happens after Wainwright's MRI.

AS OF 7:30PM ON 4/27: Adam Wainwright was diagnosed with a torn left achilles tendon which will cause him to miss 9-12 months. 

- Kansas City Royals are a-fighting
So the Royals have started the 2015 season with three bench clearing incidents. Week one had Yordano Ventura jawing with Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. Then in week two you had a back and forth plunking matches and three straight days of bench clearing between the Royals and the Oakland A's including Yordano Ventura getting ejected when he hit Brett Lawrie with a pitch after Josh Reddick homered. Week three was capped with a full blown brawl started by words being exchanged between Yordano Ventura and Adam Eaton of the Chicago White Sox which led to the suspension of six players including Ventura who was given a seven day suspension.

You see a pattern here? Like I told my friend Melvin the other day: Ventura is young, full of piss and vinegar. I mean, he's become the ace of the staff after James Shields signed with the San Diego Padres. So he must be on cloud nine and is showing his swagger every start. But he needs to dial it down before someone gets hurt.

This is where old time baseball people bemoan the DH since retribution can't be exacted on the guilty party. I think if this was in the NL, Ventura would be a bit more cautious in his plunking of opposing players and his excitable mannerism. Back in the day, he would have taken one to the ribs. I know the Royals want to show the entire league that their World Series appearance was not a fluke. But someone needs to take Ventura aside and let him know that not only is an opposing player at risk of getting hurt due to his behavior, a fellow teammate can get hurt through Baseball's form of retribution. Whether he learns or not is something we'll have to keep an eye on after he serves his suspension.

Well that's all for this week. I'll be back next week with my POV on the fourth week of the MLB season.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium April 27, 1947

On This Day in Baseball History April 27, 1947: In front of 58,339 fans, the New York Yankees hold "Babe Ruth Day" to honor the ailing baseball legend.

The article 58, 339 Acclaim Babe Ruth in Rare Tribute at Stadium by Louis Effrat from the New York Times dated April 28, 1947 quoted the Babe as saying:
Painting by Graig Kreindler
"Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen," he began. "You know how bad my voice sounds. Well, it feels just as bad. You know this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth. That means the boys. And after you've been a boy, and grow up to know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing themselves today in our national pastime." Now the Babe's big smile was visible to everyone. Still a very sick man, he emphasized his remarks with a clenched fist and a wave of the hand.
"The only real game in the world, I think, is baseball," he continued. "As a rule, some people think if you give them a football or a baseball or something like that, naturally, they're athletes right away. But you can't do that in baseball. You've gotta start from way down the bottom, when you're 6 or 7 years old. You can't wait until you're 15 or 16. You've gotta let it grow up with you, and if you're successful and you try hard enough, you're bound to come out on top, just like these boys have come to the top now.
"There's been so many lovely things said about me, I'm glad I had the opportunity to thank everybody. Thank you."
Babe Ruth's number 3 jersey would be retired at a ceremony at Yankee Stadium celebrating the Silver Anniversary of Yankee Stadium on June 13, 1948. Babe Ruth would pass away two months later on August 16, 1948.

Here is the newsreel of Babe Ruth Day from Yankee Stadium April 27, 1947 from YouTube:

Though I don't need to say it, we'll never see another player like Babe Ruth. Ever.
Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco