Friday, October 2, 2015

The Last Weekend of the 2015 Regular Season

I know there are many Baseball fans that are against the Wild Card but year in and year out there are meaningful games being played heading into the last series of the MLB season and as a fan you can't ask for anything more than that.

The Los Angeles Angels are hanging on to their Wild Card hopes heading into a weekend series against the American League West leaders Texas Rangers. While the Rangers have clinched a postseason spot, they have yet to clinch the division. The Houston Astros are only three games back of the Rangers and a sweep by the Angels along with a sweep by the Astros of the Arizona Diamondbacks guarantees us a 163rd game of the season between the Rangers and Astros to decide who gets the AL West and the second Wild Card spot.

Not to be forgotten, the Minnesota Twins are also one game behind the Astros for second the AL Wild Card slot. Tied with the Angels, if the Twins sweep the Kansas City Royals and the Astros/Angels stumble the Twins could feasibly win the second Wild Card spot.

Over in the National League, both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets are playing meaningful games to decide who gets the home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Dodgers and Mets play division rivals in the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals respectively and both teams need to win the next three games to ensure they don't have to be the first team to travel cross country in the best of five National League Divisional Series matchup. If both teams end up tied, The Mets would gain the home field advantage in the NLDS matchup with the Dodgers virtue of their head-to-head record during the season.

While the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates have clinched the two NL Wild Card spot, both teams play to decide who gets the home field advantage in the one-game playoff. The Pirates end the season at home against the Cincinnati Reds while the Cubs finish on the road against the Milwaukee Braves. The Pirates hold a two game lead over the Cubs. If the Pirates and Cubs finish the season tied with the same record, the Cubs would host the wild card game because they won the season series against the Pirates 11-8.

So here we go folks. Meaningful games are to be played in the first weekend of October. Enjoy the ride into the postseason.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Friday, July 31, 2015

First Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Traded At The Deadline July 31, 1989

On This Day in Baseball History July 31, 1989: Minnesota Twins ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola was traded to the New York Mets for Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani, David West and Jack Savage.

While the trading of ace pitchers during the in-season trading period isn't rare, this transaction between the Twins and Mets marked the first time that a reigning Cy Young Winner was traded the following season after winning the award. Since the 1989 trading deadline deal that sent Viola to the Mets, only two reigning Cy Young Award winners have been traded the following season after winning the award.

In 2007, C.C. Sabathia was the American League Cy Young Award winner with the Cleveland Indians. He would be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers during the 2008 season for Rob Bryson , Zach Jackson, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley where he would go 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA down the stretch helping to catapult the Brewers into the postseason.

In 2008, as with C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee was the American League Cy Young Award winner with the Cleveland Indians and he would be traded by the deadline with Ben Francisco during the 2009 season to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson. Lee would go 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA as the Phillies would lose to the New York Yankees in their bid to repeat as World Series Champions.

As for Frank Viola? His trade to his hometown team didn't prove to be as successful as he would have wanted. Viola went 5-5 with a 3.38 ERA down the stretch for the Mets in 1989. He would finish third in the 1990 NL Cy Young race by posting a 20-12 record with a 2.67 ERA. Though Viola was an All-Star for the Mets the following season, Viola would finish with a disappointing 13-15 record. Viola would become a free agent at the end of the season and sign with the Boston Red Sox for the 1992 season.

The Twins on the other hand would fare better in the deal. Both Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani were pivotal players in the Twins' march to becoming World Series Champions in 1991. Aguilera would save 42 games for Tom Kelly's Twins while Tapani would go 16-9 with a 2.99 ERA.

With the trading deadline looming, I don't think we'll see reigning Cy Young Award winners Corey Kluber or Clayton Kershaw being moved from their respective teams. But as we've seen in recent days, big name pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and David Price can be moved for the right price. Any guesses on who else gets traded by the deadline?

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Frank Viola's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Rick Aguilera's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Kevin Tapani's career statistics from Baseball
- From Left Field: Only 3 Teams Have Traded A Reigning Cy Young Winner by Jim Mancari from the Mets Merized Online blogpage dated November 15, 2012

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My First Memories of the 2015 Hall of Fame Class

Looking at the 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame class of Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, I started to think about when I first remember seeing each player.

Photo: Julio Cortez, Associated Press
As I have mentioned before on this blog, I grew up as a kid in an era where we didn't have 24-hour/7-day a week sports networks, up to the minute news updates through the internet and apps. The majority of my Baseball information came the old fashioned way via baseball cards, newspapers, the local televised ballgames and the weekly games of the week. So after establishing that I am one of the last of the dinosaurs ;) here are my recollections of the first time I saw the Hall of Fame class of 2015.

Craig Biggio

I remember Craig Biggio coming up as a catcher for the Houston Astros. Watching a game that contained the Astros would require me to watch a New York Mets telecast on WWOR-9. I honestly believe that the first time I remember Biggio was from his Baseball Card. One such card was the 1989 Donruss #561 card of Craig Biggio at the plate in his catching gear.

Biggio made his debut for the Astros in 1988 and for three season he would share duties at catcher, various outfield positions and second base. He was such a versatile athlete that he played 161 games at second base during the 1992 season and the rest as we know today is history

- Click Here for Craig Biggio's career statistics from
- Craig Biggio: From Kings Park to Cooperstown by Steven Marcus from dated July 24, 2015

Randy Johnson

My first recollection of Randy Johnson is in the powder blue uniforms that the Montreal Expos used to wear. Now those uniforms were truly unique and add to the mix that Randy Johnson was 6'10" and as wild as Major League's Rick Vaughn. But when I really got to know Randy Johnson was when he was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 1989. Not so much for because he was traded but because of who he was traded for.

I used to play Micro League Baseball religiously on my old Commodore 64-C (see, I am one of the last dinosaurs) and Mark Langston was always money for me in that game. I used to update the lineups every couple days a week and when the trade happened, I remember wonder who this Randy Johnson was. I remember seeing footage of his being wild either on This Week in Baseball or on the George Michael Sports Machine.

Luckily for Johnson, he would learn to utilize his size and velocity to become the Hall of Fame pitcher he is today.

- Click Here for Randy Johnson's career statistics from
- Cooperstown-bound Randy Johnson recalls the moment everything changed for him by Daniel Brown from the San Jose Mercury dated July 24, 2015

Pedro Martinez

My first memory of Pedro Martinez wasn't so much about Pedro himself but about the hype of his being the little brother of Dodgers prospect Ramon Martinez. Ramon Martinez was supposed to be the next great Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher when he came up in 1988. Ramon posted a 20-6 season in 1990 with a 2.92 ERA and 12 complete games which earned him a spot on the All-Star team and was the runner up for the 1990 NL Cy Young Award behind Doug Drabek of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Ramon was establishing himself as a mainstay of the Dodgers rotation, Pedro made his debut September 24, 1992. Luckily for Pedro, he wouldn't get much of a chance with the Dodgers. Pedro would be traded to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Delino DeShields after the 1993 season. It was in Montreal that Pedro would develop and shine. The 1997 trade to Boston only cemented the legendary status that Pedro Martinez would earn on his way to Cooperstown.

- Click Here for Pedro Martinez's career statistics from
- What made Pedro Martinez so great by Peter Abraham from the Boston Globe dated July 23, 2015

John Smoltz

I'm sure that I had heard of John Smoltz before the moment that I am going to mention. But if I hadn't, that Game 7 performance of the 1991 World Series against Jack Morris of the Minnesota Twins is a good place to start. Smoltz was part of an amazing starting rotation the Atlanta Braves that included Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Also anchoring the rotation was veteran Charlie Liebrandt and prospect Steve Avery. But it was Smoltz performance that stood out to me in that classic World Series.

Smoltz matched goose-eggs on the scoreboard with Jack Morris through seven innings. And though Morris will always be remembered for arguably the second best World Series performance of 10-shutout innings, it was at this point that John Smoltz stands out in my memory.

Smoltz would not only be an outstanding starter, but also an amazing closer putting him in the same league as Denniz Eckersley as having succeeded not only as a starter but as a closer. And as Eck, Smoltz became a Hall of Famer.

- Click Here for John Smoltz's career statistics from
- Unparalleled John Smoltz a worthy Hall of Fame recipient Bby Ivan the Great from the Talking Chop blogpage on dated on Jul 24, 2015

What were your first recollections about the 2015 Hall of Fame class. Make sure to let me know in the comments box. I'd like to hear when it was that you discovered these future Hall of Famers.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Juan Marichal Debuts With a Complete Game 1-Hitter on July 19, 1960

On This Day in History July 19, 1960: 21-year old rookie Juan Marichal of the Dominican Republic makes his major league debut for the San Francisco Giants and does so in an impressive fashion. Facing the Philadelphia Phillies at home at Candlestick Park, Marichal was throwing a no-hitter until the Phillies sent up pinch hitter Clay Dalrymple with two outs in the eighth inning.

Dalrymple ruined the young pitcher's bid for a no-no in his debut with a solid single to center field on the first pitch Marichal delivered to the plate. Had Marichal been able to no-hit the Phillies, he would have been the second pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his debut after Charles Leander "Bumpus" Jones (January 1, 1870 – June 25, 1938) did so for the Cincinnati Reds on October 15, 1892 ***Bobo Holloman and Ted Breitenstein of the St. Louis Browns also threw no-hitters in their first major league starts but each had appeared in relief before making their first start.

Marichal would complete his game with a 1-hit, 12-strikeout, and 1-walk gem as the Giants beat the Phillies 2-0. Here is the boxscore of that game from the July 20, 1960 edition of the New York Times:

Marichal would become the first Dominican enshrined in Cooperstown in 1983. Marichal did it with style, flair and a bulldog determination. Pitchers today can take notes on how Marichal was able to succeed in an era where he was often overshadowed by such names as Koufax, Gibson, Drysdale and Ford. Luckily for us, we have similar pitchers in today's game in the form of Scherzer, Kershaw, Hernandez and Grienke.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ty Cobb Becomes The First Player to Reach 4,000 Hits July 18, 1927

On This Day in Baseball History July 18, 1927: Philadelphia Athletics outfielder Ty Cobb became the first Major League Baseball player to reach the 4,000 hit plateau against his former team the Detroit Tigers at the Tigers home Navin Field. He would hit his 4,000th hit against Tigers pitcher Sam Gibson in the top of the first inning.

Unlike the fanfare that reaching such a milestone would garner in today's Baseball world, Cobb reaching 4,000 barely garnered any press. The New York Times of July 19, 1927 not only doesn't mention Cobb reaching 4,000 hits, he isn't even mentioned in the two paragraph article describing the 5-3 loss by the Athletics. The blogpost No hoopla when Ty Cobb got his 4,000th hit by Richard Bak from the Detroit Athletic Company dated November 18, 2013 mentions some of the Detroit press from that day's baseball action:
As Harry Salsinger wrote in the next day’s Detroit News, “Cobb hit a line drive into right field and [Harry] Heilmann, trying for a one-handed catch, got his glove on the ball but it bounced out and gave Cobb a scratch two-bagger.” Harry Bullion of the Detroit Free Press described Cobb’s hit as “a lucky double [that] slid off Heilmann’s gloved hand and helped in the making of two runs.” The 2-0 lead didn’t last long as Detroit countered with three runs in the bottom of the first off Lefty Grove.
Significantly, the game was not held up to acknowledge the historic base hit and Cobb didn’t ask for the ball. In fact, Cobb’s accomplishment was scarcely acknowledged in the next day’s papers. One reason is that little emphasis was put on such arcane records then. Another is that it was considered just another ho-hum day at the office for the 40-year-old Cobb, a hitting machine who seemed likely to go on forever. Who was to say that he wouldn’t reach 5,000 hits someday? The same attitude prevailed at the end of the summer when Babe Ruth clouted his 60th home run, breaking his own record. Like 4,000 hits, 60 home runs made for a nice round number, but many observers figured the Yankees’ slugger might one day hit 65 or 70, so why get too excited?
The Free Press ran a column of notes with the headline: “Bengals In Third Place; Ty Cobb Gets 4,000th Hit.” Bullion wrote: “When Cobb made his fluke double in the first inning, it was his 4,000th major league safety. He’s so far ahead of all records of other batsmen that he will never be beaten or tied.”
Trying not to be defeated in trying to find something on Cobb's 4,000th, I decided to look into a trusted resource that I have used before when posting about Cobb.

I pulled my worn copy of Ty Cobb: My Life in Baseball with Al Stump off my Baseball book shelf and to my dismay, I found NOTHING about the day Cobb delivered his 4,000th hit. The only mention of his accomplishments during the 1927 season for the A's is on page 257:
My personal performance in 1927 was satisfactory: a matter of 175 hits in 134 games, 104 runs scored and another 93 driven in for an average of .357. At forty-one, I could still leg it a bit, if 22 stolen bases was any evidence.
Cobb would become the charter member of the 4,000 hit club that day and finish his career with 4,191 hits. On page 146, Cobb would claim that out of the 4,191 hits he collected over his 24-year career, 72-plus percent of them were singles. He had 3,054 singles out of his total of 4,191 hits for an accurate 72.9 percent.

There is only one other member of the 4,000 hit club and that is the man who would eventually pass Ty Cobb as Baseball's All-time hit king: Pete Rose. Rose would reach 4,000 hits on April 13, 1984 and would pass Cobb on September 11, 1985 with his 4,192nd hit. Rose would finish his career with 4,256 hits.

So much for trying to find something Cobb may have said concerning the day he hit his 4,000th hit. Oh well. Though the article doesn't mention the accomplishment here is the boxscore for the Philadelphia Athletics vs. The Detroit Tigers on July 18, 1927 from the July 19, 1927 edition of the New York Times:

Will we ever see another player reach 4,000 hits? I always thought that Derek Jeter had a chance before he broke his ankle in the postseason against the Detroit Tigers in 2013. He would finish his career in 2014 with 3,465 hits. Anyone want to take a guess on who, if anyone, can reach 4,000 hits in today's game?

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ty Cobb Passes Away on July 17, 1961

On This Day in Baseball History July 17, 1961: One of professional Baseball's best, most intense and controversial players Tyrus Raymond Cobb passed away at the age of 74 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The man simply known as Ty amassed an amazing number of accomplishments in his 24-year Baseball career. At the time of his retirement after the 1928 season, Cobb finished with a still league high .366 career batting average, 4,189 hits (724 2B/295 3B/117 HR) and 1933 RBI. Cobb had a career slash line of .366/.433/.512 with an OPS of .945. What was most impressive about Cobb's accomplishments is that he led the league in batting 12-times with a never a batting average under .324 and hit over .400 three times.

Cobb would gain 98.2% of the vote in the inaugural National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 1936. In doing so, he was the top vote-getter in a class that included such players as Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

Cobb would pass away of complications from diabetes and chronic heart disease at Emory University Hospital.

The following opinion piece was printed in the July 18, 1961 New York Times and I believe epitomizes who Ty Cobb the Baseball player was in conjunction with two of his contemporaries: Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth:
Baseball as well as all sport has lost one of its great figures in the death of Tyrus Raymond Cobb. As with two of his outstanding contemporaries, the late Christy Mathewson and Babe Ruth, his was a name which became synonymous with America's national pastime. Curiously, each of these three was cast in his own mold.
The handsome Matty was the ideal American boy, the type that every mother hopes her son some day would emulate. The flamboyant Babe the uninhibited child of nature whose amazing exploits on the field, mixed with his engaging frankness and wayward habits, endeared himself to the public and made him the greatest attraction the game had ever known.
And Cobb, the Georgia Peach, epitomized the flaming spirit of youth. In Ty the will to win was ever uppermost. He set more records in baseball than any man who ever lived. But the setting of records, as such, meant very little to him. 
They were merely the accumulation of statistics compiled as he drove himself from day to day to live by the only code he knew. That was to play every afternoon a little harder and a little better than he had the day before. Victory was his only goal and to gain it he spared neither himself nor his adversaries. He knew no excuse for defeat. 
Some players are once in a generation. Some are once in a lifetime. Cobb was unique. There will only be one Ty Cobb.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:

Here are a series of articles printed in the July 18, 1961 edition of the New York Times reflecting back on the legacy of Ty Cobb

- Ty Cobb, Baseball Great, Dies
Cobb, Hailed as Greatest Player in History, Mourned by Baseball World
- Sports of The Times: The Cobb We Knew by John Drebinger
Ty Cobb

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Casey at the Bat Published June 3, 1888

On This Day in Baseball History June 3, 1888: The poem Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer is published in the San Francisco Daily Examiner. Here is the text to the eternal Baseball poem that every Baseball fan can relate to:
Casey at the Bat 
By Ernest Lawrence Thayer
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis├Ęd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style," said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.
Here is Walt Disney's 1946 animated version of Casey at the Bat:

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco
For Further Reading:
- Click here for an audio recording of De Wolf Hopper reciting Ernest Lawrence Thayer's Casey at the Bat recorded June 16, 1909 from the Library of Congress Website

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lou Gehrig Starts His Consecutive Games Streak June 1, 1925

On This Day in Baseball History June 1, 1925: The man who would be known as the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig started his consecutive games streak by being inserted as a pinch hitter by New York Yankees manager Miller Huggins for shortstop Paul "Pee Wee" Wanninger in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Senators. Similar to how Cal Ripken Jr made an inauspicious start to his streak, Gehrig would bat for Wanninger in the eight inning against future Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson and deliver a soft flyball out to left field.

Up to that point in his first two seasons with the Yankees, Gehrig was nothing more than a pinch hitter and defensive replacement. Gehrig only appeared in 23 games during the 1923 and 1924 seasons combined. Circumstances beyond his control would lead to Gehrig's baseball immortality being cemented. Many people believe that the streak started the next day on June 2, 1925 when as per legend, Wally Pipp asked to take a day off. Gehrig stepped in for Pipp at first and didn't give the bag up until the day that he took himself out of the lineup thirteen years later on May 2, 1939. Just as Steve Buscemi says as Nucky Thompson in the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, the story of Gehrig's rise and Pipp's fall makes for a good story but its not entirely true.

Jonathan Eig in his book Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig describes the events that went into Gehrig becoming an everyday player for the Yankees:
Huggins was frustrated. The season was only two months old, yet his team seemed to be giving up. Players had been missing curfew, practicing halfheartedly, mouthing off in the dugout, and drinking too much. Pipp wasn't giving him problems off the field, but on the field the first baseman was a disaster. Huggins had already dropped Pipp from the fourth spot in the batting order to the sixth, and Pipp had not responded. He was batting .244 with only three home runs and twenty-three runs batted in. During the last three weeks of May, his batting average was an anemic .181. After the loss to Walter Johnson, Huggins decided to try a new lineup. Maybe the veterans would respond to the threat of losing their jobs. He benched not only Pipp but also catcher Wally Schang and second baseman Aaron Ward. (Page 65)
After starting at first for ten seasons for the Yankees, Pipp suffered a head injury during batting practice a month later which resulted in a fractured skull that limited his playing time during the remainder of the 1925 season. Pipp's contract would be sold to the Cinicnnati Reds for the 1926 season and would retire after the 1928 season.

Gehrig as we know became a cornerstone for the New York Yankees become a Hall of Famer as part of a formidable one-two punch with not only Babe Ruth but also Joe DiMaggio. It would seem that the illness that bears his name was the only thing that could stop the Iron Horse.

Here is the boxscore from the June 2, 1925 edition of the New York Times for the June 1, 1925 game between the Washington Senators and New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium:

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here for Lou Gehrig's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here for Wally Pipp's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here for the boxscore for the June 1, 1925 game between the Washington Senators vs The New York Yankees from Baseball
- Wally Pipp: A son's tale about the start of Gehrig's consecutive games streak by Chris Anderson
from the Sarasota Herald Tribune dated April 22, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cal Ripken Jr Starts His Iron Man Streak May 30, 1982

On This Day in History May 30, 1982: Baltimore Orioles rookie third baseman Cal Ripken Jr., took the field in front of 21,632 fans at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore against the Toronto Blue Jays, for the first of what would become his record setting 2,632 games played in a row. Ripken would go 0-2 with a walk and a strikeout. Not a very auspicious start to his "Iron Man" streak.

Ripken would continue to make history in 1982 when Orioles manager Earl Weaver moved him from third base to shortstop. In doing so, the position of shortstop would forever be changed form a "good glove, no hit" position to a position where both defense and offense became the norm. Ripken would go on to win the 1982 American League Rookie of the Year Award with a slashline of .264/.317/.475 with 28 homeruns and 93 RBI.

Ripken would reach the mark of 2131 consecutive games played set by the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig in 1939 on September 6, 1995 in front of the hometown crowd at Orioles Park at Camden Yards. Ripken's streak would come to an end when he voluntarily took himself out of the lineup on September 19, 1998.

Ripken would retire at the end of the 2001 season and to no one's surprise, was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 garnering 98.53% of the vote (537/545 ballots) for third best all-time after Tom Seaver (98.84%) and Nolan Ryan (98.79%).

Though in theory players today are bigger, faster and stronger than players of yesteryear, I don't see anyone being durable enough to play in enough consecutive games to reach the lofty goal of 2,632 games. What do you think folks. Anyone want to take a stab at a guess?

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Cal Ripken Jr's career statistics from Baseball
- The Boxscore from the Toronto Blue Jays vs. Baltimore Orioles game from May 30, 1982 courtesy of Baseball
Ripken breaks record for consecutive games played from
Streak Scene 2,131: Ripken Passes Gehrig from the Baltimore Sun Archives website
It's Over: Ripken Sits Out After 2,632 Games by Richard Justice of the Washington Post dated September 21, 1998
Calling his own number, Ripken ends the streak by Roch Kubatko of the Baltimore Sun dated September 27, 1998
Baseball Hall of Fame BBWAA Voting Percentages from Baseball

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Two Major Leaguers KIA during World War II

Since it is Memorial Day Weekend here in the United States, what better way to commemorate the effort given by our troops than to shed light on the two Major Leaguers who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II.

From the moment when Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor on that fateful "Day That Will Live in Infamy", December 7, 1941, superstar, reserve player and minor leaguer alike served the nation's armed forces during World War II. It is estimated that over 500-major leaguers and many more minor leaguers served during World War II. While only 2 major leaguers lost their lives in the conflict, there were an estimated 139 minor leaguers that lost their lives in World War Two. Gary Bedingfield's wonderful and informative website Baseball in Wartime and his book Baseball's Dead of World War II: A Roster of Professional Players Who Died in Service are two amazing resources to look up who those players were. On to honoring the two major leaguers who were killed in action during World War II.

- Elmer Gedeon
Gedeon was born in Cleveland, Ohio on April 15, 1917 and was the nephew of former big leaguer Joe Gedeon. Gedeon was a three sport star at the University of Michigan and made the majors with the Washington Senators in 1939. His stint with the Senators was not very memorable since he appeared in only five games with the Nats. In those five games, Gedeon batted .200 with 3 hits in 15 at-bats with an RBI and a run scored. He would be sent down to Charlotte of the Piedmont League for the 1940 season, and was recalled to Washington at the end of the season but didn't play in a game. Gedeon would never play in the majors again.

Gedeon received his draft notice in January 1941, and would later be transferred to the the Army Air Force in October, 1941. It was here where Gedeon would shine and meet his final fate. According to the biography on Elmer Gedeon on the aforementioned Baseball in Wartime website:
Flight training was always a hazardous time and almost claimed the 25-year-old's life on August 9, 1942. Gedeon was the navigator in a North American B-25 Mitchell medium-sized bomber that struggled on take-off from Raleigh Airport, North Carolina. The plane clipped pine trees at the end of the runway and plunged into a swamp before bursting into flames. Despite suffering three broken ribs, Gedeon managed to free himself and crawl from the wreckage, then realized crewmate Corporal John Rarrat was still inside. Gedeon returned to the burning plane without a moment's hesitation and pulled Rarrat to safety. Corporal Ros Ware died in the crash, Rarrat succumbed to his injuries at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, and the five other crew members all suffered serious burns and broken limbs. Gedeon was hospitalized for 12 weeks. In addition to broken ribs he suffered severe burns to his back, face, hands and legs, some of which needed skin grafts.
Gedeon would be promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant and was awarded the Soldiers' Medal for his heroics (Gedeon would later be promoted to his highest rank of Captain).

According to pilot's superstition, Gedeon was quoted as saying "I had my accident. It’s going to be good flying from now on,". Unfortunately for Gedeon it was not to be so. Again referring to the aformentioned Elmer Gedeon biography on the Baseball in Wartime website:
With his duties as operations officer, Gedeon was not a regular flyer but on the afternoon of April 20, 1944, just five days after celebrating his 27th birthday, he piloted a B-26B, one of 30 Marauders that left Boreham Field that afternoon to bomb a German VI site being constructed at Bois d'Esquerdes, France. It was the group's 13th mission.
It was nearly 7:30 P.M. when the group approached the target area and encountered blinding searchlights and intense, accurate, heavy anti-aircraft fire. The sky was suddenly full of puffs of black explosions that were silhouetted against the searchlights. These explosions generated hundreds of pieces of jagged steel that could easily set oxygen and gas tanks blazing, or rip through the wings of a plane and just as easily through the bodies of the men inside. Lining up to make the bombing run the flak grew heavier, thicker and more deadly, causing planes to bounce around from nearby bursts.
Gedeon's bomber dropped its bombs and had just passed over the target. “We got caught in searchlights and took a direct hit under the cockpit,” recalled co-pilot James Taaffe. “I watched Gedeon lean forward against the controls as the plane went into a nose dive and the cockpit filled with flames. He must have been thinking, 'Oh, no. Not again.'” [9] Taaffe, with his clothing on fire, desperately struggled to open the pilot's and co-pilot's top hatches. He looked back and saw no movement from Gedeon as he scrambled to safety through the hatch. Descending through the night sky he watched the flame-engulfed airplane spiral out of control and explode on impact with the ground, carrying Gedeon and five others to their death. The other crew members were Second Lieutenant Jack March, Staff Sergeant Joseph Kobret, Sergeant John Felker, Sergeant Ira Thomas and Private Charles Atkinson.[10]
Gedeon was reported missing in action - his fate unknown, because Taaffe had been taken prisoner by German soldiers and was being held at Stalagluft 3. It was not until May 1945 that Elmer's father, Andrew A. Gedeon, received word from his son's commanding officer that the graves of the missing airmen had been located in a small British army cemetery in St. Pol, France. Elmer Gedeon's body was later returned to the United States and rests at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
For Further Reading:
Elmer J Gedeon from the American Air Museum in Britain website
- Elmer J. Gedeon's statistics from Baseball

- Harry O'Neill
Harry Mink O’Neill was born in Philadelphia on May 8, 1917 and as Gedeon was, O'Neill was a standout athlete in college. O'Neill attended Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and was a three-sport star. After graduating college, O'Neill signed with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics on June 5, 1939. He would be the third string catcher for the Athletics in 1939 making only one appearance in that season. According to the article Harry O'Neill by Gary Bedingfield, Frank Fitzpatrick, and Bill Nowlin from the SABR Baseball Biography Project:
O’Neill made his only major-league appearance on July 23, 1939, as a late-inning defensive replacement for Frankie Hayes against the Tigers. It was a blowout of a ballgame, with the Tigers leading 9-1 after three innings and 15-3 through seven. Hayes was 0-for-4 in the game, and finally Athletics manager Earle Mack – who had taken over from his father, Connie Mack, in late June when Connie became ill – decided to give Hayes the rest of the day off and put in O’Neill behind the plate. O’Neill never got a time at bat, and was not involved in any fielding plays. He caught the fifth of Philadelphia’s five pitchers, Chubby Dean.
O'Neill would finish his major league career with a .000 batting average and played part of the 1940 season at for the Harrisburg team of the Class B Interstate League.

In September 1942, O'Neill would enlisted with the Marines Corps and was sent to the Marine Officers' Training School at Quantico, Virginia where he would graduate with the rank of Second Lieutenant. O'Neill would join the 4th Marine Division at Camp Pendelton, California. O'Neill would rise to the rank of first lieutenant and would be shipped out to the Pacific theater with the 4th Marine Division in January 1944. According to the Harry O'Neill biography page on the Baseball in Wartime website:
With the division's 25th Weapons Company, O'Neill made major amphibious assaults at Kwajalein later that month, then at Saipan in June. On June 16, 1944, he suffered a shell-fragment wound to the right arm on Saipan, and was sent back to a hospital ship to recover. He returned to active duty on July 22, 1944, and participated in the assault on Tinian. On February 19, 1945, the division landed at Iwo Jima and moved inland, over extremely difficult terrain. After an intense Allied artillery bombardment of enemy positions on March 5,1945, elements of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions attacked on the morning of March 6. Fighting was heavy throughout the day with the enemy offering stiff resistance and subjecting the Marines to continuous small arms and mortar fire. By 5:30 P.M. on March 6, the Marines had made small local gains, but First Lieutenant O'Neill was dead. He had been killed by a sniper. O'Neill was one of 92 officers of the 4th Marine Division who lost their lives on Iwo Jima.
O'Neill was originally buried at Iwo Jima with 7,000+ Marines. His remains would later be interred at Arlington Cemetary in Drexel, Pennsylvania in July 1947.

For Further Reading:
Iowa Jima: Red Blood on Black Sand from the Fighting Fourth of World War II's website
- Harry M. O'Neill Class of 1939 Induction Class of 1980 of the Gettysburg College Hall of Athletic Honors page
- Harry O'Neill's statistics page from Baseball

I would recommend that you read the much more in-depth articles on Elmer Gedeon and Harry O'Neill on the Baseball in Wartime website and the Harry O'Neill article by Gary Bedingfield, Frank Fitzpatrick, and Bill Nowlin from the SABR Baseball Biography Project. You will not be disappointed.

If you happen to be at a ballgame this weekend, give a tip of your hats and honor Elmer J. Gedeon and Harry O'Neill with a moment of silence and thanks for their ultimate sacrifice in helping us enjoy the game that they both spent time playing. Rest in Peace Captain Elmer J. Gedeon and First Lieutenant Harry M. O'Neill. Thank you for your sacrifice. You'll never be forgotten.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Saturday, May 16, 2015

First American League Night Game May 16, 1939

On This Day in Baseball History May 16, 1939: The first American League night game took place at Philadelphia's Shibe Park when Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics hosted the Cleveland Indians in front of 15,109 fans.

The game would go into the 10th inning tied 3-3 until the Indians broke the game open with five runs in the top of the 10th. The Tribe would win the game by a score of 8-3.

The Athletics would become only the third MLB franchise to host a game under the lights after the Cincinnati Reds who were the first on May 24, 1935 and the Brooklyn Dodgers on June 15, 1938, which is significant in Baseball history as being the night when Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Vandermeer threw his second consecutive no-hitter.

It is believed that the first professional Baseball game under the light took place on May 2, 1930, when the Des Moines, Iowa, team hosted Wichita for a Western League game. Many minor league teams would use lights to play night games five years before the majors in an attempt to stay viable during the Great Depression.

Here is the box score to the May 16, 1939 night game between the Cleveland Indians and the Philadelphia Athletics:

It really is amazing to think of a time where Baseball games were played primarily during the daytime. Aside from the Cubs who still play the majority of their home games during the day, we take it for granted today that the majority of the games are played under the lights. And with the profit margins leaning higher during night games, I don't see MLB teams playing less games at night and more during the day, especially during the week.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

Friday, May 15, 2015

The White Sox Play the First of Nine Home Games in Milwaukee May 15 1968

On This Day in Baseball History May 15, 1968: The first American League game played in Milwaukee since the Milwaukee Brewers finished in last place in 1901 with a 48-89 record is a 4-2 win by the California Angels against Chicago White Sox before 23,403 fans. This game was the first of nine home games that the Chisox would play at Milwaukee County Stadium which stood empty with the departure of the beloved Milwaukee Braves to the greener pastures of Atlanta.

Now, when I saw this historical tidbit, I had to do a double take. I had no clue that the White Sox played "home" games in Milwaukee. I immediately thought of the Brooklyn Dodgers playing "home" games in Jersey City during the 1957 season right before their departure to Los Angeles after that season. So that got me thinking: Were the White Sox on the verge of leaving Chicago? The article A short history of the Milwaukee White Sox by Frank Jackson from the Hardball Times dated March 27, 2013 does a wonderful job describing the factors that led to the White Sox playing home games in Milwaukee not only in 1968 but also in 1969. So please go and read that post. But for simplicity sake, here goes a short synopsis.

Milwaukee was the first city to gain a major league city in 50-years when the National League's Boston Braves left the Beantown for Brew City right before of the start of the 1952 season. The Braves proved successful with two World Series appearances against the New York Yankees (1957-1958) with one World Championship in 1957. The Braves drew record crowds at first but attendance would decline even though the team never put up a losing record. Also keep in mind that by playing in Milwaukee, the team had issues earning revenue from the established medium of radio and growing medium of television. Being only 90 miles from two major league franchises in the second city of Chicago resulted in the lack of media opportunities and minimal media revenues.

That would change in 1965 when the city of Atlanta came in with a classic example of boosterism to woo the recently changed ownership of the Braves. For those of you who don't know what boosterism is, according to, boosterism is the action or policy of enthusiastically promoting something, as a city, product, or way of life.

The city of Atlanta offered an untapped major league viable market playing in a municipally owned state of the art stadium. Consider that unlike Milwaukee who was close in proximity to Chicago, in 1965 the nearest major league franchises to Atlanta were Cincinnati at roughly 400-miles away to the North, Washington D.C. at roughly 600-miles to the Northeast and the St. Louis Cardinals at roughly 500-miles away to the West. The Braves would be the Southern most franchise on the East Coast, since Florida was the home of Spring Training. The Marlins and Rays wouldn't become MLB franchises until the 1990's. The lure of an wide open market with no media competition (the Braves would later enjoy nationwide exposure with the broadcast of Braves games on cable TV on channel TBS) was an offer too good for the Braves ownership to pass up. This produced a problem in Milwaukee.

The team was to move for the 1965 season but was held up due to a lawsuit brought about by a group led by a Milwaukee car dealer by the name of Allen H "Bud" Selig. The lawsuit delayed the inevitable by a season leaving Milwaukee team-less in 1966. Selig believed that the next round of expansion in MLB would lead to Milwaukee getting another team. In order to Selig was able to organize an exhibition game between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox at Milwaukee County Stadium on July 24, 1967 which drew over 51,000 spectators to show that Milwaukee was major league town. Unfortunately, MLB would expand into Kansas City, Montreal, San Diego and Seattle for the 1969 season. Going back to the "home" games for the Chisox in Milwaukee, Selig looked into moving the White Sox to Brew City.

As we know, the White Sox never left the South Side of Chicago. Ownership of the team remained in the hands of those who had no interest in moving the team. Selig's persistence would result in the purchase of the bankrupt Seattle Pilots right after the end of Spring Training of 1970 and the Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers in time for the 1970 season. For more information on the Seattle Pilots, check out Mike Fuller's and don't forget to check out the aforementioned A short history of the Milwaukee White Sox by Frank Jackson from the Hardball Times dated March 27, 2013 for more information on the Chicago White Sox "home" series in Milwaukee.

With the movement to have Montreal get a second shot at a Major League team and rumors of the Rays potentially having to leave Tampa to stay viable, what city/cities would be a viable place for a move and/or expansion. Anyone want to take a guess?

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- The Milwaukee White Sox by Gene Mueller from the WISports website dated July 29, 2014
- Back when Milwaukee made goo-goo eyes at the Chicago White Sox by Gene Mueller from the Newsradio 620 WMTJ website dated June 24, 2012

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ted Turner Manages the Atlanta Braves May 11, 1977

On This Day in Baseball History May 11, 1977: Atlanta Braves owner and media mogul Ted Turner takes over the reins as manager of the team that he owns surprising everyone in Baseball including his own players. Why did he do it? Turner felt that he wanted a first hand look as to why things were going bad for the team he owned which was in the midst of a 16-game losing streak. In doing so, he told manager Dave Bristol to take 10 days off to go on a scouting trip. Naturally this didn't go over well with the powers that be: National League President Chubb Feeney and MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

The team would extend their losing streak to 17-games with a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Turner's managerial debut. In order to avoid Turner managing the team for a second consecutive game, Feeney would turn to the rule book to stop Turner. According to the article Turner Barred as Manager But Sees Team Triumph, 6-1 by Murray Chass from the New York Times dated May 13, 1977:
The rule, Major League Rule 20, section "e" says, "No manager or player on a club shall directly or indirectly own stock on any other proprietary interest or have any financial interest in the club by which he is employed except under an agreement approved by the commissioner..."
Turner would ask Feeney to get approval from Commissioner Kuhn. Not surprisingly, both Turner and Kuhn had butted heads during Turner's brief tenure as owner of the Braves. Turner had been found to violate free-agency rules in the attempt to sign Gary Matthews, which had led to a one-year suspension and a lawsuit filed by Turner that put a stay on the suspension. So on the backdrop of that contentious relationship, does anyone think that Kuhn would grant Turner an exemption allowing "Billionaire Ted" to manage the Braves? Kuhn tells Turner: NO DEAL.

According to the article Kuhn Decides Against Turner from the New York Times dated May 14, 1977:
"I am satisfied," Kuhn said in a statement late yesterday afternoon, "that Mr. Feeney's disapproval of the Turner coach's contract should stand. Given Mr. Turner's lack of familiarity with game operations, I do not think it is in the best interest of baseball for Mr. Turner to serve in the requested capacity." Later Turner said Bristol would return as manager today.
So what did Turner think of his banishment to the owner's box? According to the article None of the Braves by Rod Smith in his Sports of the Times column of the New York Times dated May 15, 1977:
Turner was understandably aggrieved. "If Walter O'Malley wanted to manage the Dodgers," he said "they wouldn't stop him. Would they?" 
Probably not, but Walter is one of the good old boys who Kuhn seldom, if ever, tells what to do. Turner is a fresh punk who would be under suspension now if a judge in Atlanta hadn't intervened.
And the banishment of Turner brought the team back to their losing ways with a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe Turner should have stayed. Wouldn't have been any worse than Bristol. No?

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- The night Ted Turner managed the Braves by Doug Williams from dated May 23, 2013

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