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Category Archives: Historical

2014 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot: Three Will Make It In

Cooperstown sign

With the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot being due by the end of the year, it is an appropriate time to make some predictions.

There is an exciting group of quality players in this class of Hall of Fame nominees. It features two Cy Young Award winners along with two Most Valuable Player Award winners. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 5, 2013 in Historical

 

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Life Goes On. Where Did the Thrill Go?

Evolution

John Mellencamp wrote a song called Jack and Diane. The hook to that song is this:

“Oh yeah, life goes on, 

Long after the thrill of livin’ is gone…” Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Historical, Uncategorized

 

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Braves’ Lew Burdette’s Two Flirtations with Perfection

Lew Burdette

Did you ever have one of those days when it seemed as if everything went right? It was like some spiritual or universal force was guiding your every move. Would you call that a perfect day? All went well, nobody close to you was sick or dying.

Lew Burdette had two days which were similar to that. One was his and the other one he was watching. My father said Burdette was nicknamed “Fidgety Lew” because he never kept still for a moment. He was on the mound that Tuesday night, May 26, 1959 in old County Stadium when diminutive southpaw Harvey Haddix pitched 12 innings of baseball perfection. Seriously, 36 up and 36 down, no runs, no hits, no walks, no HBP, no errors. The man pitched a perfect game (for 12 innings, not 9), yet he lost 1-0 in the 13th inning.

You may have heard that at some point, but you probably were not told that the winner of the game pitched pretty well himself. Burdette won the game that night by going 13 hard innings for the Milwaukee Braves and staying until the end. His line that night showed 13 IP, 12 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO.

So, you may ask, what has that to do with Burdette and perfection? He watched his counterpart twirl 12 masterpiece innings and stayed the course for the win. He saw what it was like for someone to flirt with perfection.

Fast forward a year to August 18, 1960. The same venue as the last, Burdette’s home yard, County Stadium. This time it is the Philadelphia Phillies, fresh off a three-game losing streak at the hands of the Pirates at Forbes Field.
“Long” Gene Conley was slated to start against Burdette who was last seen four days earlier throwing a five-hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants.

Conley was also a power forward in the NBA with the Boston Celtics. He was huge in baseball terms.

Burdette had retired the first 13 Phillies he faced and was working in the fifth inning of a scoreless game. With one out and the bases empty, centerfielder Tony Gonzalez came to the plate. The only bad pitch of the game for Burdette, and one that shall live in infamy, hit Gonzalez and he was the first runner for the Phillies. Third-baseman Lee Walls came up next and hit a ball hard to Eddie Mathews. He threw the ball to Joe Adcock at first, who then fired to shortstop Johnny Logan who tagged Gonzalez.

Burdette never allowed another runner. In the home half of the eighth inning with the game still scoreless, Burdette leads off the inning. He hit a hard grounder down the left field line and raced to second with a leadoff double. Center-fielder Billy Bruton came up next and rifled a grounder down the right field line for a standup double which scored Burdette, and consequently the only run of the game.

In the top of the ninth Burdette had retired both Jimmy Coker and Ken Walters leaving only Gene Conley standing between Burdette and a no-hitter. Manager Gene Mauch pinch hits for Conley, sending Bobby Smith to bat for him. Smith hits an easy fly to right-fielder Hank Aaron who easily makes the catch to preserve the win, complete game shutout, no-hitter and nearly a perfect game for Burdette.

What a night! Not only did he  pitch a masterpiece, he scored the only run of the game, and was 2 for 3 at the plate.

The box score will show that Burdette faced the minimum of 27 batters. The AB however, will reflect only 26 since Gonzalez HBP didn’t result in at AB and he was wiped clean with a twin killing.

I wonder how much thought he put into the game in ’59 when he was watching Haddix fiddle with baseball immortality.

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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Historical, MLB

 

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Stan Musial – The Best Man Who Ever Played a Baseball Game

Musial
When I was just a young kid my father (May he rest in peace) taught me about baseball. He told me so much about the old-timers that I felt like I knew them. Of all the players on all of the teams, Stan Musial was without peer to him.

I use to marvel at his “corkscrew” stance and hear Dad tell me all the stories he knew about him. He told me about Musial getting five home runs in a double-header, quite a feat and still a record I believe. Musial was a genuine baseball Hall of Famer if there ever was one. He was a slugger, belting 475 HR and adding 1951 RBI. His career slash line is a ridiculous .331/.417/.559. His career OPS+ was 159. 15th on the all time list.

He won seven batting titles, his high-water mark in 1948 was .376. He won three MVP awards all within the first six years of playing major league ball. He finished runner-up four times and finished fourth once. Six times he lead the league in hits, and went over the 200 hit mark six times as well. He was the league leader in runs scored five times, in doubles seven times and he led the league five times in triples (a big surprise to me). He hit 20 triples in two different seasons.

He was the league leader in RBI twice, and he drove in over 100 runs on 10 occasions. Musial was on 24 All-Star teams, a record he shares with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. He has the All-Star record for career HR with six. He is second behind Mays in hits and RBI.

Musial played 1B and all three OF positions. I was surprised to find that he actually played CF in 331 games.

After the age of 35 his line was .305/.387/.506 and he averaged 24 HR and 93 RBI with an OPS+ of 134.

His WAR of 123.4 places him ninth historically. He had a total of 3,630 career his, getting exactly half of them at home and half on the road. That is consistency. Musial was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1969 on the first ballot.

Mays said that he has never heard anyone say a bad word about Stan Musial. That, in itself is a eulogy. He died today at the age of 92.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Historical, Memoriam

 

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Still Upset at the BBWAA Voters

In two editorials I posted this past week (click here and here) concerning the deficiency of the Hall of Fame selection process, I scathed the writers and the system pretty harshly. I make no apologies, I only wish to pour gasoline onto the flame that I ignited by calling for an end to voting entirely.

One of the ordinances in the selection system allows a retiree to be on the ballot for 15 years providing he garners five percent of the votes. I want to talk about that for a moment. Firstly, why should a player remain on a ballot for a decade and a half? Should the voter’s opinion of him warm as he simmers on the back burner? Do his career numbers accrue interest over the years? I have never understood that.

Jim Rice was elected in 2009 after marinading for those said 15 years. Well actually 14 since he was taken in the eleventh hour. What happened to make him unacceptable for oh so many years, and then with public outcry and media sentiments he is suddenly HOF material? Did he get to be a better player? Do his highlight reels seem more, I don’t know…Hall of Famey? Of course not.

How about the poor bast**ds who get thrown under the bus after the first ballot, second ballot or whenever? Do their numbers decrease in value?

Another sticking point I have with the system is that a voter can pull the lever on only 10 men. Why 10? Why not the entire ballot if he deems them worthy? There is so much wrong with such an electorate as this. It is ridiculous on so many levels.

These are just some of the problems that are associated with voting, procedures and popular opinion. The only thing that should matter, providing a player has not been banned from the game (Sorry Pete, Shoeless Joe), is what their numbers say about their career. End of story.

Baselines or benchmarks, if you will, need to be determined (and I don’t mean just using a player’s WAR) using several different statistics. Contradictory to what Sabrmetricians say, one stat or metric can not justify an entire career. For example, Bobby Grich has a higher WAR than Barry Larkin, Ryne Sandburg, Manny Ramirez and Eddie Murray, and other great players. Was he better? That was a rhetorical question.

Until the ship is righted, the entire voting process is a sham and a disgrace to the Hall of Fame.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Historical

 

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Cincinnati Reds All-Decade Team – The 1960’s

Crosley sepiaThis is the second installment of my selecting All-Decade teams for the Reds for the last half of the 20th Century. Here is the link to the fifties’ decade team.

The sixties was a better time to be a Reds fan than the previous decade. The Reds went to the World Series in ’61 and were blown out in five games by the New York Yankees. That was the year that Roger Maris hit 61 HR and Mickey Mantle added 54. What a year for home runs!

In ’62 the first of the expansions came and the National League went from eight to 10 teams. The New York Mets and the Houston Colt 45’s were added and the league stayed that way until the regional divisions were established. The Reds were thrown into the National League’s West Division, where they finished third in their inaugural season there.

It was also the last decade the Reds would play in Crosley Field. They would make the move to the cookie cutter ballpark, known as Riverfront Stadium in 1970. During the sixties the Reds record was 860 up and 742 down. They only had two losing seasons although they didn’t return to the postseason after the ’61 pennant-winning season.Johnny edwards

Now let us move on to the All-Decade team. We will begin behind the plate.

The catcher of the decade was Johnny Edwards. He played in seven of the 10 seasons and although he shared the decade with Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, the latter only played three seasons. I am sure he will make up for it in the seventies (wink, wink). Edwards represented the Queen City well as he went to the All-Star game in ’63,’64 and ’65 and won two Gold Gloves. Edwards was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the ’68 season for Pat Corrales and Jimy Williams.

Gordy ColemanAt first base the first person who probably rings a bell for you is Tony Perez. In this decade he was with the Reds from ’64-’69. Had he played all of his games, or even most of them, he would probably be the first baseman. He is not. That honor goes to the late Gordy Coleman, one of my favorite players of that time. Coleman played with the Reds from 1960-67.  In 1961-62 he averaged 31 HR and 98 RBI per 162 games.

In 1963 we saw the emergence of the future hits leader in MLB, Pete Rose.  He began his career on a high note winning the Pete Rose2Rookie-of-the-Year award at second base. Although he played several different positions during this decade, most of the time was at 2B. From ’63-’69 Rose had 200+ hits four of the seven campaigns. He was a four-time All-Star during the sixties and he finished second in MVP voting in 1968 and fourth in ’69, and won one Gold Glove.

 

Tony Perez2

Tony Perez played for Cincinnati from ’64-’69. He was on three All-Star squads and from ’67-’69. Perez averaged 28 HR and 108 RBI. Perez played mostly at 3B during this decade however he did spend some time at first.

 

Leo Cardenas

The shortstop of the decade  goes to Leo Cardenas. He played with the Reds from ’60-’68 at which time he was traded to the Twins for left-hander Jim Merritt. Cardenas was an All-Star for four years and won a Gold Glove. In 1964 he led the National League by playing in 163 games.

 

 

Frank Robinson3In the outfield I have one holdover from the previous decade. Frank Robinson stayed with the Reds until being traded prior to the ’66 season to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas, et al. Robby went on to promptly win the Triple Crown and become the first man to win the MVP award in the American and National Leagues. During the sixties with the Reds, he was a three-time All-Star and won one MVP award. He averaged 35 HR, 116 RBI and batted .306/.399/.562 and sported an OPS+ of 159.

Vada Pinson2

 

Vada Pinson who came on late in the fifties had a very good tenure with the Reds. He played there until being traded prior to the ’69 season to the Cardinals for Wayne Granger and Bobby Tolan. He was an All-Star in ’60 won a Gold Glove and finished third in MVP voting in ’61 behind winner, teammate Frank Robinson and Orlando Cepeda. From ’62-65 Pinson averaged 24 HR and 99 RBI. He had over 200 hits three different times  and batted over .300 three times as well. In ’61 he batted .343/.379/.504. He also led the league in hits twice and in doubles twice.

Tommy Harper

Tommy Harper is the third outfielder for the sixties. He began playing the hot corner but soon gravitated to the outfield. He came up with the Reds in ’62 and played until being traded to the Indians after the ’67 season. He led the league in runs scored with 126 in 1965.

Finally we come down to the ace of the decade. There were some very good pitchers wearing a Reds uniform in the sixties, Jim Maloney2including Jim O’Toole, Bob Purkey, Joey Jay, Milt Pappas, etc. The one who overshadowed them all was Jim Maloney. He was an All-Star in 1965, was a 20+ game winner twice and still holds the franchise record for strikeouts with 1592 (1585 during the sixties). Malone threw two no-hitters in the sixties, one of them was a 10-inning job.

There you have it, the best of the Reds in the sixties.

 

 

YRS POS AB R H HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS+
J Edwards 61-67 C 2377 235 585 53 296 6 .246 .314 .370 87
G Coleman 60-67 1B 2369 277 642 98 385 9 .271 .322 .447 106
P Rose 63-69 2B 4301 679 1327 75 433 50 .309 .369 .436 123
T Perez 64-69 3B 2417 340 678 97 403 8 .281 .333 .466 120
L Cardenas 60-68 SS 4047 415 1058 72 413 26 .261 .313 .377 89
F Robinson 60-65 OF 3250 628 993 190 643 115 .306 .399 .562 159
V Pinson 60-68 OF 5591 827 1650 165 722 198 .295 .337 .466 118
T Harper 62-67 OF 2312 376 589 44 177 124 .255 .333 .362 91
YRS POS W-L ERA G IP H BB SO ERA+ WHIP
J Maloney 60-69 P 134-80 3.08 282 1802 1457 771 1585 119 1.236
 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Historical

 

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