RIP Lou Brock

Lou Brock spent the majority of his nineteen-year Major League career as a left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Brock was best known for breaking Ty Cobb’s all-time stolen base record in 1977. He was a six-time All-Star, and he led the National League in stolen bases for eight seasons. Brock led the NL in doubles and triples in 1968, and in singles in 1972. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

Lou Brock passed away yesterday, September 6, 2020 at the age of 81.

RIP.

lou_brock_2005

Lou Brock as a coach in 2005 (wikipedia)


RIP Tom Seaver

With a nickname like “Tom Terrific,” you know he was good at his job. Born November 17, 1944, Tom Seaver pitched for twenty seasons in Major League Baseball. Over the course of his career, he played for the New York Mets, the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox.

Seaver won the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1967, and during his career, he won three NL Cy Young Awards. He was also a 12-time All-Star, compiling 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts, 61 shutouts, and a 2.86 ERA. Just to pad the résumé a little, Seaver even threw a no-hitter in 1978.

Tom Seaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. He passed away a few days ago, on August 31, 2020 from complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19.

Rest in peace.

Tom_Seaver_at_Shea_Stadium_1974_CROP

Wikimedia Commons


This day in baseball: 1939 All-Star Game

The 1939 All-Star Game was held on July 11th at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, where the American League defeated the National League, 3-1.  Two of the three AL runs were driven in by Yankees players (the third was an unearned run scored on an error), including a DiMaggio home run.  Indians pitcher Bob Feller, only twenty years old at the time, threw 3.2 scoreless innings to earn the save.

The box score for the game can be found here.

bob feller

Bob Feller (Wikimedia Commons)


R.I.P. Al Kaline

Nicknamed “Mr. Tiger,” Al Kaline played the entirety of his 22-year Major League career with the Detroit Tigers.  Kaline won ten Gold Gloves as a right fielder and was an eighteen-time All Star.  He collected 3,007 hits, 399 home runs, and 1,583 RBIs in his career and finished with a lifetime batting average of .297 in 2,837 games played.

Al Kaline was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980.  He passed away yesterday, April 6, 2020, at the age of 85.

Al Kaline 1957

Al Kaline in 1957 (Wikimedia Commons)


This day in baseball: MVP Jeter

On October 26, 2000, Derek Jeter was named World Series MVP, making him the first player to win both All-Star Game MVP and World Series MVP in the same season.  Jeter hit .409 in the World Series that year, including two doubles, a triple, and a couple of home runs to help the Yankees win four games to one over the New York Mets.

Derek Jeter

Wikimedia Commons


Quote of the day

Arch (Ward) called me one day and asked me to have dinner with him. I didn’t know he had anything in mind other than a sociable dinner until he sprang the All-Star Game idea on me, and I was flabbergasted at first. The idea was sound enough since that was the first year of the World’s Fair in Chicago and Arch wanted to make an All-Star Game one of the highlights. His sales pitch was that it would be a wonderful thing for baseball. I told Arch I would submit the proposition to the owners. The American League owners finally agreed after considerable discussion that it would join strictly as an attraction for the 1933 Fair. At first the National League opposed it, but finally agreed to play the game for only one year. The game turned out to be so wonderful and so well accepted by the fans that the owners quickly agreed to continue the game and it became a solid fixture.

~Will Harridge in Professional Baseball: The First 100 Years (1976)

Harridge Will

sabr.org


2018 MLB All-Star Game

2018 MLB ASG

And for tonight’s All-Star Game, here are our starting lineups.

For the American League:

1. Mookie Betts, RF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Mike Trout, CF
4. J.D. Martinez, DH
5. Jose Ramirez, 3B
6. Aaron Judge, LF
7. Manny Machado, SS
8. Jose Abreu, 1B
9. Salvador Perez, C
SP: Chris Sale, Red Sox

And for the National League:

1. Javier Baez, 2B
2. Nolan Arenado, 3B
3. Paul Goldschmidt, DH
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B
5. Matt Kemp, LF
6. Bryce Harper, CF
7. Nick Markakis, RF
8. Brandon Crawford, SS
9. Willson Contreras, C
SP: Max Scherzer, Nationals

With the starts by Sale and Scherzer, tonight’s ASG will be the second time in history that the Midsummer Classic will feature the same starting pitchers in consecutive seasons. The first time this happened was in 1939 and 1940, with pitchers Red Ruffing of the Yankees versus Cincinnati’s Paul Derringer.

Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 8 pm ET at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.


2018 Home Run Derby

In case you’ve been living under a rock lately (which, admittedly, I pretty much have been), the 2018 MLB All Star Break is underway, and the Home Run Derby is slated to start at 8 pm Eastern tonight.  Here is the bracket for tonight’s competition, courtesy of MLB.com:

2018 HR Derby
Rules for the competition can be found here.  Personally, I find all the rules regarding the timer and timeouts, etc. to be too onerous to want to track.  Things were much simpler in the days when hitters were just granted a set number of “outs” per round.  But perhaps that’s just me.


Roger Maris

Most baseball fans are familiar with the name Roger Maris.  Those who paid any attention to the home run race of 1998 definitely have a familiarity with the name, because from 1961 until 1998, Roger Maris held Major League Baseball’s single-season home run record.

Roger Eugene Maras was born on September 10, 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota, the son of Rudolph S. “Rudy” and Corrine Maras (Roger would later change his last name to “Maris”).  Roger also had a brother, Rudy, Jr., who was older by a year.  In 1942, the Maras family moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, then onto Fargo, North Dakota in 1946.

Maris attended Shanley High School in Fargo, and he met his future wife, Patricia, during his sophomore year.  Roger and Rudy Maras, Jr. both competed in sports throughout high school, including track and football.  During the summers, they participated in American Legion baseball, and in 1950, Roger led his North Dakota legion team to the state championship.  Roger was also a standout football player and was even recruited to play for the University of Oklahoma.  Though he initially planned to attend Oklahoma, he

rookie roger maris

Maris in his rookie year with Cleveland (Wikipedia)

changed his mind in favor of staying close to his brother, who had been diagnosed with polio.  Maris instead decided to pursue a baseball career, and at the age of 18, he signed with the Cleveland Indians, starting out with their Fargo farm team.

After a few years in the minors, Maris made his Major League debut on April 16, 1957 playing outfield for the Indians.  Halfway through the 1958 season, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics.  He recorded 28 home runs during the 1958 season, then in 1959, he represented the A’s in the All-Star game.  However, he missed 45 games during the 1959 season due to an appendix operation and only hit 16 home runs.

In December 1959, Maris was traded to the New York Yankees, along with Kent Hadley and Joe DeMaestri.  In the 1960 season, Maris hit 39 home runs, which was a career high for him at that time, and led the American League with 112 RBIs.  He again played in the All-Star game, and the Yankees won the American League pennant.  However, New York lost the World Series in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Maris won the Gold Glove award and was also named the American League’s Most Valuable Player.

Roger Maris

biography.com

In 1961, Major League Baseball extended its season from 154 to 162 games.  When the season started, Maris started out slow, but he hit 11 home runs in the month of May and another 15 in June, putting him on pace to reach the single-season record of 60 set by the Babe Ruth in 1927.  As mid-season approached, it seemed wholly possible that either Maris or fellow Yankee Mickey Mantle, if not both, would break Ruth’s home run record.  The media focused intensely on the home run chase, fabricating a rivalry between Maris and Mantle that didn’t actually exist.

Very much an introvert, Maris grew weary of having to talk about the record with reporters day in and day out, and his hair started falling out due to increasing pressure.  To make matters worse, as the season progressed, there was much discussion as to what would happen if Maris couldn’t break the record within 154 games, some going so far as to say the record didn’t count if Maris couldn’t do it within those 154 games as Ruth did.  The popular belief that an asterisk would be placed on Maris’s record if achieved after 154 games, however, was urban legend.

Maris wound up with 59 home runs during that allotted 154-game time frame, and then Maris tied Ruth in game 159.  He hit his 61st homer on the last day of the season.  From then, until 1991, Ruth and Maris were acknowledged separately in the record books, just not with an asterisk.  Maris also led the AL with 141 RBIs and 132 runs scored in 1961, winning the American League’s Most Valuable Player award once again.  The Yankees went on to win the World Series over the Cincinnati Reds, four games to one.

In 1962, Maris compiled 33 home runs and 100 RBIs and he was named to the All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year.  The Yankees repeated as World Series champs, this time defeating the San Francisco Giants, four games to three.  In 1963, Maris played in only 90 games, hitting 23 home runs.  He also missed much of the World Series due to injury.  In 1964, Maris made a bit of a comeback, appearing in 141 games and batting .281 with 26 home runs.  His play continued to decline after that season, however, and in 1966, the Yankees traded Maris to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Maris played his final two seasons with the Cardinals, helping them to win the 1967 and roger maris cardinals1968 pennants.  While the Cardinals won the 1967 World Series, they lost a very close 1968 Series, four games to three, to the Detroit Tigers.  Maris retired from baseball after that season.

His playing days behind him, Maris and his brother owned and operated Maris Distributing, a Budweiser beer distributorship in Gainesville, Florida.  Maris also coached baseball at Gainesville’s Oak Hall High School, which named its baseball field after him in 1990.  On July 21, 1984, his jersey number 9 was permanently retired by the Yankees, and that same year, the Roger Maris Museum was opened in the West Acres Mall in Fargo.

In 1983, Maris was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  He died from the disease in Houston, Texas, on December 14, 1985.  He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota.


Ken Burns’s Baseball: The Fifth Inning

Continuing on with the journey through Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns brings us to the decade of the 1930s.  The United States, indeed, the world, was facing off against the Great Depression during the 1930s.  As a result of high unemployment rates and widespread poverty, few could afford the price of tickets to attend professional baseball games, and as a result, attendance fell drastically.  Baseball did what it could to try to draw fans back in, from the first All-Star game to the creation of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  However, the financial difficulties that faced the nation at this time were too great.

Even as the Depression was getting underway, the Yankees signed Babe Ruth to the biggest contract in baseball history in the early 1930s.  It was a move that seems only too-appropriate, given Ruth’s ostentatious lifestyle.  Meanwhile, Lou Gehrig continues to stay merely in the shadows of the spotlight, in spite of his consecutive game streak and consistent high level of play.shadow ball

Subtitled “Shadow Ball,” the Fifth Inning of this series by Ken Burns focuses on black baseball.  (The subtitle, by the way, is not a reference to race, but rather to the illusion that these games weren’t being played with a ball at all, because it could barely be seen.)  While white baseball suffered during the Depression, black baseball flourished.  Many black teams came under control of racketeers, as they were among the few who could afford to fund baseball during this time, but interestingly, this seemed to be to the advantage of the Negro Leagues.  And the crowds flocked to watch the black teams play.  Listening to the nostalgia in the voices of former negro leagues players, you can tell there was a true love for the game, even in spite of inequality, the hard road trips, and the racism they faced.

We learn about Satchel Paige, considered by some to be the greatest pitcher in all of baseball.  He had such an arsenal of pitches that few could hit off Paige.  Some saw him as black baseball’s equivalent of a Babe Ruth, in that he drew large crowds to ball games.  He even seemed to hold true to this comparison in his off-field personality.  He hated to drive slow and cultivated a persona for those around him.  Buck O’Neil, however, indicates there was much more to Paige than often met the eye.

Babe Ruth himself became the center of attention yet again during the 1932 World Series in Chicago when, in Game 3, he appeared to call his shot.  No one will ever know for certain whether he really did, or if Ruth was merely engaging in a different gesture altogether, but it was a moment that, as we all know, has remained a part of the baseball psyche for decades.  As the decade went on, however, Ruth’s level of play would decline, as it always does as a ballplayer gets older.  When the Yankees made it clear they would not offer him a manager position, he did a brief stint with the Boston Braves, then retired from baseball.  Meanwhile, new stars stepped into the spotlight.  Not just Lou Gehrig, but also figures like Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Feller.

As for home run hitters in the Negro Leagues, catcher Josh Gibson was well-known for this ability.  While many called him a black Babe Ruth, Burns notes, there were some who thought they had the comparison backwards, and that Babe Ruth was actually a white Josh Gibson.  Indeed, the list of accomplishments for Gibson certainly seems to pass those of Ruth, including a season with seventy home runs, some of which exceeded 575 feet in distance.  The Negro Leagues’ version of the Yankees were the Kansas City Monarchs, led by first baseman Buck O’Neil.  In his commentary, O’Neil speaks about the camaraderie between the players and the fans.

We learn about the 1930s Brooklyn Dodgers, “dem bums,” and we learn about the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, the “Gashouse Gang.”  In 1936, Joe DiMaggio made his first appearances as a rookie with the New York Yankees.  DiMaggio would help lead the Yankees to four World Series.  Also in the thirties, we see the first night game in Major League Baseball (though night games had been played in the Negro Leagues for some time) and the increasing popularity of radio broadcasts, especially those by Red Barber, created new fans, as more and more people came to understand the game.

During the off season, many black players traveled south to Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean.  In doing so, they were able to play baseball year round.  They also discovered that the racial attitudes south of the United States were very different.  They were paid more and welcomed more warmly by the locals than they were back home.

Discrimination didn’t stop with just the black population.  Hank Greenburg came into prominence as first baseman for the Detroit Tigers.  He wasn’t the first Jewish player in the game, but he was probably the first to really make a name for himself.  Greenburg faced a considerable backlash of anti-Semitism, but his stellar play eventually helped to win fans and players over.  Greenburg felt his role was of particular importance in light of the actions of one Adolf Hitler in Europe.

In 1939 came Lou Gehrig’s ALS diagnosis, and thus the end of his streak and his baseball career.  On July 4th of that year, Gehrig gave his “Luckiest Man” speech at Yankee Stadium.  Two years later, he passed away from the disease, which now bears his name.

1939 also saw the opening of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the induction of the first Hall of Fame class.  It was the 100-year anniversary of the myth of Abner Doubleday‘s founding of baseball in 1839.  The disc then ends with Buck O’Neil describing the long-awaited matchup between Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson — Negro League Baseball’s best pitcher versus it’s best hitter.  O’Neil’s account left me with a smile.