This day in baseball: Burns’s triple play

Red Sox first baseman George Burns completed an unassisted triple play against the Indians on September 14, 1923.  To accomplish the feat, Burns snared Frank Brower’s line drive, he then tagged Rube Lutzke coming from first, and and finally beat Riggs Stephenson in a sprint back to second.

George Burns - Cleveland - Wikipedia

George Burns in 1921 (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: AL marathon

The longest game in American League history (up to that point) took place on September 1, 1906. The Philadelphia Athletics defeated the Boston Red Sox in 24 innings, 4-1. The starter for both teams went the distance, as A’s hurler Jack Coombs beat Boston’s Joe Harris at Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds.

Huntington_Avenue_Grounds

Huntington Avenue Grounds (Wikipedia)


The Big Fella, by Jane Leavy

I recently finished making my way through Jane Leavy’s biography on the Great Bambino himself, entitled The Big Fella.  Like anyone else, I have heard most of the stories, I’m aware of the ballplayer’s legendary status, and as a kid, I memorized the list of nicknames spouted off by the kids of The Sandlot.  However, this is the first actual Babe Ruth biography I have ever read.

Fair warning: this biography is quite the tome.  It’s not quite War and Peace, but sitting at over 600 pages, it’s not exactly Animal Farm, either.  In my opinion, though, the journey through this volume is worth the time.  Using the barnstorming tour Babe Ruth took with Lou Gehrig after the 1927 World Series as the framework for the book, Leavy injects details about Ruth’s life and analysis about his personality and character to paint a broad and detailed portrait of the man and the ballplayer.

My favorite feature of this book lies in how human it portrays the Babe.  Ruth often gets depicted as this happy-go-lucky, larger-than-life figure who transcends not only baseball, but American culture itself.  Not that Leavy ignores this facet of Ruth’s character.  In fact, she goes into great detail about how this perception of the Babe pervaded American thought even during his lifetime.  Ruth certainly lived large, and the public loved him so much, the press even willingly kept many of his indiscretions quite.  When some of those indiscretions did leak out, fans were more than willing to overlook them, finding these to be a part of the ballplayer’s charm.

Leavy’s biography doesn’t focus just on this, however.  Ruth’s life, especially as a youth, was not an easy one.  The author includes stories about his birth, early youth, his life at St. Mary’s, and his introduction to professional baseball.  She also talks about Ruth’s drinking and womanizing, and while she doesn’t forgive the Babe for these, Leavy does juxtapose that side of Ruth with his affinity for playing with and helping kids.

The book also delves deeply into Ruth’s relationship with his manager, Christy Walsh.  We get an overview of Ruth’s personal finances, and Leavy demonstrates how much the Babe profited from Christy Walsh’s management.  She conveys the impact Ruth and Walsh had on popular culture, foreshadowing the celebrity-obsessed society that followed them and continues to pervade our world today.

Leavy also does a good job giving us a glimpse into the Babe’s shortcomings as a family man and the impact this had on his daughters.  There is also a great exploration of Ruth’s life after baseball, including the disappointments he faced as he continuously got turned down for management roles.  Leavy goes into detail about his final days, as well, discussing his illness and, ultimately, his death.

Overall, I was impressed.  I did, at times, wish that the structure of the book followed a more linear path, rather than bouncing around Ruth’s life the way that it does, but given the amount of research and detail included in these pages, it’s a shortcoming I’m willing to overlook.


This day in baseball: Double leadoff homers

On May 30, 1913, Red Sox outfielder Harry Hooper became the first major leaguer to lead off both games of a doubleheader with a home run. The feat would not be repeated until 80 years later, in 1993, when A’s leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson opened each game of a twin bill against Cleveland with a homer.

Harry_Hooper 1912

Hooper in 1912 (Wikipedia)


HBO Sports: Babe Ruth

Here’s a fun documentary on the Great Bambino himself.  It’s interesting to think about how Ruth had such a great relationship with reporters that they were willing to keep mum about his indiscretions — something you would never see happen today.  I also really love how the Babe was so good with kids.


This day in baseball: Herb Pennock dies

On January 30, 1948, at the age of 53, Herb Pennock collapsed in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was pronounced dead upon his arrival at Midtown Hospital. Pennock had played from 1912 through 1933, and was best known for his time spent with the New York Yankee teams of the mid- to late-1920s and early 1930s. After retiring as a player, Pennock served as a coach and farm system director for the Red Sox, and as general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Later in 1948, he was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Herb Pennock 1934

Pennock in 1934 (Wikipedia)


2013 Boston Red Sox poem

After the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series, Dick Flavin, known as the poet laureate for the Red Sox, released this poem written in their honor.  I love this guy’s energy and sense of humor.  It’s a lot of fun to listen to him read it.


Curse of the Colonel

The Red Sox and the Cubs aren’t the only teams in the baseball world to have suffered the effects of a curse. A Japanese team, the Hanshin Tigers, found itself the victim of the “Curse of the Colonel,” with the “colonel” being none other than KFC’s Colonel Sanders.

The Hanshin Tigers are located in Kansai, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. In 1985, the Tigers faced the Seibu Lions and took their first and only victory in the Japan Championship Series. The team’s success came in large part due to the efforts of an American playing on the team, slugger Randy Bass (who would later serve as a Senator for Oklahoma).

As one might expect following a major championship victory, the Tiger fan base launched into celebration. A particularly raucous crowd gathered at Ebisu Bridge in Dōtonbori, Osaka.  Fans here would yell the players’ names, and with every name, a fan resembling that member of the Tigers leaped from the bridge and into the canal. However, lacking a Caucasian person to represent MVP Randy Bass, the crowd seized a plastic statue of Colonel Sanders (who apparently resembled Bass, in their minds) from a nearby KFC and tossed it off the bridge as an effigy.

According to the legend, thus began the Curse of the Colonel. The Hanshin Tigers began an 18-year losing streak, placing last or next-to-last in the league each year. The Tigers had a surprisingly good season in 2003, winning the Central League and earning a spot in the Japan Championship Series. However, the Tigers lost the series to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, so the curse was presumed to still be in place. The curse, fans believed, would continue until the Colonel statue had been recovered from the river.

The Colonel was finally discovered in the Dōtonbori River on March 10, 2009. The statue was, not surprisingly, in pieces, and it lacked the glasses the Colonel held in his left hand. It was believed that the curse could only be lifted by returning the Colonel’s glasses, so a replacement set of glasses were given to him in order to ensure the breaking of the curse.

The KFC restaurant to which the statue originally belonged no longer exists, so the now-restored Colonel Sanders makes his home at the branch near Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.

Curse of Colonel Sanders Japan recovered statue

Colonel Sanders statue, shortly after being recovered from the river in 2009 (Ogiyoshisan)


This day in baseball: Carl Mays beans Tris Speaker

On May 20, 1918, Indians outfielder Tris Speaker was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Red Sox hurler Carl Mays.  A right-handed submarine pitcher, Mays denied Speaker’s allegation that the beanball pitch was intentional.  Mays pitched a complete game, winning 11-1 that day.  The beanball would prove a precursor to the pitch that would kill Ray Chapman two years later.

Carl Mays

Carl Mays (SABR)