Quote of the day
Baseball is a game of the soul.
Baseball is a game of the soul.
In a spring exhibition game on March 23, 1934, Babe Didrikson pitched the first inning for the St. Louis Cardinals. The female track and field Olympian gave up three runs against the Red Sox in Bradenton, Florida.
On the first day of spring training, March 1, 1954, Ted Williams broke his collarbone running after a line drive. Williams would be out for six weeks, and in April he wrote an article with Joe Reichler of the Saturday Evening Post saying that he intended to retire at the end of the season. Williams instead returned to the Red Sox lineup on May 7th, and during the 1954 season he hit .345 with 386 at bats in 117 games.
I re-watched Moneyball this weekend, the movie based on the book by Michael Lewis with the same title. Moneyball tells the story of Billy Beane and Peter Brand during the 2002 season, and how they used a sabermetric approach to build a winning team on a limited budget.
Following the 2001 season, the Oakland A’s lost Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Jason Isringhausen to free agency, and general manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, finds himself needing to replace them. During a scouting trip to Cleveland, Beane meets Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), a Yale economics graduate who impresses Beane with his statistical analyses of ballplayers.
With Brand’s help, Beane built a low-budget team by focusing on players’ stats, such as on-base percentage. The start of the season was predictably rough, with the A’s finding themselves ten games back. Beane convinces team owner Stephen Schott to stick with the plan, and Beane then trades Giambi to the Phillies for John Mabry and Carlos Peña to the Tigers, leaving manager Art Howe no choice but to use the team Beane and Brand have designed. Three weeks later, the Athletics are only four games behind first.
The A’s launch into a winning streak that culminates in a dramatic victory over the Kansas City Royals, in which the A’s achieve a then record-breaking 20th consecutive win. The team falls short in the playoffs, however, when they lose to the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS.
Recognizing that sabermetrics is the future of baseball, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry first hires Bill James to the organization, then offers Billy Beane a $12.5 million salary to join Boston as well. Peter Brand tries to persuade Beane that he is worth the offer, however, not wanting to leave his daughter behind, Beane ultimately turns it down to stay with Oakland.
As a movie, I enjoy Moneyball. It’s dramatic, emotional, and there’s lots and lots of baseball. It sheds light on the idea behind sabermetrics. Critics argue that the movie is not an entirely accurate depiction of real-life events, excluding key players and portraying various relationships in a slanted light. It seems to me that the transition from real-life-story-to-movie presents the same challenges as book-to-movie situations: there’s just no way to be 100% true to the original without creating an hours-long film. As with any movie based on real life (or on a book), it’s worth doing your own research on the side in addition to enjoying the cinematic experience.
On February 17, 1937, the New York Yankees purchased the contract of Babe Dahlgren from the Boston Red Sox. Dahlgren would go on to replace Lou Gehrig in the Yankees lineup at the end of the Iron Horse’s consecutive game streak in 1939. During his four-year tenure with the Bronx Bombers, Dahlgren would compile a .248 batting average in 1,143 at-bats before being bought by the Boston Braves.
Forty-year-old Roger Clemens agreed to a $10.1 million, one-year deal with the Yankees on December 30, 2002. At the time, Clemens indicated that 2003 would be his final year in baseball, and the end of the 2003 season became a series of public farewells met with appreciative cheering. Clemens would come out of retirement almost as quickly as he went into it, however, signing with the Houston Astros in early 2004.
In December 1919, Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth for $125,000 to the Yankees, and also secured a $300,000 loan from the New York team. Throughout history, Frazee has been criticized for this deal, taking the blame for igniting the Curse of the Bambino, in which Boston did not win a World Series from 1918 to 2004. In the video below, originally aired in 2005, ESPN Classic takes a closer look at the circumstances surrounding the deal and comes to Frazee’s defense. True, Babe Ruth was one of the great pitchers of the era, but Ruth ultimately did not want to be a pitcher, but rather expressed more interest in hitting home runs. Additionally, Ruth’s antics off the field were well-known headache-inducers for any team. These are just a couple of the reasons that motivated Frazee to make the deal.
On December 4, 1943, the Senators sold All-Star Bob Johnson to the Red Sox. Washinton owner Clark Griffith would later recall the deal as one of the worst he ever made, as Johnson went on to have two solid seasons with Boston, hitting .302 for the Sox before retiring at 39.
On November 20, 1958, outfielder Jackie Jensen of the Boston Red Sox was named American League Most Valuable Player. Jensen managed to beat out Bob Turley, Rocky Colavito, and Bob Cerv for the award, finishing the season with a .286 batting average, a league-leading 122 RBIs, and also earning 99 walks, 35 home runs, 31 doubles, 293 total bases, and a .396 on-base percentage.
On November 11, 1941, the American League Most Valuable Player Award went to Joe DiMaggio, who hit 30 home runs, 125 RBIs, and collected 348 total bases. DiMaggio also led the Yankees to a 101-53 season that culminated with their ninth World Series title. In the midst of all of this, the Yankee Clipper also had a Major League-record 56-game hitting streak along the way.
DiMaggio edged out Ted Williams in the voting for the award. Williams remains the last player to finish a season with a .400 average, doing so when he hit .406 in 1941. Williams’s season won him the American League batting title by a whopping 47 points that year, however, his efforts fell short in the league’s MVP voting.