Seventeen months after being shot in the chest with a rifle by an obsessed fan, Eddie Waitkus was named the Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press on November 10, 1950. The Phillies’ infielder hit .284 that season and led the team with 102 runs scored, as he continued to be one of the best fielding first basemen in the league.
Waitkus’s story would provide part of the inspiration for Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, published in 1952.
I am well behind on this one. Dick Allen passed away this past Monday, December 7, 2020 at the age of 78.
Richard Anthony Allen was born March 8, 1942 in Wampum, Pennsylvania. During his fifteen-season Major League Baseball career, he appeared primarily as a first baseman, third baseman, and outfielder, most notably for the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox. Allen was named to the All-Star team seven times. He won the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year Award and the 1972 AL Most Valuable Player Award. He also led the AL in home runs for two seasons, led the NL in slugging percentage one season and the AL in two seasons, and led each major league in on-base percentage, one season each. He finished his career with a .292 batting average and a .534 slugging percentage.
The Philadelphia Phillies retired Dick Allen’s number 15 on September 3, 2020. He was also inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals in 2004.
Rest in peace.
On November 4, 1980, Steve Carlton was awarded the Cy Young Award, joining Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, and Jim Palmer as pitchers who have won three Cy Young Awards. Carlton collected all but one of the 24 first-place votes to take National League honors. Carlton finished the 1980 season with a 24-9 record and a 2.34 ERA, and he also led the National League with 286 strikeouts.
Legendary second baseman Joe Morgan played Major League Baseball for the Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, and Oakland Athletics from 1963 to 1984. Over the course of his career, Morgan won two World Series championships with the Reds in 1975 and 1976 and was also named the National League MVP in each of those years. Morgan was also a ten-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glove winner, and won the Silver Slugger award in 1982. Morgan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990, and he has also been inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame and the Astros Hall of Fame.
Joe Morgan died on October 11, 2020 in Danville, California at the age of 77.
Rest in peace.
Here’s a good Baseball Project tune to start your Tuesday. This song is all about the rise and fall of Lenny Dykstra, who was considered to be one of the heroes of the 1986 World Series, but has since fallen into so much legal and financial trouble that earlier this year, a court in New York ruled that he is “libel-proof,” meaning his behavior and character are so awful even false statements cannot harm his reputation.
Players, owners, teams, the league… all the moving parts of the MLB universe have finally come together, and we are, at last, going to see some baseball for the 2020 season!
Major League Baseball is having a second Spring Training (or should we call it “Summer Training” at this point?) to begin in about a week’s time, on July 1st. Then, we will be looking at a 60-game regular season, to be played over the course of about 66 days, from about July 23rd or 24th until September 27th. The postseason will begin on September 29th, with the World Series to begin on October 20th, and a potential Game 7 to be played on October 28th.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, access to games is going to be limited, of course. No fans in the stands is going to seem a bit weird, but so long as we can watch games from the comfort of our living rooms, that seems like a minor concession at this point. There will be a regimen of temperature checks and symptom checks, as well routine tests for the virus, not just among players, but also coaches, trainers, staff, etc. Players who are high-risk or who have family members at high risk have the option to opt out for the season and still get paid. Media interactions with the teams, meanwhile, will all take place through Zoom, in order to adhere to social distancing recommendations.
On the field, spitting will be banned, which makes perfect sense given the nature of how the virus spreads. Non-playing players in the dugout will be required to wear masks. Pitchers will bring their own rosin bags and will even be permitted to carry a wet rag in their back pocket so they won’t need to lick their fingers (does anyone else sniff a potential for some doctoring on this one?). Social distancing, in general, remains strongly encouraged.
How well will this all work? Obviously, it’s difficult to tell until things really get underway. The potential for a widespread outbreak remains very real — just look at what happened among the Phillies last week — and for all we know, the season might end abruptly after the first thirty days.
Information about this new development is still coming, even as I write this. This strange, strange season just keeps getting stranger, and while I’m happy that we’re going to see some ballgames, half of me is intensely curious about how long it’s really going to last.
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.
On October 19, 1932, outfielder Chuck Klein became the first Phillie to be named National League MVP when he received all first place votes for the honor. That season, Klein led the NL in hits (226), runs (152), home runs (38), and stolen bases (20).
For the second time in major league history, two one hundred-loss teams faced one another on October 6, 1923. The 52-100 Beaneaters beat the 50-102 Phillies, 5-4, in the first game of a doubleheader. Boston had also been part of the first one hundred-loss matchup when the 50-100 club played 45-103 Brooklyn in 1905.
On September 17, 1900, Reds shortstop Tommy Corcoran left his position and began digging around the third base coaching box with his spikes at Philadelphia Park. The Reds captain ended up digging out a metal box containing an electrical device inside with attached wires. It was suspected that the device was being used by the Phillies in a sophisticated scheme to steal signs, though I’m curious as to what tipped off Corcoran to start digging.