RIP Bob Gibson

I just heard about the passing of Bob Gibson, pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals for seventeen seasons. Over the course of that career, Gibson collected 251 wins, 3,117 strikeouts, and a 2.91 ERA. He was also a nine-time All-Star, won two World Series championships, and he won two Cy Young Awards and the 1968 NL MVP.

Bob Gibson was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. The Cardinals retired his uniform number 45 in September 1975 and inducted him into the team Hall of Fame in 2014.

Gibson died in Omaha, Nebraska on October 2, 2020 from pancreatic cancer.

Rest in peace.

45.bob-gibson

Sports Illustrated


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.

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Lou Brock as a coach in 2005 (wikipedia)


This day in baseball: Yellow baseballs

For the first game of a doubleheader played on August 2, 1938, Larry MacPhail had official baseballs dyed dandelion yellow, and the balls were used in the matchup between the Dodgers and Cardinals at Ebbets Field.  The inspiration for this yellow ball came from a New York color engineer named Frederic H. Rahr, who developed it after Mickey Cochrane was severely beaned at the plate the previous year.

“My primary object is to give the hitter more safety and there’s no question that this will be achieved,” said Rahr. “That’s simply because the batter will be striking at a ball he can see instead of at a white object that blurs with the background.”

The Dodgers won that opening game with the yellow baseballs by a score of 6-2.  The Dodgers went on to use up their yellow balls in three more games in 1939, but the yellow balls would not get used again after that season.

1938 Yellow Baseball.jpg

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum


This day in baseball: Slim steals home

Slim Sallee became the first pitcher in Cardinal history to steal home on July 22, 1913 in a game against the Brooklyn Superbas.  The Redbird lefty  performed the feat in the game’s third inning, scoring the first run in St. Louis’s 3-1 victory over Brooklyn at Ebbets Field.

Slim_Sallee 1911 LoC

Slim Sallee in 1911 (Library of Congress)


This day in baseball: Ironman’s double loss

Boston Beaneaters pitcher Wiley Piatt lost both games of a doubleheader to the St. Louis Cardinals on June 25, 1903.  Piatt pitched a complete game in each contest, making him the first pitcher in the 20th century to pitch two complete games in one day and lose them both.  Fittingly, Piatt was known as “Ironman” to his teammates.

Wiley_Piatt public domain.jpg

Wiley Piatt (public domain)


This day in baseball: Kiner’s home run streak

On August 16, 1947, Ralph Kiner of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit three home runs in consecutive at-bats to lead the Pirates to a 12-7 win over the Cardinals. With this performance, Kiner matched the major league marks of seven home runs in four games, six in three games, five in two games, and four homers in consecutive at-bats.

Kiner Ralph

sabr.org


This day in baseball: Feller’s first major league appearance

In his first major league appearance on July 6, 1936, seventeen-year-old Indians rookie Bob Feller pitched in an All-Star break exhibition game against the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang.  After the first batter was thrown out trying to bunt, Feller proceeded to strike out eight consecutive batters in three innings.

bob feller

Wikimedia Commons


This day in baseball: The Cardinals’ first home night game

The St. Louis Cardinals played their first home night game on June 4, 1940.  The Cardinals lost to Brooklyn, 10-1, in spite of a 5-for-5 performance by Joe Medwick, including three doubles. The first evening ballgame in St. Louis, which had taken place on May 24, was actually hosted by the Browns, after the two teams had agreed to split the $150,000 cost of installing lights at Sportsman’s Park.

sportsmans park

ballparksofbaseball.com


This day in baseball: Moon is Rookie of the Year

On December 19, 1954, Wally Moon of the St. Louis Cardinals was selected National League Rookie of the Year.  Moon finished his first season in the big leagues with a .304 batting average, 12 home runs,  and 76 RBIs.  The twenty-four-year-old center fielder, who replaced Enos Slaughter in the St. Louis outfield, collected 17 of the 24 writers’ votes, winning easily over future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron.

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Moon in 1961 (Wikipedia)


Lefty Grove

Handmade Software, Inc. Image Alchemy v1.11

Library of Congress

Some consider Lefty Grove to be baseball’s greatest pitcher of all time — or, at the very least, the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time.

Robert Moses Grove was born to John and Emma Grove on Tuesday, March 6, 1900 in Lonaconing, Maryland. Following in the footsteps of his father and older brothers, Grove initially began a career working in the mines. He quit after two weeks, however, declaring, “Dad, I didn’t put that coal in here, and I hope I don’t have to take no more of her out.” From there, he drifted between other forms of work, including a “bobbin boy” working spinning spools to make silk thread, as an apprentice glass blower and needle etcher in a glass factory, and as a railroad worker laying rails and driving spikes.

When he was not working, Grove played a version of baseball using cork stoppers in wool socks wrapped in black tape as a ball, and fence pickets when bats were not available. He did not play an actual game of baseball until the age of seventeen, nor did he play organized baseball until nineteen when Dick Stakem, the proprietor of a general store in a neighboring town, recruited him to play in town games on a field located between a forest and train tracks.

Grove put on such a good performance as a pitcher, the manager of the B&O railroad wanted the teenager on his team, and hired him to clean cylinder heads of steam engines in Cumberland, Maryland. Grover never got the opportunity to play baseball with B&O, however. A local garage manager named Bill Louden also happened to manage the Martinsburg, West Virginia team of the Class D Blue Ridge League and offered Grove an astonishing $125 a month, a sum $50 more than his father and brothers were making.

Grove took a 30-day leave from his job, going 3-3 with 60 strikeouts in 59 innings for the Martinsburg team. Word of Grove’s performance reached Jack Dunn, owner of the International League (Double-A) Baltimore Orioles, and Dunn proceeded to buy Grove for a price somewhere between $3,000 and $3,500 from Louden.

Grove won his debut, 9-3, over Jersey City, prompting Dunn to say he wouldn’t sell Lefty to anyone for $10,000. From 1920-24, Grove was 108-36 and struck out 1,108 batters for a minor-league record. Grove was often wild as well, however, and went 3-8 in the postseason. His final season in Baltimore, however, he went 26-6, struck out 231 batters in 236 innings, and reduced his walks from 186 to 108. Following the 1924 season, Dunn sold Grove to Philadelphia owner and manager Connie Mack, for $100,600. The extra $600 supposedly made it a higher price than the Yankees had paid the Red Sox for Babe Ruth after the 1919 season.

Grove was twenty-five years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 14, 1925 with the Philadelphia Athletics. He had a rough rookie season, going 10-12 and leading the American League in both walks (131) and strikeouts (116). “Catching him was like catching bullets from a rifleman with bad aim,” Athletics catcher Mickey Cochrane commented years later.

In 1926, Grove’s ERA dropped from it’s previous 4.75 to a league-leading 2.51, his walks dropped from 131 to 101, and his strikeouts increased from 116 to 194. However, Grove also didn’t receive much support, and he was shut out four times in the season’s first two months. He would finish the season with a 13-13 record.

His bad fortune would not last forever, though. Grove led the league in strikeouts the next five years and won twenty or more games for the next seven. In 1929, the A’s won the pennant. Connie Mack declined to start either Grove or Rube Walberg, another left-handed pitcher, in the World Series, but Grove made his mark in relief. Coming into Game Two in the fifth inning, he recorded six strikeouts, three hits, one walk and no runs allowed over 4 1/3 innings. Grove then pitched the last two innings of Game Four in relief as well. The A’s took the Series, four games to one over the Cubs, and Grove struck out ten batters in 6 1/3 innings.

In 1930, A’s went 102-52 to finish in first place, and Grove won the Triple Crown of pitching by leading the league in wins (28), strikeouts (209), and ERA (2.54). In the World Series, the A’s faced the St. Louis Cardinals, who had batted .314 as a team for the season. Grove won the opener, 5-2, throwing seventy strikes and a mere thirty-nine balls, striking out five and allowing nine hits. Grove then relieved George Earnshaw in the eighth inning of a scoreless Game Five and won it, 2-0, with the help of Jimmie Foxx’s two-run homer.

Grove finished the 1931 season 31-4 with an ERA of 2.06. He won his second straight Triple Crown with 175 strikeouts and was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. The Athletics won the pennant again, finishing 13 1/2 games ahead of second-place New York. With a blister on one of his throwing fingers, Grove gave up twelve hits in the World Series opener, but he received good fielding support and won, 6-2. However, Grove allowed eleven hits and four earned runs in eight innings during Game Three, losing 5-2. Grove then won Game Five, 8-1, on five hits and one walk. However, the A’s lost the Series in seven games to the Cardinals.

Grove had a 24-8 record in 1932 and led the league with a .750 percentage and 21 complete games. In 1933, he finished 24-8 with a 3.20 ERA — the first time since 1927 that he finished the season with an ERA above 3.0. Following the 1933 season, facing the financial realities that came with the Great Depression, Connie Mack traded Grove to the Boston Red Sox.

Unfortunately, Grove was unable to contribute much during his first year in Boston, as an arm injury held him to an 8-8 record. He bounced back in 1935, however, finishing 20-12 with a league-leading 2.70 ERA. In the 1936 season, he pitched a 2.81 ERA to win his seventh ERA title while posting a 17-12 record and 130 strike-outs. He then won his eighth ERA title a year later, finishing with a 17-9 record and 153 strike-outs. Grove then finished with records of 14-4 in 1938 and 15-4 in 1939, but in 1940, he had a 7-6 record while recording a 3.99 ERA with 62 strike-outs. The 1941 season would be his final season, and he finished 7-7, winning his 300th game on July 25th.

Grove finished with a career record of 300-141, and his .680 lifetime winning percentage is eighth all-time. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947, his first year of eligibility.

Lefty Grove died in Norwalk, Ohio, on May 22, 1975 at the age of seventy-five and was buried in the Frostburg Memorial Cemetery in Frostburg, Maryland.