2015 Veteran’s Ballot Announced

October 31, 2014

Just saw at MLB.com that the Veteran’s Committee ballot for 2015 enshrinement at the Hall of Fame is out. Here’s the list:

Players: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Maury Wills, Luis Tiant

Executive: Bob Howsam

Seven of the ten, all but Boyer, Hodges, and Howsam are living. The election is 8 December.

This is a list of the committee members:

Hall of Fame Members:  Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith Don Sutton

Executives: Jim Frey, David Glass, Roland Hemond, Bob Watson

Media Members: Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe, Tracy Ringolsby.

12 votes are necessary for election.

 

Shutting them Out

October 31, 2014
Christy Mathewson about 1905

Christy Mathewson about 1905

With all the hoopla over Madison Bumgarner’s World Series exploits, and that hoopla is well deserved, it’s time to put it into a bit of perspective. Somebody called it the greatest World Series pitching performance ever. Well, it isn’t. For one game nothing can top Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956. Not only was it a  perfect game but it came against four future Hall of Famers: PeeWee Reese, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella. Not bad, right? OK, so it’s not the greatest one game performance ever, it’s still gotta be the best ever for a single series, right? Well, no. Let me take you back to 1905.

The 1905 World Series, the second played, pitted the New York Giants (Bumgarner’s team removed one coast) and the Philadelphia Athletics (now playing across the bay from Bumgarner’s team). Connie Mack’s A’s were a pitching heavy team that was pretty typical for the era. The Giants, led by John McGraw, were likewise pitching heavy. And the heaviest pitcher on either side was Christy Mathewson. Mathewson was 24 and coming off a season that saw him with (read these numbers carefully) 31 wins, nine losses, a league leading 1.28 ERA, a league leading 206 strikeouts, and only 64 walks given up. His ERA+ was a career high 230 and his WHIP was a miniscule 0.933 (and it would get better a few years later). His Baseball Reference.com version of WAR was 9.1 (tying for his fourth best WAR).

Mathewson started game one against fellow Hall of Famer Eddie Plank. Plank pitched well, giving up three runs (all earned), walking two, and giving up 10 hits. Mathewson was better. He pitched  a complete game shutout giving up four hits and walking none (to go with six strikeouts). He gave up a single in the fourth, a double in the sixth, and doubles in both the eighth and ninth. Only one man, the first double, got to third.

Well, the A’s won game two, so McGraw decided to start Mathewson again in game three on two day’s rest. the short rest really got to him. He still didn’t give up a run in a complete game shutout, and again he only allowed four hits, but he did walk a batter finally (it went to Socks Seybold in the second inning). He did compensate by striking out eight. The walk was Mathewson’s first charged baserunner of the game (there’d been an error in the first), but he was erased on a force out at second. He allowed a single in the fifth. Then got into some trouble in the seventh when he allowed two singles. The first runner was erased on a double play and the second died at first when the next batter grounded to first unassisted. He hit a man in the eighth (see, I told you the two day’s rest was a problem) but got the next batter. With two outs in the ninth he allowed one more single, but struck out the next batter to end the game.

The Giants won game four and McGraw decided to end the Series as quickly as possible. With one day’s rest, he sent Mathewson back to the mound. It wasn’t unheard of to do it in the Deadball Era, but it wasn’t exactly common either. Mathewson responded with another great game. This time he again went nine innings without giving up a run. He did have one down stat though. He gave up five hits instead of four. And only struck out four while walking none. He gave up a leadoff single, but no runner advanced beyond first. There were two singles in the second, but a double play and caught stealing ended the inning. In the fifth he gave up a double with two outs and got out of it. In the sixth it was a harmless single that produced the final hit.

The Giants won the World Series in five games. Mathewson’s line reads as follows: three wins, no losses, an ERA of 0.00 over 27 innings (three complete games). He gave up 13 hits, walked one, and struck out 18. His WHIP was 0.519 and exactly one runner (in game one) got to third base. Interestingly enough, eight different Athletics managed a hit off Mathewson. Harry Davis and Topsy Hartsel each got three and Seybold picked up two plus the only walk.

The game was different in 1905. It wasn’t integrated, there were only day games, pitchers pitched more often, the home run was not a major offensive weapon, and there were less playoff rounds. Be all that as it may, it’s still the greatest World Series pitching performance ever over a complete Series.

A Few Thoughts on the 2014 Postseason

October 30, 2014
Giants logo

Giants logo

Here’s a few random thoughts on the just concluded 2014 postseason.

1. Congratulations to the Giants. Yuck! Do you have any idea how hard that is for a Dodgers fan to type? I’m trying to figure out whether “dynasty” is the right word for them. I tend to think of a dynasty team as having won at least two in a row and a couple more around it. By that definition (which is strictly mine) the Giants aren’t a dynasty but most closely resemble the 1942-46 Cardinals who win in ’42, ’44, and ’46 (and lose in ’43). But if it isn’t a dynasty, it’s something very close and I won’t argue with people who want to label the Giants a dynasty.

2. Congratulations to the Royals. They gave us a feel good story for the postseason and a chance to root for a true underdog (I had my money on the Giants, but rooted for the Royals). I hope they aren’t a fluke but, like last year’s Pirates, are a team that will be in contention for a while.

3. As Bumgarner has been around for a while, this year’s break out player may be Lorenzo Cain. I admit I’d never heard of him until late in the season, but he was a revelation in the playoffs. He hits, he runs, he catches everything in center field (and in right). Hopefully he isn’t a flash in the pan who got hot late in the season and drifts back into obscurity.

4. What is it with the National League. The last five pennant winners are the Giants, Cardinals, Giants, Cardinals, Giants. Do we note a pattern here? If so, you might want to get your money down on the Cards for the 2015 NL pennant.

5. The American League appears to be more wide open than traditionally. Their last five pennant winners are the Rangers, Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox, Royals. So I got no pattern here. Best guess is that Bloggess will get her Orioles in next season (but that’s strictly a guess and no one has ever favorably compared me to a prophet). Whatever happens, Buck Showalter is one heck of a manager, isn’t he?

6. Madison Bumgarner is one heck of a postseason pitcher. Before we deify him, we might want to give him a few more years on the mound. He looks like the real deal but a lot of “real deal” types have ended up in oblivion. And while we’re at it, how much does the 3-4-5 combination of Buster Posey, Pedro Sandoval, and Hunter Pence scare you? They don’t scare me a lot in the regular season, but they really come through in the postseason (OK, Posey had a lousy Series) and that does scare me.

7. With three World Series wins, Bruce Bochy should have just punched his ticket to Cooperstown.

8. Can we knock off with the Kershaw-Koufax comparisons for a while? Don’t be doing things like that to Clayton Kershaw. He’s a heck of a pitcher and, depending on injuries, should end up with more wins and strikeouts than Sandy Koufax. But he’s never going to reach SANDY KOUFAX!!! (Said in Charlton Heston/James Earl Jones voice of God tones with trumpets in the background) status. Koufax was a really good pitcher. KOUFAX!!! (now with drums added) is damned close to God in his mythology. He has a greater peak than Kershaw will ever have because they simply won’t let Kershaw pitch enough innings to reach that peak, so there will always be those who will go “Well, Kershaw was good, but at his peak KOUFAX!!! (maybe now we add bagpipes doing “Amazing Grace”) was a whole lot better.” And of course Kershaw got shelled in the playoffs (He’s 0-4 against the Cards in postseason play) and Koufax only gave up six earned runs in 57 innings pitched in the World Series and KOUFAX!!! (the 1961-66 version) only gave up five in 48 innings. Kershaw gave up that many in two innings. Enough already, let Kershaw be Kershaw.

9. All in all the World Series was a mixture of fun and drama, but some of the games were really boring. Five of the games were won by at least five run margins. That’s nice if it’s your team, but I kinda want the Series to be a set of close games. Didn’t get that this time.

10. Having said that, I enjoyed the postseason except for one small thing. Would the powers that be quit dividing up the playoffs so I have to wander all over my TV remote control trying to find the games? Fox, Fox Sports 1, MLB TV, TBS, ESPN all did at least one game (and don’t get me started on the quality of the broadcasters). Come on, guys, knock that off. Put them on just a couple of channels so we know where they are going to be and leave them there.

Feel free to disagree with anything above (you have the right to be wrong :-) ). Now on to the Hotstove League and next season.

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Rabbit Maranville

October 27, 2014
Rabbit Maranville

Rabbit Maranville

1. Walter James Vincent Maranville was born in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts (home to the basketball Hall of Fame).

2. He worked as a pipe fitter and played semi-pro ball before signing with New Bedford of the New England League in 1911. He got his nickname there in 1912 because people thought he hopped around like a rabbit while playing short.

3. He was signed by the Boston Braves in late 1912 and made 11 errors in 26 games while hitting .206.

4. By 1914 he was hitting clean up (until Possum Whitted showed up at mid-season). He hit .246 with four home runs and 28 stolen bases. He drove in 78 runs (a team and career high) and finished the season hitting seventh in the lineup. Boston won the 1914 World Series with Maranville hitting .308 with an OPS of .708. He finished second in the Chalmers Award (an early version of the MVP Award) voting in 1914.

5. During World War I he served as a gunner on the battleship USS Pennsylvania.

6. In 1921 he was traded to Pittsburgh, where he played through 1924, finished seventh in MVP voting in ’24. He was promptly traded to Chicago.

7. He was with St. Louis when they made the 1928 World Series. He hit .240 in the regular season, but .308 in the World Series. The Cardinals were swept.

8. He went back to Boston in 1929, remaining there through 1933.

9. In spring training 1934 he broke his foot sliding into home. He was out all of the ’34 season, then failed in a 1935 comeback (He hit .149 in 23 games).

10. In retirement, he managed a little, then caught on as director of a sandbox baseball school for one of the New York City newspapers. Among the players he taught was Whitey Ford.

11. He died in January 1954 and was elected to the Hall of Fame shortly afterward. Many people still contend it was a sympathy and tribute vote.

12. For his career Maranville has a triple slash line of .258/.318/.340/.658 with an OPS+ of 82.  His OPS+ peaks at 114 in 1919 (in a season in which he plays more than 11 games). His Baseball Reference.com offensive WAR is 29.5 and his defensive WAR is 30.7.  He was considered a superior shortstop in his era and did extraordinarily well in MVP voting for a guy who never hit above .284 in years when an MVP was awarded.

Maranville,s grave

Maranville’s grave

 

 

1914: Winning in Boston, part 2

October 23, 2014
1914 World Series program from Boston

1914 World Series program from Boston

With the Braves up three games to none, Philadelphia did something that still surprises me, it went with its fourth pitcher for the fourth game (a lot of fours and fourths there, right?). I’m a bit surprised that Connie Mack didn’t go back to Chief Bender to right the ship rather than put the pressure on 23-year-old Bob Shawkey. I realize that Bender hadn’t done particularly well in game one, but, unlike Shawkey, he had World Series experience. By contrast, Braves manager George Stallings (pictured above) went back to game one starter Dick Rudolph.

Game 4

For three innings, picking Shawkey worked. He gave up one walk and nothing else. Rudolph wasn’t quite as good, giving up three hits, but neither team scored. In the bottom of the fourth Johnny Evers walked and went to third on a Possum Whitted single. He scored on a Butch Schmidt ground out to short. The A’s even the score in the top of the fifth on a Jack Barry single and a double by Shawkey.

The decisive inning was the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Rudolph singled. Herbie Moran followed with a double sending Rudolph to third. With runners on second and third and two outs Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers singled to bring home both runs and put the Braves up 3-1. Rudolph set Philadelphia down in order in the sixth. He was in trouble in the seventh when he walked Jimmy Walsh, then wild pitched him to second. Then Barry struck out and Boston catcher Hank Gowdy threw down to second baseman Evers to pick off Walsh for the second out. Wally Schang struck out to end the inning. It was the last crisis. The Athletics went down in order in the eighth then a strikeout and consecutive ground outs in the top of the ninth finished the game and the Series.

Boston’s victory was, and still is, one of the greatest World Series upsets ever. There are two obvious questions to answer. What did Boston do right? What went wrong for the A’s?

First, Boston’s pitching was excellent. Both Rudolph and Bill James were 2-0. James’ ERA was 0.00 and Rudolph had all of 0.50 for his ERA (team ERA of 1.15). As a team they gave up only 22 hits and 13 walks in 39 innings (WHIP of 0.897), while striking out 28. Additionally James had one complete game shutout (the other win came in relief).

Second, the Braves hit well up and down their lineup. Their team batting average was .244. Every player appearing in three or more games (nine) had at least one hit. Every one of them scored at least one run, and seven of them had at least one RBI. Johnny Evers led the team with seven hits and Hank Gowdy had six. Gowdy and Rabbit Maranville each had three RBIs to lead the team. Gowdy hit .545 with the series only home run. He also had one of two series triples (Whitted had the other). That, along with five walks, gave him on OBP of .688, a slugging percentage of 1.273, and an OPS of 1.960. There was no series MVP in 1914. Had there been one, Gowdy most likely would have won it.

By contrast, the Athletics pitching staff was awful. Their collective ERA was 3.41 with Chief Bender clocking in at 10.13. Eddie Plank gave up one run in a complete game, but lost it to James’ shutout. As a team, they gave up 33 hits and 15 walks (WHIP of 1.297) over 37 innings. And they struck out only 18 (all of three more than they had walks).

Other than Home Run Baker, who only hit .250, the A’s hit poorly. Baker had two RBIs and four hits to lead the team and tied for the team lead with two doubles (of nine). Stuffy McInnis and Eddie Murphy were the only players to score more than a single run (each had two). The team average was .172 with an OBP of .248 and a slugging percentage of .242 for an OPS of .490 (six Braves players had OPS numbers greater than Philadelphia’s combined OPS). The team had no triples or home runs and stole only two bases (versus nine for Boston).

It was a complete victory for Boston. And, as with many World Series it marked the end for both teams. The Braves slipped back into second next year and went south from there. For the A’s it was the end of a five-year run. By 1916 they had the worst record in baseball (a lot of the stars were gone). For Boston it would be their last pennant until 1948 and their last championship ever. The next time the Braves won was 1957 and by then they were in Milwaukee.

As an interesting bit of trivia, in 1914 the teams apparently didn’t yet get rings. It seems someone made up one for Johnny Evers (maybe Evers himself). Here’s a picture of it.

Johnny Evers 1914 ring

Johnny Evers 1914 ring

1914: Winning in Boston, part 1

October 20, 2014

After a pair of brief comments on the current World Series contenders, it’s time to get back to the world of 100 years ago.

Braves Field in Boston

Braves Field in Boston

On 12 October, the 1914 World Series resumed in Boston. The Braves were up two games to none against Philadelphia. Because the Braves home park (Southend Grounds) was smaller and older than the Red Sox new home in Fenway Park, the games in Boston were played in Fenway, not the Braves home park (Braves Field, pictured above, was opened in 1915 and so unavailable for use in the ’14 Series).

Game 3

Game three was one of the longest games in World Series history. The Braves started Lefty Tyler, who was 16-13 for the season, against the Athletics’ Bullet Joe Bush (17-13). The A’s got one in the first on Eddie Murray’s leadoff double. A bunt sent him to third and he came home on an error by left fielder Joe Connolly. The Braves got it back in the bottom of the second when, with two outs, Rabbit Maranville walked, stole second, and came home on a Hank Gowdy double. Philadelphia got the lead back in the top of the fourth on a Stuffy McInnis double and a run scoring single by center fielder Jimmy Walsh. Not to be outdone, Boston came back to tie it up on a Butch Schmidt single, a sacrifice, and a Maranville single.

And it stayed 2-2 for the rest of the regular innings. Through the end of the ninth, Tyler had given up two runs, two walks, and six hits, while striking out three. Bush was about as good and the game went into the 10th. Wally Schang led off the top of the 10th with a single. Bush then struck out. Then Tyler hashed a bunt and Schang went to second with Murray safe at first. A Rube Oldring ground out sent Schang to third and Murray to second. An intentional walk to Eddie Collins loaded the bases for Frank “Home Run” Baker. He didn’t hit a homer, but Baker lashed a single that scored both Schang and Murray. McInnis hit a fly to center to end the top of the 10th. Bush needed three outs to put Philly back in the Series. Gowdy started the bottom of the 10th with a home run to narrow the score to 4-3. Then a strikeout, walk, and single later Connolly made up for the earlier error. His sacrifice fly to center scored Howie Moran to knot the game.

During the bottom of the 10th Tyler was lifted for a pinch hitter. Braves pitcher Bill James replaced him. He got through the 11th and top of the 12th despite giving up three walks (but no hits). Bush, still pitching for the A’s, had a perfect 11th. In the bottom of the 12th, Gowdy led off with a double. Les Mann replaced him on the bases. An intentional walk later, up came Moran who hit the ball back to Bush. The pitcher fielded it and tossed to third to get the lead run. He missed the base and Mann trotted home with the winning run.

The A’s had a couple of chances to win, but Boston kept the score tied and won on an error. There’d been total nine runs scored. All but one were earned-the last one.

 

 

 

 

And Congrats to the Giants

October 17, 2014
Giants logo

Giants logo

You have no idea how hard it is for a die-hard Dodgers fan to type the above heading. But the Giants deserve the accolade. It’s an even-numbered year, so of course they’re in the World Series. I have to admit to having my money on them, although I was rooting for LA. Frankly, I think they’ll win it all, but I will be rooting for Kansas City. BTW did you notice that there is now a four-day break before the World Series begins? That’s too long. The powers that be should be able to move the Series up a couple of days if neither league  series goes seven games. I know it’s a logistical problem for TV and hotels but a four-day layoff allows hot teams to cool down and allows casual fans to forget there’s a World Series coming. Too bad. I just hope it will be a well played Series.

Congrats to the Royals

October 15, 2014
Royals logo

Royals logo

A big congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for breaking a 29 year World Series drought. I didn’t have them in the Series when the season started. How many of you did? And before you answer, remember, my Grandmother used to remind me that you could go to hell for lying. :-)

 

1914: Winning in Philadelphia

October 14, 2014
Shibe Park

Shibe Park

The first two games of the 1914 World Series were played in Philadelphia, Shibe Part on 9 and 10 October. The home team Athletics were overwhelming favorites to defeat the National League’s Boston Braves. Games one and two would set the tone for the entire Series.

Game 1

The first game was the only blowout of the Series. Boston’s Dick Rudolph pitched a complete game giving up five hits, walking one, and striking out eight. The Braves scored on a  second inning walk to outfielder “Possum” Whitted, a one out double by Hank Gowdy plated Whitted. Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville then singled bringing home Gowdy. In the bottom of the second, Stuffy McInnis walked, went to second on an Amos Strunk single, then scored when Braves right fielder Herbie Moran threw the ball away. Strunk got to third, but didn’t score. From there on out it was the Boston bats and Rudolph that dominated the game. In the top of the fifth, Gowdy tripled and scored on a Maranville single. Then Boston tacked on three more in the sixth. Johnny Evers singled, Joe Connolly walked, then Whitted tripled sending both runs home. Butch Schmidt singled home Whitted and that brought Connie Mack to the mound to lift starter Chief Bender. Back to back singles and a Schmidt steal of home in the eighth finished off the scoring. Boston won 7-1 and shelled Mack’s ace, Bender. Every Braves starter except Moran had a run, hit, or RBI, including Rudolph. Gowdy had three hits, scored two runs, and furnished an RBI to take game hitting hero honors.

Game 2

The second game in Philly was a pitching masterpiece by both teams. Boston star Bill James squared off against Hall of Fame lefty Eddie Plank. For eight innings they matched zeroes. Through eight, Plank had given up five hits, walked three, and struck out five. James was even better. Through eight he gave up two hits, one walk, and struck out seven. With one out in the top of the ninth, Charlie Deal doubled, then stole third. James struck out for the second out, but Les Mann singled to center scoring Deal. After another walk, Plank got out of more damage by inducing a ground out. In the bottom of the ninth, James walked two, but a strikeout and a double play ended the threat and the inning. James had given the Braves a two game lead with the World Series heading to Boston.

The Series would resume in Boston for two more games. It appears that MLB used a two-two-one-one-one formula for the World Series in this era (although none of them went seven except 1912) meaning that the Braves would have to return to Philadelphia for any game five. (This seems to be the pattern for the era, but I’ve been unable to find anything that states this for certain.)

 

 

1914: The Miracle Team

October 10, 2014
Johnny Evers and George Stallings (left and right)

Johnny Evers and George Stallings (left and right)

The Boston team was one of the best 19th Century baseball clubs. In the 1870s they’d dominated the National Association, then won consecutive pennants in the first years of the National League. There was a hiatus in the 1880s, but they roared back to be one of the great clubs of the 1890s. Their owner was a jerk (but so were a lot of 19th Century owners) so when the American League was formed, most of the good players jumped to the new league. Boston, the National League version, languished for the entire first decade of the 20th Century. Trying to return to relevancy, in 1913 they hired George Stallings to manage the team.

Stallings had been a so-so player in the 1880s and 1890s, who’d managed Philadelphia in the National League and both Detroit and New York in the American League. He’d never won a pennant, finishing as high as second in 1910, but was considered a good judge of talent. He was given a team that had little talent and got them to fifth in 1913. By 1914 he was starting to figure out how to do the best he could with what he had. That meant he pushed for and got a series of good trades and then instituted a platoon system (he didn’t invent platooning, but merely used it). As most of you know, on 4 July, Boston, now called the Braves, was in last place in the NL. The traditional story is they got hot and eventually ran away with the pennant. That’s true, to a point. On 4 July they lost both ends of a double-header, dropping them to 26-40. But third place St. Louis had 35 loses. So the NL was tightly bunched and any kind of streak was destined to move them up in the standings. By 4 August they were 47-45 (heck of a month, right?), now in fourth place, and two games out of second. By 4 September, they were a half game back of the league leading Giants. From that point they went 28-7 and coasted to the pennant (running away only in September) . Among other things, it got Stallings the nickname “Miracle Man.”

So who were these guys? Butch Schmidt played first. Hall of Fame middle infielders Johnny Evers (who would win the 1914 MVP award) and Rabbit Maranville were at second and third. Charlie Deal was the normal third baseman, but Red Smith (not the journalist) did a lot of work at third. Larry Gilbert, Les Mann, and Joe Connolly did more work in the outfield than anyone else, but the platoon system worked primarily in the outfield and Josh Devore, George “Possum” Whitted, and Ted Cather spelled them. The only category in which they led the league was walks, although they were second in runs and doubles, and third in home runs and OBP.

Catcher Hank Gowdy (who has been touted in some Hall of Fame conversations, although I wouldn’t vote for him) handled a staff of Dick Rudolph, Bill James, and Lefty Tyler. None had particularly remarkable careers prior to 1914 and little was expected of them when the season began, but they led the league in complete games, and were second in shutouts, while finishing third in both hits and runs allowed. As an individual, James led the NL in winning percentage.

Nothing much was expected of Boston in the World Series. It was supposed to be a Philadelphia walkover. After all, the NL hadn’t won in a while and everyone knew the Braves were a fluke.

 


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