The Lip

June 14, 2018

The Lip and the Babe

If I had to put together a list of the most interesting men to ever be associated with Major League Baseball, I’m certain that Casey Stengel would be at the top. I’m not sure of the order of the next three or four, probably Branch Rickey second. But I am sure that on the list, very high on the list would be Leo Durocher.

At this point Durocher is receding in the minds of most fans. It’s been a long time and he’s been gone for a long time. But he was brash, loud, opinionated (they called him “Leo the Lip” for a reason). He played with Babe Ruth and with Dizzy Dean. He managed PeeWee Reese and Willie Mays. He was, for years a fixture.

He wasn’t much of a player. Here’s his triple slash line: .247/.299/.320/.619 (OPS+ of 66) with 575 runs on 1320 hits and 377 walks. His WAR is all of 5.1. He was a decent, but not great, shortstop, his defensive WAR being 11.4. He spent time with the Yankees, Reds, Cardinals, and Dodgers.

What he was ultimately was a great baseball mind. He knew all the tricks of the trade, knew how to motivate players, knew how to get the most out of a modest roster, knew how to make the fans love him. He was, in other words, a Hall of Fame Manager. He took over a moribund Brooklyn team in 1939 and brought them to a pennant in 1941. They lost the World Series, then fell back behind a superb Cardinals team. In 1946, Brooklyn and St. Louis were tied at the end of the season. A three game playoff format lasted two games as the Cards swept the Dodgers and went on to a World Series title. It was during the 1946 season that Durocher uttered a comment about the Giants and Mel Ott that has come down to us as Durocher’s trademark, “Nice guys finish last.” That’s not the exact quote, but it does distill the meaning.

Contrary to popular belief, Durocher was not Jackie Robinson’s first big league manager. During the run up to the 1947 season, Durocher was suspended for a variety of reasons, most notably his inability to stay away from friends who were gamblers, mobsters, and bookies. Before the suspension, he did take swift action to quash the anti-Robinson petition being circulated by some of the Brooklyn players. Robinson later indicated he thought Durocher’s actions were significant in easing his (Robinson’s) path to the big leagues.

In 1948, Durocher was released by the Dodgers. Branch Rickey was running the team and he and Leo Durocher had very different philosophies on life (but not on integration and baseball). Bill James in his Historical Baseball Abstract tells the story of Durocher giving a nervous pitcher a drink before a game and Rickey going crazy over it. A paraphrase of Durocher’s comment led to the famous “There’s a W column and an L column. You pay me to put crooked numbers in the W column.”

It also contributed to Rickey releasing Durocher from his contract and allowing him to move to the Giants as manager. He led them to the NL pennant in 1951, this time winning a three game playoff against Brooklyn (the “Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant” series). They lost the World Series to the Yankees, but pulled off a famous upset in 1954 when they won the World Series against the 111 win Indians. It was the last Giants pennant and World Series victory in in New York, and their last world’s championship in the 20th Century. He left the Giants after the 1955 season.

Durocher had a long running affair with minor Hollywood actress Laraine Day. They were married in 1947 and divorced in 1960 (she was the third of four Durocher wives). The relationship got him some parts in movies and on television (he was in an episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies” playing himself) and he was considered pretty good for someone not trained in acting.

He coached a little, did some acting, then in 1966 took over the Chicago Cubs. He stayed into the 1972 season, captaining the collapse of 1969 that led to the “Miracle Mets” championship. The Cubs had a long history of futility when he took over, but he kept them above .500 in each of his seasons as manager, except the first. In 1972 he moved on to Houston after being fired by the Cubs for not winning a pennant. He had a winning record with the Astros and retired after the 1973 season with a managerial record of 2008-1709 (a .540 winning percentage).

He managed a little in Japan, wrote a book (which is pretty good), and died in 1991. He was enshrined at Cooperstown in 1994. He deserved it as a baseball man and as one of the more famous people to be involved in the game.

 

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Adios, Red

June 8, 2018

Red Schoendienst

I saw that Red Schoendienst died earlier this week. He was 95 and the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame. He played far enough back that you have to be my age to remember him. He was, after Stan Musial, a man who could legitimately claim the title “Mr. Cardinal.”

He joined the Cards in 1945 as an outfielder. The team had a chronic problem at second base and the people in charge saw Schoendienst as just the man to solve it for them. He played one game at second in ’45, then moved in as the primary second sacker in 1916. He was an All Star, helped his team to the 1946 World Series, which they won. He stayed in St. Louis through 1956, making eight more All Star games, before moving on to the New York Giants. He put in less than 150 games with the Giants before a trade that took him to the Milwaukee Braves in 1957.

At Milwaukee he became a mainstay on consecutive pennant winning teams, winning it all in 1957. He generally hit second (behind Billy Bruton) and was credited with stabilizing the infield, providing a clubhouse presence, and giving the team veteran leadership. All of those were probably true but Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Warren Spahn were the big guns for the Braves. He made the All Star game one last time in 1957.

In 1959 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. It cost him all but five games of the season, a season the Braves lost a three game playoff to the Dodgers. Fortunately for Schoendienst an operation helped and he could return to the field. He remained active through 1963, serving as a player-coach in his last two active seasons.

In 1964 he became a fulltime coach, moving on to manager after the season. He won pennants in 1967 and again in 1968, winning the World Series in ’67. In 1968 he’s supposed to have told a reporter, in response to a question about Bob Gibson, “I tell him which day he’s pitching. He shows up and I take the day off.”

Schoendienst remained Cards manager through 1976, then did a little coaching at Oakland. He subsequently returned to St. Louis and coached during the 1982 World Series winning season. On two occasions he served at Cardinals interim manager, then settled in as a special assistant to the team. He made the Hall of Fame in 1989.

For his career his triple slash line reads .289/.337/.387/.724 (OPS+ of 94) with 2449 hits, and more walks than strikeouts. All of that gave him 42.3 WAR. As a manager he was 1041-955 (.522 winning percentage). His Hall of Fame selection is sometimes downplayed saying he wasn’t that good, but the combination of playing, coaching, and managing make him someone at least legitimate to consider.

So God’s Speed, Red. The Cardinals, Braves, and all of baseball will miss you.

 

Expansion?

June 5, 2018

Recently, I read an article on Sports Illustrated indicating that Major League Baseball is contemplating expansion from 30 to 32 teams. Following up on that article, I found a handful of others that agreed. Apparently Commissioner Rob Manfred is all in to add two new teams to the lists. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I have some thoughts on this idea.

I’m not inherently opposed to this plan, but I do recognize that a diluted set of pitchers and hitters will make their arrival on the scene. Over the previous expansions going back to the 1960s that’s meant at least a temporary boost in offense. Considering we’re already in something of an offensive era, at least home run-wise, it may become even greater. Much of that will depend on the new stadia for the two new teams.

Which of course brings up where to put them. It seems the current frontrunners are Portland, Oregon and Montreal in Canada. Didn’t we already do a Montreal experiment? Wasn’t it a failure? I have no reason to dislike Montreal or Canada but what makes MLB think that a new team will do better than the Expos, who are now happily playing in Washington, DC? Again, I have nothing against Portland, but I would point out that over the last dozen or so years (well before our current President took office) Portland has experienced a marked surge in political violence. I like to keep the lower arts like politics out of my greater arts, like baseball, and I trust that will hold true in Portland also.

But I further question the choice of cities because places like San Antonio, Texas already have a big stadium that can be configured for baseball while Portland will need to build a new stadium. That’s not a plea for San Antonio to get a team, merely acknowledgement that Portland is not, at this point, at all ready to host a big league game. But more importantly, if you’re going to set up a team outside the Continental United States, why Montreal? How about putting the second team in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I know Bithorn isn’t ready for the Major Leagues yet, but it’s already there and can be used as a stopgap (as, it’s true, could minor league parks in Portland, Montreal, and other places) until a new stadium could emerge. I’m not sure how excited Montreal would be about a Major League team, but Puerto Rico would go crazy.

The article I read also indicated there were thoughts of changing the schedule to 156 games (from 162) and of course putting together new divisions and new playoff scenarios will need to be considered. On a personal level, I like the idea of two 8 team divisions in both leagues (they had 8 team leagues for 60 years and it seemed to work). For playoffs, first place in the National League West plays second place in the National League East and first place in the East plays second place in the West in a five game series. Other options will, of course be considered.

Whatever happens, the drive toward expansion will be interesting.  It may not happen, but if it does it will be at least interesting.

1908: The End of May

May 31, 2018

Continuing on with something like a detailed look at the 1908 Major League season, here’s a few notes on where things stood at the end of May.

Honus Wagner

The National League

By the close of May, 1908, the National League began to settle down into those teams that were going to do well and the have-nots. Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh had winning records. Boston, Brooklyn, and St. Louis didn’t. The Cubs were in first, 3.5 games ahead of New York, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. The Pirates were a bit further back at four games.

It was Honus Wagner’s year. In 1908 he would put together the greatest year by WAR of any hitter prior to the arrival of Babe Ruth in New York. By the end of May Wagner was at .311 (.840 OPS) with nine steals. He’d end the year at .354/.957 and 53 steals. He obviously got better as the season when on.

The American League

T Cobb (see, he could smile)

The American League

The junior circuit saw huge changes in May. At the end of April, Detroit, the defending AL champs, were in last place. By the end of May the Tigers had clawed their way into second place, percentage points behind New York. The Browns, Athletics, and Naps (Cleveland) were all over .500 and fifth place Cleveland was only 1.5 games out of first. The White Sox had a losing record (17-19), but were only three games back, with seventh place Washington only a half game further back. Only the Red Sox were more than five games out of the lead (they were 6.5 back).

Much of Detroit’s turn around was attributed to Ty Cobb, who’d gotten his average back over .300 (.302). Of further note, Washington was holding close despite Walter Johnson not yet having pitched. His first game was 11 June.

Next month there are a couple of specifics I want to get into, but this should give you some sense of what’s going on 110 years ago.

Gunther Decides He Can Pitch

May 24, 2018

Main Square Kassel, Germany

Way back in 1970 the US Army decided I could help save the world if they sent me to a little base not far from Kassel, Germany. It was a nice enough place, the duty wasn’t hard, the beer was good and so was the fellowship.

There was a baseball diamond on post, but the place also had a ball team so the peons weren’t supposed to use the diamond, and thus mess it up, during ball season, so we had to find another place to play. The solution was in downtown Kassel. We’d head over to the place they stored the sports equipment, draw out a set of rubberized bases, a set of catchers equipment, some bats and balls, and pile into a couple of cars the guys had (I didn’t have a car) and drive down to Kassel. The town was a nice enough place with several parks. One of them was divided into two sections. One section had trees and paths and benches and small open areas where people could walk and sit and talk and kids could run and play and just do all the things that families and couples and singles do when they’re out and about (that enough usage of “and” for ya?). The other side was a long open stretch of grass used for sports. There were a couple of soccer goals, one area where a basketball half-court was set up, and then a big open area where there was nothing but grass. It just called out for a makeshift baseball diamond.

We would get there early, usually on a Saturday, and throw out a diamond and start playing. Generally there were six or seven of us, so we’d just switch off guys hitting and pitching with everyone else shagging flies or scooping grounders. You’ve probably done this too. It was fun and of course there was no score (heck, there was no base running).

And of course we began to attract the locals. Guys would wander over to see what the “Crazy Americans” were doing. Commentary would follow in German. Most of us knew at least a little German (certainly enough to order a beer or start a conversation with a girl) and a couple of us knew it quite well, so we could tell the Germans were interested in what was going on, but couldn’t figure out how it all worked. A lot would head back over to the soccer field while the rest would continue checking out what you could do if you used the hands God gave you to play sports. Eventually this led to inviting them to join us and we’d try to teach them the game. It was great for us because we suddenly had 12 or 13 or 14 guys so we could actually play something like a game instead of just bat the ball around. We’d try to divide teams so that there were roughly an equal number of Americans and Germans on a team. It more or less worked. Eventually most of the German guys could catch some (we’d trade around gloves), could throw it in the right direction, could even swing the bat and make some contact. What they couldn’t do, was pitch.

One of the biggest loudmouths among the Germans was Gunther (he made sure we pronounced it Goon-tur, not Gun-thur). He was in his early 20s, a student at the local university, tall, lanky, and absolutely sure he’d figured out the game. He wasn’t bad, but Joe DiMaggio was in no danger of losing his place in the pantheon of American sport.  But Gunther decided he wanted to be Bob Gibson. So one day the Germans essentially announced they weren’t going to play if Gunther didn’t get to pitch (always wondered what he’d bribed them with).

It turned out that I hit second that day, so one of the other guys got first taste of Gunther on the mound (“Gunther on the Mound.” You could make a flick about something with that title, couldn’t you?).  He tried to mimic a windup, he tried to throw it hard, he tried to get it near the plate. Well, he got the first one pretty close, the second one he achieved, the third one became “God knows” baseball (God knows where the ball is going). He was wild, he was awful. We tried to convince him that no matter how hard you threw it, if it didn’t get anywhere near the plate it was still ball one, ball two, ball three, ball four, take your base. We didn’t have an umpire to actually call that, but after a handful of pitches we decided that it was a walk and the guy should go find the appropriate rubberized base.

That brought me up. The first pitch was high, but close to the plate. The second one actually bounced over the plate (we had to explain it still wasn’t a strike). Gunter was getting closer. The third pitch finally found a part of the plate and I hit the thing. It went right up the middle toward Gunther who had no chance of either catching it or ducking. Caught him right in the breadbasket. I ended up on first, the other guy hoofed it all the way to third while everyone just kind of stood there watching to see what would happen. Gunther went down in a heap, the ball rolled away, and we stopped play.

Gunther was alright, sore, but alright. We suggested he ought to maybe take an outfield spot until he felt better and let one of the other guys (an American) pitch. He agreed.

We finished the game, gathered up the equipment, stowed it in one of the cars, then wandered over to a local biergarten (beer garden), drank a few, had a few laughs, many at Gunther’s expense (he took it well), and headed back to our normal lives. The next Saturday we showed up again, laid out the field, had the Germans come over, and started a new game. Gunther was there as usual. He volunteered to play center field.

 

1933, the obscure World Series: Mel

May 22, 2018

Game 5, 7 October 1933

Mel Ott

Game five of the 1933 World Series was the final game in Washington, DC. With the Giants leading three games to one, the Senators had to win in order to keep the Series going. They sent game two starter, and loser, Alvin “General” Crowder to the mound. New York responded with their own game two starter, and winner, Hal Schumacher.

And for six innings it didn’t appear that Washington had any chance of sending the Series back to the Polo Grounds. In the top of the second a Travis Jackson single, a walk to Gus Mancuso, and another bunt sacrifice put runners on second and third with one out. That brought up pitcher Schumacher who promptly singled to plate both runs. In the top of the sixth the Giants tacked on another run with a Kiddo Davis double, a Jackson bunt sacrifice, and a Mancuso double to make the score 3-0 with 12 outs to go.

Schumacher got two of them before Heinie Manush singled. He was followed by a Joe Cronin single that sent Manush to third. Up came Fred Schulte who parked a three run home run into the left field stands to tie the game and give Washington hope. Two more singles put runners on and sent Schumacher to the showers. In came Dolf Luque. At 42, Luque was the oldest Giant by four years and the oldest Giant pitcher by seven years. Only Sam Rice of the Senators was older (43) on either team and Rice was, by 1933, a substitute. The old man responded to the pressure by inducing a grounder to end the threat.

For the rest of the regulation game the teams matched zeroes. There were a handful of hits and a walk, but no one got beyond first base. In the tenth the Giants took two quick outs. That brought up Mel Ott. Into the 1960s, Ott was the all time leader in home runs among National League players (and third all time behind Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx). So he did what he did so well. He parked a ball in the center field seats to put New York ahead 4-3. A grounder back to the pitcher ended the inning and brought up the Senators for one last shot at sending the World Series back to Giants territory.

Luque got two quick outs, then gave up a single and walked Joe Cronin to put two men on with two outs. Up stepped Joe Kuhel. Luque struck him out to end the game and the Series. In relief, Dolf Luque, the first Cuban player to win a World Series game pitching struck out five, walked two, and gave up only two hits in 4.1 innings of relief. Unfortunately his effort was largely lost behind Ott’s game winning homer.

For a five game Series, it had been a good playoff. Two games, the last two, went into extra innings. A third game was 4-2. In an era known for its power hitting, the key blows in the final game were home runs: one by Schulte, the other by Ott. But there were an extraordinary number of runs scored that involved the Deadball Era standard of the bunt sacrifice.

The Giants hitting was fine, finishing with a .267 average 16 runs, three homers, and 47 hits, but the New York pitching had dominated the Series. The team ERA was 1.53 with only 11 runs allowed, and only eight of those earned. They staff struck out 25 with Carl Hubbell going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and Luque matching the 0.00 in the biggest relief outing of the Series.

For the Senators, Earl Whitehill won their only game by giving the Series its only complete game shutout. But Lefty Stewart and Crowder both had ERA’s north of seven, and the staff as a group had given up 10 more hits than the Giants staff. The team hit only .214 with Schulte’s four RBIs leading the team (three on the game five home run).

For the Giants it was the beginning of a decent run in the 1930s. They’d get back to two more World Series’ in the decade (losing both to the Yankees). For the Senators it was the end of their playoffs. The next time Washington made the World Series was 1965. By then they were relocated to Minnesota and called the Twins.

 

 

1933, the obscure World Series: on to DC

May 17, 2018

With the New York Giants ahead two games to none, the World Series shifted locations to Washington, DC.

Game 3, 5 October

Earl Whitehill

For game three, the Senators sent ace Earl Whitehill to the mound against the Giants three pitcher Fred Fitzsimmons. For Washington it was a great choice as Whitehill pitched, arguably, the best game of the entire Series.

The Senators hit Fitzsimmons early. A single, a double, and a pop-up brought up Washington player-manager Joe Cronin with one out in the bottom of the first. His grounder back to the pitcher exchanged an out for the first Washington run. A Fred Schulte double plated a second run to make it 2-0. Washington then tacked on runs in the second and seventh with a pair of doubles (the second inning run) and two singles sandwiched around a stolen base (the seventh inning run).

The initial run in the first was all Whitehill needed. The threw the Series’ only complete game shutout. In nine innings he allowed five hits, walked two, and struck out a pair. Four of the hits were singles (Travis Jackson had a double). Only in the eighth inning did a Giants player reach third, and that with two outs.

So now the Senators were down two games to one. Game four was the next day.

Game 4, 6 October

Bill Terry

Game four saw game one starter Carl Hubbell back on the mound for the Giants. Washington countered with Monte Weaver. Both men pitched well, although Hubbell wasn’t quite up to his game one standard.

For three innings the teams matched zeroes. In the top of the fourth player-manager Bill Terry slugged a home run to center field to put New York ahead 1-0. although Hubbell gave up his first hit in the bottom of the fourth, a single to Goose Goslin, the Senators were unable to take advantage of it. They did take advantage of a Hubbell error, a bunt sacrifice and a Luke Sewell single to score Joe Kuhel in the seventh to tie up the game.

And then it stayed tied. Both teams put men on base and both pitchers got out of it through the eighth, the ninth, the tenth. In the top of the 11th, a Travis Jackson single, a bunt sacrifice, and a Blondy Ryan single gave the Giants a second run.

Hubbell needed three outs to put the Giants ahead three games to one. Two singles and another bunt sacrifice put Senators on second and third with one out. An intentional walk loaded the bases for pinch hitter Cliff Bolton. He rapped one to short and a short-second-first double play ended the game with New York winning 2-1 in extra innings.

Weaver went into the 11th inning before being pulled. He gave up 11 hits, but only two runs, while walking four and striking out three. Hubbell completed the game for his second Series victory. He’d given up only one unearned run (although the error was his), with eight hits four walks, and five strikeouts.

Game five was the next day and became known over the years as a classic.

 

1933, the obscure World Series: the Polo Grounds

May 15, 2018

The 1933 World Series began with two games in New York.

Game 1, 3 October

Carl Hubbell

For the first game, the Giants sent ace Carl Hubbell to the mound to face Washington southpaw Lefty Stewart. It quickly became the Hubbell show. In the first inning, New York jumped on Stewart for two runs. Leadoff hitter Jo-Jo Moore reached on an error by second baseman Buddy Myer and two outs later Mel Ott drove a pitch into the right field stands. Two innings later consecutive singles by Hughie Critz, Bill Terry, and Ott scored Critz with the third run and sent Stewart to the showers. One out later Travis Jackson’s little roller to first brought home the fourth run.

Hubbell allowed one hit through the first three innings. In the top of the fourth, Myer singled, reached third on a groundout and an error and scored on a Joe Cronin force play. That made the score 4-1 and the pitchers took over.

The 4-1 score held up until the top of the ninth when a New York error and bunched singles put a runner on third. A Joe Kuhel single added a second Washington run, but Hubbell then struck out Ossie Bluege for the second out and got a grounder to third that finished both the inning and the game.

It wasn’t a particularly well-played game. There were five errors (three by the Senators), but Hubbell had been terrific. He gave up two unearned runs, walked two, allowed five hits (all singles), and struck out 10 to give the Giants a 1-0 Series lead.

Game 2, October 4

Lefty O’Doul with the Giants

In game 2, Hal Schumacher took the mound for New York with Alvin “General” Crowder facing him for Washington. Both men pitched well through five innings. Schumacher had one small blip in the third when he grooved a pitch that Goose Goslin drove over the right field wall for a home run. It was the only run either team scored into the bottom of the sixth.

That was the crucial half inning for the game. A single, a force at second, and a double put runners on second and third with one out. an intentional walk loaded the bases for pinch hitter Lefty O’Doul. It was his first, and ultimately only, at bat in post season play. He used it well, smashing a single that scored two runs and put the Giants ahead. Two more singles scored two more runs, then a strikeout provided the second out. But two men were still on base, and two more singles, one by pitcher Schumacher, brought home two more runs and made the score 6-1.

It stayed that way for the rest of the game as Schumacher allowed two more hits, one erased on a double play to give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the Series. He’d thrown a complete game allowing five hits and walking four, but giving up only the homer to Goslin. Apparently some of the nervousness wore off from game one as there were no errors by either team in game two (as opposed to five in game one).

Game three was the next day in Washington. The Senators would need to win at least two to bring the Series back to New York.

 

 

1933, the obscure World Series: The Senators

May 10, 2018

Sam Rice

In 1933, the Giants drew the Washington Senators in the World Series. In the mid-1920s (1924 and 1925) the Senators were a formidable team winning a championship with Walter Johnson on the mound. By 1933 Johnson was gone as was most of the pennant winning team (a few remained).

The Senators offense was first in the American League in hits, triples, and batting average; third in runs, walks, and total bases; and fourth in doubles, home runs, and stolen bases. The team contained a nice mix of younger players (Cecil Travis was 19) and veterans (Sam Rice was 43) who tended to bunch in the stats. Six of the eight everyday players hit above .295 and the other two were in the .260s. A couple of bench players hit above .300 and a total of five were above .260. Only two men had double figure home runs (11 and 10) and except for one position (third base) every starter had between 29 and 45 doubles. Every primary starter managed to have more walks than strikeouts.

The infield from first around to third consisted of Joe Kuhel, Buddy Myer, Joe Cronin, and Ossie Bluege. Cronin, who would make the Hall of Fame, was also the manager, making the 1933 World Series odd by having two player-managers (Bill Terry). Cronin hit .309, led the team with both 118 RBIs and 87 walks. He was a solid shortstop and gave his team 7.2 WAR. All that got him second in the MVP voting. Myer, Cronin’s keystone crony, had 4.4 WAR, good for second on the team among position players. First baseman Joe Kuhel led the team with both 17 stolen bases and 11 home runs, had 107 RBIs (good for second on the team), and also led in OPS (.851) and was second on the Senators with 281 total bases. Ossie Bluege (his Baseball Reference page says it’s pronounced Blue-Jee—-I’ll take their word for it) was, at 32, the senior citizen of the infield. He’d been around for the 1920s pennant run and was still productive. He hit .261 with six home runs, good for third in Washington.  The backups included Cecil Travis who hit .302 in 43 games and Bob Boken who hit .278.

The outfield consisted of two Hall of Famers and Fred Schulte. Schulte hit .295 with 87 RBIs and was second on the team with 10 stolen bases.. The Hall of Famers were Goose Goslin and Heinie Manush. Manush, one of the more obscure Hall of Fame members, led the team with a .336 average, 115 runs scored, and had 4.1 WAR. The other outfielder was Goose Goslin. By the time the 1933 Series ended, Goslin would become the only man to play in all 19 Washington Senators World Series games (Bluege missed two in 1925 and Sam Rice was a part-time player by 1933). For the season his triple slash line read .297/.348/.452/.800 with 10 home runs, 10 triples (try that on purpose), 35 doubles, a 112 OPs+, and 3.2 WAR. Dave Harris and Sam Rice did most of the substitute work in the outfield. Harris had five home runs and hit .260. Rice, who logged 39 games in the outfield at age 43, hit .294, had -0.5 WAR, and would play one more season before retiring with 2987 hits.

Luke Sewell, brother of Yankees third baseman Joe, did the bulk of the catching. He hit .264 with no power and is today probably best known, if he’s known at all, as the manager of the 1944 St. Louis Browns, the only Browns team to win a pennant. Moe Berg, who is also better known for something other than catching (he was a “spy” during the pre-World War II period) hit .185 as the primary backup.

They caught a staff that didn’t have a Walter Johnson anywhere on the roster. General (Alvin) Crowder and Monte Weaver were the primary right handers on a staff that was second in the American League in ERA and runs. The primary lefties were Earl Whitehill and Walter “Lefty” Stewart. All had ERA’s in the three’s and both Crowder and Whitehill gave up more hits than they had innings pitched. Whitehill and Weaver both walked more men than they struck out. Stewart’s 1.244 WHIP was best on the team and Whitehill’s 4.9 WAR led all pitchers. The primary man out of the bullpen was Jack Russell (as far as I know he didn’t have a terrier). His ERA was 2.69 and led the AL with 13 saves. It gave him a 3.5 WAR.

The Senators could hit with the Giants. The question was simply could their pitching keep up with the likes of Carl Hubbell and company. The World Series began 3 October.

 

 

 

1933, the obscure World Series: The Giants

May 8, 2018

Lefty O’Doul with the Giants

Several years ago I ran a little informal poll on a sports website. I asked people to name the teams, winner first, in the 1933 World Series. They had to promise not to look it up first. Out of about 30 responses, 2 got it right (and 1 admitted to looking it up). It’s a terribly obscure World Series, falling between Babe Ruth’s last series in 1932 and the Gas House Gang Cardinals of 1934. It needs to be resurrected. You’ve probably figured by now that I’m about to do just that. First, the National League champs. And for what it’s worth, the most common answers to my poll were the Yankees and the Cardinals. Not bad choices for the era.

In 1932 John McGraw laid down the reins of the New York Giants. They hadn’t won since 1923, McGraw was old, he was tired, he was done. The next year the “new” Giants won the National League pennant by five games. They were fourth in runs scored, fourth in hits, led the NL in home runs, were fifth in average, and last in doubles. What all that should tell you is that they pitched really well. They were first in ERA, shutouts, runs, hits, second in strikeouts, and otherwise simply dominated on the mound.

The infield consisted of player-manager Bill Terry at first and three guys who are fairly obscure. Terry hit .322, had an OPS+ of 128. The .322 led the team and the OPS+ was second. He managed 3.8 WAR. Hughie Critz played second, hit .246 but produced 3.5 WAR. His middle infield mate was Blondy Ryan whose average was even lower and whose WAR was all of 1.9 (still good for 10th on the team). Johnny Vergez was the third baseman. He hit .271 and was second on the team in both homers and RBIs with 16 home runs and 72 RBIs. His WAR was 3.5. By the time the World Series began, Vergez was laid up with acute appendicitis and couldn’t play. His replacement was Hall of Famer Travis Jackson, who by this point in his career was splitting time between shortstop and third. He hit all of .246 with no power and 0.2 WAR. Sam Leslie and Bernie James were the other infield backups. Leslie hit .321 while James hit in the .240s.

The outfield was considerably better. George “Kiddo” Davis played center, hit .258, led the team with 10 stolen bases, made only three errors all season, and got 1.0 WAR. “Jo-Jo” Moore (his name was Joe) flanked him in left. He hit .292, second (to Terry) among starters, had 1.1 WAR, and like Davis, had only three errors. Flanking Davis to the right was Hall of Famer Mel Ott. He hit .283, led the team with 23 home runs and 103 RBIs, and led the entire NL with 75 walks. His WAR of 5.5 led the team’s position players. During the season, the Giants made a trade that brought the team a major piece of their pennant run, Lefty O’Doul. He hit .306, had nine home runs, 35 RBIs, 146 OPS+, and 2.1 WAR in 78 games, 63 of them in the field.

Gus Mancuso and Paul Richards did almost all the catching. Mancuso was behind the plate for 142 games hitting .264 with six home runs and 1.9 WAR. Richards got into 36 games as part of the battery and hit a buck-95. He (and sometime third baseman Chuck Dressen) would later become famous as managers.

The heart of the team was the staff, specifically three men: Carl Hubbell, Hal Schumacher, and Fred Fitzsimmons. “King Carl” was at his best in 1933. He went 23-12, had an ERA of 1.66 (ERA+ of 193), struck out 156, had 10 shutouts (the ERA and shutouts both led the NL), and produced a team leading 9.1 WAR to go along with a 0.982 WHIP. All that got him the 1933 NL MVP Award. “Prince Hal” wasn’t as good, but he was close. His ERA was 2.16 (ERA+149) with 96 strikeouts, and 5.4 WAR. “Fat Freddie” went 16-11 with a 2.90 ERA (111 ERA+), and more walks than strikeouts. Roy Parmelee is largely forgotten today, but he was second on the team with 132 strikeouts and had, at 3.17 the only ERA over three among the starters. Hi Bell and 42-year-old Dolf Luque were the main men out of the bullpen.

If you look it over closely, you can still see the influence of McGraw. The team was pitching heavy, relied on solid defense, and didn’t worry overly much about the long ball.