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.

 

 

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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.

1908: The End of April

May 3, 2018

Orval Overall

In my continuing look at the 1908 season (110 years ago), here’s a quick summary of how things stood going into the month of May. By the end of April of the 1908 season, every team had at least 11 games in the bank (with a couple at 15). There were a handful of surprises.

In the American League, 1907 pennant winner Detroit stood at 3-9, the worst record in either league. Ed Summers had two of the team wins with Ed Killian logging the other. Both Ty Cobb and infielder Germany Schaefer were hitting well, but Sam Crawford was at .239 and leadoff man Matty McIntyre was at 1.82. Two of their three wins were extra inning affairs (both went 10 innings). They were dead last in runs scored (48-tied with Washington) and their staff had given up more runs than any team in either league (76). By contrast, the Highlanders (now the Yankees) were in first place with an 8-5 record, followed closely by the Browns at 9-6.

The National League was following form more closely than the AL. Defending champ Chicago was in first, followed closely by Pittsburgh and the New York Giants. As expected, the Cardinals were in last place 3-10 having scored just 29 runs. Orval Overall led the Cubs with three wins (at this point Three-Finger Brown had yet to rack up a win). Chick Fraser had also posted three wins. Fraser would end the season 11-9 while Overall settled for 15-11. Brown did have a save in game one. He would lead the NL with five in 1908 and end up 29-9. Harry Steinfeldt was hitting .310 and Frank Chance was only at .206 (and Joe Tinker was hitting .143 and Johnny Evers .242).

This was to be Honus Wagner’s greatest year, leading the league in almost every major category (and a few not so major categories also). By the end of April, 1908 he was hitting all of .233. He would get better.

So that’s how it stood at the end of April in 1908. The biggest surprise had to be the Tigers in last place, with the Highlanders leading the AL a close second.

Leftovers

April 26, 2018

Urban Shocker as a Yankee

Every so often the Hall of Fame decides to revamp the Veteran’s Committee. Currently there are four of them and I wouldn’t hold my breath if they moved that to five or to three between now and the next meeting later this year. That alone should tell you how difficult it is to determine exactly what the parameters are for electing members of the Hall.

One of those committees, which is supposed to meet only once in 10 years, is the really old timers committee that looks at players prior to the advent of Jackie Robinson in the big leagues. You might name it for me, the Geezer Committee. But the very fact that it is meeting only once in 10 years is to me a hopeful sign that the Hall has finally determined that they have, more or less, all the people from the pre-Korean War period that should be enshrined in Cooperstown. But of course, you know the committee is still going to meet and we also know that the Hall of Fame gives the committee a ballot (almost always with 10 names on it) to vote on. So I began to wonder what that list might look like. Yeah, I know I have too much time on my hands, but having just dodged the end of the world (or missed the rapture) I’m free again to take that time to think about such things as the veteran’s committee, Geezer edition. Here’s something of a semi-educated guess that may or may not have much to do with what the real ballot will look like (Is that wishy-washy enough for you?). This is strictly a guess and you may feel free to snicker at it, laugh aloud, curse it, or comment on my sanity as appropriate. In this I make no comment on whether the person should be or should not be in the Hall of Fame. In no particular order:

1. Daniel “Doc” Adams-is one of he founders of the sport and seems to be the most well-known. Duncan Curry, William Rufus Wheaton, and a host of others could be here as representing the people who codified the game, but Adams is probably the best know and hence most likely to be on such a ballot.

2. Bud Fowler-is probably the best 10th Century black player currently not in the Hall of Fame.

3. or maybe it’s George Stovey. Fowler was an infielder, Stovey a pitcher.

4. As the committee is now allowed to look at the period beginning in 1871 rather than 1876, it opens up the list for Ross Barnes. Barnes was a terrific hitter in the old National Association and for a few years in the new National League.

5. Joe Start played for the Atlantic in the 1860s (they were the Yankees of their day) and was one of their stars. He moved to the Association, then to the NL and continued playing into his 40s and into the 1880s. Helped Providence to a pair of pennants and to a victory in the first ever postseason series against the American Association in 1884. It was sort of an early version of the World Series. Very few players can say they gave quality play for three decades.

6. Sam Breadon owned the Cardinals from 1920 through 1947. When he took over they hadn’t won a championship in the 20th Century. By the time he retired, they were the dominant franchise in the NL.

7. Wes Ferrell is probably not in the Hall of Fame because he has a huge ERA. But the new fangled stats make it easier to see that he was a very good pitcher in a hitting era (and he could hit a little too).

8. Bucky Walters was one of those guys who started at one position (third base) and transitioned into a quality player at another position (pitcher). He won an MVP, a World Series, and, like Ferrell, could hit a little.

9. Urban Shocker may be the most overlooked pitcher of the late 19-teen and the 1920s. He pitched well enough in the Deadball Era, then moved successfully into the hitting era of the 1920s (and he played for the ’27 Yankees who have everybody else except the batboy in the Hall).

10. Candy Jim Taylor was a superb player, then became a manager and ultimately took over the reins of the Negro League Homestead Grays during their most successful period in the 1940s. Obviously he should not be confused with Jim Taylor, the fullback for the Vince Lombardi Packers of the 1960s.

So there it is, a solid guess at what the really Old-Timers Veteran’s Committee list will look like when it’s published a couple of years from now (and the least likely players to actually show up are probably the Negro League guys). By then, this should be well hidden on this blog and most of you will have forgotten you ever saw it. That may be for the best.

Ah, Heck

April 23, 2018

Do you suppose the end will look like this?

In case you didn’t know it, today is the end of the world. Some genius got out his Bible, version unstated, but I’m guessing King James, and did some fast calculations (see, computers are great for something like calculating the end of the world) and determined that 23 April 2018 is the fulfilment of prophesy and today is the end of the world or the “rapture”. First we survive Y2K, then the Mayan Apocalypse, and now this one. I swear, one of these is going to be right.

So I decided to ask myself, “Self, what do you do on the day the world ends?” Well, Self answered, “Take in a ball game.” Sounded like a good way to finish off an otherwise middling day on a middling planet. Then it turns out the local minor league team is out-of-town for a game. The Rangers are in town, but it’s a long drive to Dallas. So I guess I’ll set back, find a game on TV and watch until everything goes blank. And sometime today I’m going to sit down and read Ray Bradbury’s wonderful The Last Night of the World.

Been nice knowing all of you. Oh, and one piece of advice. Just in case they’re wrong, don’t charge your credit card to the hilt.

Pinky

April 20, 2018

Pinky Higgins

When I was a kid I had one of those baseball board games that had a spinner and some cards representing real players. You spun the spinner (it wasn’t as awkward as that combination of words) then consulted the player card to get a result. It was a step up from normal spinner games in that it tried, by use of the card, to get something closer to a real player’s result (Babe Ruth would hit more homers, Ty Cobb would have more singles). All the players were historical and I’d heard of all of them except one: Pinky Higgins. What follows is not simply my normal look at the playing career of Higgins, but some thoughts on other parts of his career.

Michael Frank Higgins was born in Red Oak, Texas in 1909. At the time it was a small East Texas town. Now it’s part of the Dallas suburbs. The “Pinky” nickname came from his childhood and he seems to have hated it. He made the big leagues in 1930 as a third baseman for the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics. The A’s won the World Series, but Higgins didn’t play in the Series. He was back in the minors in 1931 and 1932, then resurfaced with the A’s in 1933. He stayed there through 1936, then shifted to Boston (the Red Sox, not the Braves) where he remained through 1938. From Boston it was on to Detroit, where he got into the 1940 World Series.  In 1945 he was off to World War II, then came back for one final season in 1946, splitting time between Detroit and Boston. He finished his career in the 1946 World Series. For his career he hit .292 with a slugging percentage of .428, 140 home runs, 1075 RBIs, a 107 OPS+ and 27.5 WAR.  He also managed to hit for the cycle in August 1933. All in all, not a bad career.

After retirement from the game he managed in the Red Sox minor league system, then in 1955 became manager of the BoSox. He remained into 1959, then took over again in 1960, remaining to 1962. During the latter stint as manager he was also in charge of player personnel, making him a de facto general manager. He remained there until 1965, when he was fired. The Astros picked him up as a special scout.

Higgins drank, and he drank a lot. In 1968, while driving drunk in Louisiana he hit a highway worker. The worker died and Higgins was sentenced to five years in prison, one year deferred. He served a few months and was released with heart problems. He died in 1969, less than two days after his release.

But Higgins became, both during his tenure with the Red Sox and after his death, the center of a raging controversy about baseball and race. Although there are a few ex-players and staff who disagreed, almost everyone who knew Higgins agreed he was an extreme racist. Some have gone so far as to blame him for the failure of the Red Sox to integrate prior to 1959.

Now I grew up in Oklahoma and in West Texas. I’ve met my share of East Texas bigots (and to be fair about it, bigots from a lot of other places) and it wouldn’t surprise me that Higgins, growing up when and where he did, had his fair share of racial prejudice. But it seems silly somehow to blame him for the Boston race problem. He never owned the team. Tom Yawkey did. Yawkey never pushed to integrate the Red Sox (and for what it’s worth, Yawkey was from Detroit, a distinctly non-Southern town). Between the time Brooklyn brought up Jackie Robinson in 1947 through the arrival of Pumpsie Green in Boston in 1959, the following men served as General Manager of the BoSox: Eddie Collins (through 1947), Joe Cronin (through 1958). Neither man moved to employ black ball players at the Major League level (Cronin had several black players in the minors, but never promoted any of them). As far as I can tell, neither ever went to the owner with a plea “Mr. Yawkey, we’re losing and we can right the ship if we add a couple of black players.” Maybe they knew Yawkey would tell them “No.” As manager Higgins never pushed for integration either. I’m quite certain that Higgins was no friend to Black Americans, but it’s unfair to attribute the late arrival of a black player to Boston to him. He may have agreed, but he had a lot of others who nodded along with him.

 

Another One of Those ESPN Lists

April 18, 2018

It’s time again for another one of those periodic lists that ESPN puts out touting something they consider important. This time it’s their annual list of the 100 best players in Major League Baseball. Obviously, I’m not going to go through the entire list for you. You can go to ESPN, click on their MLB section, and see the entire list. But here’s a couple of comments on the list:

First, if you want to put together a complete team with an infielder at each position and one each of all three outfield positions (in other words, one left fielder, a right fielder, and a center fielder, rather than a center fielder and two right fielders), a catcher, four starters (including at least one lefty and at least one right-hander), a closer, and a Designated Hitter (the first duplicate position player takes the DH slot–in this case he’s a first baseman), you get a lineup that looks like this, with the number following the name the position on the overall list:

1b Joe Votto-9th

2b Jose Altuve-3rd

ss-Carlos Correa-10th

3b-Nolan Arenado-7th

rf-Bryce Harper-5th

cf-Mike Trout-1st

lf-Christian Yelich-41st

c-Buster Posey-22nd

p-Clayton Kershaw-2nd

p-Max Scherzer-4th

p-Corey Kluber-6th

p-Chris Sale-8th

reliever-Kenley Jansen-28

DH-Paul Goldschmidt-11th

A couple of comments on this lineup. Note how many of the top players are infielders. Back when the big names were outfielders (Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Reggie Jackson), now you’re seeing more and more of the better players on the infield. There are several right fielders and center fielders on the list before Yelich shows up as the top left fielder. And finally Ohtani shows up on the list (52nd). I don’t care how much of a phenom he is or is going to be, he ain’t in the top 100 players after less than 20 games played. Even Babe Ruth wouldn’t be that good.

So take a look and if you have complaints, voice them here or where ever you feel like, but make sure you blame ESPN and not the messenger (that would be me.)