Archive for May, 2013

Its’ a Long Fly; and He’s Out

May 29, 2013

Like the batter in the title, I’ll be out for a while. Our niece is graduating from high school and we’re on our way to see and congratulate her. There won’t be much going on here for a week or so. As usual, don’t trash the place too bad while I’m gone.

The Best of the Giants

May 27, 2013
Will Clark

Will Clark

It’s been a while since I stuck my foot deep in my mouth and picked an all-time team for a franchise. So it’s time to do it again. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time this month dealing with the Giants, especially the New York version, so it seems like a good franchise to work with now.

A few caveats first (you knew I’d do that, right?). Let me start with a simple disclaimer: I’ve never been a particular Giants fan. Growing up supporting the Dodgers, there’s not a lot of nice things to say about the Giants (only the Yankees are as deep in perdition as the Giants). That means I’ll admit to being less than confident about my choices, but it’s the best I can do using only research and a few memories. Second, I put together a 25 man roster that does not mirror a Major League roster, but it’s my list and I get to do it my way. There are nine infielders, five outfielders, two catchers, and nine pitchers. I decided to go with three bullpen men and six men who were primarily starters. I also picked a manager (bet you can guess him). Finally there are no players whose primary career is before the advent of the mound. There are som really fine Giants prior to 1892, like Roger Connor, Tim Keefe, Mike Tiernan, but they play a game that is different, so different I decided to drop them from consideration.

So with all that said, here we go diving in where God knows what we will find. Each list is alphabetical.

The Infield:  Will Clark, Al Dark, George Davis, Art Fletcher, Frankie Frisch, Travis Jackson, Jeff Kent, Johnny Mize, Willie McCovey.

Did you ever notice that the Giants have produced an inordinate number of quality first basemen? I chose McCovey, Mize, and Clark (and Cepeda spent a lot of time at first) and left out Hall of Fame first sackers Bill Terry and George Kelly. Frankly, I didn’t really have to think that hard about it. The only hard choice was Mize, who spent significant time with both St. Louis and the Yankees. I decided he was in. If they’ve had great first basemen, they’ve had mediocre third basemen. I went with Fletcher as the only third baseman because the rest of the list was Fred Lindstrom and Jim Davenport and guys like that. OK, maybe I should have considered Sandoval, but as a rule I like to stay away from current players because we don’t know how they’re stay with their team will go (but see Posey below). Short and second were mixed bags. Frisch, Kent, and Larry Doyle stood out but there wasn’t much below them. Short on the other hand had more quality players, but no one at the level of either Frisch or Kent. I left off Dave Bancroft and added Dark which may strike some as odd, but I suppose it’s merely a personal preference. And of course Jackson (who was in the top 10 Giants in WAR, which surprised me) played third toward the end of his career. 

The Outfield: Barry Bonds, Orlando Cepeda, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Mel Ott.

There is Bonds (whatever you think of him as a person or as a steroids user), there is Mays, and there is Ott. Everyone else is a huge drop, a really huge drop. You could make an argument that across the three outfield positions (left, center, and right) the Giants may have the best starting outfield ever. But you need backups and at the point you get past the big three you end up with a lot of quality outfielders. Cepeda’s knees sent him to first, but he began in the outfield. Irvin was a converted middle infielder who lost several years to segregation. Both are just short of the top-tier. I had to leave out both Felipe and Matty Alou, which I was sorry to do because I’d liked both when they played. Jeff Leonard and Kevin Mitchell were good for too short a time to be considered at the top.

The Catchers: Roger Bresnahan and Buster Posey.

OK, who else was there? Look at the Giants’ list of catchers and tell me you like anyone better. As a rule, Giants catching has been very weak. Buck Ewing is excluded as a pre-1890s player.  Hank Severeid maybe, but if that’s the best you can do then we’re stuck with these two. I hesitate to pick a current player like Posey, but it’s a really weak position and Posey has the advantage of coming to the Giants and they win a World Series. Then he gets hurt and they falter. Then he’s healthy again and they win another World Series. That’s a pretty good legacy, isn’t it?

The Starters: Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, Gaylord Perry, Amos Rusie.

You know, you could make a pretty fair five man rotation for the Giants just using pitchers whose last name began with the letter “M”. You could dump those bums Perry and Rusie and insert Rube Marquard and Sal Maglie and still have a darned good staff. I didn’t. I have a feeling that in a few years both Lincecum and Cain will be getting some consideration on lists like this.

The Bullpen: Rod Beck, Rob Nen, Hoyt Wilhelm.

Not the strongest part of the Giants history. Wilhelm made the Hall of Fame, but his tenure with New York was relatively short. Most of his Cooperstown credentials are from other teams. Nen and Beck are simply one, two in saves, so why not?

The Manager: John J. McGraw.

Surely you saw that coming.

So there it is in all its glory; for good ,bad, or indifferent. I think it’s a pretty fair list, but I’m sure a lot of people will disagree. Feel free to do so. (I have this nagging feeling I’ve left somebody out).

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Lefty O’Doul

May 23, 2013
Lefty O'Doul while with Brooklyn

Lefty O’Doul while with Brooklyn

1. He was born Francis Joseph O’Doul in 1897 in San Francisco.

2. In 1912 he played for his school team, whose coach was female. O’Doul credited her with teaching him fundamentals of the game. The next year he dropped out of school to work with his father as a butcher.

3. Playing semipro ball on Sundays brought him to the attention of the San Francisco Seals minor league team. He signed as a pitcher in 1917.

4. After a stint in the Navy in World War I, O’Doul was picked up by the Yankees in 1919. He played for them in 1919 and 1920, did little, and was sent back to San Francisco for 1921.

5. In 1922 he was back with the Yankees, Again he didn’t do much and was sent to Boston. With the Red Sox he did pick up his only pitching win in 1923 (He was 1-1 for his career).

6. He spent 1924-1927 in the minors. He hurt his arm and became a fulltime outfielder. Much of the 1924-27 period was spent trying to learn how to field.

7. In 1928 he was picked up by the Giants, hit .319 with little power and was traded to the Phillies.

8. He won his first batting title (.398) in 1929. He remained with Philadelphia one more year, hit .383, and was traded to Brooklyn where he stayed into 1933 when he was traded back to the Giants. While in Brooklyn he won a second batting title (.368)

9. He platooned some in left field for the pennant winning New York team. That got him into his only World Series, a Giants victory. He batted once, singled, drove in two runs, and later scored.

10.His last big league year was 1934. He hit .316 and left the Major Leagues with a .349 average and an OPS+ of 143 in 970 games.

11. He left the Giants to manage the Seals in his hometown. He stayed manager through 1951 winning pennant in 1935, 1943, ’44, ’45, and 1946. He remained a minor league manager through 1957, then became a hitting instructor for the Giants, now located in San Francisco. He also spent significant time in Japan promoting baseball there.

12. In retirement he opened a bar (Lefty O’Doul’s) which is still open in San Francisco. One source calls it the oldest sport’s bar in the US (although some spots on the East Coast might argue the point).

13. He died in 1969 and has never gotten much support for the Hall of Fame (His vote total peaked at 16.7% in 1960).

O'Doul's tombstone

O’Doul’s tombstone

The sentiment reads “He was here at a good time and had a good time while he was here.” (not a bad epitaph)

The Barber

May 20, 2013
Sal Maglie

Sal Maglie

Sal Maglie was one of the aces of the Giants teams that won a pennant in 1951 and the World Series title in 1954. His nickname was “The Barber” (a nickname he hated) because he pitched high and inside. He was a good solid pitcher who helped four teams to pennants. In other words, he was a heck of a pitcher. Unfortunately, he’s most famous today for a game he lost.

Magile was born in Niagara Falls (the town, not the falls, obviously) in 1917. He’s another of that generation of players who were first generation Americans (his family coming from Italy). Maglie loved baseball, his parents were certain it was ruining his life. Apparently that was a fairly common problem in the period. In researching a lot of different players, I’ve found an inordinate number had immigrant parents who were entirely buffaloed by their son’s desire to play ball and the country’s willingness to pay the kid to do so.

Maglie played semipro ball while working in a factory in Buffalo. He was good enough that the Double A Bisons picked him up. He was raw and ended up in Class D. Desperate for talent in 1942, the Giants picked him up for their Jersey City farm team. He stayed one year, then left to work in a defense plant. In 1945, the Giants enticed him back to baseball. By the end of the season he was in the Majors going 5-4 with an ERA of 2.35 and a 1.115 WHIP. He was 28 and had finally made it.

In 1946 the Mexican League, under new management, began luring big leaguers to Mexico with big salaries. Maglie, who was playing in the Cuban League (under ex-Giants pitcher Dolf Luque), took one of the contracts. Major League baseball was appalled. Commissioner “Happy” Chandler announced a five-year ban on players who jumped to the Mexican League. That included Maglie. He pitched two seasons at Puebla, establishing himself as a quality pitcher. But the Mexican League was in trouble. The big salaries didn’t translate to big attendance and the league began faltering. Maglie jumped ship in 1948 joining a barnstorming team that folded at the end of the season. He bought a gas station in Niagara Falls, then got a call to join a minor league team in Canada. He pitched in Canada in 1949, leading his team to its league championship. At the end of the 1949 season, Chandler lifted the ban on the Mexican League refugees (it lasted four of the five years) and Maglie rejoined the Giants.

Maglie, now 33, was a hit. He won the ERA title (and the ERA+ crown) in 1950, had his career year in 1951 with a league leading 23 wins, and led the Giants to a three game playoff with the Dodgers. He pitched eight innings of game three, the Bobby Thomson “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” game, but took a no decision. The Giants victory took them to the World Series. They lost to the Yankees, Maglie pitching one game, lasting five innings, and getting clobbered (he gave up four runs in five innings in game three).  He had a good year in 1952, not such a good year in 1953 (he was having back problems), and opened 1954 as the Giants three pitcher (behind Johnny Antonelli and Ruben Gomez). He went 14-6, struck out 117 batters, but allowed more hits than he had innings pitched. The Giants were again in the World Series and Maglie drew game one. Again he picked up a no decision in the game made famous by Willie Mays’ catch and Dusty Rhodes’ homer. The Giants swept the Series with Maglie not taking the mound after game one.

Despite a good start in 1955, Maglie was traded to Cleveland. After two games in Cleveland in 1956, the Indians sold him to Brooklyn. The Dodgers, needing pitching, returned Maglie to a starting role (he’d mostly relieved in Cleveland) and he went 13-5 with a 2.87 ERA and a league leading 139 ERA+. He pitched his only no-hitter in 1956 and pitched the pennant clinching game for Brooklyn.  That meant the Dodgers would play in their second consecutive World Series, squaring off against the Yankees. Maglie pitched and won the first game of the Series (beating Whitey Ford), then drew game five in Yankee Stadium. It was his most famous game. He was great, giving up only two runs and five hits while striking out five. The problem was that Yankees starter Don Larsen threw the World Series’ only perfect game that day.

Maglie began 1957 with the Dodgers, went 6-6, and was sent across the city to the Bronx. He was 2-0 for the Yankees as they made another World Series. He didn’t pitch in the Series (which New York lost to Milwaukee in seven games).  In 1958 he was 41 and done. He pitched a few games for New York, then ended the season for the Cardinals. They released him before the 1959 season. He’d played parts of 10 seasons in the Majors, becoming the last man to wear the uniform of all three New York teams (this doesn’t count anyone who played for all three teams once the Dodgers and Giants moved to California).

He coached one year in the Cards minor league system, then became Red Sox pitching coach in 1961 and 1962. He was out of baseball in 1963, ’64, and ’65. He spent part of 1965 with the New York Athletic Commission, but most of his time was taken nursing his dying wife (she had cancer). He returned to baseball as pitching coach of the 1966-67 Red Sox, including the “Impossible Dream” team that lost the 1967 World Series. He was fired at the end of the Series (he and manager Dick Williams didn’t get along). He spent time after 1967 as a pitching coach for the Pilots (now the Brewers), general manager for the Niagara Falls minor league team, ran a liquor distributorship, and was a coordinator for the Niagara Falls Convention Bureau. He retired in 1979 and died in December 1992.

For his Major League career “The Barber” was 119-62, had an ERA of 3.15 (ERA+ of 127), 25 shutouts, 562 walks, and 862 strikeouts in 1723 innings pitched (a WHIP of 1.250). He was a member of four pennant winning teams and one World Series champion (1954). In postseason play he was 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA, 20 strikeouts and a 1.345 ERA. All this with four years lost to the Mexican League.

It’s useless to speculated how much Maglie lost because of the Mexican League fiasco. We can never know. He didn’t make the big leagues until he was 28 and didn’t become a regular until he was 33. It was not in the cards that he would join the Hall of Fame. But he was considered one of the better “money” pitchers of his era, especially in the regular season. Not a bad legacy for a man who hated what is one of the better nicknames of all time.

Maglie's final resting place

Maglie’s final resting place

The Last Win in New York

May 16, 2013
Willie Mays as a New York Giant

Willie Mays as a New York Giant

You’ve all seen the film. Willie Mays turns, runs back, his cap goes off, he reaches out, the ball falls in his mitt and he turns to fire the ball back to the infield. It’s the famous catch off Vic Wertz’s bat and is one of the handful of most famous plays in World Series history. It occurred in 1954, the last stand of the New York Giants in postseason.

The 1954 Giants were a team coming off a down season in 1953. After winning the National League pennant in 1951, they’d dropped to second in 1952, then fallen to fifth in 1953. It was much the same team, but with a couple of significant changes. Wes Westrum was still the catcher. He hit under the Mendoza Line for the season, but was a decent catcher. He’d led the league in caught stealing a couple of times, but also in passed balls (more on that later). The infield was Whitey Lockman, Davey Williams, Alvin Dark, and Hank Thompson. They had all been around in 1953. Dark and Thompson both hit 20 plus home runs with Dark leading the infield with a .293 average. Hall of Famer Monte Irvin and Don Mueller patrolled the outfield corners. Irvin had 19 home runs and Mueller hit .342. But the big change was the return of Willie Mays from the military. Mays hit .345, slugged .667, had an OPS+ of 175 and hit 41 home runs with 110 RBIs. He was also, of course, a superb center fielder.

The pitching staff consisted of Johnny Antonelli having a career year, Ruben Gomez continuing his run as a starter, and 37-year-old Sal Maglie contributing 14 wins. The closer was Hall of Fame reliever Hoyt Wilhelm, whose knuckleball accounted for most of Westrum’s passed balls. Manager Leo Durocher’s bench was fairly thin, but ace pinch hitter and sometime outfielder Dusty Rhodes hit .341, had an OPS+ of 181 (higher than Mays).

The Giants weren’t favored in 1954, the Dodgers were. But the Giants went 25-19 against Brooklyn and Milwaukee (the other NL teams that played .500 ball) while the Dodgers were only19-25. The six games made a difference as New York took the pennant by five games, posting a 97-57 record.

They drew record-setting Cleveland in the World Series. The Indians had rolled to an American League record 111 wins (since bettered) but the number was deceiving. They’d feasted on the second division teams and played only so-so against the first division. There were no second division teams in the Series. Behind Mays’ famous catch, Rhodes two home runs, Dark’s .412 average, and pitching that held Cleveland to a .190 average New York swept the Indians in four games.

For the Giants it was the end. In 1955 they finished third. In both 1956 and 1957 they were sixth (of eight teams). By 1958 they were no longer the New York Giants. They moved to San Francisco at the end of the 1957 season. They had been a great franchise in the 1880s and had gone on to glory in the first 25 years of the 20th Century. After that they were sporadically good, but had become the third team in New York (behind both the Yankees and Dodgers). The 1954 season was their last hurrah. They would not win again until the 21st Century.

Taking One for the Team

May 13, 2013
It wasn't quite this bad

It wasn’t quite this bad

I’ve been thrown out of ball games exactly four times ever: twice as a player, twice as a coach. I told you about the youth baseball experience in a post dated  6 September 2012 and titled “Be Careful What You Ask For”. My other time as a player occurred while playing for an army team. I’m not particularly proud of either moment, but there is one time as a coach that I was kind of proud of being tossed. (All conversation cleaned up for the family nature of this site and approximated after 25 year’s time.)

I was coaching a little league (not capitalized because I’m using it in the generic sense, not in reference to the organization in Williamsport, PA) a number of years ago. We had a decent team, finished about third or fourth. We were involved in a close game against one of the better teams in the league when there was a bang-bang play at second. The opposing team’s player bolted from first, our catcher threw a great strike to second. Our shortstop slapped down the tag, the guy was out. Except for the small fact that the shortstop dropped the ball. It rolled under the guy and apparently no one but the umpire and I noticed. So the ump, being a man of integrity called the guy “safe.”

My team’s parents erupted. Now we had 12 players and most of them were there that night. That meant that there were roughly 12 sets of parents, grandparents, in-laws, friends, girlfriends, cousins, nephews, nieces, and assorted hangers-on sitting behind our bench and down the third base line (we were on the third base bench). The players were screaming. My assistant coaches were screaming. Everyone of them was absolutely sure that the ump was blind as a lawyer to his client’s guilt and cold as a cop at a traffic stop. You know, just your standard spawn of Satan type. I had three fathers threatening to go out and cut the ump’s throat (or a part of his anatomy somewhat lower). It was obvious that the crowd was going to get out of hand if someone didn’t do something. So being a combat vet (and deathly afraid of little league parents) I decided it had to be me.

I turned to my assistant coach, “Dave, be prepared to take over, I’m going to have to get run.”

“Say what?”

“I’m going to have to go argue with the ump about the call and I’m going to have to argue enough he’s going to run me outta here.”

Dave nodded and I headed over to second. I stopped first to talk with my shortstop. “Did you get him out?”

“Yeah, coach, I got him,” he lied. Now I was in even worse trouble. Terrific. Now I had to back my player who I knew was lying.

So on out to the ump I went. We stepped a few feet away from the players so no one could hear us.

“Don’t start, Coach,” the ump told me. “Your man dropped the ball.”

With my face screwed into the tightest grimace of anger I could manage I replied, “Yeah, I know.”

“Then what the heck are you doing out here?” He looked at me like I was a total idiot.

“You see those parents back there?” I asked through my best scowl.

He looked over my shoulder toward the team parents. Four of them (not all males) were trying to climb the chain link fence to get onto the field. Two of them had those little plastic forks they gave you when you got chili-cheese fries at the concession stand. The ump blanched.

“I gotta keep them calm, so I gotta argue with you. I gotta argue enough that you toss me.”

He thought for a second, then nodded. “OK, but we gotta take a while, don’t we?”

“Yeah, how long you figure?” I asked pointing my finger at him and waving it threateningly.

He took a quick look down at his watch and looked up with his worst grimace of anger, “I guess about a minute.”

“OK.” Now at a total loss as to what to do next, I asked, “So what do we talk about?” I threw up an arm in utter disgust at whatever he said.

“How about the blonde with the big melons?” he suggested while punching his finger into my face about an inch short of my nose.

One of the other team’s mothers was this nice looking blonde with big melons who was seated just in eyesight of both of us. She had on one of those blue summer dresses that have no sleeves, a couple of thin straps and a short, but wide skirt.

“Nice legs too,” I told him with both arms flailing in his direction.

“Yep. You oughta try getting her kid next year,” the ump told me with a jerk of his head and a glare.

I screwed up my face again, threw both arms up and gestured wildly, “I’ll have to find out which one he is.”

“I think it’s the kid they have in center tonight,” he said through clinched teeth.

“You sure?” I responded through equally clinched teeth.

“No, but I’ve seen her yell for him when he’s at bat,” he told me as he glanced at his watch. “The minute’s almost up so toss your cap down and I’ll run you, OK?”

So I threw down my cap. He threw up his arm with thumb extended in the classic “Yer outta here” signal. I grabbed my cap, trudged back to the dugout, winked at Dave and went out through the player’s gate over by third base. My parents were giving me a standing ovation.

Back then when you were tossed out in the local league, you had to leave the ball yard entirely. Of course there was a parking area just to the first base side of the field, so I wandered over there, leaned back on a car, and waited for the game to end. We managed to win the game (and the guy safe at second didn’t score). So I headed back to the field to talk with the team. Half the fathers patted me on the back, the other half shook my hand. One of the mother’s kissed my cheek (It wasn’t the blonde. I have no idea what she did).

So I was a hero, but for every action there is an equal an opposite reaction (thank you, Isaac Newton). The next game I showed up, the same ump showed up, the league president showed up. He motioned for both of us to come over.

“What the hell happened out here Tuesday?”

“It’s OK, Dutch,” the ump told him. “Coach here had to argue with me to keep the fans in line and I had to toss him to make it look good. No harm, Dutch.”

I nodded.

“Damn it, guys, we can’t be doing it that way. League rules say I gotta suspend you for being tossed, Coach.” I could see he was in something of a  dilemma and wasn’t sure how to get out of it. No one seemed angry and someone was supposed to be furious.

“But, Dutch, he didn’t really say anything and I’m not upset,” my new hero told him. “Couldn’t we just forget it?”

“Can’t do it. ” There was a long pause as he searched for a solution to his problem.  He looked over at me, “But tell you what I’ll do.  I’ll  suspend you for one inning of this game and that’ll be it. OK?”

“Deal.”

So I leaned against another car while we scored a run or two. Then in a little league rarity in our town we set the other team down in order. So I was back to coaching, was a hero to my players and parents, made a friend in the ump, and we won the game. Not a bad outcome, right?

Oh, and the blonde? I never did get her kid. Damn.

Prince Hal

May 9, 2013
Hal Schumacher

Hal Schumacher

the 1930s Giants pitching staff is known for one hurler: Carl Hubbell. He was “The Meal Ticket.” He was “King Carl.” He also shared the mound with Hal Schumacher, known to the fans as “Prince Hal.”

Hal Schumacher was born in 1910 in upstate New York (near Utica). As with many of the players of the era his parents were immigrants (from Germany). He was a good athlete, graduated high school, got a number of calls from baseball teams. Wanting to attend college he enrolled at St. Lawrence University in 1928. He stayed through 1930, then, running out of money for college, he signed his first professional contract. Among other stipulations, it required the Giants to allow him time to finish college.

He split 1931 between New York and minor league teams in Bridgeport and Rochester (Baseball Reference shows only his Bridgeport numbers. I have no idea why.). He went 1-1 in eight games (two starts) with an ERA over 10. In 1932 he split time between starting and relieving and began to establish himself as a key member of the staff. In 1933 he went 19-12 with a 2.16 ERA and for the first time had more strikeouts than walks. The Giants won the National League pennant and Schumacher won game two of the World Series. He took a no decision in the climactic game five.

Schumacher had outstanding seasons in 1934 and 1935 (going a combined 42-10 with an ERA just under three. He developed arm trouble in 1936 and slid back posting only an 11-13 record for the NL champs. He went 1-1 in the Series, getting lit up during game two and throwing a ten inning complete game in game five. The Giants lost the Series in six games.

They were back in the World Series in 1937, Schumacher going 13-12 during the regular season. He took the loss in game three. It was his last postseason play. He remained with the Giants through 1942 pitching about .500 ball and watching his walk numbers go up while his strikeouts went down.  He joined the Navy after the ’42 season and served on an aircraft carrier. he returned to the Giants in 1946. He was 35 and unable to return to anything like his prewar form. At the end of the season he retired.

Upon retirement he went to work for the Adirondack Bat Company. He’d gotten his college degree in business (meaning the Giants lived up their part of the contract) and became Vice President in charge of sales. With his background in baseball he served as a valuable asset for the company, convincing a number of Major Leaguers to use his company’s bats (Willie Mays was one of them). He rose to Executive Vice President of the company and served a term as president of the Athletic Goods Manufacturers Association. He retired in 1967 and went to work for Little League. His job was to organize instructional programs for youth baseball. He died in Cooperstown (as is appropriate) in 1993.

For his career, Schumacher went 158-121 with an ERA of 3.36 (ERA+ of 111). He walked 902 men and struck out 906 in 2482 innings and gave up 2424 hits. That gave him a 1.340 WHIP. In postseason play he was 2-2 with a 4.13 ERA.

Schumacher was never a big star for the Giants (although he made three All-Star games). He was lost behind the bats of Mel Ott and Bill Terry and he existed in the great shadow of Carl Hubbell on the mound. For all that, he was a successful number two pitcher and a major component for three pennant winning teams.

Changing the Guard

May 6, 2013
Carl Hubbell, New York's "Meal Ticket"

Carl Hubbell, New York’s “Meal Ticket”

In 1933 the New York Giants did something they hadn’t done since the 1880s. They won a pennant without John McGraw at the helm. The changing of the guard from McGraw to Bill Terry in 1932 rejuvenated the Giants and led them to their first World Series in 10 years.

When I first decided to do this post, I tried to list all eight starters, the three pitchers, the main bullpen guy, and a couple of subs. I got about six names total. Unless you’re a true diehard Giants fan, it’s a fairly obscure team. The infield consisted of (first to third) hall of famer and manager Bill Terry, Hughie Critz, Blondy Ryan, and Johnny Vergez. Terry hit .300, Vergez had double figure home runs, and the other two were primarily glove men. Gus Mancuso was the catcher. He did almost all the catching and had a 49% caught stealing percentage (which was good in the era). The outfield consisted of another hall of famer, Mel Ott, in right, JoJo Moore, George “Kiddo” Davis, Lefty O’Doul, and Homer Peel holding down the other two spots. By the Series, Davis had settled in left and Moore was more or less the normal center fielder. Travis Jackson (another hall of famer), Sam Leslie, and Bernie James were the main backup infielders, while Paul Richards (of manager fame) was the backup catcher. The one significant trade during the season saw O’Doul come to the Giants while Leslie went to the Dodgers. The team led the NL in home runs, but no other major category.

As with most teams McGraw led (and he’d only been gone a year, not time enough for a team make over), the key to the Giants was pitching. Carl Hubbell had a great year going 23-12 with an ERA of 1.66. He had 10 shutouts and walked only 47 to go with 156 strikeouts. Twenty-two year old “Prince” Hal Schumacher was 19-12 with a 2.16 ERA while “Fat” Freddie Fitzsimmons (who could never get that nickname in this politically correct era) was 16-11 with a 2.90 ERA. Geezers Dolf Luque and Hi Bell did most of the bullpen work. The pitchers led the National League in ERA and shutouts, finished second in strikeouts, and were dead last in hits allowed.

They drew Washington in the World Series. It had been eight years since the Senators won a pennant, so both teams were in unusual territory. The Giants won the first two games at home, then dropped game three in DC. They came back to claim game four, then game five became an all-time classic.

In the top of the second, the Giants picked up two runs on a single, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a two run scoring single by pitcher Schumacher. They picked up a third run in the sixth when Davis doubled, went to third on a bunt, and scored on Mancuso’s double. In the bottom of the sixth, the Senators struck back. After consecutive singles, Senators center fielder Fred Schulte connected for a three-run homer.After two more singles, Luque replaced Schumacher and slammed the door on Washington. The two teams matched zeroes into the tenth inning. With two outs, Ott launched a home run that put New York ahead. With two out in the bottom of the tenth, a single and a walk put the tying run in scoring position and the winning run at first. Luque responded by striking out Joe Kuhel to end the game and the Series. Luque was terrific in relief, going 4.1 scoreless innings and striking out five. Ott struck out twice, but had the deciding blow.

For the Series the Giants hit .267 to Washington’s .214. They had three home runs (including Ott’s Series winner) while the Senators had two. New York scored 16 runs to their opponent’s 11. Hubbell was 2-0 with 15 strikeouts, Schumacher won game two, and of course Luque was the pitching star of the finale. Fitzsimmons took the only loss (game three by a 4-0 score).

The victory was in isolation. In 1934 and 1935 they Giants fell back. A very different team won pennants in both 1936 and 1937 (losing both World Series’ to the Yankees). The 1940s were a lost time for New York. They reemerged in 1951 to win a thrilling playoff and drop another World Series to the Yankees. They would win one final pennant in New York in 1954.

Hollywood Meets the Diamond

May 3, 2013
John McGraw, budding Thespian

John McGraw, budding Thespian

As something of a followup to the last post, I decided to look more heavily into Hollywood’s love affair with baseball. I’ve done some of this kind of thing before, but this time I decided to see if I could put together a full team of players who have appeared on either TV or in the movies playing someone other than themselves (or a baseball player). It got a little silly for a while, but this is a pretty good set of players (I wonder if Olivier could hit).  I had to violate the playing someone else or not being a ball player a few times, but you’ll see why when you read them. I’m sure I missed a couple of greats, so feel free to add to the list.

1st base–Lou Gehrig. Back on 26 February 2010 I did a review of Gehrig’s foray into Westerns. He did an oater called “Rawhide” a year before he retired.

2nd base–Jackie Robinson. I also did a review of Robinson’s movie “The Jackie Robinson Story.” Gehrig did a better acting job. OK, this violates the play someone other than themselves (or a ball player) caveat, but it’s Robinson.

shortstop–Maury Wills. Wills shows up with four credits, three as a coach. The other is on “Get Smart”, the old spy spoof.

3rd base–Ron Cey. In 1987 he shows up as an uncredited member of the band in “Murder, She Wrote.”

outfield–Babe Ruth. Again I violated my “no ball player” rule, but it’s the Babe. He played a ball player named Babe Dugan in a film called “Babe Comes Home” in 1927. The IMDB indicates that the movie is lost.

outfield–Ty Cobb. Ok this time I violated the “appeared” part of my criteria. During the 1950s, Cobb wrote five stories and screenplays that showed up on television. Two were for a show called “The Adventures of Champion” (ole Champ was a horse).

outfield–Duke Snider. The Duke shows up with five credits. In one he plays himself, in a second he’s a center fielder. In the other three he has a role. One of those is opposite another former ball player, Chuck Connors, in “The Rifleman.”

catcher–Joe Garagiola. Best catcher I could find who played something other than himself. He appeared in one episode of “Police Story” in 1975. He played a cop. 

DH–Mike Donlin. Of all these guys, Donlin had the best movie career. I did a post on him on 5 January 2011. He ended up with 63 credits, most of them silents.

pitcher–Sandy Koufax. Way back when he was still an unknown, Koufax got into four TV shows: two Westerns, two cop shows. One of the cop shows was in 1959, the other three credits were in 1960.

manager–John McGraw. In 1914, McGraw appeared as Detective Swift in a short called “Detective Swift.” To top it off, Hans Lobert’s wife (cleverly called “Mrs. Hans Lobert) has a role in the short.

Not a bad list, right? There are an inordinate number of Los Angeles Dodgers in the list. That’s not because I’m a fan (although I am), but it makes great sense that the team in LA is going to have a large number of players available locally to show up for bit parts in both the moves and TV.

This list also excludes those players who showed up on Broadway (like Donlin) or in Vaudeville. McGraw and Christy Mathewson had a vaudeville act where they showed the audience how to throw a pitch. The earliest one of these I could find was an 1880s reference that indicated that King Kelly would appear on stage and dance while the band played “Slide, Kelly, Slide.” We’ve come a long way, I think.

Stars in His Eyes

May 1, 2013
Johnny Bernardino

Johnny Bernardino

Most ball players are just that, ball players. Few have identities beyond the diamond (unless they go into broadcasting). Some, however, go on to fame in other fields. Such is the story of Johnny Bernardino.

Berardino was born in 1917 in California. He went to the University of Southern California, played infield for the Trojans, then spent a couple of years in the minors (his last season was in the Texas League at San Antonio). He was good enough to get a shot with the St. Louis Browns in 1939. He started at second and in 1940 moved to shortstop. He stayed as the Browns shortstop into early 1942 when he went off to World War II.

He returned to St. Louis in 1946, becoming the Browns normal second baseman (they had Vern Stevens at short). He was a marginal hitter, a decent fielder, and baseball was filled with those. In 1948 he was shipped to Cleveland where he staying into the 1950 season. With Bernardino as the primary backup middle infielder (to Joe Gordon and Lou Boudreau), Cleveland won the American League pennant in 1948 (their last pennant prior to the 1990s). They beat the Boston Braves in six games (their last World’s Championship) with Bernardino solidly entrenched on the bench.

In 1950 he split time between the minors, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, playing about like he normally did. For 1951 he was back with the Browns. He was 34, on the downside. Bernardino went back to Cleveland to open 1952. He foundered, got a last cup of coffee with Pittsburgh, and ended his big league career.

For his career his triple slash numbers are .249/.316/.355/.672 with an OPS+ of 77. He had 755 hits, 167 for doubles, 23 for triples, and 36 for home runs. The only things he ever led the AL in were range factor and errors by a shortstop, both in 1940.

So his baseball career was over. What do you do with the rest of your life? Well, if you’re an LA kid and you’ve grown up around the movies, you go to Hollywood. He had free time in the off-season and as early as 1948 he was appearing in small roles in “B” movies. There is a story that he appeared as a kid in the “Our Gang” series of shorts, but the Internet Movie Data Base shows his first credit as 1948. He was strictly a bit player now known as John Beradino. He did a lot of TV, including four episodes of “The Lone Ranger” and a number of small roles in movies. He was perhaps best known as the cop who picks up a drunken Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.”

His big break came in 1963. There was a new soap opera to be called “General Hospital” being cast. Beradino tried out and won the lead role of Dr. Steve Hardy. He held the role from 1963 into 1996 when, ill with cancer he died. He did a handful of other shows between 1963 and 1996, but always returned to his bread and butter role. Initially, he was the dashing leading man, but as he aged, became the benevolent father figure for the younger stars on General Hospital.

Now I’m not a soap opera fan so I never watched him while he was on the show. In preparation for this post, I saw a few episodes and snippets on the internet. He wasn’t Humphrey Bogart, but he seemed to be a capable actor. It was a nice finish to a career that started on a baseball diamond.

John Beradino as Dr. Hardy

John Beradino as Dr. Hardy