Posts Tagged ‘Ben Chapman’

A Crushing: Final Blow

October 30, 2017

Down three games, the 1932 Chicago Cubs would need four consecutive wins to pull out the World Series victory. They started well in game four.

Game 4

Wilcy Moore

In game four Chicago sent Guy Bush to the mound. He didn’t make it out of the first inning. two singles, a hit by pitch and the bases were loaded for Lou Gehrig. A long fly plated the first New York run. Another walk sent Bush to the showers and brought in Lon Warneke who got the two outs to finish the inning.

The Yanks responded with Johnny Allen on the mound. He did even worse than Bush. With two outs he gave up a three run home run to Frank Demaree. A single and an error brought up Billy Jurges who singled to bring in a fourth Cubs run. That was all for Allen. His replacement was veteran pitcher Wilcy Moore. Moore was a member of the 1927 and 1928 World Series teams and had won a game in the ’27 Series. He got the final out to end the inning. At the end of one, the score stood Chicago-4 and New York-1.

The Yankees crept closer in the third with a Gehrig double and a Tony Lazzeri home run. In the sixth they took the lead. A walk and a double brought up Gehrig with two outs. He singled to put New York ahead 5-4. The lead lasted for one out. In the bottom of the sixth a Charlie Grimm single and two errors gave the Cubs a run and tied up the score.

The tie also lasted for one out. In the top of the seventh, New York scored four runs on a double, an intentional walk, and three back-to-back-to-back singles. Joe Sewell’s single, the middle of the three hits, drove in two runs with Earle Combs and Babe Ruth supplying the other key hits. They added four more in the ninth on home runs by Combs and Lazzeri plus an RBI double by Ben Chapman.

Down 13-5, the Cubs tried to rally in the ninth. A Billy Herman single and two defensive indifference calls put Herman on third for a Woody English grounder that got both the first out and a run. A strikeout and a fly to right ended the threat, the inning, the game, and the series. New York won by a final score of 13-6.

After the Cubs took a 4-1 lead, Wilcy Moore had done a great job holding the fort through the sixth, giving up only one earned run. Then Yankees bats took over, put the game away, and let reliever Herb Pennock finish the game by giving up only one inconsequential run.

The 1932 World Series certainly wasn’t a tight, great Series. New York swept Chicago in convincing fashion. The Yanks outhit the Cubs .313 to .253, getting 37 runs to Chicago’s 19. Babe Ruth had two homers, including the famous “called shot” of game 3, to go with six RBIs, four walks, and six runs scored. Lou Gehrig was even better. He hit a Series leading .529 with three home runs, eight RBIs, and nine runs scored. For Chicago, only Riggs Stephenson was close in average (.444) and tied Frank Demaree with four RBIs. Billy Herman scored five runs.

The Cubs staff had an ERA of 9.26 and walked 23 men (with 26 strikeouts). New York, in contrast, posted an ERA of 3.00 with only 11 walks to go with 24 strikeouts. Charlie Root, Bush, and Jakie May all posted ERA’s north of 10.

So on the surface the 1932 looks like a thorough thrashing by New York. And of course it is. But let me point out that, in defense of the Cubs, Chicago actually led in two of the games, and was tied in the fifth inning or later in the other two. It’s not like the Cubs simply rolled over in the Series. They were quite competitive in each game, but only for a while. The pitching simply couldn’t hold the Yankees in check over nine innings and the Yanks could hold them down long enough for the New York bats to respond.

Ultimately none of that mattered. It is still remembered as Babe Ruth’s last World Series. More than that, it is remembered for Ruth’s most famous and most controversial home run. Somehow, because it’s the Babe, that makes sense.

 

 

 

A Crushing: In the Bronx

October 24, 2017

The 1932 World Series began with two games in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium was hosting its first World Series since 1928 with the Yanks being heavy favorites.

Game 1

Lou Gehrig

The first game was played 28 September with New York sending Hall of Famer Red Ruffing to the mound. He started slowly. Consecutive singles and an error by Babe Ruth scored Cubs lead off hitter Billy Herman. After an out, Riggs Stephenson singled to center scoring Woody English, whose single had scored Herman. Then Ruffing settled down getting seven men in a row before a single and stolen base put a runner on second. A fly ended the threat.

Meanwhile, Chicago starter Guy Bush was holding New York in check. In the fourth, the Cubs put two men on base, but failed to score. The Yanks’ Earle Combs led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk, then took second on a ground out. Ruth followed with a single to score Combs. That brought up Lou Gehrig who slugged a two run homer to put the Yankees ahead.

In the sixth, The Bombers tacked on five more runs. Three walks loaded the bases. They were followed, after an out, by a Bill Dickey single that scored two. After another out, a couple of hits, and a run, the bases were reloaded for Combs. He singled to drive in two more and make the score 8-2.

The Cubs got two back in the seventh. The Yanks promptly responded with three of their own to up the score to 11-4. Not to be outdone, Chicago got two more on a double by Gabby Hartnett, a Mark Koenig triple, and a run scoring ground out in the top of the eighth. Again, the Yankees responded with a Combs double and a Joe Sewell single to provide the final score of 12-6.

It was a blowout, but it’s important to note a couple of things. First, the Cubs actually led 2-0 in the third inning. Second, the Yankees were able to respond to the Cubs after the third with runs each time the Cubs scored. They did it with walks, singles, doubles primarily. Gehrig hit the only home run. By the end of game one, everyone knew they Yankees could score runs in bunches and without the benefit of the long ball.

Game 2

Bill Dickey

September 29th saw game two of the Series. New York sent Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez to the mound. He faced off against Lon Warneke. Again, the Cubs broke on top with leadoff hitter Billy Herman doubling, then coming home following an error and a long fly by Riggs Stephenson to make the score 1-0. And again the Yankees answered in the bottom of the first with successive walks to Earle Combs and Joe Sewell followed by Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey singles to make the score 2-1.

It remained that way until the third when Stephenson singled and Frank Demaree brought him home with a single. And as with the first inning, the Yankees broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the inning. A walk to Babe Ruth and a Gehrig single put two men on. An out and an intentional walk later Ben Chapman singled to plate both runners and put New York back ahead 4-2.

New York added another run on a Gehrig single a force at first that sent Gehrig to second and a Dickey single. That made the score 5-2 and Gomez coasted the rest of the game, giving up only two singles. In game one the Cubs broke on top, but couldn’t match the New York assault. The same thing happened again in game two. When Chicago scored a run, the Yankees scored two. If that continued it would be a short series.

The next three games were scheduled for Chicago. Any two New York wins would finish the World Series. Game three would produce one of the most famous and controversial moments in Series history.

 

 

 

A Crushing: the Bombers

October 18, 2017

With the upcoming World Series, it seemed time to look at another long ago Series. There have been very few World Series’ more one-sided and crushing than 1932. The New York Yankees dismantled the Chicago Cubs in four games. Still it was a Series worth looking at for a lot of reasons, not just one home run that became famous.

Marse Joe

The Yankees were led by manager Joe McCarthy. He’d managed the Cubs in 1929 when they played Philadelphia in the World Series. They lost four games to one, including having given up a 10 run inning in game four. He knew about crushing losses. His team, however, was known as the Bronx Bombers for a reason. Generally, they crushed the opposition. In 1932 the Yanks led the American League in runs scored, walks, on base percentage, OPS, and were second in just about everything else except hits and stolen bases, where they were third. For a team known for its hitting, the pitching staff was surprisingly good. It finished first in ERA, shutouts, and strikeouts; second both hits and runs allowed; and fourth in walks.

When your infield features three future Hall of Famers, you tend to lead the league in a lot of categories. Lou Gehrig, in his prime, held down first. He hit .349 with 34 home runs, a team leading 151 RBIs (of course Gehrig led in RBIs, he was an RBI machine), had an OPS of 1.072 (OPS+ of 181), had a team leading 370 total bases to go with a team high 42 doubles. His WAR was 7.9 Fellow Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri was at second. He’d come a long way from the 1926 strikeout that was pivotal in the Yankees Series loss. He hit an even .300 with 15 home runs, a .905 OPS (OPS+ 138) and put up 5.2 WAR. Joe Sewell was both the third baseman and the third Hall of Famer in the infield. He hit .272, had an OPS+ of 96, and in 503 at bats had 56 walks and three strikeouts. His WAR was 2.6. The non-Hall of Famer was shortstop Frankie Crossetti. He hit .241 (the only starter to hit under .270) with neither power nor speed. His WAR was at 1.2. Lyn Lary, Jack Saltzgaver, and Doc Farrell provided the infield relief. Lary was the only one to hit above the Mendoza line or to have a home run. His nine stolen bases were third on the team.

The New York outfield began with two more Hall of Fame players: Earle Combs and Babe Ruth. Combs was toward the end of his career and had moved out of his normal center field position. He hit .321 with an OPS+ of 127 to go with 143 runs scored and 4.7 WAR. Ben Chapman played both left and right (depending on the park). Chapman, who became the lightning rod for opposition to Jackie Robinson, might have been an odious human being, but he was a pretty good ball player. He hit .299 for the season, had 41 doubles, 15 triples, and led the team with 38 stolen bases (more than triple the 11 steals for Lazzeri in second place). All that got him 4.3 WAR. Then there was Ruth . He hit .341, second on the team to Gehrig, had 137 RBIs (again, second to Gehrig), 41 home runs, a .661 slugging percentage, an OPS of 1.150 (OPS+ 201), and a team leading 8.3 WAR (it was his last WAR above 7). Myril Hoag and Sammy Byrd did the backing up for the starters. Hoag hit .370 in 46 games and Byrd hit .297 with eight home runs.

Bill Dickey was the backstop. He hit 310., had 15 home runs, drove in 84, had an OPS of .843 with an OPS+ of 121. It garnered him 3.0 WAR. He caught 108 games with backup Arndt Jorgens catching 56. He hit .219 with two home runs and -0.2 WAR.

Five men started more than 20 games on the mound. Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez were the twin aces. Gomez had 24 wins to Ruffing’s 18. Both had seven losses. Ruffing’s ERA was barely above three while Gomez came in at just over four. Gomez gave up one more hit than he had innings pitched with Ruffing having more innings pitched than hits. Both struck out over 175, but both also walked more than 100 batters (WHIP of 1.398 for Gomez and 1.290 for Ruffing). Gomez showed 3.4 WAR, Ruffing had 6.5. Johnny Allen’s ERA was 3.70 in 21 starts with a 1.240 WHIP and 3,4 WAR. Holdovers from the Murderer’s Row Yankees of the 1920s, Herb Pennock and George Pipgras were the other 20 game starters. Pipgras was 16-9 with an ERA of 4.19 and 1.4 WAR while Pennock was 9-5 with 0.1 WAR and a 4.60 ERA. The main men out of the bullpen were Jumbo Brown, old-timer Wilcy Moore, and lefty Ed Wells. For what it’s worth, Gordon Rhodes got into 10 games, went 1-2, and became the only man on the staff with a losing record.

It was three years since the Yankees last won a World Series (1928). The team was considerably revamped, but maintained a core that had won consecutive championships in 1927 and 1928. In 1932 they were heavily favored.

 

A Tale of Woe

April 10, 2015
Dolph Camilli about 1935

Dolph Camilli about 1935

Over the last several years one of the more common refrains of baseball is how much the fans in both Chicago and Boston suffered. It dropped off some when the Red Sox won in 2004 (and twice since), but you still hear it about Chicago, despite the White Sox win (primarily because it was the ChiSox, not the Cubs who won). But before you get all sad and start crying over the plight of the two cities, let me tell you about another city with the same kind of problem: Philadelphia.

Philadelphia was an early hot spot for baseball. The 1850s and 1860s saw the local team, called the Athletics, being competitive. Off and on through the 1870s and early 1880s teams from Philadelphia wandered through the ranks of Major League teams, with the American Association version actually winning a pennant. In 1883 the Quakers arrived in the National League and after deciding that wasn’t much of a nickname, eventually settled on Phillies as the team nickname. In 1901 the American League arrived and stuck a team in Philadelphia, naming it after the long gone Athletics.

The AL team was sporadically good. They won a pennant in 1902 (there was no World Series yet), then another in 1905 (losing the second World Series). Between 1910 and 1914 they won the World Series three times (1910, ’11, and ’13) and lost it once (’14). Then they fell into a malaise that lasted deep into the 1920s. They won pennants each year from 1929 through 1931, picking up a World Series title in both 1929 and 1930. Then they fell off. They fell off so bad that they never won another pennant. By the early 1950s they were dying and eventually left Philly altogether, heading first for Kansas City, then for Oakland (where they’ve again been sporadically good–4 world titles, a couple of pennants, and a few other playoff appearances in 45 plus years).

That left the Phils, who weren’t good, sporadically or otherwise. In 1901 they finished second, they got back to the first division in 1905 and hovered around fourth until 1915, when they broke through for their first ever National League pennant. They won the first game of the World Series (against Boston) with Grover Cleveland Alexander on the mound. Then they were swept out of the Series. They finished second in 1916 and 1917 then quickly went South. Between 1918 and 1948 inclusive they finished fifth twice (1929 and 1945), and fourth another time (1932). Other than that, it’s a long, long litany of sixth (four times), seventh (eight times), last place (16 times, including five in a row at one point).

They had some decent players through out the era. Chuck Klein made the Hall of Fame and after a trade got into a World Series (with Chicago). Dolph Camilli won an MVP, but of course it was after the Phils traded him to Brooklyn. They were also managed by Ben Chapman who became universally infamous for his opposition to Jackie Robinson playing in the Major Leagues (He’s played by Alan Tudyk in the recent movie “42”.) All in all it was a thoroughly forgettable 20 years.

In 1949 they started improving and stayed reasonably competitive through 1955. They won a pennant with the 1950 “Whiz Kids”, then were swept in four games by the Yankees, who featured a rookie pitcher named Whitey Ford who became the youngest pitcher to win a World Series game when he won game four (I didn’t check to see if he’s still they youngest winner). It was the same year that Alexander, the last Phillie pitcher to win a World Series game, died.

In 1964 there was the infamous collapse when they led the NL with two weeks to play and lost. They soldiered on until 1976, when they again made a playoff (the League Championship Series) and were again swept. In 1977 they finally won another playoff game before losing the LCS to the Dodgers in four games. For what it’s worth, Gene Garber became the first Phillie pitcher to win a postseason game since 1915 (it was in relief). At the time, only two members of the 1915 team, pitchers Ben Tincup and Joe Oeschger, were still alive (Milt Stock died in 1977). In 1980 they finally won another World Series game and Bob Walk became the second Phils pitcher, the first since Alexander way back in 1915, to record a World Series win. By then, only Oeschger was still around (Tincup died in 1980, but before the Series). Then to the astonishment of the entire baseball universe, they became the last team around in 1901 to win the World Series (even the Cubs had two wins in the 20th Century). Since then, Philadelphia has joined the ranks of the sporadically good with another World Series win and three World Series loses.

The Bigot

March 13, 2014
Ben Chapman

Ben Chapman

By now I presume most of you have seen the movie “42” about the arrival of Jackie Robinson in the Major Leagues. One of the better performances in the flick is Alan Tudyk’s turn as Phillies manager Ben Chapman. For the purposes of the movie, Chapman becomes the symbol of all the hatred among players and managers aimed at Robinson and Tudyk’s wonderful job makes Chapman particularly odious. Of course Chapman wasn’t the only person who tossed slurs at Robinson, but he’s become, over the years, the ultimate symbol of racial bigotry in the Major Leagues, with only Cap Anson getting anything like equal billing.

Alan Tudyk as Chapman in "42"

Alan Tudyk as Chapman in “42”

William Benjamin Chapman was born in Tennessee on Christmas day in 1908. He was good at baseball and caught the eye of professional scouts. He spent 1928 and 1929 in the minors, then arrived in New York in 1930 as a backup third baseman and part-time second baseman for the Yankees. He hit .316 with 10 home runs, stole 14 bases, and 74 runs (it’s 1930, remember?). That got him a fulltime job, but not as an infielder. He moved to the outfield, splitting time between right field and left field (essentially playing whichever Babe Ruth wasn’t playing that day). He continued to hit well, leading the American League in stolen bases three times (and also leading in caught stealing four times). He was part of the 1932 Yankees World Series winning team, hitting .294 (his season average was .299) with a run, six RBIs, and an OPS of .780. He remained with New York through 1935 continuing to hit around .300 (.289 in 1935 was his low) and playing a decent, but not spectacular outfield. He led the AL in errors twice, but sources attribute that to his ability to get to balls slower men couldn’t even pretend to catch. He made three All Star teams (1933, ’34,’ and ’35) By 1934 and 1935 he was spending more time in center than either of the corner outfield slots. The next season the Yanks brought up Joe DiMaggio and Chapman was traded.

He ended up in Washington after 36 games in New York. He was still good enough to make another All Star team. In 1937 he was traded to Boston (the Red Sox, not the Braves) and led the AL one more time with 35 stolen bases.  He hit well enough in Boston but with diminishing speed and little power, he was traded to Cleveland in 1939. Now over 30, his numbers were slipping and he saw himself traded one more time. He went back to Washington in 1941, lasted 28 games, and was sent on to the White Sox.

He spent 1942 managing in the minors. In 1943 he was suspended for the season after slugging an umpire, then returned to minor league managing in 1944. He turned his career around by becoming a pitcher and resurfaced in the Majors in late 1944 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yep, that’s Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers; the irony is stunning.  He went 5-3 mostly as a starter, then after going 3-3 in early 1945, he was sent to Philadelphia. He played a few games in the outfield in this last stage of his career, but he remained primarily a pitcher. He got into one final game with Philadelphia in 1946 and ended his big league playing career (he got into a few games for Gadsden in 1949).

By this point he was managing the Phils, having taken over about midway through the 1945 season. Philadelphia finished eighth. He got them to fifth in 1946, then back to eighth in 1947. Seventy-nine games into 1948, with Philadelphia in eighth place, Chapman was fired. Many sources blame his reaction to Robinson for his firing, and that may be true. But it’s also true his teams weren’t winning and the universal fate of losing managers is firing. His comments to Robinson may simply have been the final blow. In partial defense of Chapman as a manager, it’s not like the Phils were the 1927 Yankees or anything. They weren’t very good. Even John McGraw would have had trouble making this team a contender. Having said that, you can see the beginning of the 1950 “Whiz Kids” pennant winner starting to come together under Chapman. Del Ennis is there, Dick Sisler shows up, and finally in 1948 both Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts show up. He simply doesn’t win with them.

After retirement, Chapman sold insurance in Alabama, worked with high school baseball teams, and sat through a series of interviews, most of which wanted to talk about Robinson. He died largely forgotten in 1993.

For his career his triple slash line is .302/.383/.440/.823 with an OPS+ of 114. He had 1958 hits, scored 1144 runs, and had 977 RBIs. He hit 287 home runs, stole 287 bases (try doing that on purpose), but had a huge number of caught stealing. He ended up with 2849 total bases, and was 8-6 as a pitcher. All in all it’s not a bad career. His Baseball Reference.com WAR is 41.4. And his managerial record is 196-276. Baseball Reference.com has a similarity chart at the bottom of each player page. This tells you what other player this person is most like statistically. Interesting for Chapman, it’s Dixie Walker, the guy who started the petition to keep Robinson off the Dodgers. Funny how that works.

But of course Chapman is known for one thing, his virulent opposition to Jackie Robinson. And it has become simply the sole thing anyone knows about him. When I first saw Tudyk’s portrayal of Chapman I was stunned. Stunned not so much at the words he used on the field, but at the words he used to justify his actions. I’d heard them all my life from people I knew. “They don’t mind it. They know it’s just good-natured ribbing. They do it to us. All of us do it to each other and no body cares.” I found an interview with Chapman done in the 1970s where he still spouts the same thing. He’s also simply astounded and still shaken that no one seems to understand. In fact he never seemed to understand himself why people were repelled by his comments and actions. To me, that’s really the great tragedy of Chapman’s life and career. He never seemed to understand why he was seen as a jerk. (Or just possibly he’s fooled us all and knew exactly what he was doing and understood that his one chance for redemption was to act like he was a fool.) One of the best parts of Tudyk’s interpretation of Chapman is his ability to convey just how totally clueless Chapman was as to why he was being hounded. If Chapman had thought for even a minute about it he may have seen just how much his hounding of Robinson was much like what he himself was going through. But that presupposes a depth of self-perception that Chapman lacked.

Chapman's grave in Birmingham

Chapman’s grave in Birmingham

A Review of “42”

August 8, 2013

By now I presume most of the people interested in baseball have seen the new movie “42”, the story of Jackie Robinson’s arrival in the Major Leagues. Normally I don’t spend time here reviewing new movies, but as it’s the only new major movie about baseball, I thought I’d change that. Here’s a quick review of the flick.

There are a lot of good and weak points in the movie. It’s pretty formulaic. Even if you knew nothing about Robinson as a person or about how the 1947 season went, you could probably figure out most of the plot by about 10 minutes in. The acting is uneven. Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey is terrific. As Hollywood has taken to using the “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar to reward older actors who’ve never won an Oscar it’s possible we’re looking at an Academy Award nomination for Ford (and maybe a win).The two actors playing Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) and Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) both do good jobs, but the actress playing Rachel Robinson (Nicole Beharie) didn’t impress me. I think part of the problem is that I remember Ruby Dee in the old 1950s “Jackie Robinson Story” and Dee was wonderful. Christopher Meloni’s rendition of Leo Durocher was good but it was a really small part. Alan Tudyk’s Ben Chapman is suitably odious as the lead antagonist from another team. One of the better aspects of the film is Chapman’s utter incomprehension as to why he is being considered a villain. Most of the players, without reference to whether they liked Robinson or not, were pretty wooden, an exception being Hamish Linklater who got the comic relief role as Ralph Branca. And Max Gail’s Burt Shotten was just fun.

There were a number of historical errors in the movie, most done for film purposes, but nonetheless they give a false impression of the events. Early on Robinson and Smith meet in Florida in 1946. The scene is written as if the two men didn’t know each other, but they had been acquaintances since at least 1944. At the end of the flick Robinson hits a home run to clinch the pennant for the Dodgers. The game in question took place 17 September 1947 and did clinch the pennant. Robinson hit a fourth inning homer to put the Dodgers ahead to stay in a 4-2 victory over Pittsburgh. The movie leaves the impression he does it late in the game and it’s the deciding run. The movie essentially tells us that Robinson’s homer won the pennant, but the pennant winning runs were scored an inning later (and Robinson was involved). It’s more dramatic the way the flick does it, but it’s not exactly right. Also the movie shows the famous “if we can’t use the restroom, we’ll fill up our bus somewhere else” scene. But the scene ends with Robinson meeting Clyde Sukeforth for the first time. The two events were unconnected.

Having said all that, it’s nice to see the movie mention the Robinson court-martial (he refused to move on a bus long before Rosa Parks), although it’s only a passing mention. The interplay between Boseman and Ford, which in many ways is the heart of the movie, is very good. And the baseball action is well choreographed, although, as with any movie about Robinson, the baseball aspects of the film are secondary to the main plot line. One of the finest scenes is between Robinson and Smith in which Smith reminds Robinson that he (Smith) can’t sit in the press box, but has to sit in the stands and type his story as he watches. It reminds Robinson of just how important his actions are in changing things.

I suggest you see “42”. It’s worth the effort and the money, if for no other reason than the atmospheric filming. Just remember to take some of the events with a grain of salt.