Posts Tagged ‘Del Ennis’

A Remembrance of Richie Ashburn

June 13, 2019

Richie Ashburn

When I was a kid the baseball world was full of terrific center fielders. New York had Mays and Mantle and Snider. As a Dodgers fan I loved Snider but it was tough to give either Mays or Mantle their due. After all the Giants and Yankees were the great rivals of my team. But Richie Ashburn was different. His Phillies weren’t a direct threat to the Dodgers and he was a great outfielder.

The Phillies weren’t on television all that often and were on the radio only when they played the Cardinals (who were the closest team to us and all their games were on the radio). So I didn’t get to watch Ashburn all that often. When I did I was in awe. He was a terrific outfielder. I’d never heard of most fielding stats but I could tell he was good. He made it look easy in center. Willie Mays always had that element that made it look harder than it was, but Ashburn just went out and made the play. I discovered Ashburn is second among centerfielders in range factor per game, 10th in career assists, and third in putouts while playing center. None of those I knew in the 1950s (and probably had never heard of either). All of that confirms that I was right in believing he was a great outfielder.

He was different from the other big centerfielders of the day. Snider, Mays, Mantle all hit for power; Richie Ashburn was more like Bill Bruton of the Braves. Both led off and both could steal a base. Bruton won two stolen base titles in the National League to Ashburn’s one, but Ashburn stole 30 or more twice to Bruton’s once. It was an era without a lot of stolen bases as each team featured a big slugger who could clear the bases and no one wanted to run into an out trying to steal second. For the Phillies that was Del Ennis. He benefitted from Ashburn being on base a lot. Richie Ashburn led the NL in hits three times, walks four times, and triples twice. He won a batting title and led in OBP on four occasions (one of the OBP titles and one of the walks titles came with the Cubs late in his career). That gave Ennis, and other batters, a lot of chances to drive in runs.

In 1960 Philadelphia sent him to Chicago. He played two years with the Cubs having a good season in 1960 and a much weaker one in 1961. He ended up in New York in 1962 with the Mets. They were awful but his 2.1 WAR was second on the team (to outfielder Frank Thomas–not the Hall of Fame White Sox first baseman). He’s part of a great trivia question, “The 1962 Mets had two Hall of Famers in their dugout. Who were they?” The answer is of course Ashburn, and also manager Casey Stengel.

For his career Richie Ashburn’s triple slash line reads 308/396/382/778 with 1322 runs scored, 317 doubles, 109 triples, an OPS+ of 111 and 63.9 WAR. In 1995 he made the Hall of Fame. It’s always gratifying when one of your heroes makes the Hall. It kind of vindicates your view.

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The Last Segregated World Series: the Games in New York

May 13, 2015

With the Yankees up two games to nothing, the World Series shifted to New York for games three, four, and, if necessary, game five. The Yanks needed two wins to wrap up the Series. Philadelphia needed to win at least two of the three games to send the Series back to Philly and a potential game six.

Jerry Coleman

Jerry Coleman

Game 3

The third game was played 6 October in the Bronx. The visiting Phillies sent 34-year-old Ken Heintzelman to the mound. He’d gone 3-9 with an ERA north of four during the regular season. But with the loss of Curt Simmons to the military and Bubba Church to injury, the Phils pressed him into service. He faced 18 game winner Eddie Lopat. Heintzelman was unsteady (he gave up  six walks) but over the first seven innings he gave up only one run. In the third with two outs he walked Phil Rizzuto who promptly stole second. A Jerry Coleman single plated Rizzuto with the game’s first run.

Philadelphia got it back in the sixth when, again with two outs, Del Ennis doubled. Dick Sisler then singled to tie the score. In the seventh, Granny Hamner singled to lead off the inning, was bunted to second, and scored on a Mike Goliat single. For the first time in the entire Series, the Phils were ahead.

They stayed that way for five outs. With two down in the eighth, Heintzelman walked Coleman, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra consecutively to load the bases. That sent Heintzelman out of the game and brought in Philly’s relief ace, Jim Konstanty. He got Bobby Brown to roll one to Hamner at short. Hamner booted the ball which scored Coleman with an unearned run. A foul pop to third ended the inning without more damage.

During the eighth, Lopat left the game as the result of a double switch. That brought Tom Ferrick to the mound. He let Hamner on with a double. A bunt sent the Philadelphia shortstop to third with one out. An intentional walk put men on first and third, bringing up the pitcher’s slot. Pinch hitter Dick Whitman banged one to first and Hamner, going on contact, was gunned down at the plate for out two. A fly ball then ended the inning.

In the bottom of the ninth Russ Meyer replaced Konstanty. He got the first two men, then Gene Woodling singled up the middle and Rizzuto put another single in almost the same spot. That brought up Coleman, who’d been involved in both Yankee runs. He singled to left scoring Woodling, resulting in a final score of 3-2, and putting the Yanks up three games to none. Ferrick, in his only postseason appearance ever, got the win with Meyer taking the loss.

The Chairman of the Board

The Chairman of the Board

Game 4

Down three games to none on the 7th of October, the Phillies sent rookie Bob Miller (he’d pitched 2.2 innings in 1949), an 11 game winner to the mound. The Yankees responded by sending their own rookie to the mound. His name was Whitey Ford. He was 21 and had pitched in 20 games that season, starting 12. His record was 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA (153 ERA+) and 59 strikeouts (but also 55 walks). He finished second (to Walt Dropo of Boston) in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Ford was shaky in the first inning, walking the leadoff man and allowing a ground rule double to put men at second and third. But a fielder’s choice nipped the runner on third trying to score and a strikeout got New York out of the inning. Miller wasn’t nearly so lucky. Leadoff man Gene Woodling reached first on an error by the second baseman, went to second on a grounder, then scored an unearned run on a Yogi Berra single. A wild pitch moved Berra up and a Joe DiMaggio double scored Berra to make the score 2-0. It also sent Miller to the showers. He was replaced by Jim Konstanty who got the last out to end the inning.

Over the next four innings, the Yanks nursed the lead. Through the top of the sixth, Ford allowed only three singles (and an error let another man on). Konstanty was even better allowing only two singles. Used all season as a reliever (except game one of the Series), he tired in the bottom of the sixth. Berra led off the inning with a home run to make it 3-0, then Konstanty plunked DiMaggio. A ground out sent DiMaggio to second, and a Bobby Brown triple sent him home. Hank Bauer followed Brown with a fly that scored the fifth New York run.

Ford breezed through the seventh and eighth innings retiring the Phils in order. With three outs needed to claim a second consecutive championship, Ford started the ninth by allowing a single to Willie Jones. Then he plunked Del Ennis. That brought up Dick Sisler who grounded to second. A flip to the shortstop recorded the first out. Now with runners on first and third Ford struck out Granny Hamner for out two. Andy Seminick lofted a fly to left that Woodling misplayed allowing Jones and Sisler to score two unearned runs, making the score 5-2. That was all for Whitey Ford. In came Allie Reynolds to get the last out. He struck out Stan Lopata to end the threat, the inning, and the World Series.

Although it’s tough to call a sweep a terrific World Series, the 1950 World Series was a very good Series. Three of the four games were one run games. One of the games (2) went to extra innings, another (3) was won in the bottom of the ninth, a third (1) ended up 1-0. Only game four had a final victory margin of more than one run (5-2).

The Phillies pitching did well under the constraints of the loss of both Church and Simmons. Konstanty was terrific, starting his first game after a full season in the bullpen, and relieving in two others. His 15 innings pitched was tops for either team. As a staff they put up a respectable 2.27 ERA and gave up only 11 earned runs in 36 innings. But the hitting wasn’t as good. Philadelphia hit .203 as a team with only seven extra base hits (six doubles, one triple) in 26 hits. Hamner led the team with six hits two of the doubles, and the triple (but made a critical error). No player scored more than one run or drove in more than one run.

For the Yankees, the hitting was better, but not a lot. They hit .222 as a team, but with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs. Coleman led the team with three RBIs, five different players scored two runs, and Woodling led the team with six hits (all singles). The real New York heroes were the pitchers. Vic Raschi threw a complete game two-hit shutout, Ford went 8.2 giving up only unearned runs. Reynolds picked up both a win and a save and Eddie Lopat gave up only two runs in his one start. The team ERA was 0.73, with 24 strikeouts (seven walks), and a 0.892 WHIP. Ford and Reynolds both recorded seven strikeouts (Lopat and Raschi each had five).

For New York it was the second in a string of World Series victories that would reach five eventually. For Philadelphia it was a high water mark. They slid back in 1951 and didn’t resurface in the postseason until 1976.

The Last Segregated World Series: The Whiz Kids

May 6, 2015
Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts

Recently I did an extended look at the 1947 World Series, the first to include a black player (actually two: Jackie Robinson and Dan Bankhead). It seemed like a decent follow-up would be to look up the last Series that included no black players and go over it. Turns out that’s 1950.

The 1950 World Series was played between the New York Yankees, defending World Champions, and the Philadelphia Phillies, winners for the first time since 1915. The Series is generally considered a walkover. It’s true it was a sweep, but if you look at the scores, three of the games were decided by one run. So it’s actually worth taking a look at.

The Phils had just completed a rebuilding period. A cynic might point out that 16 consecutive losing seasons constituted an elongated rebuilding period, but however long it lasted, it finally came time for Philadelphia to win in 1949. The next year they fought down to the wire and defeated the National League defending champions, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to win the pennant on the last day of the season.

Manager Eddie Sawyer was a career minor leaguer who’d spent a decade managing. He took over the Phillies from Ben Chapman in 1948 (there was actually an interim who was around for 12 games). The team rose some, finally had a winning season in 1949, then broke through in 1950. Sawyer was considered an excellent handler of young talent.

And he needed to be. The team was nicknamed “The Whiz Kids” and the emphasis could be on the “Kids.” The eight everyday starters averaged 26 years old. The six men who started more than 10 games averaged 25.5. Of the nine men who spent time on the bench, only three were 30 or more (the youngest 22, the oldest 35).

The infield had Eddie Waitkis at first. At 30 he was the oldest infielder (and the oldest starting everyday player). He had no power, no speed, but was a decent fielder and led the team by scoring 102 runs. He was primarily famous for having been shot in a hotel room by a woman back in 1949. The incident served as a device in Malamud’s The Natural. Mike Goliat was at second. He hit .234, but had 13 home runs, a large number of 1950s second basemen. At 23, shortstop Granville “Granny” Hamner was the youngest infielder. In 1950 he hit .270, had 11 home runs, and finished sixth in the MVP race. He had good range, but made a lot of errors. Willie Jones held down third. He was second on the team with 25 home runs, hit .288, and his 88 RBIs were second on the team. His BBREF WAR was 3.6, tied for fourth on the team.

The outfield consisted of Dick Sisler, Del Ennis, and Richie Ashburn. Sisler hit .296, had 83 RBIs, and 13 home runs, one of which was the pennant clinching homer against the Dodgers. Ennis led the team in home runs (31), doubles (34), RBIs (126), hits (185), and slugging (.551). Hall of Famer Ashburn was a third year player and spectacular fielder (with Ennis and Sisler both being really slow, he had to be). He hit .303, had 14 triples, which led the NL. He’d led the league in stolen bases in 1948, but was down to only 14 (still good enough for fifth in the league) in 1950. His 3.8 BBREF WAR was third on the team, while Ennis’ 5.0 led Philadelphia.

The bench was shallow with only five men playing 25 or more games. Jimmy Bloodworth, an in season acquisition, and Putsy Cabellero were the backup infielders. Bloodworth hit .229 while Cabellero was below the Mendoza line. Neither had a home run. Former MVP runner-up (1944) Bill “Swish” Nicholson and Dick Whitman were the other men in the outfield. Nicholson had three home runs and Whitman hit .250. Nicholson’s three homers were three-quarters of the bench home run total.

The other bench home run went to catching backup Stan Lopata. He hit .209, caught 51 games, and managed a woeful slugging percentage of .279. The main catcher was Andy Seminick. His 24 home runs were third on the team, his OPS of .925 led the team, as did his 143 OPS+. At 4.3, his BBREF WAR was second to Ennis.

They caught an emerging pitching staff. The undoubted ace was 23-year-old future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. He was 20-11 with an ERA just above three with 146 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.180 (his WAR was a team leading 7.3). Right behind him was lefty Curt Simmons. Simmons went 17-8, matched Roberts with 146 strikeouts, and had a 1.236 WHIP. Other pitchers who started more than ten games included rookie Bubba Church, Bob Miller, Russ Meyer, and left hander Ken Heintzelman, who at 34, was eight years older than any of the other starters. Jim Konstanty led the bullpen. He appeared in 74 games, won 16, lost seven, and ended up winning the National League MVP (the first reliever to do so). His 22 saves led the league (and are roughly 30% of his career save total).

The Phils were a surprise in 1950, but were also a good team. By the time the Series started they were having pitching problems. With the team needing a win on the final day of the season, Roberts had pitched and was unavailable for game one. Church was struck in the face by a batted ball earlier in the summer and was out for the Series. Just prior to the Series Simmons was called for military duty (the Korean War was going on) and was also unavailable for the Series. It would lead to a serious shuffling of the staff. The loss of Simmons and Church and the inability to use Roberts in game one would haunt Philadelphia for the entire World Series.

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