Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Tigers’

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Jim Bunning

December 27, 2016
Jim Bunning with Philadelphia

Jim Bunning with Philadelphia

Sticking with the theme of combining sport and politics, here’s some things you should know about Jim Bunning.

1. James Bunning was born in Southgate, Kentucky in 1931.

2. He was both a good ball player and a good student. He graduated from Xavier University (Norwood, Ohio) with a degree in economics.

3. He went to the minors as a Tigers prospect in 1950 as a D League right-handed pitcher. By 1955 he’d earned a stint in the big leagues with Detroit. He went 3-5 with an ERA north of six, and went back to the minors.

4. In 1956 he made the Tigers roster late in the season, went 5-1 with an ERA of 3.71, and remained in the Major Leagues through 1971.

5. He stayed with Detroit through the 1963 season, winning 20 games once (and 19 one other time), leading the American League in strikeouts twice, becoming a five time All Star and amassing 118 wins, 1406 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.45 (ERA+ of 116), a no-hitter, and 29.5 WAR.

6. After the ’63 season he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he  became the first man to throw a perfect game in the regular season (Don Larsen had thrown one in the 1956 World Series) since 1922 (first by a Phillies pitcher since 1906).

7. During the 1964 season he won 19 games, was an All-Star, and teamed with lefty Chris Short as twin aces for the 1964 Phillies who infamously faded in the last two weeks of the season to lose the National League pennant on the last day of the season.

8. He remained with the Phils through 1967, winning 89 games, picking up another strikeout title (1967), two shutout titles (1966 and ’67), posting a 2.93 ERA (ERA+ of 122), went to two All Star Games, and produced 31.4 WAR.

9. In 1969 he split time between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, then went back to Philadelphia for 1970 and a career ending 1971. He finished his career 224-184 with an ERA of 3.27 (115 ERA+), 2855 strikeouts, and even 1000 walks, 40 shutouts, and 60.3 WAR.

10. After leaving baseball, Bunning entered politics. He was elected to the Fort Thomas, Kentucky city council in 1977, then to the Kentucky state senate, becoming minority leader. He ran for Governor of Kentucky in 1983 and lost.

11. In 1986 he was elected to the US House of Representatives and then to the US Senate in 1998. He served in the Senate through 2010 (two terms). He was considered one of the Senate’s most conservative members.

12. In 1996, while a sitting member of the House of Representatives, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. To date he is the only Hall of Famer to serve in the US Senate.

 

28 June 1914: the AL

June 25, 2014
Harry Coveleski

Harry Coveleski

Continuing a look at where Major League Baseball stood on 28 June 1914, the date the assassination in Sarajevo began the process that ushered in World War I. Today the American League gets a view.

As with the Federal League there were only three games played on Sunday the 28th of June. Two were a double-header between the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Sox. The other a single game between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Naps (now the Indians). Chicago and Cleveland were the home teams.

In game one in Chicago, the Sox took ten innings to dispatch the Browns 2-1. Losing pitcher Bill James (obviously neither the guy pitching for the Braves that season nor the modern stats guy) gave up two unearned runs, both to left fielder Ray Demmitt. He also game up three walks, two of them to Demmitt. He struck out four and saw the game lost on an error. For the White Sox, righty Jim Scott gave up only one run. It was earned. He also walked three, but struck out ten (James had four strikeouts). For James it was his fifth loss against seven wins while Scott picked up his seventh win against eight losses.

In the nightcap, the White Sox completed the sweep winning another 10 inning game, this time 3-2. Later Black Sox player Buck Weaver scored one run, fellow Black Sox Eddie Cicotte started the game. Later White Sox players Shano Collins and Ray Schalk played. Collins scored a run and knocked in another. Schalk had three hits with an RBI. Third baseman Jim Breton playing in his last season stole home. Hall of Famer Red Faber entered the game in the 10th and picked up his fifth win against two losses. Cicotte went eight innings giving up both runs. Joe Benz pitched one inning in relief giving up no hits and no walks. Browns starter Carl Weilman also went eight innings, giving up two earned runs. Reliever George Baumgardner took the loss to run his record to 7-6.

The game in Cleveland was more high scoring than both Chicago games combined. With Ty Cobb taking the day off, the Tigers won 6-4. After spotting Cleveland a run in the top of the first, they struck for four runs in the bottom of the inning. Naps starter Fred Blanding only managed two outs before being pulled. He would take the loss running his record to 1-8. Detroit later tacked on single runs in both the third and the sixth, with Cleveland getting one in the fifth and two in the seventh. Harry Coveleski (brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Stan Coveleski) got the win going five innings to set his record at 11-6. Hooks Dauss pitched for innings for his third save (a stat that didn’t exist in 1914). Hall of Fame player Sam Crawford went one for three with a walk and a strikeout for the Tigers while fellow Hall of Famer Nap LaJoie went one for three and was involved in two double plays.

At the end of the day, Philadelphia was three games up on Detroit in the standings with St. Louis 4.5 back in third. Chicago was sixth, 6.5 back (but still had a winning record at 33-32). Cleveland was dead last 16 games back. By seasons end Cleveland and Chicago would maintain the positions, although Chicago would have a losing record. The Browns would drop to fifth (and also have a losing record), while Detroit would end up in fourth (with a winning record). Philadelphia would remain in first, winning the pennant by 8.5 games. It would, of course, lose the World Series in four straight games.

That Other Detroit Team

October 22, 2012

1887 World Chammpion Detroit Wolverines

I wanted to comment on the team playoff history of the National League representative to this season’s World Series but the Cardinals and Giants are making it exceedingly difficult for me to do so. They are, however, having a heck of a series. So I’ve decided to write about Detroit baseball before the Tigers.

In 1881 Major League baseball came to Detroit. The Wolverines played in the National League and were reasonably good for much of their history. They finished fourth and fifth in 1881 and 1882, then slid back from 1883 through 1885 never finishing higher than sixth. It was too much for the owner.

In 1886 he went out and bought a team (George Steinbrenner would be pleased). What he did was to lure away a number of the stars of the era by offering big salaries (for the era) and a multi-year contract. In doing so he put together one of the better teams of the 19th Century. Although these names may be meaningless to you, in the 1880s they were household names among baseball fans. There was Hall of  Famer Dan Brouthers at first, Fred Dunlap and Jack Rowe up the middle of the infield, and Deacon White (who should be in the Hall of Fame) at third. The outfield consisted of Hardy Richardson (a borderline HoF candidate) and Hall of Famers Sam Thompson and Ned Hanlon (although Hanlon is in the Hall as a manager). Charlie Bennett (who later had the Detroit stadium named for him) was the catcher and the mainstays of the staff were Lady Baldwin and Pretzels Getzien (God, they don’t make nicknames like they used to).

They finished second in 1886, 2.5 games behind Chicago, then roared to a pennant in 1887 with Charlie Ganzel replacing Bennett as the primary catcher. There was a postseason series in the 1880s (a sort of primitive World Series) played between the National League champion (Detroit) and the winner of the American Association (St. Louis Browns–now the Cardinals). The teams were allowed to pick the number of games in the postseason and the two teams settled on an all-time high of 15 games with all 15 being played regardless of who got to 8 first. Detroit won 10 games and brought the first World’s Championship to the city.

It was a short-lived triumph. You see the team was expensive to maintain and no matter how well they did, they just couldn’t turn a profit. With Dunlap going to Pittsburgh (Richardson replaced him at second), White turning 40, and Thompson having a down year they finished 5th. It was too much and the team folded at the end of the season. It was the last Major League team in Detroit until the Tigers were formed in 1901.

So Detroit has a long history of Major League play. Not just the Tigers have been successful. The team that came before had one great run. Thought you ought to know.

Tigers Time

October 19, 2012

Tigers logo

Without question the Detroit Tigers are the most unsung of the four teams that made it to the League Championship Series. The Yankees have won with great regularity. The Cardinals are reigning World Champs and the most successful National League team. The Giants are one of the most storied of NL franchises, particularly between 1885 and 1965. But Detroit? For most of its history Detroit has been a  run of the mill member of the American League.

The announcers last night spent a lot of time reminding us that this will be Detroit’s 11th World Series (out of 107). They managed to win four of them (1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984) losing the other (1907-09, 1934, 1940, and 2006). They’ve been sporadically good, note how their championships tended to clump prior to 1946, but mostly they’ve been also rans.

That’s really kind of a shame. The Tigers have produced a pretty fair set of players over the 112 seasons they’ve played. Take a look at this outfield: Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Al Kaline. Then add in this infield: Hank Greenberg, Charley Gehringer, Alan Trammel, George Kell. Toss in Bill Freehan behind the plate and Harry Heilman DHing and you’ve got a pretty good set of hitters. The pitching isn’t as stout, but Hal Newhouser, Jack Morris, Dizzy Trout, Frank Lary, Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain, and Justin Verlander make a nice set of mound men. You’d think a team with this kind of talent (and I left out guys like Norm Cash and Willie Horton) would be better known.

So good luck to the Tigers whoever they play. If it’s St. Louis, it will be the fourth time (the Cards lead 2-1). If it’s the Giants, it will be the first time the two franchises have squared off. May it be a great Series and may Detroit play well, win or lose.

Trifecta

July 19, 2012

Bet you didn’t know Ty Cobb could smile, did you?

Never having gotten to the big leagues myself, I can only speculate here, but my guess is that it must hurt deeply to lose a World Series. The Texas Rangers have now lost two in a row which must be even more heart breaking. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose three in a row, something that Texas could do this year. If they do, they’ll tie a record. It’s happened twice, losing three in a row. They occurred 100 years ago and occurred almost back-to-back. Here’s the story of one of those teams.

The 1907-1909 Detroit Tigers were the first Detroit team to cop a pennant since the Wolverines of the 1880s. They were a loaded team with a lot of star players for the era. It was a team that could hit and hit a lot. With an outfield of  Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford (with either Davy Jones or Matty McIntyre holding down left field) they led the American League in runs and hits all three seasons, led in doubles and triples twice each, in batting average, on base percentage, and OPS all three years, and in slugging the first two seasons. Cobb won batting titles all three years and the triple crown in 1909. Crawford picked up a home run title in 1908.

The problem was the pitching. During the three-year period from 1907 through 1909 the Tigers finished third, sixth, and third in ERA; fifth, fourth, and fifth in shutouts; never finished higher than sixth (in an eight team league) in hits allowed; and the best they could do with runs scored against them was third in 1909. Mainstays George Mullin, Ed Killian, and Bill Donovan had great win-loss records, but those records were very much a reflection of the team hitting.

In 1907, led by manager Hughie Jennings, they won the American League pennant by a game and a half (over Philadelphia) and were then swept by the Cubs in the World Series. Well, not exactly swept. There was one game that was called on account of darkness with the score tied. In 1908, they won the pennant by a half game over Cleveland (there was a rain out that didn’t have to be made up under the rules of the day) and had to face Chicago again in the World Series. This time they managed one win as the Cubs won their last ever World Series. By 1909, tired of playing the Cubs, Detroit decided to try its luck with Pittsburgh. The Tigers won the AL pennant by three and a half games (again over Philadelphia), and lost a hard-fought World Series. The Series went seven games with the Pirates winning all the odd-numbered games and Detroit taking all the even-numbered games (only time that’s happened). Their run was over in 1910 as the Athletics finally rushed passed Detroit to take three of the next four pennants (Boston had the other).

There’s a common perception that Cobb did poorly in postseason play. That’s kind of true. He hit less than .250 in both 1907 and 1909 with only ten hits and two stolen bases. He did, however, drive in five runs in ’09 (none in ’07)  and scored three in 1909 (again none in 1907). In 1908 he hit .368, drove in four runs (in five games), scored three runs, had seven hits (all but one a single), and stole two bases. So he’s a best a mixed bag. Crawford, who doesn’t suffer from the same perception, never hit above .250, had one home run, eight RBIs, and one stolen base in the combined three Series’. Again not a particularly great stat line. As a rule, the less said about the pitching the better.

After 1909, Detroit fell back in the standings not resurfacing in the World Series until the 1930s. Cobb played into the 1920s, Crawford into the teens. Both failed to make another postseason.

The Original “Goose”

June 17, 2011

Goose Goslin as a Senator

Use the name “Goose” around a modern fan and the odds are you’ll get one of two responses: “who?” or “Gossage.” Frankly, I’d probably respond with Gossage too. But way back there was another “Goose” who was good enough to make the Hall of Fame. As I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with the Washington Senators/ Minnesota Twins recently, I thought I might introduce you to “Goose” Goslin.

Leon Goslin was born in New Jersey in 1900. He was good enough to play for his  local factory team, both pitching and playing the field. It got him a job with the Minor League team in Columbia, South Carolina in 1920. The team made him an outfielder. In 1921 the Senators signed him for $6000. He made the club late in the season, hitting .260 with a home run and six RBIs. By 1922 he was the regular left fielder.

This is as good a time as any to get to the “Goose” nickname. There are at least three stories. One says that Goslin was fairly inept in the field when he came up and would run around the outfield chasing the ball with his arms flapping like a goose. The second says that his large nose, known colloquially as a “honker” (a noise geese make) got him the nickname. The third, which is the one I favor, is that it simply was a natural to go with Goslin. Whatever the reason, it stuck for the rest of his life.

He played well in both 1922 and 1923, leading the team in home runs in ’23 and the entire American League in triples. In 1924 the Senators made the World Series for the first time. Goslin, playing all seven games, hit .344, led the league in RBIs, had an OPS of .937, and hit for the cycle on 28 August against New York. The Senators won the Series in seven games, Goslin hitting .344 (the same as his regular season average. I wonder how often that happens?) with three home runs, seven RBIs, and an OPS of 1.000. They were back in 1925, this time dropping the Series in seven. Playing all seven games again Goslin had three home runs, hit .308, and had six RBIs. His OPS? 1.072. For the regular season he led the AL in triples and had 200 hits for the first time.

The Senators slipped in 1926 but Goslin continued to perform well into 1930 when he was traded to St. Louis. He was having trouble getting along with manager Walter Johnson, a conflict he could never win in Washington. Freed from cavernous Griffith Stadium,  Goslin had a career high 30 home runs (37 for the season, a season noted for a juiced ball), dropped back to 24 the next season and further down to 17 in 1932. That got him a trade back to Washington (Johnson had just been fired), which promptly went out and won its third AL pennant. Although on the downside of his career, Goslin contributed a .297 average and 65 RBIs. In the World Series he played all five games of the loss to the Giants, hitting .250 with one home run. It was Washington’s last World Series and Goslin had the distinction of being the only Senator to play in all 19 of the team’s World Series games. He also logged every inning.

Goslin hadn’t gotten along with Johnson’s replacement, Joe Cronin, so he (Goslin) went to Detroit in 1934. There he teamed with Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, and Gee Walker to form the Tigers “G Men” (a play on the currently popular nickname for FBI agents). Again, Detroit promptly went out and won the AL pennant. Goslin hit .305, had  100 RBIs, and an OPS of .826. In the Series he hit .241 with two RBIs and the Tigers lost in seven to Dizzy Dean and the “Gas House Gang” Cardinals.

The Tigers were back in 1935, winning the pennant with Goslin contributing nine home runs, 109 RBIs, an OPS of .770, and a .292 average. This time, taking on the Cubs, the Tigers won the Series (their first ever) with Goslin hitting .273, having three RBIs, and driving in the Series’ winning run in game six. Again he played each game. It was to be his last Series. For his postseason career he hit .287, had an OPS of .836, hit seven home runs, had 19 RBIs, scored 16 runs, and had 37 hits, while playing all 32 games in the Series.

His last good year was 1936. He hit .300 for the last time, had 125 RBIs and 24 home runs. His OPS was .930. He also managed the first home run off phenom Bob Feller. He had a bad 1937 and was released by Detroit. He was 36. Washington brought him back for one last fling in 1938. he hit a buck .58 and was done. He managed a couple of undistinguished seasons in the Minors, then retired to a farm in New Jersey. He farmed, ran a boat business, and made the Hall of Fame in 1968. Death came in 1971.

For his career, Goslin hit .316, slugged .500, had an OBP of .387, totalling .887 for his OPS (OPS+ of 128). He had 2735 hits, 248 home runs, 173 triples, and 500 doubles for 4325 total bases. He had about two walks for every strikeouts and managed 176 stolen bases in a low stolen base era. His black ink number is 10, but his gray ink number is 200. In an end of century list, the Sporting News named Goslin the 89th greatest player of the century (probably too high).

I remember putting together my own list of greatest left fielders one time years ago. I had Goslin third (Williams and Musial) because Bonds and Henderson had not yet become the stars they became and because I was still fascinated by a player hitting .300 (which still is good, just not as good as I used to think). Bill James has him 16th in his historical abstract. My guess is that Goslin sits somewhere between. He helped his team, both Washington and Detroit, win. It can’t be pure coincidence that he gets traded to two teams who just then manage to win pennants (he’s a missing piece, not the prime reason for winning). All in all he’s a player I like and think should be remembered. I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame.

And I love the picture of him that I placed at the head of this comment. His hat is cocked, he stands confident and looks very self-assured. Kind of like to see that in a ball player.

1910: The Slugging Hurler

September 17, 2010

Ed Summers

On this date in 1910, the Detroit Tigers pitcher Ed Summers hit two home runs in the same game. It was unusual because in his entire career, Summers hit exactly two home runs, these two. The Tigers defeated the Philadelphia Athletics that day 10-3, Summers picking up the win. It didn’t help a lot, the A’s still won the pennant, but for one day it slowed them down. 

Oran Edgar Summers was born in 1884 in Indiana. He was another college man, attending Wabash College before joining the Tigers in 1908. He went 24-12 with an ERA of 1.64 in 40 games (32 starts). He pitched 301 innings (a career high), gave up 271 hits, walked 55 and struck out 103. On 25 September 1908, he pitched both ends of a double-header recording two wins. The Tigers made the World Series, Summers relieving in game one and starting game four. He took the loss in both games, giving up 18 hits in 14.2 innings. Wikipedia says he and Justin Verlander are the only two Tigers rookies to start a World Series game. 

In 1909 he was 19-9 in 282 innings, posting a career high in strikeouts with 107. The Tigers got back to the World series, and again Summers got into two games (both starts) and lost both. He gave up 13 hits in 7.1 innings and had a huge 8.60 ERA. 

By 1910 he was showing signs of arm trouble (he ended up with rheumatism) and began slowing down. He was 13-12 in 1910 (including his big day 100 years ago today) and 11-11 in 1911. He  was finished in 1912 managing to go 1-1 in three games. For his career he ended up 68-45 with 999 innings pitched over 138 games. He struck out 362 and walked 221 with nine shutouts. In World series play he was 0-4.  He died at age in 1953 at age 68. 

Summers is one of those Stone Age players you never hear about. He’s strictly background noise for the big names. On his own team that means Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. He’s another one of those pitchers who arrive with a great season, then flame out early. A couple of weeks ago I did a post of Jack Coombs, a better pitcher, but one whose career follows the same trajectory of success followed by rapid collapse (Coombs, did however, have a long period of toiling before he made it big in the American League) Baseball history is littered with players like Summers and Coombs. For all that, for one day, Summers at least was a fearsome slugger.

RIP Ralph Houk

July 23, 2010

Ralph Houk as Detroit manager

I see that Ralph Houk died Wednesday at age 90.  He spent most of his career as a backup catcher behind Yogi Berra during the 1940s and 1950s. He got into all of 91 games over eight years, hit .272, had no home runs, and picked up a World Series ring in 1947, 1949-1953. He managed to get into two World Series games, one in 1947, the other in 1952. He pinch hit both times and made an out each.

He was, in other words, a pretty mediocre ballplayer. He was, however, a heck of a manager. When Casey Stengel retired (forcibly) after 1960, Houk was his replacement with the Yankees. He promptly led the Yanks to World Series victories in 1961 and 1962, then won the pennant in 1963, losing the Series to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers. He retired after that season, replaced as Yankees manager by Berra. He returned to New York in mid-1966, remaining through 1973. He managed Detroit from 1974 through 1978, finishing as high as fourth once. His managerial career ended in Boston with a stint in the dugout from 1981 through 1984. He finished as high as second in the latter half of the 1981 split season. His career managerial record gave him a .541 winning percentage.

In 1986 he joined the Minnesota Twins front office. He helped put together the team that would win the 1987 World Series and provide the major parts for the 1991 World Series winner. Then he retired from baseball for good.

Obviously his glory period was the 1961-63 era with New York. He managed the famous 1961 home run record race, helping Roger Maris to cope with the press, the crowds, and the nonsense. For all that he’s easily the least famous Yankees manager to win a World Series (OK, maybe Bucky Harris in 1947). I guess somebody has to be, but I always liked Houk. He was apparently a good clubhouse man and took care of his players. Following up Casey Stengel was hard enough, but winning on top of that was even harder.

I rooted for him in 1962 and against him in 1963. Despite that, he was  a man I admired. May he rest in peace.

The First Great Reliever

February 24, 2010

Firpo Marberry

This is the story of Firpo Marberry. He wasn’t the first reliever. As far back as the National Association (1871-75) pitchers failed to complete games and relievers were employed. But as a rule relievers weren’t specialists, they didn’t make careers coming out of the bullpen. Some, like Carl Mays or Dave Danforth, had a year or so in relief then went on to be a starter, while others were older guys just hanging on. But Marberry came to the Major Leagues as a reliever and was so good at it he set records.

Fred Marberry was from Texas. After a couple of years in the minors, he got to the big leagues in late 1923 with the Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins). In some ways it was a perfect place to create a relief specialist. The Senators’ main pitcher, Walter Johnson, was aging (35). Number two pitcher, George Mogridge, was only a year younger (remember this is 1923 when careers are generally shorter) and most of the rest of the staff was pretty mediocre with high ERA’s, poor walk to strikeout ratios, and all four guys who started more than 30 games gave up more hits than they had innings pitched (including Johnson). So there was going to be a lot of relief work available. Additionally, owner Clark Griffith was a former Major League pitcher and manager who had used himself as a reliever in the latter part of his career. He knew the value of a good bullpen man, and in Marberry he found one.

In his rookie season, Marberry went 4-0 with a 2.80 ERA in 11 games, (seven in relief). The Senators finished fourth. The next season they won the American League pennant. Now let’s not be hasty and award Marberry primacy of place as the reason. The team made a change of manager (Bucky Harris replaced Donie Bush), Johnson turned his career around and had a terrific year (23-7 and led the league in ERA, shutouts, strikeouts–just your basic Walter Johnson year), Mogridge and Tom Zachery had good years on the mound. Six of the eight regulars improved their batting averages while four improved their slugging percentage. And then there was Marberry. He pitched in 60 games, starting only 14 (and completing six of them). He went only 11-12, but put up a 3.09 ERA (good for the period), and saved a record 15 games (he didn’t know that). The Senators won the series in seven games with Marberry taking a loss, picking up two saves, and posting a series low ERA of 1.13. The next year he pitched 55 games, all in relief, again posting 15 saves. Again the Senators headed to the World Series, this time dropping the series in seven games. Marberry had one save and a zip ERA.

The Senators fell back after 1925, no body was going to keep up with the Murder’s Row Yankees, but Marberry kept on. He got 22 saves in 1926, a new record that lasted until 1949, 11 in 1928, and 13 in 1932 (for teams that finished fourth, fourth, and third). Along the way he started a handful of games, topping out at 25 in 1931, the first year he’d started more than he relieved. After 1932 he was traded to Detroit.

So what have you got at this point? Marberry pitched 465 games with Washington, starting 138.  His record was 117-69 (a winning pecentage of .629) with an ERA in the threes and 96 saves.

Detroit tried to make him a starter. It worked. He was 16-11 and 15-5 in his first two years as a Tiger. He started 51 of 75 games and had a total of five saves. His ERA was decent in 1933, but rocketed above four in 1934. Detroit got to the World Series in 1934, losing to Dizzy Dean and the Gas House Gang Cardinals in seven. Marberry pitched twice, both in mop up relief roles registering a terrible ERA and having no decisions. The 1934 season was his last good one. He pitched only five games in 1935 (when he was 36), developing unspecified arm trouble. Released by Detroit, he spent the season umpiring in the American League, refusing to arbitrate games involving his old Senators team (but apparently agreeing to ump Tigers games). His last season was 1936. He pitched a third of an inning for the Giants before being sent back to Washington for a five game close out of his big league career. He returned to the minor leagues and played until 1941. He retired in his home state of  Texas and died in 1976.

For his career, Marberry was 148-88 (.627 winning percentage-a top forty number among pitchers wth 100 wins), with 101 saves, an ERA of 2.63, 822 strikeouts and 686 walks in 2067 innings. The save total was a record when he retired. By 1946, it would fall to third all-time (Jack Russell and Johnny Murphy) remaining there  until the 1970’s explosion of relief pitching. They invented the save statistic in the 1960’s, while Marberry was still alive. I have no idea if he knew he had 101 and was third ever.

As an aside, the nickname “Firpo” comes from a resemblence to the heavyweight boxer of the era Luis Firpo. Marberry didn’t like the nickname. It stuck anyway.

1908: That Other Race

February 1, 2010

The 1908 season is most famous for the National League pennant race and the Merkle Game. but there was a heck of a race in the American League too. Three teams were in contention on the last day.

After five months of solid baseball, the American League race came down to September and October. Detroit was in first place with St Louis (the Browns, not the Cardinals), Chicago, and Cleveland all bunched 2.5 games or less behind. By the 23rd, the date of the Merkle Game, St. Louis had fallen off, but the other 3 were still tightly bunched with Cleveland 2.5 games ahead. On the 25th, Detroit would begin a run that led to 10 consecutive wins against the A’s, Washington, and St. Louis. Then they dropped two in a row to the White Sox.

Meanwhile the ChiSox and Cleveland had kept pace. On 2 October they met each other in one of the finest pitching duels ever. White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh, on his way to a 40 win season, struck out 15 and gave up a single run. Addie Joss, the Naps hurler, was even better. He threw a perfect game.

By 6 October, the end of the regular season, Detroit was a half game up and played Chicago. They won 7-0 to put the Sox back 1.5 games. Cleveland beat St. Louis 5-1 to finish a half game back. Detroit ended the season 90-63, Cleveland 90-64, and Chicago 88-64. Only the Naps had played a complete schedule, both Chicago and Detroit losing a game to a rainout. Under the rules of the day, the  game didn’t have to be made up. So the Tigers went to the World Series and promptly lost in 5 games. The American League moved to change the rules requiring ties and rainouts be made up if they impacted the pennant. There is no record of the Naps’ asking “What took so long?”

On an individual basis, Walsh ended the season 40-15 over 66 games (49 of them starts) and led the league with 269 strikeouts and 7 saves (a stat not yet invented). Joss’ 1.16 ERA topped the league. In hitting Ty Cobb won the batting, slugging, hits, doubles, triples, and RBI titles, while outfield teammate Wahoo Sam Crawford took the home run crown (in 1909 Cobb would complete the Triple Crown). The other Tigers outfielder, Matty McIntyre, led the league in runs scored , making it one of the more productive outfields ever. Chicago’s Patsy Dougherty led in steals with 47.

Over the years the American League race has been obscured by the National League. That’s a great shame because it was equally sensational. There just wasn’t one game and one incident that turned the season quite so dramatically as Fred Merkle’s dash toward second.