Posts Tagged ‘Home Run Baker’

1914: Winning in Boston, part 2

October 23, 2014
1914 World Series program from Boston

1914 World Series program from Boston

With the Braves up three games to none, Philadelphia did something that still surprises me, it went with its fourth pitcher for the fourth game (a lot of fours and fourths there, right?). I’m a bit surprised that Connie Mack didn’t go back to Chief Bender to right the ship rather than put the pressure on 23-year-old Bob Shawkey. I realize that Bender hadn’t done particularly well in game one, but, unlike Shawkey, he had World Series experience. By contrast, Braves manager George Stallings (pictured above) went back to game one starter Dick Rudolph.

Game 4

For three innings, picking Shawkey worked. He gave up one walk and nothing else. Rudolph wasn’t quite as good, giving up three hits, but neither team scored. In the bottom of the fourth Johnny Evers walked and went to third on a Possum Whitted single. He scored on a Butch Schmidt ground out to short. The A’s even the score in the top of the fifth on a Jack Barry single and a double by Shawkey.

The decisive inning was the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Rudolph singled. Herbie Moran followed with a double sending Rudolph to third. With runners on second and third and two outs Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers singled to bring home both runs and put the Braves up 3-1. Rudolph set Philadelphia down in order in the sixth. He was in trouble in the seventh when he walked Jimmy Walsh, then wild pitched him to second. Then Barry struck out and Boston catcher Hank Gowdy threw down to second baseman Evers to pick off Walsh for the second out. Wally Schang struck out to end the inning. It was the last crisis. The Athletics went down in order in the eighth then a strikeout and consecutive ground outs in the top of the ninth finished the game and the Series.

Boston’s victory was, and still is, one of the greatest World Series upsets ever. There are two obvious questions to answer. What did Boston do right? What went wrong for the A’s?

First, Boston’s pitching was excellent. Both Rudolph and Bill James were 2-0. James’ ERA was 0.00 and Rudolph had all of 0.50 for his ERA (team ERA of 1.15). As a team they gave up only 22 hits and 13 walks in 39 innings (WHIP of 0.897), while striking out 28. Additionally James had one complete game shutout (the other win came in relief).

Second, the Braves hit well up and down their lineup. Their team batting average was .244. Every player appearing in three or more games (nine) had at least one hit. Every one of them scored at least one run, and seven of them had at least one RBI. Johnny Evers led the team with seven hits and Hank Gowdy had six. Gowdy and Rabbit Maranville each had three RBIs to lead the team. Gowdy hit .545 with the series only home run. He also had one of two series triples (Whitted had the other). That, along with five walks, gave him on OBP of .688, a slugging percentage of 1.273, and an OPS of 1.960. There was no series MVP in 1914. Had there been one, Gowdy most likely would have won it.

By contrast, the Athletics pitching staff was awful. Their collective ERA was 3.41 with Chief Bender clocking in at 10.13. Eddie Plank gave up one run in a complete game, but lost it to James’ shutout. As a team, they gave up 33 hits and 15 walks (WHIP of 1.297) over 37 innings. And they struck out only 18 (all of three more than they had walks).

Other than Home Run Baker, who only hit .250, the A’s hit poorly. Baker had two RBIs and four hits to lead the team and tied for the team lead with two doubles (of nine). Stuffy McInnis and Eddie Murphy were the only players to score more than a single run (each had two). The team average was .172 with an OBP of .248 and a slugging percentage of .242 for an OPS of .490 (six Braves players had OPS numbers greater than Philadelphia’s combined OPS). The team had no triples or home runs and stole only two bases (versus nine for Boston).

It was a complete victory for Boston. And, as with many World Series it marked the end for both teams. The Braves slipped back into second next year and went south from there. For the A’s it was the end of a five-year run. By 1916 they had the worst record in baseball (a lot of the stars were gone). For Boston it would be their last pennant until 1948 and their last championship ever. The next time the Braves won was 1957 and by then they were in Milwaukee.

As an interesting bit of trivia, in 1914 the teams apparently didn’t yet get rings. It seems someone made up one for Johnny Evers (maybe Evers himself). Here’s a picture of it.

Johnny Evers 1914 ring

Johnny Evers 1914 ring

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1914: Winning in Boston, part 1

October 20, 2014

After a pair of brief comments on the current World Series contenders, it’s time to get back to the world of 100 years ago.

Braves Field in Boston

Braves Field in Boston

On 12 October, the 1914 World Series resumed in Boston. The Braves were up two games to none against Philadelphia. Because the Braves home park (Southend Grounds) was smaller and older than the Red Sox new home in Fenway Park, the games in Boston were played in Fenway, not the Braves home park (Braves Field, pictured above, was opened in 1915 and so unavailable for use in the ’14 Series).

Game 3

Game three was one of the longest games in World Series history. The Braves started Lefty Tyler, who was 16-13 for the season, against the Athletics’ Bullet Joe Bush (17-13). The A’s got one in the first on Eddie Murray’s leadoff double. A bunt sent him to third and he came home on an error by left fielder Joe Connolly. The Braves got it back in the bottom of the second when, with two outs, Rabbit Maranville walked, stole second, and came home on a Hank Gowdy double. Philadelphia got the lead back in the top of the fourth on a Stuffy McInnis double and a run scoring single by center fielder Jimmy Walsh. Not to be outdone, Boston came back to tie it up on a Butch Schmidt single, a sacrifice, and a Maranville single.

And it stayed 2-2 for the rest of the regular innings. Through the end of the ninth, Tyler had given up two runs, two walks, and six hits, while striking out three. Bush was about as good and the game went into the 10th. Wally Schang led off the top of the 10th with a single. Bush then struck out. Then Tyler hashed a bunt and Schang went to second with Murray safe at first. A Rube Oldring ground out sent Schang to third and Murray to second. An intentional walk to Eddie Collins loaded the bases for Frank “Home Run” Baker. He didn’t hit a homer, but Baker lashed a single that scored both Schang and Murray. McInnis hit a fly to center to end the top of the 10th. Bush needed three outs to put Philly back in the Series. Gowdy started the bottom of the 10th with a home run to narrow the score to 4-3. Then a strikeout, walk, and single later Connolly made up for the earlier error. His sacrifice fly to center scored Howie Moran to knot the game.

During the bottom of the 10th Tyler was lifted for a pinch hitter. Braves pitcher Bill James replaced him. He got through the 11th and top of the 12th despite giving up three walks (but no hits). Bush, still pitching for the A’s, had a perfect 11th. In the bottom of the 12th, Gowdy led off with a double. Les Mann replaced him on the bases. An intentional walk later, up came Moran who hit the ball back to Bush. The pitcher fielded it and tossed to third to get the lead run. He missed the base and Mann trotted home with the winning run.

The A’s had a couple of chances to win, but Boston kept the score tied and won on an error. There’d been total nine runs scored. All but one were earned-the last one.

 

 

 

 

Opening Day 1911: AL

April 13, 2011

As backup first baseman Harry Davis

In continuing to celebrate Opening Day one hundred years ago yesterday, here’s a brief look at the American League.

Connie Mack’ Philadelphia Athletics were American League Champions and in 1911 successfully defended that championship. They started slow with a losing record in April (6-7), then took off, winning the pennant by 13/5 games over Detroit. Philly led the AL in runs, RBIs, home runs, slugging, and batting average. In pitching they were second in ERA, strikeouts, and shutouts.

Individually, Ty Cobb won another batting title, this time hitting .400 (.420) for the first time (and the first of two consecutive  seasons). Joe Jackson (“Shoeless” Joe) at Cleveland hit .408, the highest total in the  20th Century to not win a batting title. Cobb also picked up the RBI title with 127. It was his last. In home runs, A’s third baseman Frank Baker hit 11 to win the first of his four consecutive titles. Cobb picked up the initial Chalmers Award, the earliest 20th Century MVP award.

The pitching was good, if not as dominant as the National League. Jack Coombs of Philadelphia led the AL with 28 wins, but posted an ERA over 3, which was huge for the age. His teammate Eddie Plank tied Senators ace Walter Johnson for most shutouts with six while Vean Gregg of Cleveland went 23-7 and won the ERA title at 1.81. Beginning in 1910, Walter Johnson won every strikeout title through 1919 except one, 1911. He lost the title to Ed Walsh of Chicago.  Walsh had 255 whiffs to Johnson’s third-place total of  207. Joe Wood at Boston came in between them with 231.

On a totally different note, it was Cy Young’s final season. He was 44 and through. He went 3-4 with an ERA of 3.92 at Cleveland before being traded to Boston of the National League. Boston finished last, Young went 4-5 (7-9 overall), but managed two final shutouts in 11 starts. He finished with 511 wins and had an award named for him.

Postseason saw the A’s pick up their second straight championship (it would stretch to 3 in 4 years). They knocked off the Giants in six games with Coombs and Plank each winning a game while Chief Bender picked up the other two wins, including the final game. They out hit the Giants .244 to .175, outscored them 27 to 13, and had an ERA of 1.29 to 2.83. Baker hit two key home runs that either won or tied games and earned him the nickname “Home Run” Baker for the rest of his life. He also hit .375 and drove in five runs. In a strange twist, Mack rested his first baseman Stuffy McInnis (.321, 23 stolen bases, 77 RBIs in 126 games) and started backup Harry Davis (.197, 22 RBIs, and a single home run in 57 games) in every game, Mc Innis only showing up in a mop up role late in game six (a 13-2 blowout). I have been totally unable to find out why. It worked. Davis hit only .208, but drove in five runs and scored three.

So 1911 was a success for the American League. For the first time it won back-to-back World Series’. It would be the beginning of a trend that would see the AL win eight of the next 10 (1911-13, 1915-18, 1920).

1910: J. Frank Baker

July 7, 2010

Frank Baker

John Franklin Baker was born in Maryland in 1886. He played baseball well enough that Connie Mack brought him to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1908. The next season he took over as the regular third baseman and stayed there through 1914. During his tenure the A’s won four pennants and three World Series championships. During the period Baker hit .321 and led the American League in home runs four times (1911-14) and in RBIs twice (1912 and 1913). As good as all that sounds, he was even better in World Series play. In three winning efforts (1910, 1911, and 1913) he hit .409 with three home runs and drove in sixteen runs. His slugging percentage was .621. In 1914, the Braves shut him down, along with pretty much everybody else, and the A’s lost. The three home runs in Series play tied or won ballgames and led to his nickname “Home Run” Baker. 

Baker sat out 1915 in a salary dispute with Mack. He spent the season playing in a semipro league in Pennsylvania. At the end of the season, Mack sold him to New York. He did alright with the Yankees, but he was never as good as he had been with Philadelphia. He hit .300 once, had double figure home runs twice (10 both times) and saw his slugging average drop badly. 

In 1920 his wife died and he took the season off to be with the children. He was back in New York in 1921 in time to make it to the World Series again (I was unable to find out if he remarried or not).  In 1921 he managed nine home runs to finish third on the team behind Babe Ruth’s 59 and Bob Meusel’s 24. The Yankees lost the series to the Giants with Baker contributing two hits (both singles) for a .250 average. His ground out to second with one out the ninth inning of the final game was turned into a double play when the runner on first, AaronWard, tried to steal a run by dashing to third. The throw to third was on target and the series ended. In 1922 he played one final year, hitting .278 in 69 games. He got into the World Series going 0 for 1 in a pinch hitting role. For his career he ended up with a .307 average, 1838 hits, 96 home runs, 1013 RBIs, on OBP of .353, a slugging percentage of .442, 235 stolen bases, and six triple crown titles in 5985 games, all at third base (except for pinch-hitting duties). 

After retirement he coached and managed a little. He’s credited with discovering Jimmie Foxx. He retired to his farm in Maryland and made the Hall of Fame in 1955. He died in 1963, arguably the finest third baseman of the deadball era. 

As a fielder, Baker was both good and mediocre (bear with me a second on that). His 3.43 range factor compares well with fellow Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and George Kell, but his fielding average is nothing to write home about. In his prime years, 1909-14, he was generally in the lower half of the league in fielding, but made up for it with decent range. One of the things I like about his fielding is that he got better. He started with fielding averages in the .920s and ended his career in the .950s. OK, those aren’t great numbers, but a lot of guys never get any better and Baker did. 

He has two number that I really like: 24 and 36. Those are the distance between his RBI totals in 1912 and 1913 and his nearest competitor. In 1912, Baker knocked in 133 runs. Sam Crawford at Detroit and Duffy Lewis at Boston each had 109 (Helps to have Eddie Collins, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker hitting in front of you, doesn’t it?) In 1913, he had 126. The next two guys behind him (again a tie) had 90. You don’t see that kind of domination often. In 1930, Hack Wilson set the Major League record for RBIs with 191. He won by 21. The following year Lou Gehrig set the AL record with 184. He also won by 21. Both Chuck Klein and Mickey Mantle won triple crowns. Klein won his RBI title by 14 and Mantle by only two. 

During his glory years, 1910-1914, Baker joined Cobb and Speaker as the dominant hitters of the age. And I guess that’s part of the knock on Baker. His glory years weren’t very long. But in those five years he won six triple crown titles (batting average, home runs, RBIs). So did Cobb. Speaker only got one. It’s not a bad legacy to say you could hold your own with Cobb and Speaker, even if only for five years. 

There haven’t been a lot of truly great third basemen in Major League history. In the Deadball Era there are only Baker and Jimmy Collins and I prefer Baker. With our without the nickname, Frank Baker is one of the top 10 third basemen ever and I could probably be talked into putting him in the top five.

Down and Out in Philadelphia

February 1, 2010

There have been 5 truly awful teams in Major League Baseball history. I define that as teams that lose 115 or more games. The most famous is the 1962 New York Mets. The most awful is probably the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. In between lie the 2003 Detroit Tigers and the 1935 Boston Braves (which included Babe Ruth in his final half season). Then there is the team that fell the farthest the fastest, the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, two years removed from the World Series.

Between 1910 and 1914 the A’s won three World Series (1910, 1911, 1913) and lost one (1914). The advent of the Federal League changed the financial system in baseball making bigger contracts for the players. It also pulled players from the established leagues. For the A’s, pitchers Chief Bender and Eddie Plank went to the Feds. Financially strapped, A’s owner/manager Connie Mack sent Eddie Collins (2nd base), and Eddie Murphy (outfield) to the White Sox. Pitcher Jack Coombs ended up with Brooklyn. During the season Mack sent shortstop Jack Barry and pitcher Herb Pennock to the Red Sox, and hurler Bob Shawkey to the Yankees. Third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker held out for the entire season looking for more money. Of the eight primary starters and four top pitchers who played in the 1914 World Series, only 3 remained by 1916.

Mack sent a bunch of new guys, a couple of old guys, and a few of his holdovers to play in 1916. They got killed. The holdovers did OK, but not great. First Baseman Stuffy McInnis hit .295, not bad, but the first year below .300 for his career. Amos Strunk, the centerfielder managed .316 and led the team in both hits and runs. Wally Schang, the 1914 catcher, moved to left field and led the team with 7 home runs.

The old guys were 41 year old Napoleon LaJoie and 30 year old Jimmy Walsh. It was LaJoie’s last year. He played like it, hitting .246 with a .312 slugging percentage. It was the second time he hit below .280 for his career. Walsh didn’t last out the season, being traded 120 games in. With the A’s he hit all of .233.

The new guys were everybody else.  They ranged from 28 year old Charlie Pick to 19 year old Val Picinich. The team hit .242 with  380 RBIs, and 447 runs. All were league lows (actually the .242 tied with Washington for last).

It was the pitching that was really awful. The team ERA was 3.84 almost a full run higher than anyone else. Bullet Joe Bush led the team with 15 wins, but had 24 losses. Elmer Myers had 14 wins and 23 losses and no one else won more than two games. Tom Sheehan and Jack Nabors won two games between them (one each) and lost 34. Rube Parnham was the only pitcher with a winning record managing to go 2-1 in four games. It was the high point of  his career.

The result of all this was the worst winning percentage of either the 20th or 21st Century, .235. By contrast the ’35 Braves winning percentage was .248, the ’62 Mets were at .250, and the 2003 Tigers managed .265. Only the 1899 Spiders did worse. They were 20-134 for an all-time low percentage of .130 (Gimme some time, it’s coming).

Mack weathered the storm. It took a while, but he finally put together another fine team from 1929 through 1931. It won two World Series and lost a third. It was Mack’s last great team. It was followed by another series of bad teams, but nothing ever again like the woeful team of 1916.

Hooray for Hollywood

February 1, 2010

Baseball and Hollywood have been very good to each other.  Baseball has given Hollywood some wonderful plot lines (and a few really awful ones too). Hollywood has showcased the game in a number of very good movies (and, again, some really awful ones). Real players have graced the silver screen on a number of occasions.  I got curious about finding out if you could field a real team from the players who have been in the movies. It turns out you can.

A couple of caveats. First, I looked for silent films first. Couldn’t find a player at every position, so I decided to stop at 1945. That made it pretty easy. Second, I wanted to player to be in a real movie, not some newsreel type short on last season’s best plays or some such thing. Also no TV and no commercials for razor blades or Mr. Coffee or any other product. Here’s what I found (there are more, but these will do for now).

1b-Hal Chase has two credits, one in 1911, the other in 1914. He plays a ballplayer in both. What, not a gambler?

2b-Nap LaJoie has one credit for a one reeler in 1903, the oldest one I could find.

ss-Honus Wagner has 2 credits, one in 1919 and the other in 1922. The 1919 flick costars Shemp and Moe Howard before they joined with Larry Fine to become the 3 Stooges. Obviously the best acted flick in the lot.

3b-Frank “Home Run” Baker has 2 credits, one in 1913 and the other in 1914.

of-Ty Cobb has 2 credits in 1917 and one in 1921. Later in the 1930’s through 1950’s he does a series of cameos on both the big screen and on TV.

of-Babe Ruth has 10 credits between 1920 and 1942. In most he plays someone named Babe Ruth, but in a 1922 movie called “Babe Comes Home” he plays a ballplayer named Babe Dugan. He is, movie-wise, most famous for playing himself in “Pride of the Yankees.”

of-Mike Donlin was the most successful of the ballplayers in Hollywood. Between 1917 and 1935 Donlin racked up 61 roles, mostly uncredited, in a lot of silent flicks and a few talkies. His most notable film was Keaton’s “The General” in which he played a Union officer.

c-Bill Dickey was in 2 flicks in the 1940s, the most famous being “Pride of the Yankees.”

p-Christy Mathewson has two credits in 1914 and 1915, neither for movies I’ve ever heard of.

 manager-John J. McGraw did two movies, one in 1914, the other in 1919. The 1914 flick was called “Detective Swift” with McGraw in the title role and included a Mrs. Hans Lobert, apparently the wife of the ballplayer.

The are surely others, but it’s not a bad list. Anybody with others to add, feel free.

The First American League Dynasty

January 7, 2010

The American League was formed in 1901. For the first six years no team won more than two in a row. Then in 1907 the Tigers with Ty Cobb won the first of three consecutive pennants. Unfortunately for them, they lost all three World Series’, two to the Cubs and one to the Pirates. Somehow going 0-3 does not make you a dynasty. Beginning in 1910 the league gets its first true dynasty, the Philadelphia Athletics.

The Athletics were formed in 1901 by Connie Mack and had won pennants in 1902 and 1905, losing the World Series in ’05 four games to one. By 1910 Mack had rebuilt the A’s into a formidable team that was to win 4 of the next 5 AL pennants and 3 World Series out of 4. They did it with pitching and one heck of a fine infield.

The infield, known for a while as “The $100,000 Infield” (which was what they were supposed to be worth, not what Mack paid them) consisted of first baseman Harry Davis, a former RBI champ (05 and 06) doubles champ (05 and 07), and home run leader (04-07); future Hall of Famer and concensus top three all-time second sacker, Eddie Collins; slick fieldling shortstop Jack Barry; and future Hall of Famer J. Franklin “Home Run” Baker at third (the “Home Run” nickname comes during the five year run. In 1911 Stuffy McInnis, one of the better fielding first basemen of his day, and no slouch with a bat, replaced Davis.

The outfield consisted of  Danny Murphy, Rube Oldring, Topsy Hartsel  in 1910, with Briscoe Lord replacing Hartsel in 1911. Jimmy Walsh replaced Lord in 1913, and Amos Strunk had taken Walsh’s spot in 1914. None were considered superior outfielders but most could hit some. Murphy was a converted infielder (2nd base).

Jack Lapp, Ira Thomas, and Wally Schang split tme as catcher, with Schang being far and away the best of the lot. He’d go on to pick up more World Series experience with the Babe Ruth Yankees of the 1920s.

The pitching staff was considered the strongest of the era with future Hall of Famer Chief Bender as Mack’s favorite. Left-hander Eddie Plank ended up with over 300 wins and a slot in Cooperstown. Maybe the best of the lot was Colby Jack Coombs. He won 31 and 28 games in 1910 and 1911 then got hurt in 1913 and was done as an Athletic. He resurfaced in 1916 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and won their only World Series victory that pennant winning season. Additionally Hall of Famer Herb Pennock made a brief appearance in 1913 and 14  winning 13 games.

So how’d they do? In 1910 they won 102 games finishing first by 14.5 games and defeating the Cubs in five World Series games. In 1911 they won 101 games finishing first by 13.5 games and knocking off the Giants in the World Series in 6 games the series where Baker won his nickname). They lost in 1912 to the Red Sox, finishing 15 games out in third. In 1913 they rebounded winning the pennant by 6.5 games and posting 96 wins. Again they faced the Giants in the World Series and this time took only five games to win the series. They last good year was 1914 when the won 99 games, finishing first by 8.5 games. This time they faced the “Miracle Braves” and lost the World Series in four straight. It was the first World Series sweep (sorta. The Tigers won no games in 1907, but there had been one tie.) In 1915 Mack sold Collins and Barry, and Baker held out. Both Plank and Bender went to the fledgling Federal League. The result was a last place finish for Philadelphia and in 1916 a record of 36-117 (for a long time that was a record for futility in the AL). The dynasty was gone, replaced by the new one in Boston.

Power at Third

January 4, 2010

Way back in 1969, baseball celebrated a centennial. It was the 100th anniversary of the Cininnnati Red Stockings, the so-called first professional team. The majors produced two lists, the greatest living team (DiMaggio was chosen the greatest living player) and an all-time greatest team (with Ruth as the greatest player). The problem arose at Third Base when the all-time team chose Pie Traynor.

Now it’s not that Traynor was a bad choice, it was that he was a terrible choice. Traynor represented that third baseman who was a wonderful fielder, and OK hitter, and a man devoid of power. There had been a lot of them in baseball history and they were decent players. And if they were really, really good third basemen they might have saved their teams a dozen or so runs  season. The problem was that they weren’t producing a lot of runs themselves.

When the Traynor choice was made, it’s not like major league baseball didn’t have a handful of power hitting third basemen to choose from. Of course, maybe that was the problem. There were only a handful and it was tough to take them seriously because the long history of third basemen had been overwhelmingly of good fielders who, if they could hit for average, were potential Hall of Famers.

But third base produced a series of power hitters over the first 69 years of the 20th Century, there just weren’t very many of them. There was Home Run Baker who led the American League in home runs four times. It was the dead ball era and he never hit more than 12 in a season (and the “Home Run” nickname came from World Series play, not the regular season championships). There was Harlond Clift who managed to hit 178 home runs in the 1930s and early 40s. But he’d played in St. Louis for the Browns and in Washington, two of the most obscure places a 1930’s-40’s player could inhabit. Then came Al Rosen and Eddie Mathews. Both were legitimate power hitters who led their leagues in home runs, Rosen even winning an MVP. Rosen had a short career and Mathews was still playing. Of course there was Brooks Robinson who already had an MVP award, a lot of home runs, and was by 1969 already acknowledged as the finest fielding third baseman ever.

So why Traynor? Got me. My guess is that they wanted to honor an old-time player, wanted to stay away from current players like Robinson and Mathews (there was a living player category after all), and just couldn’t get over the old idea that third basemen weren’t supposed to be power hitters. I’m glad they didn’t do this list in 1989, because I’m afraid of what they would have done to Mike Schmidt and George Brett.

Nicknames

December 29, 2009

I adore nicknames. Most people I know have one. My son is “Ace”, my niece is “Gorgeous” (she is), a lot of my friends have them too. Baseball used to have really good ones. I don’t know if the quality of play is actually gotten better or worse, but the quality of nicknames has gone down. Check out the latest Yankees World Series winners. “The Hammer of God” certainly works for a closer, but “Tex”, “A-Rod”, “”Godzilla” is the best they can do? YUCK. Maybe the writers aren’t as creative anymore, maybe TV makes it harder to use nicknames because you don’t actually see them written down, maybe the frequency of player movement means fans don’t get close enough to become endeared of modern players.

Now I’m not saying all modern nicknames are awful, “Big Papi” has a heck of a ring to it, or that all old nicknames were great, “Babe” isn’t anything special for Ruth (but I do kinda like “The Sultan of Swat”). But as a rule the old names were better. So in the spirit of a good nickname is worth remembering, here’s my All Nickname Team of Great Players. To get on the team you gotta be a heck of a player and have a heck of a nickname. There are better players. There are better nicknames, but not better combinations.

First-Lou Gehrig, “The Iron Horse”

Second-Frankie Frisch, “The Fordham Flash”

Short-Harold “PeeWee” Reese

Third-J. Frank “Home Run” Baker

Left-Stan “The Man” Musial

Center-Joe DiMaggio, “The Yankee Clipper”

Right-“Hammerin” Hank Aaron

Catcher-Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra

Starting Pitcher-Walter Johnson, “The Big Train”

Closer-Mariano Rivera “The Hammer of God”

DH (per a comment from SportsPhd below)- Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas

and to manage them, “The Little Napoleon,” John J. McGraw.

And I had to leave out “The Splendid Splinter” (Williams), “The Georgia Peach” (Cobb), “Ironman” (McGinnity), and “Dizzy” (Dean).

So who you got? Gimme better nicknames to go with better players.

Best Possible Game 8

December 16, 2009

For 2 short periods the World Series wasn’t a best of seven series, but a best of nine. The World Series in 1903 was a best of nine and it happened again from 1919-1921. None of the Series’ went nine, but three did go eight.

A quick disclaimer. In 1912 game 2 was a tie and had to be replayed. The Series went the full schedule thus making game 7 the eighth game played. If I had wanted to be pedantic about it, I could have added the last game of 1912 to this list. I didn’t. It resides with the other game 7’s.

The best of the game 8’s is 1921. This was the first of three consecutive “Subway Series'” between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees. John McGraw’s Giants featured future Hall of Famers Frankie Frisch, Dave Bancroft, Ross Youngs, and George Kelly. Miller Huggins’ Yankees countered with Babe Ruth, Frank Baker, and Waite Hoyt. Ruth didn’t start game 8, but came in as a pinch hitter. The starting pitchers were lefty Art Nehf and Hoyt.

With one out in the top of the first, Bancroft walked,  Frisch made the 2nd out, Youngs also walked sending Bancroft to second base, where he came home on an error by Yankees shortstop Roger Peckenpaugh. It held up. Neft shut out the Yanks on 4 hits and 3 strikeouts, while walking five. Hoyt gave up only the unearned run while allowing 6 hits, walking 4, and striking out seven.

In the bottom of the 9th the Yankees tried to rally. Ruth pinch hit and grounded out.  Second baseman Aaron Ward walked, then Home Run Baker grounded to Frisch. The easy out was recorded at first, but Ward dashed toward third. A great throw caught him sliding in and the series ended with a double play.

Other game 8:

1903-Bill Dinneen pitched a 3 hit shutout to win the first World Series over Pittsburgh 3-0. The Red Sox got 2 runs in the fourth and tacked on one more in the sixth.

1919-this one was a blowout, the Reds scoring 4 runs in the first, one in the second, and coasting to a 10-5 victory. Of course this is the “Black Sox” series so not everything was on the up and up.