Posts Tagged ‘Joe Cronin’

1933, the obscure World Series: Mel

May 22, 2018

Game 5, 7 October 1933

Mel Ott

Game five of the 1933 World Series was the final game in Washington, DC. With the Giants leading three games to one, the Senators had to win in order to keep the Series going. They sent game two starter, and loser, Alvin “General” Crowder to the mound. New York responded with their own game two starter, and winner, Hal Schumacher.

And for six innings it didn’t appear that Washington had any chance of sending the Series back to the Polo Grounds. In the top of the second a Travis Jackson single, a walk to Gus Mancuso, and another bunt sacrifice put runners on second and third with one out. That brought up pitcher Schumacher who promptly singled to plate both runs. In the top of the sixth the Giants tacked on another run with a Kiddo Davis double, a Jackson bunt sacrifice, and a Mancuso double to make the score 3-0 with 12 outs to go.

Schumacher got two of them before Heinie Manush singled. He was followed by a Joe Cronin single that sent Manush to third. Up came Fred Schulte who parked a three run home run into the left field stands to tie the game and give Washington hope. Two more singles put runners on and sent Schumacher to the showers. In came Dolf Luque. At 42, Luque was the oldest Giant by four years and the oldest Giant pitcher by seven years. Only Sam Rice of the Senators was older (43) on either team and Rice was, by 1933, a substitute. The old man responded to the pressure by inducing a grounder to end the threat.

For the rest of the regulation game the teams matched zeroes. There were a handful of hits and a walk, but no one got beyond first base. In the tenth the Giants took two quick outs. That brought up Mel Ott. Into the 1960s, Ott was the all time leader in home runs among National League players (and third all time behind Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx). So he did what he did so well. He parked a ball in the center field seats to put New York ahead 4-3. A grounder back to the pitcher ended the inning and brought up the Senators for one last shot at sending the World Series back to Giants territory.

Luque got two quick outs, then gave up a single and walked Joe Cronin to put two men on with two outs. Up stepped Joe Kuhel. Luque struck him out to end the game and the Series. In relief, Dolf Luque, the first Cuban player to win a World Series game pitching struck out five, walked two, and gave up only two hits in 4.1 innings of relief. Unfortunately his effort was largely lost behind Ott’s game winning homer.

For a five game Series, it had been a good playoff. Two games, the last two, went into extra innings. A third game was 4-2. In an era known for its power hitting, the key blows in the final game were home runs: one by Schulte, the other by Ott. But there were an extraordinary number of runs scored that involved the Deadball Era standard of the bunt sacrifice.

The Giants hitting was fine, finishing with a .267 average 16 runs, three homers, and 47 hits, but the New York pitching had dominated the Series. The team ERA was 1.53 with only 11 runs allowed, and only eight of those earned. They staff struck out 25 with Carl Hubbell going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and Luque matching the 0.00 in the biggest relief outing of the Series.

For the Senators, Earl Whitehill won their only game by giving the Series its only complete game shutout. But Lefty Stewart and Crowder both had ERA’s north of seven, and the staff as a group had given up 10 more hits than the Giants staff. The team hit only .214 with Schulte’s four RBIs leading the team (three on the game five home run).

For the Giants it was the beginning of a decent run in the 1930s. They’d get back to two more World Series’ in the decade (losing both to the Yankees). For the Senators it was the end of their playoffs. The next time Washington made the World Series was 1965. By then they were relocated to Minnesota and called the Twins.

 

 

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1933, the obscure World Series: on to DC

May 17, 2018

With the New York Giants ahead two games to none, the World Series shifted locations to Washington, DC.

Game 3, 5 October

Earl Whitehill

For game three, the Senators sent ace Earl Whitehill to the mound against the Giants three pitcher Fred Fitzsimmons. For Washington it was a great choice as Whitehill pitched, arguably, the best game of the entire Series.

The Senators hit Fitzsimmons early. A single, a double, and a pop-up brought up Washington player-manager Joe Cronin with one out in the bottom of the first. His grounder back to the pitcher exchanged an out for the first Washington run. A Fred Schulte double plated a second run to make it 2-0. Washington then tacked on runs in the second and seventh with a pair of doubles (the second inning run) and two singles sandwiched around a stolen base (the seventh inning run).

The initial run in the first was all Whitehill needed. The threw the Series’ only complete game shutout. In nine innings he allowed five hits, walked two, and struck out a pair. Four of the hits were singles (Travis Jackson had a double). Only in the eighth inning did a Giants player reach third, and that with two outs.

So now the Senators were down two games to one. Game four was the next day.

Game 4, 6 October

Bill Terry

Game four saw game one starter Carl Hubbell back on the mound for the Giants. Washington countered with Monte Weaver. Both men pitched well, although Hubbell wasn’t quite up to his game one standard.

For three innings the teams matched zeroes. In the top of the fourth player-manager Bill Terry slugged a home run to center field to put New York ahead 1-0. although Hubbell gave up his first hit in the bottom of the fourth, a single to Goose Goslin, the Senators were unable to take advantage of it. They did take advantage of a Hubbell error, a bunt sacrifice and a Luke Sewell single to score Joe Kuhel in the seventh to tie up the game.

And then it stayed tied. Both teams put men on base and both pitchers got out of it through the eighth, the ninth, the tenth. In the top of the 11th, a Travis Jackson single, a bunt sacrifice, and a Blondy Ryan single gave the Giants a second run.

Hubbell needed three outs to put the Giants ahead three games to one. Two singles and another bunt sacrifice put Senators on second and third with one out. An intentional walk loaded the bases for pinch hitter Cliff Bolton. He rapped one to short and a short-second-first double play ended the game with New York winning 2-1 in extra innings.

Weaver went into the 11th inning before being pulled. He gave up 11 hits, but only two runs, while walking four and striking out three. Hubbell completed the game for his second Series victory. He’d given up only one unearned run (although the error was his), with eight hits four walks, and five strikeouts.

Game five was the next day and became known over the years as a classic.

 

1933, the obscure World Series: the Polo Grounds

May 15, 2018

The 1933 World Series began with two games in New York.

Game 1, 3 October

Carl Hubbell

For the first game, the Giants sent ace Carl Hubbell to the mound to face Washington southpaw Lefty Stewart. It quickly became the Hubbell show. In the first inning, New York jumped on Stewart for two runs. Leadoff hitter Jo-Jo Moore reached on an error by second baseman Buddy Myer and two outs later Mel Ott drove a pitch into the right field stands. Two innings later consecutive singles by Hughie Critz, Bill Terry, and Ott scored Critz with the third run and sent Stewart to the showers. One out later Travis Jackson’s little roller to first brought home the fourth run.

Hubbell allowed one hit through the first three innings. In the top of the fourth, Myer singled, reached third on a groundout and an error and scored on a Joe Cronin force play. That made the score 4-1 and the pitchers took over.

The 4-1 score held up until the top of the ninth when a New York error and bunched singles put a runner on third. A Joe Kuhel single added a second Washington run, but Hubbell then struck out Ossie Bluege for the second out and got a grounder to third that finished both the inning and the game.

It wasn’t a particularly well-played game. There were five errors (three by the Senators), but Hubbell had been terrific. He gave up two unearned runs, walked two, allowed five hits (all singles), and struck out 10 to give the Giants a 1-0 Series lead.

Game 2, October 4

Lefty O’Doul with the Giants

In game 2, Hal Schumacher took the mound for New York with Alvin “General” Crowder facing him for Washington. Both men pitched well through five innings. Schumacher had one small blip in the third when he grooved a pitch that Goose Goslin drove over the right field wall for a home run. It was the only run either team scored into the bottom of the sixth.

That was the crucial half inning for the game. A single, a force at second, and a double put runners on second and third with one out. an intentional walk loaded the bases for pinch hitter Lefty O’Doul. It was his first, and ultimately only, at bat in post season play. He used it well, smashing a single that scored two runs and put the Giants ahead. Two more singles scored two more runs, then a strikeout provided the second out. But two men were still on base, and two more singles, one by pitcher Schumacher, brought home two more runs and made the score 6-1.

It stayed that way for the rest of the game as Schumacher allowed two more hits, one erased on a double play to give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the Series. He’d thrown a complete game allowing five hits and walking four, but giving up only the homer to Goslin. Apparently some of the nervousness wore off from game one as there were no errors by either team in game two (as opposed to five in game one).

Game three was the next day in Washington. The Senators would need to win at least two to bring the Series back to New York.

 

 

1933, the obscure World Series: The Senators

May 10, 2018

Sam Rice

In 1933, the Giants drew the Washington Senators in the World Series. In the mid-1920s (1924 and 1925) the Senators were a formidable team winning a championship with Walter Johnson on the mound. By 1933 Johnson was gone as was most of the pennant winning team (a few remained).

The Senators offense was first in the American League in hits, triples, and batting average; third in runs, walks, and total bases; and fourth in doubles, home runs, and stolen bases. The team contained a nice mix of younger players (Cecil Travis was 19) and veterans (Sam Rice was 43) who tended to bunch in the stats. Six of the eight everyday players hit above .295 and the other two were in the .260s. A couple of bench players hit above .300 and a total of five were above .260. Only two men had double figure home runs (11 and 10) and except for one position (third base) every starter had between 29 and 45 doubles. Every primary starter managed to have more walks than strikeouts.

The infield from first around to third consisted of Joe Kuhel, Buddy Myer, Joe Cronin, and Ossie Bluege. Cronin, who would make the Hall of Fame, was also the manager, making the 1933 World Series odd by having two player-managers (Bill Terry). Cronin hit .309, led the team with both 118 RBIs and 87 walks. He was a solid shortstop and gave his team 7.2 WAR. All that got him second in the MVP voting. Myer, Cronin’s keystone crony, had 4.4 WAR, good for second on the team among position players. First baseman Joe Kuhel led the team with both 17 stolen bases and 11 home runs, had 107 RBIs (good for second on the team), and also led in OPS (.851) and was second on the Senators with 281 total bases. Ossie Bluege (his Baseball Reference page says it’s pronounced Blue-Jee—-I’ll take their word for it) was, at 32, the senior citizen of the infield. He’d been around for the 1920s pennant run and was still productive. He hit .261 with six home runs, good for third in Washington.  The backups included Cecil Travis who hit .302 in 43 games and Bob Boken who hit .278.

The outfield consisted of two Hall of Famers and Fred Schulte. Schulte hit .295 with 87 RBIs and was second on the team with 10 stolen bases.. The Hall of Famers were Goose Goslin and Heinie Manush. Manush, one of the more obscure Hall of Fame members, led the team with a .336 average, 115 runs scored, and had 4.1 WAR. The other outfielder was Goose Goslin. By the time the 1933 Series ended, Goslin would become the only man to play in all 19 Washington Senators World Series games (Bluege missed two in 1925 and Sam Rice was a part-time player by 1933). For the season his triple slash line read .297/.348/.452/.800 with 10 home runs, 10 triples (try that on purpose), 35 doubles, a 112 OPs+, and 3.2 WAR. Dave Harris and Sam Rice did most of the substitute work in the outfield. Harris had five home runs and hit .260. Rice, who logged 39 games in the outfield at age 43, hit .294, had -0.5 WAR, and would play one more season before retiring with 2987 hits.

Luke Sewell, brother of Yankees third baseman Joe, did the bulk of the catching. He hit .264 with no power and is today probably best known, if he’s known at all, as the manager of the 1944 St. Louis Browns, the only Browns team to win a pennant. Moe Berg, who is also better known for something other than catching (he was a “spy” during the pre-World War II period) hit .185 as the primary backup.

They caught a staff that didn’t have a Walter Johnson anywhere on the roster. General (Alvin) Crowder and Monte Weaver were the primary right handers on a staff that was second in the American League in ERA and runs. The primary lefties were Earl Whitehill and Walter “Lefty” Stewart. All had ERA’s in the three’s and both Crowder and Whitehill gave up more hits than they had innings pitched. Whitehill and Weaver both walked more men than they struck out. Stewart’s 1.244 WHIP was best on the team and Whitehill’s 4.9 WAR led all pitchers. The primary man out of the bullpen was Jack Russell (as far as I know he didn’t have a terrier). His ERA was 2.69 and led the AL with 13 saves. It gave him a 3.5 WAR.

The Senators could hit with the Giants. The question was simply could their pitching keep up with the likes of Carl Hubbell and company. The World Series began 3 October.

 

 

 

Pinky

April 20, 2018

Pinky Higgins

When I was a kid I had one of those baseball board games that had a spinner and some cards representing real players. You spun the spinner (it wasn’t as awkward as that combination of words) then consulted the player card to get a result. It was a step up from normal spinner games in that it tried, by use of the card, to get something closer to a real player’s result (Babe Ruth would hit more homers, Ty Cobb would have more singles). All the players were historical and I’d heard of all of them except one: Pinky Higgins. What follows is not simply my normal look at the playing career of Higgins, but some thoughts on other parts of his career.

Michael Frank Higgins was born in Red Oak, Texas in 1909. At the time it was a small East Texas town. Now it’s part of the Dallas suburbs. The “Pinky” nickname came from his childhood and he seems to have hated it. He made the big leagues in 1930 as a third baseman for the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics. The A’s won the World Series, but Higgins didn’t play in the Series. He was back in the minors in 1931 and 1932, then resurfaced with the A’s in 1933. He stayed there through 1936, then shifted to Boston (the Red Sox, not the Braves) where he remained through 1938. From Boston it was on to Detroit, where he got into the 1940 World Series.  In 1945 he was off to World War II, then came back for one final season in 1946, splitting time between Detroit and Boston. He finished his career in the 1946 World Series. For his career he hit .292 with a slugging percentage of .428, 140 home runs, 1075 RBIs, a 107 OPS+ and 27.5 WAR.  He also managed to hit for the cycle in August 1933. All in all, not a bad career.

After retirement from the game he managed in the Red Sox minor league system, then in 1955 became manager of the BoSox. He remained into 1959, then took over again in 1960, remaining to 1962. During the latter stint as manager he was also in charge of player personnel, making him a de facto general manager. He remained there until 1965, when he was fired. The Astros picked him up as a special scout.

Higgins drank, and he drank a lot. In 1968, while driving drunk in Louisiana he hit a highway worker. The worker died and Higgins was sentenced to five years in prison, one year deferred. He served a few months and was released with heart problems. He died in 1969, less than two days after his release.

But Higgins became, both during his tenure with the Red Sox and after his death, the center of a raging controversy about baseball and race. Although there are a few ex-players and staff who disagreed, almost everyone who knew Higgins agreed he was an extreme racist. Some have gone so far as to blame him for the failure of the Red Sox to integrate prior to 1959.

Now I grew up in Oklahoma and in West Texas. I’ve met my share of East Texas bigots (and to be fair about it, bigots from a lot of other places) and it wouldn’t surprise me that Higgins, growing up when and where he did, had his fair share of racial prejudice. But it seems silly somehow to blame him for the Boston race problem. He never owned the team. Tom Yawkey did. Yawkey never pushed to integrate the Red Sox (and for what it’s worth, Yawkey was from Detroit, a distinctly non-Southern town). Between the time Brooklyn brought up Jackie Robinson in 1947 through the arrival of Pumpsie Green in Boston in 1959, the following men served as General Manager of the BoSox: Eddie Collins (through 1947), Joe Cronin (through 1958). Neither man moved to employ black ball players at the Major League level (Cronin had several black players in the minors, but never promoted any of them). As far as I can tell, neither ever went to the owner with a plea “Mr. Yawkey, we’re losing and we can right the ship if we add a couple of black players.” Maybe they knew Yawkey would tell them “No.” As manager Higgins never pushed for integration either. I’m quite certain that Higgins was no friend to Black Americans, but it’s unfair to attribute the late arrival of a black player to Boston to him. He may have agreed, but he had a lot of others who nodded along with him.

 

The Kid vs. The Man: Boston

August 18, 2014
Ted Williams hitting

Ted Williams hitting

Most of us would agree with the statement that the two finest hitters of the 1940s were Ted Williams and Stan Musial. I’m sure some would hold out for Joe DiMaggio, but my guess is that most would prefer Williams and Musial (and I’m also sure some of you will pick DiMaggio just to show me how wrong I am). They were in different leagues, so they only faced off at the All-Star Game. Except, of course, in 1946 both their teams won pennants and squared off in the World Series.

The Boston Red Sox of 1946 were a team of hitters with a handful of pitchers who were good enough to keep the team in the game. They finished second in walks, third in strikeouts, and fourth in ERA. The hitters led the American League in runs, hits, doubles, walks, and average, while finishing second in home runs. Manager Joe Cronin’s team had 104 wins (50 losses) and won the AL pennant by 12 games over defending champ Detroit.

The infield (first around to third) consisted of Rudy York, who hit 17 homers, drove in 119 runs, and hit .276; Hall of Fame member Bobby Doerr who had 18 home runs, 116 RBIs, and hit .271; shortstop Johnny Pesky who managed 208 hits, scored 115 runs, and hit .335. During the season Rip Russell played more games at third than anyone else, but by season’s end and the World Series Pinky Higgins, who’d come over from Detroit and was in his last season, was getting the majority of time at third. Higgins hit .275 with 55 hits in 64 games.

Ted Williams, “The Kid”, held down left field. He hit .342, had 38 homers, and 123 RBIs. All that got him his first ever MVP Award (his second came in 1949). Dom DiMaggio (Joe’s brother) played center field. He hit .316, scored 85 runs, and led the team with 10 stolen bases. Right Field was unsettled with Catfish Metkovich  starting opening day. He got into 76 games in right, hit .246, and had 100 total bases. He split time with Leon Culberson who hit north of .300. The catcher was Hal Wagner, a .230 hitter with six home runs. Roy Partee, hit .300 in 40 games and backed up Wagner.

Tex Hughson, Dave “Boo” Ferriss, Joe Dobson, and Mickey Harris all started at least 20 games. Hughson and Ferriss both won 20 games. All four had more strike outs than walks, but Harris allowed more hits than he had innings pitched and Ferriss broke even with 274 of each. Only Harris was left-handed. The main man out of the bullpen was 38-year-old Bob Klinger who relieved in 20 games and picked up nine saves.

Boston last won a pennant in 1918, with Babe Ruth splitting time in the outfield and on the mound (although mostly an outfielder by 1918). Also-rans for almost 30 years they were finally in the World Series. They would have to face the St. Louis Cardinals (who they’d never faced in Series play) and “The Man.”

 

 

Star Managers

December 5, 2013

Recently my son reminded me that Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, and Ted Williams all have something in common other than being Hall of Famers with 500 home runs. Each was a manager with an overall losing record. Mathews’ .481 is the highest winning percentage of the four. He wondered if I knew that (I didn’t).

It got me to thinking about how commonplace an idea it is that great players don’t make great managers. The great managers are guys like Earl Weaver who never got to the big leagues,  Tony LaRussa who was a marginal player (he hit a buck-99 in 132 games), or Walter Alston who got all of one at bat in the Major Leagues. And no one is going to question that the three of them were great managers. But let me point out a small handful of exceptional players who made pretty fair managers.

1. John J. McGraw has the second most wins of any manager ever, and the one with the most wins of any manager who didn’t also own the team (Connie Mack). McGraw was a true star in the late 19th Century. He was the heart and soul of the most famous of all 19th Century teams, the 1890s Baltimore Orioles. He hit well, played a fine third base, ran well, and was unmatched at on field shenanigans.

2. Hughie Jennings was a teammate of McGraw’s and led Detroit to three consecutive World series appearances (1907-09). The Tigers lost all of them, but the next time they got the Series was 1934.

3. Yogi Berra led two New York teams to the World Series: the Yankees in 1964 and the Mets in 1973. Both teams lost.

4. Joe Torre, who admittedly wasn’t the player McGraw and Berra were, won four championships as a manager after winning an MVP as a player.

There are also a number of player-managers who were both successful managers and star players. Bucky Harris, Frank Chance, and Joe Cronin are only three examples.

So while it’s true that being a great player doesn’t necessarily translate to a great manager, it also doesn’t mean the guy is a disaster as manager.

The 50 Greatest Red Sox

April 20, 2012

The Birthday Boy

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, ESPN Boston just released its list of the 50 Greatest Red Sox. It’s an interesting list and frankly not a bad one, although I would disagree with some of the selections. Here’s a list of their top 10 in order: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Tris Speaker, Pedro Martinez, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, and Bobby Doerr. Before you ask, Jim Rice is 11th.

Again, not a bad list but I wonder how much Clemens rancorous departure and the subsequent steroid controversy contributed to his rank below both Martinez and Young. I’m a little surprised Grove is a top 10 over Wade Boggs or Rice, but why not. You got to admit, that’s one heck of an outfield, isn’t it?

In case you’re interested it takes all the way to 30th to get a full team. According to this listing, the best Red Sox team is:

Infield: Foxx, Doerr, Joe Cronin (18th), and Wade Boggs (13th)

Outfield: Williams, Yastrzemski, Speaker

Catcher: Carlton Fisk (14th)

DH: Rice (11th and the first position player who would not have a regular spot in the field, hence he’s the DH)

Left Handed Starters: Ruth and Grove

Right Handed Starters: Martinez, Young, and Clemens

Closer: Dick Radatz (30th)

Agree? Disagree? Fine, but compliment or complain to ESPN: Boston, it’s their list.

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.

A Franchise Best

May 20, 2011

Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators (and the Homestead Grays)

The loss of Harmon Killebrew and SportsPhD’s comment about Killebrew being the greatest Twins player got me to thinking. In some ways SportsPhd is right, but if you look franchise-wise (in other words all the way back to 1901) the answer has to be Walter Johnson. So that brings up the question of an All-Twins/Senators team. The slash is there to remind everyone that for much of their history, the Twins were in Washington. So I decided to figure one out for myself and share it with a breathlessly waiting world. Now I’m no Twins expert so I’m willing to admit that this list is probably flawed. It fact, it may be greatly flawed. It was also put together quickly with only a couple days reasearch. So you might want to take it with the proverbial grain of salt. But, it’s my best shot on short notice.

Now the caveats. This is a little easier because I decided to look for only a starting lineup plus a rotation and a manager. If you try to put together a 25 man roster you notice just how weak the Twins/Senators have been at certain positions (like thrid base). That’s actually fairly common. Try it with your own favorite team and see how quickly you start asking yourself “Do I really want to put this guy on the team?” Because the Senators were formed in 1901 there is no need to discount 19th Century players. Also, you’ll notice that the Twins have more players making this team in a shorter period than the Senators. Frankly, the Twins have been better than the Senators, so I’m not concerned with the percentages here. Feel free to come up with your own players and disagree with my selections.

Infield: Almost from the beginning, first base was the biggest hurdle for me. There have been a lot of good Twins/Senators first basemen: Joe Judge, Mickey Vernon, Kent Hrbek, Justin Morneau. None of them are really at the very top of any chart concerning great first basemen. OK, that means none of them are Lou Gehrig, but none of them are particularly close either. Ultimately I went with Hrbek because he was a solid first baseman, his 3-2-3 double play in game 7 of 1991 was one of the greatest plays by a first baseman I ever saw (and the Ron Gant body slam was a play for the ages) and he could hit well. I’m fairly sure that Morneau is probably (“fairly sure” “probably”, how’s that for certitude?) better, but until he can stay healthy and put in enough years I have to go with Hrbek. Second, short, and third are all fairly easy with Rod Carew, Joe Cronin, and Gary Gaetti being obvious picks.

Outfield: I was able to pick a left, center, and right fielder without having to double up on right fielders and drop a left fielder or some such thing. Kirby Puckett in Center Field is an obvious choice and for me Tony Oliva gets right field over Sam Rice. Yeah, Rice has a longer career, but Oliva’s is better, but over a shorter period of time. Old time Senator Goose Goslin get left field for this team. Did you know that Goslin is the only player to appear in every Washington Senators World Series game?

Catcher/DH: You know this is going to be Joe Mauer don’t you? If you think I need to justify that, you haven’t been paying attention to the American League. DH is where I put Killebrew. He wasn’t much of a fielder, but was best at first. I thought long  and hard about him there and if I was certain I was leaving out a great player, I’d move Killebrew to first. 

Starters: Of course this list begins with Walter Johnson, but you guessed that already, right? It’s amazing how far the drop from the team’s best pitcher to its number two is when Johnson is your number one. The rest of the list is good enough, but somehow just completely pales when compared. It’s also a little strange to see such an uneven list when you try to find five starters. I went with (alphabetically) Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat, Camilo Pasqual, Johan Santana. I have some reservations about both Pasqual and Santana. Pasqual’s numbers don’t look all that great if you just stare it them, but if you recall how awful some of his teams were, he gets better quick. And Santana just wasn’t there very long, but when he was  he was great.

Relievers: If the quality of starters is uneven, Twins/Senators relievers are amazingly good. There’s a long tradition of quality relievers going all the way back to Clark Griffith and the early years of the franchise. I took Firpo Marberry because he was one of the first truly great relievers and went with Rick Aguilera as the other one. I sort of miss putting in Jeff Reardon or Joe Nathan, but I like the other two better.

Manager: Tom Kelley was easy for me. Bucky Harris won in 1924, lost in 1925. Cronin was in charge in the 1933 loss, and Ron Gardenhire hasn’t won yet. So Kelley’s two wins are double anyone else in franchise history.

As a rule I’m not a big fan of these kinds of lists; there are just too many variables for me, or anyone else, to consider all of them. You inevitably leave off someone you shouldn’t and look like a total fool (trust me, Idon’t need a lot of help with that anyway). They are, however, kind of  fun.  So remember that when you look this over and go “What was he thinking?”  or rather “Was he thinking?”