Posts Tagged ‘Vada Pinson’

Winning Late

July 8, 2013
Johnny Blanchard

Johnny Blanchard

The last post around here was about a team winning games by scoring early and shutting down the opponent for the rest of the game. I mentioned that there were other ways to win, including putting up runs late in the game. If the 1963 World Series was an example of scoring early and holding on, the 1961 World Series was an example of doing it the other way.

The New York Yankees were defending American League champs (having lost the previous Series). They were much the same team in 1961 with a major exception. Ralph Houk had replaced Casey Stengel as manager. The Yankees ownership said Stengel was too old to manage. The Ol’ Perfessor’s response was “That’s a mistake I’ll never make again.” It was a team designed to bash the opposition into submission. Roger Maris set the yearly home run record with 61 (and despite the steroid sluggers of recent vintage, still the record for some of us). Mickey Mantle had 54. Five other players, including backup catcher Johnny Blanchard, had more than 20 home runs.  The team led the AL in home runs, slugging, OPS, and total bases. The pitching staff consisted of Whitey Ford and a couple of players having career years.

The Cincinnati Reds were afterthoughts in 1961. They hadn’t won since 1940 and had finished sixth the year before. They were led by MVP Frank Robinson, center fielder Vada Pinson, and a young pitching staff (only Bob Purkey was 30). They led the National League in doubles, but finished second in slugging and OPS. The staff led the NL in shutouts and gave up fewer hits and runs than any other team.

As was usual for me back then, I would have to catch the first couple of innings on radio at school (and again I had teachers who let us listen), then miss an inning getting home. But then I could sit and listen to the rest of the Series and root for my favorites. Well, 1961 was one of those years I didn’t have a favorite. As a Dodgers fan you are never allowed to root for the Yankees, ever. I think it’s classified as a sin or something. And the Reds had no particular meaning for me, so I could just sit back and enjoy the Series without worrying too much who was going to win.

Game one started slow, as did most of the games (and if they didn’t there wouldn’t have been much reason for this entire post). The Yanks got a run in the fourth when Elston Howard homered off Jim O’Toole. In the sixth O’Toole gave up another homer, this one to Bill Skowron. It was all the Yankees needed. Ford gave up only two hits, both singles (one in the first, the other in the fifth), walked one, and struck out six. New York scored in the middle stages of the game to win it.

Game two was the lone Reds win. They put up six runs: two in the fourth, one in the fifth, one in the sixth, and two more in the eighth. The Yankees got two runs, both in the fourth (and both in typical fashion–a two-run homer by Yogi Berra).

Game three was on a Saturday, so I got the full game for a change. It may have been the best game. Cincinnati got an early run in the third on a single, a couple of outs, and a Frank Robinson single. New York stayed scoreless until the seventh when they scored their first run on something other than a homer. A single, a passed ball, and a Berra single plated the tying run. Cincy was back in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead with a double, an intentional walk, and another single. But in the eighth and ninth the Yankees reverted to form when one-run homers by Blanchard and Maris gave New York the win. Again, they, won by scoring later in the game (this time the final three innings).

The game seems to have broken the back of the Reds. On Sunday, they held New York scoreless into the fourth. Then the Yanks put up runs in each of the next four innings to put the game away, 7-0. This time they did it without benefit of the home run.

I was back to school for the fifth game on Monday. This time there would be no waiting for the middle and later innings to determine the winner. New York jumped on Cincy hurler Joey Jay for four runs (of five total) in the first inning, highlighted by a two-run home run by Blanchard and a Hector Lopez triple. They added another run in the second on a Maris double. The Reds gave it a go in the third when Robinson hit a three-run homer. But New York responded by plating five runs in the fourth. The inning was highlighted by an answering three-run homer, this one by Lopez. Again, the Reds tried to keep it close when they got two runs in the fifth on Wally Post’s two-run shot. But New York got the two runs back in the sixth to close the scoring. They won 13-5 to take both the game and the Series.

 The Series is usually seen as a Yankees beat down of the Reds. That’s true of the final two games, but the Reds win was 6-2 and the first two games were close. The Yanks won with homers and scored a lot of runs in the last half of the game. Whitey Ford was outstanding, winning the Series MVP. For Cincy the season was something of a fluke. They slipped back to third in 1962 and didn’t resurface with a pennant until the 1970s. The Yankees would go on to win both a pennant and the World Series in 1962, then pick up two more pennants in 1963 and ’64 (losing both to the pitching of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Bob Gibson) before they collapsed. After 1964 they would not win another pennant until 1976, when they would, ironically, face the Reds again.

Some Miscellaneous Stats

May 3, 2010

I just got my latest copy of the magazine Baseball Digest. In the back there are several pages dedicated to stats. These are done by decade and show the top ten players in a number of hitting and pitching categories per decade. Each decade is done from the zero through the nine, thus the first is 1900-1909, the last 2000-2009. There are some interesting stats available.
First, there’s nothing particularly magical about a decade. Most good players have careers that stretch across more than one, and thus a list like this skews the numbers. But it does provide a handy way to group the stats. I don’t propose to put the list here; you can go to the magazine website and probably find it (I didn’t check). But I’d like to comment on some that I find interesting, the hitters first.

1. You get a feel for just how much Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb dominated the first two decades of the 20th Century. The categories listed are runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, stolen bases, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. Between 1900 and 1909, Wagner is first in all but triples, where he come in second, and in home runs where he comes in tied for fifth. Some of the numbers are fairly close, for instance he leads Nap Lajoie in batting by only .006, but in other areas he’s hugely ahead (almost 200 hits, over 200 runs). Cobb’s the same in the period 1910-1919. He leads all categories except doubles where he is second and home runs where he fails to make the top ten. Again he’s sometimes close (.030 in slugging %), but in other cases he’s way ahead (120 hits, 150 runs). No one else can compare with the two of them in the first twenty years of the century. No one else, even Babe Ruth in the 1920s, is as dominant as Wagner and Cobb.

2. The offensive explosion of the 1920’s is really noticable. In runs, Babe Ruth is first and he’s 300 ahead of Cobb and 350 ahead of Wagner. In the 1920’s Wagner’s 1014 runs scored would rank third as would Cobb’s 1051. Doubles, home runs, RBIs are very much the same.

3. You see how quickly integration of the Major Leagues affects baseball. By the 1950s black players are already getting into the top 10 lists although few of them played the entire decade. Minnie Minoso is on the list in hits, doubles, stolen bases, RBIs, triples, and on-base percentage. Hank Aaron is third in batting, Willie Mays fourth, and Minoso (again) is eighth. The decades of the 1960s and 1970s are full of black players who make the lists. You can see the gradual shift away from black players occur as they begin to be a lesser percentage of the lists in the 1990s and 2000s, the same time as Hispanics increasingly take center stage.

4. There are some really surprising people who are very high up on some of the lists. In the 1900-1909 period, Roy Thomas is second in OBP (.417 to .411). I kind of vaguely knew who he was, but this list made me take a look at him and begin a reevaluation of his abilities. Harry Davis’ career ends at about the same time the A’s become a dominant team, so he’s generally overlooked as a major player in Athletics history. Did you know in the period 1900-1909 he leads the majors in home runs, is in the top five in both RBIs and slugging percentage?  Want to know a secret? Neither did I. There are lots of these. Tris Speaker is second in doubles in the 1920s (to Rogers Hornsby) and I never think of him as a 1920s player. Vada Pinson, who is totally overlooked today is second in the 1960s in doubles, third in hits, eighth in stolen bases, and fifth in runs. Willie Stargell who isn’t exactly obscure, but isn’t the first name you’d think of, leads the 1970s in home runs (by four over Reggie Jackson). Who knew? I would have guessed Jackson.

5. Some players get shafted by the way the decades are compiled. Jackie Robinson, whose career is 1947-1956, ends up with numbers compiled almost equally in two half-decades. He makes the lists once (1940s stolen bases he’s 10th).  

There are other things, but I wanted to give you only a flavor of the lists. See if you can find them. My guess is they are on-line somewhere, not just on the magazine website. I’ll do pitchers later.