TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO THE LIKES OF FRENCH LICK, INDIANA, MARCH 15, 1945. Several spring training camps opened on this date to prepare for the 1945 season. But not in the hot-spots you’d expect. The country was still in the midst of World War II. Travel restrictions forced teams to train close to home. Indiana became a hot-spot for spring training.

Here where spring training was for a number of teams:
The New York Yankees – Atlantic City, New Jersey
The Cleveland Indians – LaFayette, Indiana
The Chicago White Sox – Terre Haute, Indiana
The Boston Red Sox – Pleasantville, New Jersey
The Philadelphia Athletics – Frederick, Maryland
The Detroit Tigers in – Evansville, Indiana
The St. Louis Cardinals – Cairo, Illinois
The Chicago Cubs – French Lick, Indiana
The Pittsburgh Pirates – Muncie, Indiana

… Just to name a few.

Major League Baseball also drastically limited exhibition games at the urging of The United States Office of Defense Transportation. Teams could only play games with other teams if they were on a direct route to their home city. Side trips were not allowed. Some teams played very few exhibition games against other teams that spring. But there is always Indiana.

Contributing sources:
Spring Training Notes, Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1945
United Press, March 16, 1945
The Baseball Guru



TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO SOLVANG, CALIFORNIA ON MARCH 14, 2003. Al Gionfriddo died on this date in 2003. He was 81. Gionfriddo’s major league career only lasted 4 years, a total of 228 games, but the 5-foot 6-inch, 165 lb outfielder ended his short career by taking the spotlight from a Hall of Famer. It guaranteed the Dysart, Pennsylvania native a place in baseball history.

It was the sixth game of the 1947 World Series at Yankee Stadium. More than 74,000 fans were on hand, most hoping the Yankees would close out the Series. They had a 3 games to 2 lead. It was the bottom of the 6th inning. The Brooklyn Dodgers had grabbed an 8-5 lead in the top of the 6th. There were two out, but the Yankees had two men on. Joe DiMaggio was up. He could tie the game.

DiMaggio hit the first pitch from Dodger reliever Joe Hatten.

It looked like it might be a new ballgame.

Gionfriddo raced toward the left field corner. He’d been put in left as a defensive replacement that inning.

He was running out of room.

Surrounded by Yankee fans.

His hat flew off.

At the last moment he reached out and grabbed DiMaggio’s shot – just feet before the 415 mark.

The inning was over.

The Yankees didn’t score.

DiMaggio kicked the dirt.

One of the rare times he showed emotion on the field.

The Dodgers went on to win that game 8-6, but the Yankees closed out the series in the next day. Al Gionfriddo didn’t get in the lineup. He would not play another game. After the 1947 season he retired, feeling pretty good about the day he stole some of the thunder from Joe DiMaggio.

Contributing sources:
MLB box scores etc.,



TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO ST. PETERSBERG, FLORIDA MARCH 13, 1954. A nasty break for a veteran opened the door for a future superstar on this date in 1954. It was an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. Milwaukee Braves outfielder Bobby Thomson was trying to beat a throw to second base. The former New York Giant , who hit “the shot heard round the world,” in October of ’51, slid awkwardly and broke his ankle in three places.

Thomson would be out of the lineup until July. Put into the lineup was a skinny, 20-year old kid from Mobile, Alabama by the name of Henry Louis Aaron . He would be a regular in the Braves outfield for the next 21 years (He played 2 more years for the Milwaukee Brewers).

With Thomson’s injury many thought the Braves were out of the 1954 pennant race. Sportswriter Henry McCormick wrote, “With him [Thomson] may go the Braves’ hopes of staying in the thick of the pennant fight.” But the Braves stayed in the ‘54 race almost until the end. They were only four games out on September 15th, finishing 8 games out in third place, 89-65. Aaron played 122 games, hit .280 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI.

Hammerin Hank would become and remain the home run king (755) until Barry Bonds broke it in 2007. Aaron remains the all-time RBI leader (2,297). He was voted to 25 all-star games (they used to play two each season). Aaron would have eventually found his way into the Braves lineup, but he got a little push on this date because of Bobby Thomson’s tough break.

Contributing sources:
Bobby Thomson
Wisconsin State Journal, March 14, 1954, by Henry McCormick,
1954 NL pennant race


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO NEW YORK CITY MARCH 12, 1903. The New York Yankees are synonymous with Major League Baseball (MLB), especially the American League. Did you know they were not one of the original American League teams. I digress. Actually they were, but why let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

Let me explain:
This much is true; there was no American League team in New York City when the AL was established in 1901. New York officially got a team on this date in 1903 when the owners approved a franchise move.

The franchise that would become the New York Yankees existed in Baltimore as the Orioles, not the Orioles currently taking up residence by Chesapeake Bay. Those Orioles trace their origins back to Milwaukee as the Brewers, no not the current Brewers, the Brewers of old that became the St. Louis Browns, which then moved to Baltimore and became the current Orioles.

Clear as pine tar?
This list of the charter American League franchises of the inaugural year of 1901 and what became of them may help:

  • Cleveland Blues – name changed to Bronchos in 1902, Naps in 1903 and finally Indians in 1914.
  • Milwaukee Brewers – Franchise moved to St. Louis in 1902 and became the Browns, moved to Baltimore in 1954 and became the Orioles, which they remain to this day.
  • Baltimore Orioles – moved to New York in 1903 and became the Highlanders. Name changed to Yankees in 1913, which they remain to this day
  • Chicago White Stockings – officially became the White Sox in 1903
  • Boston Americans – became the Red Sox in 1906.
  • Philadelphia Athletics – moved to Kansas City in 1956. Moved to Oakland in 1968. Named reduced to A’s over time.
  • Washington Senators – moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins
  • Detroit Tigers – remain in Detroit as the Tigers

It appears the Detroit Tigers are the only charter franchise to neither move nor change its name in the slightest.

Contributing sources:
Baseball-Reference “Leagues”
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox



TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS ON MARCH 11, 1901. Arrogant, ornery and extremely successful Baltimore Orioles manager John McGraw attempted to pull one over on the rest of major league baseball on this date in 1901.

The problem wasn’t that Tokohoma was a Native American, the problem was, he was Black.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer McGraw tried to sign Charlie Tokohoma, a Cherokee Indian, to a major league contract.

McGraw first saw him working as a bellhop at a Hot Springs, Arkansas hotel during spring training. The problem wasn’t that Tokohoma was a Native American. The problem was, he was Black.

By this time a well entrenched “gentgralemen’s agreement” dictated that no team would sign Black players.

Several sources including James A. Riley, author of The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues says Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, the gentleman that he was, let the cat out of the bag. He recognized “Tokohoma” as Charlie Grant, second baseman for the Columbia Giants, a Chicago based Negro Leagues team.

For a few weeks, McGraw insisted that Tokohoma (Grant) was Native American, and had him in the lineup for a few spring training games, but Grant never saw regular season major league action. John McGraw attempted to pull one over on the rest of Major League Baseball, but failed.

Contributing sources:
The Cincinnati Enquirer, Hot Springs, Arkansas, March 11, 1901
Baseball Think Factory
Charlie Grant
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO CHICAGO, ILLINOIS MARCH 10, 1995. Michael Jordan’s foray into baseball ended on this date in 1995. He gave up his dream of becoming a major league baseball player after one minor league season. Jordan said a players’ strike, which was going on at the time, was blocking his development, “As a 32-year-old minor leaguer who lacks the benefit of valuable baseball experience over the past 15 years, I am no longer comfortable that there is a meaningful opportunity to continue my improvement.” Michael Jordan’s experiment ends.

Thanks to the fact that Bulls’ owner Jerry Reinsdorf also owned the Chicago White Sox, when Jordan retired from basketball in 1994 he was given an opportunity to play for the Birmingham Barons, a White Sox Double-A farm team. He played one season:

Michael Jordan, Birmingham Barons – 1994
Games                    127

Average                  .202
Home Runs            3
RBI                              51
Stolen bases          30

While his stats were mediocre, 51 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases in 127 games against professional baseball players weren’t bad for a guy who hadn’t played baseball since he was a kid.

The basketball world now awaited the inevitable – Jordan’s return to the National Basketball Association where he led the Chicago Bulls to three championships before retiring in 1993 to try baseball. Michael Jordan returned to the NBA a month after he announced his retirement from baseball. He went on to lead the Bulls to three more world championships – 6 in all. But on this date in 1995, Michael Jordan’s experiment to become a major league baseball player ended.

Contributing sources:
Chicago Tribune , March 11, 1995
More on Michael Jordan 



TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO CLEVELAND, OHIO, MARCH 9, 1897. A member of the Penobscot Indian tribe was signed by the National League Cleveland Spiders on this date in 1897, and some later claimed that’s where Cleveland’s American League franchise got its name – a real Cleveland Indian.

Louis Sockalexis showed superb athletic ability and ferocious power playing baseball as a kid on the Penobscot reservation in Maine. Stories, some apocryphal, had him throwing a ball 600 feet over the Penobscot River and hitting a baseball just as far.

He went on to play baseball at Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame before signing a major league contract. His career didn’t last long. Before the turn of the century he was no longer a major league baseball player – heavy drinking took its toll. Sockalexis died in 1913 at age 42.

A year after Sockalexis died Cleveland’s American League team was in need of a new name. They had been called the Naps, after star player Nap Lajoie, but he was traded in 1914. The name “Indians” was chosen.

As time went by the story that the team was named in honor of a real Indian, Louis Sockalexis, was allowed to surface. Ithaca College Professor Ellen Staurowsky, among others, looked into the issue and wrote in the Sociology of Sport Journal, in 1998 that the name “Indians” was more likely chosen for exploitative purposes. The real story of why “Indians” was chosen was that it was a take off on the Boston Braves which were a baseball sensation that year for going from last place on July 4th to winning the World Series.

Contributing sources:
“An Act of Honor or Exploitation?: The Cleveland Indians’ Use of the Louis Francis Sockalexis Story,” by Ellen Staurowsky, Sociology of Sport Journal, 1998
The American Indian Quarterly   


TODAY IN BASEBALL GOES TO PARIS, FRANCE, MARCH 8, 1889It was a dream come true for Albert Spalding. A team of touring American baseball players he organized played an exhibition baseball game in Paris, France.

They finally settled on a park in the shadow of Eiffel's rising tower,

There was some difficulty finding a suitable field. As Mark Lamster wrote in Spalding’s World Tour, “Paris was endowed with countless formal parks and squares, but a large, enclosed space that would allow Spalding to charge admission was proving harder to come by.” They finally settled on, and got permission to use, the Parc Aérostatique, a park in the shadow of Eiffel’s rising tower, which would be completed later that year.

Albert Spalding, the fledgling sporting goods magnate, was a good ballplayer in his own right, and quite the promoter. He decided to tour the world to promote baseball and, in turn, get more business for his sporting goods venture.

He set out west from Chicago after the 1888 season with a group of 20-odd ballplayers, including stars Adrian “Cap” Anson and John Montgomery Ward. They barnstormed across the western states playing in cities like Omaha, Denver and Salt Lake City, eventually reaching San Francisco and settling sail for Hawaii and Australia. Spalding’s tour played in Sydney, Cairo, Paris, London and numerous ports along the way.

The tour returned to the United States in April 1889, more than a year after leaving. And just in time for the 1889 National League baseball (the American League hadn’t been established yet.) And many stories to tell of baseball goes to Paris.

Contributing sources:
Spalding’s World Tour, by Mark Lamster, Public Affairs Publishing, 2006
Eiffel’s Tower


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO CLEARWATER, FLORIDA MARCH 7, 1955.  Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick believed baseball had tipped in favor of the hitter. So, on this date in 1955 he said if he had his way he would bring back the spitter.

While visiting the Philadelphia Phillies training camp Frick said, “Something positive should be done to help the pitchers.” In advocating the return of the spitball Frick added, “There’s nothing dangerous about it. It was nothing like the screwball they have to throw today, with a twisted elbow and tricky snapping of the wrists. No wonder today’s pitchers can’t go on as long.”

Had the game tipped in favor of the hitter? Runs scored and earned run average (ERA) were up in the 1950’s compared to the 1940’s (during World War II), but runs and ERA’s were down from the 1930’s.

It’s true, throughout the years pitchers have been steadily pitching fewer innings and throwing fewer pitches, but for a variety of reasons, two of the most prominent being the proliferation of the home run, and the increased strategic prominence of the bullpen. Needless to say, the spitball did not come back – legally.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press, Clearwater, Florida, March 8, 1955
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)
Ford Frick


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO MARCH 6, 2006 IN PHOENIX, ARIZONA. Kirby Puckett always tried to look on the bright side, which would have helped his family, friends and fans when he died on this date in 2006. The former Minnesota Twins outfielder and member of the Hall of Fame suffered a massive brain hemorrhage the previous day, and died after surgery to relieve the pressure.

Puckett probably would have said something like, “It was a short life (45 years), but a fulfilling one.” This is what Puckett (5′ 8″ 210 lbs) actually did say when he was forced to retire in 1996 after waking up one morning blind in one eye, “I was told I would never make it because I’m too short. Well, I’m still too short, but I’ve got 10 All-Star Games, two World Series championships, and I’m a very happy and contented guy.

It doesn't matter what your height is, it's what's in your heart."

Kirby Puckett was born Chicago and raised in the Robert Taylor Homes, at the time, the largest public housing project in the country and one of the most notorious; infested with drugs, gangs and crime. But Kirby make it out, attending Bradley University for a short time where he was an all-conference outfielder as a freshman. He transferred to Triton Junior College outside Chicago and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1982 draft, after his hometown Cubs passed him up. He finished his 12-year career with a lifetime .318 average, and despite a shortened career finished with over 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBI’s.

Puckett’s pristine, community-conscious image took hit after he was forced to retire. His former wife accused him of threatening her, and he was accused (and acquitted) of groping a woman in a Twin Cities restaurant. As time went on he gained a tremendous amount of weight, ballooning to well over 300 lbs, which likely lead to his hypertension and contributed to his death.

Contributing sources:
Kirby Puckett – Baseball-Almanac
1982 Amateur Draft – mlb.com



YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA ON MARCH 5, 1973New York Yankee pitchers Fritz Peterson and  Mike Kekich dropped a bombshell on spring training camp on this date. They announced to the world that they had swapped wives… and kids and a poodle and a terrier. “It wasn’t a wife swap,” they said, “It’s a life swap.” It was no joke.

America had lived through the turbulent, permissive 1960’s, but this was a shock on so many levels, not the least of which was that the swap was announced to the world.

Just like in baseball; you win some, you lose some and some get rained out. Peterson and Kekich had been close friends for years. They said there was nothing sordid about the “affair.” They and their wives began discussing the switch the previous summer and put it in effect in October, 1972.

Fritz Peterson was still living with Susanne Kekich and her two daughters, aged 4 and 2, at the time of the press conference, but Mike Kekich and Marilyn Peterson‘s relationship had already gone south. Their living arrangement with her two sons, aged 5 and 2, had been on-again/off-again. It also became apparent that the two left-handers had had a falling out over one affair working and the other not. Murray Chass wrote in the next day’s New York Times that, “…it was obvious they had bitter feelings toward each other.”

Fritz Peterson and the former Susanne Kekich eventually married and had four children of their own. The last that was heard they were still married and living outside Chicago. Peterson attended a Yankees charity event in Fort Lauderdale in January of 2013. The Mike Kekich and Marilyn Peterson affair was over before it started. Kekich eventually remarried and at last report was living in New Mexico.

Both achieved some success on the mound, but neither saw their careers flourish after the swap. Kekich finished his 12-year major league career with a 39-51 record. Peterson had career record of 133-131 over an 11-year career. He also did better on the domestic front.

There are rumblings that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck may make a movie about the “affair.” No joke.

Contributing sources:
The New York Times, March 6, 1973, pages 51-52, by Murray Chass
The New York Times, September 9, 2009, Fritz Peterson writes a book
Washington Times, March 7, 2005
The Palm Beach Post, January 26, 2013   
Jackson, MS Clarion Ledger
, by Rick Cleveland, August 29, 2000



Here’s the story:

Baseball hasn’t existed in Japan as long as it has in the United States, but our national pastime has been part of Japanese culture for over 140 years. According to Japanese baseball officials, the game was brought to the Land of the Rising Sun in the 1870’s by Horace Wilson, a Tokyo University English Professor from the United States.

Wilson was born on a Gorham, Maine farm in 1843. After the Civil War he headed west to California and later to Japan. One day in 1872 (or 1873, depending who’s telling the story) he decided his students at the First Higher School of Tokyo, now known as Tokyo University, needed some recreation. He got their blood pumping with a bat and ball, and taught them the game of baseball, which he probably learned during the Civil War.

According to Steve Solloway of the Portland, (Maine) PressHerald, a game was organized a few weeks later between the Japanese players and a group of foreigners, one of whom was Horace Wilson. The foreigners won 34-11 and a Japanese pastime was born.

Contributing sources:
Baseball Reference
Japan Baseball Daily
Portland Press Herald, May 20, 2007, by Steve Solloway
Horace Wilson
More on Baseball in Japan


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO SARASOTA, FLORIDA MARCH 3, 1953. How does “Milwaukee Browns” sound? It almost became a reality. There was an attempt in 1953 to shift the American League’s St. Louis Browns franchise to Milwaukee, but that idea was out to rest on this date in 1953. As it turned out Milwaukee’s loss is Baltimore’s gain.

One door closing often opens another. That’s what happened here.

Veeck moved his St. Louis Browns to Baltimore where they started the 1954 season as the Orioles, and remain to this day.

Let me try to explain the sometimes convoluted machinations of Major League Baseball franchise moves and almost moves.

The Braves (today’s Atlanta Braves) were still in Boston in those days, but they owned a minor league franchise in Milwaukee. They would have had to move that franchise if a major league team moved in. St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck was eager to move to Milwaukee, and the city was anxious to get a major league team, using a $5 million, 32,000 seat stadium as an enticement.

It was up to the Boston Braves. Vice-president Joseph Cairnes said, “We wouldn’t stand in the way of Milwaukee getting in the major leagues, but before we give up the [minor league] franchise we want another Triple-A franchise of the same potential.” There wasn’t time to work that out before opening day 1953, so the Browns stayed in St. Louis, if only for one more year.

Veeck moved his St. Louis Browns to Baltimore where they started the 1954 season as the Orioles, and remain to this day. The Boston Braves eventually became Milwaukee’s first major league team three years later, though they didn’t stay long. The Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966.

Contributing sources:
Braves (Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta)
New York Times, Sarasota, Florida, March 4, 1953


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO NEW YORK, MARCH 2, 1927. Babe Ruth became the highest paid player in the major leagues on this date. The New York Yankees announced that the 32-year old Bambino will earn $70,000 per season for the next three years.

Seventy-thousand dollars a year in 1927 translates to about $1,000,000 in today’s dollars. Not a huge amount compared to today’s salaries, but that was before free agency when a player was the property of a team till the end of his career. The only way he could put on another uniform was if he were traded or released.

Major League Baseball salary records compiled by economist Michael J. Haupert of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse show Ruth was also the highest paid player of the 1930’s. He earned $80,000 in 1930 and 1931.

Below is Haupert’s list of the highest annual salaries per decade, as best he can determine. Haupert says records of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are “tenuous,” but illustrate how salaries have changed:

1870’s (Al Spaulding) $4,000
1880’s (Fred Dunlap, Buck Ewing) $5,000
1890’s (Hardy Richardson) $4,000
1900’s (Nap Lajoie) $9,000
1910’s (Ty Cobb) $20,000
1920’s (Babe Ruth) $70,000
1930’s (Babe Ruth) $80,000
1940’s (Joe DiMaggio) $100,000
1950’s (Joe DiMaggio) $100,000
1960’s (Willie Mays) $135,000
1970’s (Rod Carew) $800,000
1980’s (Orel Hershiser/Frank Viola) $2,766,667
1990’s (Gary Sheffield) $14,936,667
2000’s (Alex Rodriguez) $33,000,000
2010’s (Alex Rodriguez) $33,000,000

Contributing sources:
“MLB’s Annual Salary Leaders, 1874-2012,” by Michael Haupert 
“Ruth gets 3-year contract; $210,000,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 3, 1927


TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY TAKES US BACK TO FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA ON MARCH 1, 1969. An American icon of the 1950’s and 60’s retired on this date.  Mickey Mantle made the announcement at the spring training home of the New York Yankees, ending an 18-year career.

It’s remarkable it lasted that long considering “Mick” endured a variety of injuries, mostly to his legs. In announcing his decision, Mantle revealed the frustrations of a proud athlete, whose body would not perform, “I don’t hit the ball when I need to. I can’t steal when I need to, I can’t score from second base when I need to.” It’s cruel how 37 can look so old.

Mantle had superstar numbers, but they could have been better. He was the prototype 5-tool player when he came up to the Yankees at age 19. He could run, hit, hit for power, throw and catch.

Early in his career he was described as the fastest player from home to first, but that was before leg injuries turned him into a 4-tool star.

Career Milestones:

  • 3-time MVP
  • 16-time all-star
  • On 12 pennant winners
  • On 7 World Series championship teams
  • 536 home runs
  • .298 average
  • .421 on-base percentage
  • .557 slugging percentage

Being among the first superstar players to face the best Black ballplayers for an entire career, Mantle put a mark of authenticity on the American athlete. When the news came, “Mickey Mantle Retires,” it was the end of an era.

Contributing sources:
New York Times, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, March 2, 1969
More on Mantle


Spring training 2018 is in full swing, so is the business of spring training. At one time it was mostly a Florida experience, commonly called the Grapefruit League. It began when the Chicago Cubs moved their training from New Orleans to Tampa in 1913. According to the Tampa Bay Rays, more spring training games have been played in St. Petersburg than any other city.

Jump ahead to 2018…

Half the major league teams have been lured to the Cactus League in Arizona, mostly the Phoenix area. Suburbs such as Glendale and Peoria have gone all-out to lure teams to “The Valley of the Sun,” in hopes that “snow birds” from the Midwest and East Coast will follow their favorite teams there.

Sharing facilities has become more common. After training in Florida for decades, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers now share an elaborate state-of-the-art complex in Glendale (owned by the City of Glendale) called Camelback Ranch. It has fully equipped training, exercise, weight-room facilities for each team, in addition to 16 diamonds. And that’s the business of spring training.

Contributing sources:
The Official Site of the City of St. Petersburg, Florida

Tampa Bay Rays
The business of spring baseball



The National League Rules Committee met on this date in 1901. Among the new rules:

  • Catchers must play within 10 feet of the batter.
  • A ball will be called if the pitcher does not throw to a ready and waiting batter within 20 seconds.
  • Players using indecent or improper language will be banished by the umpire.
  • A ball will be called when a batter is hit by a pitch.


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO SPRING TRAINING OF PAST YEARS IN ARIZONA & FLORIDA. Do spring training records matter? In other words, how predictable are they to the regular season? Let’s take a look. Here are the 2017 playoff teams with their final Cactus and Grapefruit League winning percentages (not all teams play the same number of games because some end in ties):

AL 2017 PLAYOFF TEAMS (Spring winning %)
AL East – Boston (.563)
AL Central – Cleveland (.515)
AL West – HOUSTON (.500)
AL Wildcard – New York (.727)
AL Wildcard – Minnesota (.552)

The Houston Astros won it all in 2017. Many expected them to be good, but at 15-15 the Astros did not go gang-busters in spring training.

The New York Yankees had the best spring winning percentage in the major leagues last spring. They made the playoffs as a wildcard team, and advanced to the American League Championship Series.

NL 2017 PLAYOFF TEAMS (Spring winning %)
NL East – Washington (.433)
NL Central – Chicago (.419)
NL West – Los Angeles (.514)
NL Wildcard – San Francisco (.543)
NL Wildcard – New York (.469)

None of the National League playoff teams had great springs. Only the Dodgers and Giants were over .500. Conspicuous by their absence in the 2017 playoffs were the St. Louis Cardinals, despite having the best spring record in the National League, and second best in the MLB.

2017 MLB season 
2017 spring training results  



TODAY-IN-BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO NEW YORK – Maybe major league baseball – players and owners – learned their lesson. There were eight work stoppages from 1972 to 1995, a span of 23 years, none since, a span of 22 years.

It could be because the last work stoppage, which started in 1994, almost destroyed the game. It wiped out the entire post season, including the World Series.

Players and owners alike knew fans were becoming disenchanted, or worse, indifferent, to the annual spring labor rituals.

There was good news on this date in 1973. The players’ union and team owners announced a new three-year agreement ending a lockout by the owners at the start of spring training. The ‘73 agreement instituted what has become as common as the hit & run – arbitration. After so many years in the league a player who couldn’t agree on a salary with his team could take the issue to arbitration.

Everyone was relieved with the ’73 agreement. Players and owners alike knew fans were becoming disenchanted, or worse, indifferent, to the annual spring labor rituals. Besides 1972 and 1973, there were work stoppages in 1980, 1981, 1985, 1990 and the devastating strike in 1994-95. Since 1995 – harmony. Knock on wood.

Contributing sources:
Herschel Nissenson, Associated Press (AP), The Gettysburg Times, February 26, 1973
“Pro Sports Lockouts and Strikes Fast Facts,” CNN, May 30, 2016


“TODAY IN BASEBALL” TAKES US BACK TO BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS FEBRUARY 24, 1990. A life of such promise ended sadly at 4:30 in the afternoon on this date in 1990. Tony Conigliaro, the youngest American League player to hit 100 home runs, died of pneumonia at the age of 45. Tony C – gone too soon [also see FEB 7th story].

The turning point in Conigliaro’s life was 23 years earlier. At the time he was on top of the world. That all changed on the night of August 18, 1967. While playing for the Boston Red Sox, Conigliaro wasn’t able to get out of the way of an inside fastball from Jack Hamilton of the California Angels. The ball hit him on the left side of his face nearly blinding him. He was out of baseball for over a year.

Conigliaro made a promising recovery in 1969. His blurred and double vision appeared to have cleared up. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 82. In 1970 he had the best year of his career – 36 home runs and 116 RBI, but by ’71 his vision had deteriorated again. He wasn’t able to play in ’72, ’73 or ’74. After an unsuccessful attempt at a comeback in 1975 he retired for good. He was 30.

A legacy of Tony Conigliaro’s beaning was players starting wearing helmets with flaps on the left side for right-handed hitters and the right side for left-handed hitters. Today such helmets are mandatory.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press (AP)
, Boston, Massachusetts, February 25, 1990
Tony Conigliaro


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO FORT MYERS, FLORIDA ON FEBRUARY 23, 1987Kansas City Royals manager Dick Howser gave it all he could, but on this date in 1987 was forced to tell his players they would have to go on without him. Howser had been diagnosed with brain cancer the previous summer. He underwent two unsuccessful operations to remove a malignant tumor.

Dick Howser guided the Royals to their only, up till that point, World Series championship in 1985.

Howser hadn’t filled out a lineup card since the 1986 all-star game. Observers noticed during that game that he didn’t seem as sharp as he normally was. It would be the last game Dick Howser ever managed.

Jump forward to this date in 1987. He put the uniform on for the first time since that all-star game just two days earlier. It was the first day of spring training. The uniform didn’t fit. He looked tired and weak. Two days later, according to the Associated Press (AP) he said, “It’s just that I need more time to rest. I can’t do it like this.” He didn’t get better. Howser died three months later, June 17, 1987.

Dick Howser guided the Royals to their only, up till that point, World Series championship in 1985. In five full seasons as a manager, and parts of three others, his teams never finished lower than second place.

Besides the Royals, he managed the New York Yankees for one full season and part of another. The Florida State University graduate had an eight-year playing career, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1961. He played for the Royals, Cleveland Indians and Yankees. Dick Howser gave it all he could. He was 51 when he died.

Contributing sources:
The Associated Press (AP)
, Fort Myers, Florida, February 24, 1987
Dick Howser as manager: Baseball-Reference
Dick Howser as player: Baseball-Reference


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI on FEBRUARY 22, 1938. The St. Louis Cardinals signed a gun-slinging quarterback on this date in 1938. Yes, it was the St. Louis baseball Cardinals (the football Cardinals still called Chicago home in those days) who signed two-time All-American quarterback Sammy Baugh.

Baugh had just graduated from Texas Christian University where he was an innovative quarterback who relied heavily on a seldom used offensive weapon – the forward pass. He earned the nickname Slingin Sammy.

Baugh also played third base for the Texas Christian baseball team. He was initially recruited for baseball. That was the sport he wanted to pursue. After signing with the Cardinals to play baseball Baugh was sent to the minor leagues. He didn’t excel as well in the minors as he hoped and never played a major league baseball game.

Baugh played sixteen years in the National Football League, eventually being elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.

Here are other noteworthy athletes who played more than one professional sport:

John Elway – New York Yankees/Denver Broncos
Danny Ainge – Toronto Blue Jays/Boston Celtics
Dave DeBusschere – Chicago White Sox/New York Knicks
Chuck Connors – Chicago Cubs/Boston Celtics (star of the TV show, The Rifleman)
Deion Sanders – Several NFL teams/several MLB teams
Herbert Perry – Florida Gators quarterback/MLB infielder for 7 different teams

Contributing Sources:
United Press (UP), February 23, 1938, St. Louis Missouri
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sammy_Baugh#Baseball


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO WASHINGTON, D.C. ON FEBRUARY 21, 1969Ted Williams returns. The Hall-of-Fame slugger was lured back to baseball on this date in 1969 to manage the Washington Senators . This will be a challenge. The greatest hitter of all-time leading a struggling expansion franchise that had yet to finish a season with a winning record.

The Senators lost at least 100 games in four of its first eight seasons. Remember this was the new Washington Senators, a 1961 expansion team after the original Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.

Williams knew it would be a difficult task, telling the Associated Press (AP), “This may be a long, hard grind for a while.” And what about when he has to deal with a young player wound as tight as he was in his younger days? Would he tolerate a player with a temper, “If he can hit like Ted Williams, yes.”

Williams’ presence brought immediate results. The franchise had its first winning season in 1969, Williams first year as manager. They finished the season 86-76, but it was back downhill after that.

The Senators lost 92 games in 1970 and lost 96 in 1971. Attendance got so bad the team moved to Arlington, Texas in 1972 and became the Rangers.

That first year in Texas the Rangers finished with a record 54-100, the worst year of their history. The headline again could be, “Ted Williams Returns,”  but this time he returned to fishing and hunting. His baseball managing days were over.

Contributing Sources:
Chicago Tribune, February 22, 1969, “Ted signs to manage Senators for 5 years”
Washington Senators 1961-1971
Year to year results
Ted Williams


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO  FEBRUARY 20, 1963 IN  SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA. Baseball is often described as a traditional game that never changes. It’s a myth. Baseball is a traditional games that changes often. For example, the strike-zone has changed several times.

On this date in 1963, Alvin Dark, the manager of the San Francisco Giants, bemoaned the fact that the strike-zone will be raised. It will go from the top of the batter’s arm pits to the top of the shoulders.

Dark is worried his pitchers will have trouble keeping the ball down even though the bottom of the strike zone is not changing, “It’s the way they [the umpires] stand that raises or lowers the strike zone. If they’re up higher [to see the higher strike] it may pull the strike zone up.”





The strike zone has changed numerous times over the years, and many believe it changes depending on who’s calling balls and strikes. Here, according to mlb.com, are the “official” changes to the strike zone and balls and strikes:

1876 - 1-foot above ground to shoulders, batter calls for low or high pitch
1887 - Knees to shoulders, batter no longer calls for high or low pitch
1950 - Top of the knees to armpits 
1963 - Knees to the top of shoulders
1969 - Top of knees to armpits
1988 - Top of the knees to midpoint between shoulders & the top of pants
1996 - Bottom of knees to midpoint between shoulders & top of the pants

There also have been changes to:

-how many balls for a base-on-balls
-whether foul balls become strikes
-the makeup of the baseball
-the height of the pitcher’s mound

Yes, baseball is a traditional game that changes often.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press (AP), San Francisco, California, February 21, 1963
Official changes to strike zone


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO SEOUL, KOREA FEBRUARY 19, 1953. Ted Williams told the Associated Press (AP) on this date that trying to find a target with a Marine Panther jet “is harder than trying to hit that ball.” It was difficult even for Ted Williams.

The Boston Red Sox slugger had just returned from his sixth combat mission into North Korea. He was on the second military tour of his major league career. He served three years during World War II, and two more in Korea.

Williams was not alone among major league stars to interrupt some of their most productive years to get involved when the country was at war. Detroit Tiger slugger Hank Greenberg and Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller were some of the first to enlist after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 ushering the United States into World War II.

Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor if major league baseball should cease operations for the duration of the war and FDR said no, it would be good for morale.

While baseball continued during World War II, quality of play diminished significantly. If you were able-bodied enough to play baseball you were able-bodied enough to be drafted. Most players who hadn’t enlisted here.

By 1945, the last year of World War II, teenagers such as Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Red-Legs and men with conditions which kept them out of the service, such as one-armed Pete Gray of the St. Louis Browns were filling up MLB rosters. After June, 1945 many of the players began to return from military duty, which was difficult even Ted Williams, and get back to what they knew best – baseball.

Contributing sources:
David Whitley, ESPN.com on Ted Williams
David Hornestay, Baseball Survives World War II, January 7, 2008


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO 2007 IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA. Major League Baseball changed the rules for the first time in 11 years on this date in 2007. The Rules Committee decided that if a “regulation” game is interrupted because weather or some kind mechanical problem that forces the game to stop, and the game is tied, it is a “suspended” game and will resume from that point. A regulation game is “suspended” and resumed from that point if the visiting team has gone ahead but the home team has not completed an equal number of innings.

Under the old rule the game would have to start over and all statistics would be wiped clean if a regulation game was stopped with a tie score.

A “regulation” game is one that has gone at least 4½ innings if the home team is ahead or 5 innings if the home team is behind.

The rules are a little different in the postseason or any games that have significance to the postseason. All games stopped due to weather are suspended and completed later from the point of the termination.

Contributing Sources:
Los Angeles Times,
February 17, 2007
Suspended game


SPRING TRAINING 2018 IS UNDERWAY IN FLORIDA AND ARIZONA. THE NL DIVISION WINNER PREDICTIONS ARE COMING OUT TOO. Among the most eagerly awaited are the predictions from Baseball Prospectus (BP). Check out their in-depth analysis of every team and player in baseball. Here’s who BP predicts will win the National League divisions in 2018.

EASTWashington Nationals
CENTRALChicago Cubs
WEST – Los Angeles Dodgers

How accurate was BP last year? As it turned, pretty accurate. Below are the teams Baseball Prospectus picked to win the National League Divisions in 2017 and who actually won (See Feb 13, 2018 story for AL 2017 predictions):

EASTWashington Nationals (CORRECT)
WEST Los Angeles Dodgers (CORRECT)

It’a quite remarkable that Baseball Prospectus batted 1000 in correctly predicting all six MLB division winners in 2017.

Contributing Sources:
Baseball Prospectus, February 3, 2018
Baseball Reference


SPRING TRAINING 2018 IS GETTING UNDERWAY IN FLORIDA AND ARIZONA. THE PREDICTIONS ARE COMING OUT TOO. Here’s who Baseball Prospectus (BP) thinks will win the AL Divisions in 2018.

EAST – New York Yankees
CENTRALCleveland Indians
WEST – Houston Astros

How accurate was BP last year? As it turned, pretty accurate. Below are the teams Baseball Prospectus picked to win the American League Divisions in 2017 and who actually won:

EASTBoston Red Sox (CORRECT)
CENTRAL Cleveland Indians (CORRECT)
WEST Houston Astros (CORRECT)

BP batted 1000 predicting AL Division winners in 2017. Tomorrow we’ll look at how well BP did with the National League.

Contributing Sources:
Baseball Prospectus, February 3, 2018



TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO FEBRUARY 12, 1809 IN HODGENVILLE, KENTUCKY – THE BIRTHDAY AND BIRTHPLACE ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Some believe the Civil War helped spread the game of Base Ball. The war brought men from all over the country together. In their leisure, they took up the game.

Others, such as Patricia Millen, author of From Pastime to Passion, say the Civil War more likely slowed down the spread of Base Ball, which had already become quite popular in the Northeast in the decades before the war, and spread like wildfire after the war ended.

According to George B. Kirsch, author of Baseball in Blue and Gray“Abraham Lincoln’s rise to political prominence… occurred during the years when the game was achieving increasing popularity in all regions.

The earliest association between Lincoln and Base Ball appeared in a Currier & Ives political cartoon published in November 1860, shortly after Lincoln defeated three rivals to claim the presidency.

In the cartoon, each has a bat in his hands. Lincoln also has the ball and is saying, “Gentleman, if ever you should take a hand in another match at this game, remember that you must have a good bat to strike a fair ball and make a clean score and a home run.”

Additional reading:
Baseball and American Culture: Across the Diamond, by Edward J. Rielly


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO FEBRUARY 11, 1982. Wonder if the San Diego Padres wish they could have a do-over? An Ozzie and Garry swap opera involving two promising young shortstops was finally resolved on this date in 1982. Ozzie Smith officially became a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and Garry Templeton became a San Diego Padre. The trade was announced two months earlier, but seemed dead several times.

While 25-year old Garry Templeton started strong with the Cardinals (a two-time all-star) it was a less than harmonious existence. Templeton was suspended from the team in August of 1981 for flipping off the hometown fans. He demanded to be traded and the Cardinals obliged.

San Diego wanted to make space for Templeton by, believe it or not, trading Ozzie Smith. Smith didn’t want to go. Smith changed his mind and about coming to St. Louis because he felt the Cardinals wanted him and the Padres didn’t, which was exactly the case, “Any ballplayer wants to come to a club where he’s really wanted, and I felt really wanted in St. Louis.”

As it turned out, statistically, there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the careers of Ozzie Smith and Garry Templeton. Here are each player’s seasonal averages:

Ozzie Smith .262 BA, 37 SB, 50 RBI, 79 runs scored, .978 fielding %
Garry Templeton .271 BA, 19 SB, 57 RBI, 70 runs scored, .961 fielding %

But Ozzie Smith became a leader of a powerful National League team. The Cardinals made it to the League Championship Series (NLCS) four times during Smith’s career, winning three. They made it to the World Series three times, winning one (1982). The “Wizard of Oz” was a 13-time all-star, the starting shortstop 11 times in a row. Ozzie Smith was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Templeton made it to three all-star games and one post-season. They made it to the World Series in 1984, losing to the Detroit Tigers. The Ozzie & Garry swap opera seemed to work out better for the Wizard of Oz.

Contributing Sources:
Associated Press (AP), San Diego/St. Louis, February 12, 1982
MLB team histories


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO NEW YORK CITY IN 1971. Former New York and San Francisco Giant, St. Louis Cardinal and Philadelphia Phillie Bill White was named the radio play-by-play man for the New York Yankees on this date in 1971.  White became the first Black to be named the regular play-by-play man for a major league team.

The Associated Press described the development in the vernacular of the day, “the first Negro to hold such a job in the majors.” White held the play-by-play job for 18 years.

White was a pretty good player too. In a 13-year career, mostly as a first baseman, he was a 5-time all-star and a 7-time Gold Glove winner – as the best in the league at his position. Oh, and I almost forgot, Bill White was president of the National League from 1989 to 1994.

Contributing Source:
Associated Press (AP), February 11, 1971


TODAY’S STORY TAKES US TO SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA IN 2006. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? What’s with that? It would be like calling the National Football League Jets The New York Jets of New Jersey because the stadium they play in is in New Jersey, same with the Giants (come to think of it, that’s what they should be called, but I digress).

On this date in 2006 a jury in Orange County, California ruled that the owners of the American League franchise in Southern California did not breach their contract with the City of Anaheim by changing the team’s name from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The literal translation of "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" is "The the angels angels of Anaheim."

The city of Anaheim said the team violated its lease on the ballpark by including Los Angeles in the name. Team owner Arte Moreno said the lease only stipulated that “Anaheim” be in the name. The team’s media guide stated:

The inclusion of Los Angeles reflects the original expansion name and returns the Angels as Major League Baseball’s American League representative in the Greater Los Angeles territory.

Many of you older readers may recall the team was originally called the Los Angeles Angels because they played in Los Angeles. The name was changed to the California Angels when they moved to Anaheim. Anaheim became part of the name at the behest of the Disney Company that became involved with the Angels in the 1990’s.

Be that as it may, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is the team’s name until further notice, despite the fact that the literal translation of “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” is “The the angels angels of Anaheim.”

Contributing source:
Los Angeles Times, “Anaheim Strikes Out Against Angels,” by Kimi Yoshino and Dave McKibben, February 10, 2006


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES BACK TO LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA IN 1957. There was a time when baseball, and other professional sports teams, traveled with the rest of us – first by train, then by air. A new age was ushered in on this date in 1957. The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to own a plane. It bought a 44-passenger twin-engine airplane for $800,000.

Teams began flying in 1934, but not for every trip. Expansion to the west coast made air travel a necessity.

Travel has always been a major consideration for professional sports. Early on it restricted major league baseball to a relatively small section of the country. Before the late 1950’s major league baseball was entirely in the northeastern part of the country. When the National League was established in 1876 that’s where most of the population was.

These maps show the locations of major league franchises at various times. National League teams are in red. American Association (after 1901, American League) teams in blue.


It took too long to travel outside the Northeast in the late 1800s. It took 20 hours to travel from New York to Chicago by rail. Smart scheduling kept teams from having to do that, but even New York to Buffalo was a 7-hour train ride, making travel days necessary.

Travel days are a thing of the past as all teams followed the Dodgers – the first team to own a plane.

Contributing Sources:
“How the automobile ruined ballpark design,” by Alex  Reisner, March 22, 2006 (also published in The Baseball Research Journal of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO REVERE, MASSACHUSETTS IN 1945 – Tony Conigilaro was born on this date outside Boston. He grew up and realized the dream of many Boston area kids – to play for the Red Sox.

Conigliaro debuted with his hometown team at age 19. He was the youngest American League player to reach the 100-home run mark. The dream, along with his cheekbone, was shattered the night of August 18, 1967 when he was hit in the face by a fastball from Jack Hamilton of the California Angels (today’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). Teammate and friend Rico Petrocelli was in the on-deck circle when Tony C got drilled and later wrote in his book, Tales from the Impossible Dream Red Sox:

"I always believed there was a spot where Tony couldn't see the inside pitch. If you threw it to the right spot, he'd hit that ball nine miles. But then there was this blind spot, a little more inside. Sometimes he moved too late to get out of the way, and sometimes he never moved at all."

Conigliaro was knocked unconscious. He had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. His cheekbone was broken and his left eye severely damaged. For a time it was feared he might not survive. The cheekbone healed but he had a hole in his retina. He missed the entire 1968 season.

His vision miraculously cleared up and he played again in 1969. He hit 20 home runs and drove in 82, and was named comeback player of the year. He had the best year of his career in 1970 when he hit 36 home runs and drove in 116. He was traded that off-season to, ironically, the California Angels.

Tony C’s eyesight deteriorated again in 1971. He hit just .222 with 4 home runs and 15 RBI. He was increasingly difficult to deal with. According to the Associated Press (AP) his manager, Lefty Phillips, told reporters after a loss that Conigliaro “was ready for the insane asylum.”

Conigliaro sadly announced his retirement from baseball July 10, 1971, “I have lost my sight and on the edge-of-losing my mind.”

Tony Conigliaro, the heartbreak kid, died of kidney failure on February 24, 1990. He was 45.

Contributing Sources:
Associated Press (AP)
, July 11, 1971, Oakland, California
Seeing it Through, by Tony Conigliaro
Tales from the Impossible Dream Red Sox, by Rico Petrocelli


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS IN 1958. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot today, but 39-year old Ted Williams signed a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox on this date in 1958 for a reported $125,000. It made him the highest paid player in history. Ted Williams seemed to improve with age. Red Sox General Manager Joe Cronin said the raise was much “deserved.” “Teddy Ballgame” hit .388 in 1957.

Williams was in such a good mood he sat down for more than an hour chatting with reporters he often clashed with. The left fielder said, “I feel wonderful and feel I can do anything I could do five years ago.”

He was asked about playing first base, as many aging stars do in the twilight of their careers. “I don’t know about first base, it wouldn’t look good in left field,” Williams deadpanned. Seriously, he didn’t think it would be that easy to switch from outfield to first base as he approaches his 40’s.

Williams played three more seasons and could have played more. He played 113 games in his final season, 1960, and finished with 29 home runs, 72 runs batted in and a .316 batting average.

And, oh what might have been. Williams, like many players of that era, missed three full seasons during World War II when he was in his 20’s. He missed parts of two more seasons during the Korean War. He finished with 521 home runs. If he had played those seasons it’s quite certain he would have hit well over 600 home runs.

Theodore Samuel Williams, who seemed to get better with age, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966.

Contributing sources:
Joe Key, Associated Press (AP), Boston, Massachusetts, February 7, 1958
Ted Williams stats 


TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY TAKES US BACK TO  MOBILE, ALABAMA IN 1934.  That was the day Henry Aaron was born. He would become major league baseball’s all-time home-run king in 1974 when he eclipsed Babe Ruth‘s record of 714.

Aaron finished his career with 755 home runs. Barry Bonds broke Aaron’s record in 2007, tainted, however, by allegations of steroid use.

Henry Aaron, not unlike his unassuming demeanor, quietly set many major league records and is among the leaders of many more. Here are some as compiled by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR):

Most seasons with at least 20 HRs            20 (1st)
Most career RBI                                                     2,297 (1st)
Most career extra base hits                            1,477 (1st)
Most career total bases                                     6,856 (1st)
Most seasons at least 100 runs scored    15 (1st)
Most career home runs                                      755 (2nd)
Most career hits                                                     3,771 (3rd)
Most career runs                                                   2,174 (4th)
Most career at-bats                                            12,364 (2nd)
Most seasons at least 100 RBI                     11 (4th)
Most career games                                              3,298 (3rd)

It’s also remarkable, considering he was the all-time HR king for almost 40 years, the lists Aaron is not on:
Most seasons with at least 60 HRs                         0
Most seasons with at least 50 HRs                         0

Henry Aaron, the all-time home-run king was born on this date in 1934. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Contributing sources:
MLB batting leaderboards, Baseball-Reference
More on Hank Aaron


LET’S  GO BACK TO 1976 AND FEDERAL COURT IN KANSAS CITY. I’m not sure if Barry Bonds, Matt Holliday and C.C. Sabathia are religious people, but, you wouldn’t blame them for having shrines to Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith in their homes. Bonds, Holliday and Sabathia were recipients of some of the biggest free-agent signings in MLB history largely because of McNally and Messersmith, two pitchers who haven’t played in decades. On this date in 1976 a federal judge in Kansas City upheld a decision allowing McNally and Messersmith to hawk their wares to the highest bitter. They could bargain with which ever team they chose. They were free-agents.

With rare exceptions, players hadn’t been free agents since the late 1800s. When owners started raking in dough they realized that if players could sell their talents to the highest bidder salaries would skyrocket. So they instituted a reserve clause in contracts; even when a contract ended, and just about all of them were for one year only, a player’s fate remained with that team. The only recourse a dissatisfied player had was to hold out, not play. The only way he played for a different team is if he got traded.

Dave McNally of the Montreal Expos (today’s Washington Nationals) and Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Players’ Union President Marvin Miller directing, decided to challenge the reserve clause. They played the 1975 season, their option years, without contracts, the thinking being when the option year lapsed the reserve clause ceased to exist. The owners’ position was that the reserve clause just kept renewing itself. The parties went to arbitration and arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled in favor of the players. Major League Baseball appealed, thus today’s ruling. We’ve had free-agency ever since and salaries have… skyrocketed.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press (AP), February 5, 1976, Kansas City, Missouri
Free-agency signings
More on the reserve clause


TODAY’S STORY TAKES US BACK TO CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS in 1938. Future Baseball Hall-of-Famer, manager and broadcaster Lou Boudreau was a two-sport star at the University of Illinois before his major league baseball career. The U of I was forced to discipline Lou Boudreau for efforts to turn pro too soon.

The 20-year old forward and captain of the Illinois basketball team was disciplined for taking money from a professional baseball team. The Cleveland Indians was sending his mother monthly checks in exchange for the Harvey, Illinois native’s word that he would give the Indians the right of first refusal when he graduated.

Boudreau missed six basketball games at the end of the 1938 season. The Illini won two and lost four and finished with an uninspired 9-9 record in the Big Ten.

Boudreau ended up not returning to the University of Illinois in the fall for his Senior year because he signed a contract with Cleveland and started his professional baseball career.

He played 13 seasons for the Indians, mostly at shortstop, including nine as player-manager. He started managing at the age of 24. He guided the team to a World Series Championship in 1948, and was he league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Boudreau finished his playing career with the Boston Red Sox in 1952. He also managed the Red Sox, Kansas City A’s (today’s Oakland A’s) and Chicago Cubs. Boudreau began broadcasting Cubs games in 1958, and except for managing the Cubs for one season (1960) he remained in the booth until 1987.

Louis Boudreau, the two-sport star the University of Illinois was forced to suspend in 1938, was voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1970.

Contributing sources:
Boudreau as manager
Associated Press (AP), February 4, 1938s


FOR THIS STORY WE GO BACK TO NEW YORK IN 1876. The National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, more commonly known as the National League, was formed on this date in 1876. While the plan for the new league was finalized and agreed upon in New York City, it was organized by Midwesterners William Hulbert of Chicago and Albert G. Spalding of Rockford, Illinois.

Hulbert and Spalding were both involved in the National Association founded in 1871. Both were convinced the east coast dominated National Association was not any way to run major league. They wanted professional baseball to survive. Both loved the game – Spalding was one of the stars of the era – and saw major league baseball as a viable commercial enterprise; especially Spalding who wanted to sell sporting goods.

They saw the National Association as a poor business model. It allowed gambling, alcohol and players to move too freely from team to team. The National Association was also lax in its scheduling. It allowed teams to work out scheduling with each other.

The National League’s constitution was strict about gambling and alcohol, there wouldn’t be any. And every team had to play out its full schedule.

Hulbert and Spalding needed a solid plan before the start of the next season to attract select east coast National Association teams. They got commitments from Midwest teams in Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis to join Chicago. That’s where the February 2, 1876 meeting came in.

The gathering was held at the Central Hotel in New York with representatives from Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Hartford. They all agreed, and the National League was born. Play began that spring with those eight teams. As Koppett wrote, “It established a pattern that became the model for all commercialized spectator team sports from then on.”

Contributing Sources:
Leonard Koppett, Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, 1998
William Hulbert and the birth of the National League     Baseball-Reference


TODAY’S STORY TAKES US BACK TO NEW YORK IN 1999. The New York Yankees traded prospect named Mike Lowell to the Florida Marlins on this date in 1999. They got three minor league pitchers in return; Mark Johnson, Eddie Yarnall and Todd Noel.

With Mike Lowell, and several other quality players, the Marlins won their second World Series in 2003 - beating the Yankees.

Lowell became a 4-time all-star with two World Series rings, one as Most Valuable Player (2007 for the Boston Red Sox).

Eddie Yarnall appeared in seven games for the Yankees and was out of baseball by 2001.

Mark Johnson was picked up by the Detroit Tigers after never making it out of the Yankees farm system. He appeared in handful of games for the Tigers in 2000, but he too was also out of baseball by 2001.

Todd Noel never made it to the major leagues and is no where to be found.

With Mike Lowell, and several other quality players, the Marlins won their second World Series in 2003 – beating the Yankees. Lowell was traded to the Boston Red Sox after the 2005 season and helped them win the World Series in ’07. They made the playoffs in ’08 winning the American League Division Series but losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Championship Series.

The Yankees did let Lowell go, but was it a bad trade? If the goal of any team is to get to the post-season, the Yankees succeeded, more often than Lowell’s teams. The Yankees went to the post season 9 of the next 10 years after the trade was made. The Florida Marlins went to the post-season once in those 10 years. Still, most Yankee fans probably believe letting Mike Lowell go in 1999 was not a good trade.

Contributing Sources:
Yankees post season
Marlins post season
Red Sox post season


TODAY’S STORY RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DRAMATIC ‘SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD’ IN 1951. The Wall Street Journal came out with a story on this date in 2001 that the comeback by the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers, culminated by Bobby Thomson’s walk-off home run, was aided by espionage. It begs the question, did the Giants steal the 1951 pennant?

Wall Street Journal reporter Joshua Prager, author of The Echoing Green, reported that Giants players Monte Irvin, Sal Yvars and Al Gettel admitted stealing opposing catcher’s signs for about the last ten weeks of the regular season.

An electrician sitting next to the spy activated a buzzer in the Giants bullpen before each pitch; one buzz meant fastball, two buzzes meant curve.

The Giants clubhouse in the old Polo Grounds was in centerfield. The story goes that manager Leo Durocher had a player peer at the opposing catcher’s signals almost 500 feet away with a telescope through an opening in the clubhouse wall. An electrician sitting next to the spy activated a buzzer in the Giants bullpen before each pitch; one buzz meant fastball, two buzzes meant curve.

Giant utility player Sal Yvars is quoted in Dave Anderson’s book, Pennant Racesas telling Giant batters, “Watch me in the bullpen. I’ll have a baseball in my hand. If I hold on to the ball, it’s a fastball. If I toss the ball in the air, it’s a breaking ball.” The Associated Press quoted Gettel as saying “Every hitter knew what was coming, made a big difference.”

The Giants made a miraculous comeback in 1951 from 13½ games back on August 11th. They tied the Dodgers on the last day of the regular season, forcing a best of three playoff. Each team won a game, bringing the season down to Game 3 at the Polo Grounds on October 3rd. Bobby Thomson’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth won game three. It sent the Giants to the World Series and the Dodgers home. But did the Giants steal the 1951 pennant?

Contributing Sources/More information:
Wall Street Journal, Joshua Prager, January 31, 2001
The Echoing Green, by Joshua Prager, Vintage Books, 2001
Historic Baseball, AP, February 2, 2002
New York Times


TODAY’S STORY TAKES US BACK TO NEW YORK CITY IN 1958. #Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick saw a lot of red at the 1957 all-star game and he didn’t like it. He called the fan-vote for starting position players “a joke.” Starting with the 1958 midsummer classic, starting lineups would be determined by a vote of players, coaches and managers.

Frick must have thought, ‘Hold on. No Mays, no Musial! No way.' Frick replaced Bell and Crowe with the two future hall of famers.

The problem in 1957 was Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot boxes enough that almost the entire NL all-star team was Redlegs (The Cincinnati Reds was called the Redlegs in the 1950’s and 60’s because of paranoia during the red scare of communism. Anything “red” was considered verboten).

As it turned out, 5 Cincinnati Redlegs were in the starting lineup: Frank Robinson, Don Hoak, Roy McMillan, Ed Bailey and Johnny Temple, except for Robinson, not exactly household names. Gus Bell and George Crowe also appeared to have enough fan support to make the starting lineup.

Frick must have thought, ‘Hold on. No Mays, no Musial! No way.’ Frick replaced Bell and Crowe with the two future hall of famers.

According to MLB.com, players, coaches and managers chose the starters for the all-star team through 1969. The starting lineups, except for starting pitchers, went back to a fan-vote in 1970.

Contributing Sources:
MLB.com all-star game roster rules
Fred DeLuca, International News Service (INS), January 31, 1958
MLB all-star game Wikipedia


OUR STORY TAKES US BACK TO ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI ON THIS DATE IN 1958. Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals became the highest paid player in National League history. Stan “The Man” gratefully stroked his signature across a contract worth $100,000. Musial was being richly rewarded for winning his seventh batting title in 1957 with a .357 average. He drove in more than 100 runs for the tenth time in his career. The Associated Press reported that only Ted Williams of the American League’s Boston Red Sox probably makes more at an estimated $125,000.


The Cardinals made it clear they wanted Stan to stick around. According to the Associated Press the 37-year old former outfielder who now plays first base, told reporters, ”Baseball has rewarded me richly, and the Cardinals have always treated me more than fairly, this year in particular. I would have settled for less.”


Musial went on to hit .337 in 1958. He would play six more seasons, finishing with a lifetime .331 average. He was not considered a home run hitter, but hit over 30 six times and finished with 475 for his career.

Stan Musial was named to 24 all-star teams (there were two all-star games some years back then). The man richly rewarded with the biggest contract in National League history, was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.


Contributing sources:
Associated Press, January 30, 1958



The sports world woke up to sad news on this date in 1958. Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella had just closed his Harlem liquor store. He was driving to his Long Island home.  His car hit a patch of ice. The vehicle flipped and hit a light pole.

The robust, rock-like catcher’s neck was broken. It wasn’t immediately certain if he would survive.

Campanella pulled through, but he would never walk again. He was paralyzed from the shoulders down. He would regain considerable use of his arms and hands through physical therapy, but he would never play baseball again.

Roy Campanella survived an accident that could have killed him and went on to live a productive life. Still, it’s tempting to imagine what could have been. He probably had a more few productive baseball-playing years in him. He was 36 when the accident happened.

While he only played 10 years, he was one of the greatest catchers of all time:

  • 8-time all-star
  • 3-time MVP
  • 242-home runs
  • 856 RBI
  • .276 life-time batting average

The Philadelphia native remained employed by the now Los Angeles Dodgers, working with young catchers in the organization. He later became assistant to the director of community relations. Roy Campanella died of a heart attack June 26, 1993 at the age of 71.

Contributing Sources:
More on Roy Campanella
United Press International (UPI), January 29, 1958
Associated Press (AP), January 29, 1958
Campanella Obituary



Abner Doubleday died on this date in 1893 several years before a story would surface of which he would be a central character. You know, the story that he invented baseball. That story is certainly fake news, still, I would be remiss not to tell you about Doubleday since the name is so ingrained in the National Pastime.

Abner Doubleday was an extraordinary gentleman, but not for anything having to do with baseball. He could not have been aware of such a story since he died before it surfaced.

Doubleday never claimed, wrote or uttered that he invented baseball.

Doubleday was born near Albany in upstate New York. He spent more than thirty years in the military, achieving the rank of general for the Union in the Civil War. He was second in command at Fort Sumter. He  reportedly ordered the firing of the first shot in defense of the Fort off Charleston Harbor, South Carolina in the battle that started Civil War.

The story goes that Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY in 1839. The only evidence to support this is the word of a man named Abner Graves who was described as being of questionable integrity.

On the other hand, there is ample evidence that Doubleday did not invent the game. For example, while Cooperstown was home at one time, he was a cadet at West Point in 1839. If he was drawing up rules for how to play “base-ball” he was doing it while AWOL. Also, Doubleday never claimed, wrote or uttered that he invented baseball.

So how did the story come about? Baseball historian Harold Seymour wrote in Baseball: The Early Years that around the turn of the 19th century A. G. Mills, the fourth president of the National League, “wanted it distinctly understood that patriotism and research had established that the game of baseball was American in its origin,” and not a descendant of the English game rounders. A committee Mills chaired officially “concluded” as much in 1907. This conclusion was almost immediately debunked, but, being a good story, the facts never got in the way.

The story was promulgated to such an extent that a shrine to the game of baseball was built in Cooperstown, NY in the 1930’s – The Baseball Hall of Fame. A ballpark adjacent to the Hall is called Doubleday Field.

General Abner Doubleday accomplished a lot in his life, none of which appeared to have had anything to do with baseball. That story is clearly fake news.

More information:
“Baseball: The Early Years,” by Harold Seymour
MLB Historian John Thorn
The Doubleday Myth, The New York Times



These aren’t your father’s Yankees anymore. The New York Yankees were sold for $2.5 million on this date in 1945. If the Yankees were sold today, the asking price would be about 1400 times more than that – $3.7 BILLION, with a “B”.

MLB team values continue to skyrocket. The increases are almost incomprehensible. Even comparing for inflation, they’re way beyond the hikes in costs of everything else.

Here is Forbes Magazine’s comparison of team values in just the 10-year span from 2007 to 2017:

                                                                                            2007              2017
1. New York Yankees         $1.2B             $3.7B
2. Los Angeles Dodgers      $632M             $2.75B 
3. Boston Red Sox           $724M             $2.7B
4. Chicago Cubs             $592M             $2.68B
5. San Francisco Giants     $459M             $2.65B 
6. New York Mets            $736M             $2.0B    
7. St. Louis Cardinals      $460M             $1.8B 
8. LA Angels of Anaheim     $431M             $1.75B
9. Philadelphia Phillies    $457M             $1.65B 10. Washington Nationals    $447M             $1.6B
11. Texas Rangers           $365M             $1.55B
12. Atlanta Braves          $458M             $1.5B
13. Houston Astros          $442M             $1.45B  14. Seattle Mariners        $436M             $1.4B
15. Chicago White Sox       $381M             $1.35B
16. Toronto Blue Jays       $344M             $1.3B
17. Pittsburgh Pirates      $274M             $1.25B
18. Detroit Tigers          $357M             $1.2B
19. Baltimore Orioles       $395M             $1.18B 20. Arizona Diamondbacks    $339M             $1.15B
21. San Diego Padres        $367M             $1.13B
22. Minnesota Twins         $288M             $1.03B 
23. Colorado Rockies        $317M             $1.0B
24. Kansas City Royals      $282M             $950M
25. Miami Marlins           $244M             $940M 26. Milwaukee Brewers       $287M             $925M
27. Cleveland Indians       $364M             $915M
28. Cincinnati Reds         $307M             $915M 29. Oakland A's             $292M             $880M 30. Tampa Bay Rays          $267M             $825M

In 2007 one team (the Yankees) was worth a billion dollars. In 2017, 23 of the 30 teams were worth at least a billion dollars.

Everything costs more today than it did in 1945:

  • The average cost of a new home today ($371,200) is 81 times what it was in 1945 ($4,600).
  • The average cost of a gallon of gas today ($2.43) is 16 times greater than the average gallon in 1945 ($0.15).

But the value of the New York Yankees is 1,460 times greater than it was in 1945. And team values continue to skyrocket.

Contributing Sources:
Forbes Magazine
The New York Times, January 26, 1945
Census Bureau – home prices



What if Deion Sanders only played baseball? He decided to give baseball another try on this date in 2001. As the story goes, he was invited to spring training by the Cincinnati Reds. General Manager Jim Bowden gave the 2-sport star a non-guaranteed minor league contract to play for the Triple-A Louisville Riverbats.

The Washington Redskins‘ all-pro cornerback hadn’t played major league baseball in three years. Sanders played 115 games in the outfield for the Reds in 1997, hitting .273 with 56 stolen bases, 53 runs scored and 23 RBI, but he was 29 then. He was 33 in 2001.

Sanders made it up to the Reds for 32 games in 2001, but he hit just .173 in seventy-five at-bats. That was the end of his baseball career.

The debate that will never end is, how good a baseball player would Deion Sanders have been had he played with a bat and ball exclusively.

In a 9-year major league baseball career with the New York YankeesAtlanta Braves, Reds and San Francisco Giants Sanders played in 641 games, hitting .263 with a .319 on base percentage, but he was most known for his speed. He had 186 stolen bases, which average out to 47 per year.

His only World Series was an impressive one. He hit .533 (8 for 15) and had five stolen bases for the Braves in the 1992 World Series which was won by the Toronto Blue Jays. Sanders gave whichever baseball team he played for instant speed.

He had a more productive football career – eight time all-pro and played on two Super Bowl winning teams.

The debate that will never be answered is, how good a baseball player would he have been had he played with a bat and ball exclusively. He knew which was more challenging when asked by the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2000:

Q – What’s tougher: hitting off Greg Maddux or guarding Jerry Rice?
A – “Hitting a baseball is definitely the hardest thing in sports to do, not only for me but for a lot of guys, but guarding Jerry Rice isn’t easy either. I just make it look easy.”

Sanders was an exceptional athlete. We’ll never know how could exceptional a baseball player he could have been had he only played baseball.

Contributing sources:
Cincinnati Enquirer, February 27, 2000
Deion Sanders NFL stats



It was not an auspicious off-season for the Boston Red Sox in 1981. On this date the Red Sox had to trade the only player, up to that time, to win Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season, center-fielder Fred Lynn.

They didn’t want to part with Lynn, but the front office failed to mail a contract to him by the deadline allowing Lynn to become a free agent if he wasn’t traded. He was sent to the California Angels (today’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) for Joe Rudi and Frank Tanana.

Freddie Lynn came on like gang-busters his rookie season of 1975, less than two years after being drafted by the Red Sox out of the University of Southern California. He hit .331 with 21 home runs, 105 runs batted in and 103 runs scored. Oh, he also won a Gold Glove and made the all-star team.

He was almost the perfect ballplayer, as evidenced by being awarded the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards – the first player in history to win both (Ichiro Suzuki won MVP and ROY awards in 2001, but he had already played nine seasons in the Japanese major leagues).

Fred Lynn had a very good career, but only once did he match or surpass his rookie production, that was 1979 when he hit .333 with 39 home runs, 122 runs batted in, 116 runs scored and a .416 on-base percentage.

A Red Sox blunder also cost them that Carlton Fisk that same off-season. That’s a story for another time.

Contributing source:
Joseph Durso, The New York Times, January 24, 1981



The more you learn about baseball (or “base-ball” as it was referred to in the mid-19th century) the more you realize the game evolved. It was not “invented” one sunny afternoon in Cooperstown, New York. Here is another example of how the game came to be.

A convention of “Base Ball” clubs from the New York area met on this date in 1857 and made some decisions that would turn out to be monumental in the “evolution” of the game. Although the Knickerbocker Club of New York was instrumental in organizing the convention, the decisions made by those gathered did not go as the Knicks had hoped.

  • There was a general consensus to change the rule that the winner was the first team to score 21 runs (which back then were called “aces”). The group decided a game would last 9 innings. The Knickerbocker Club wanted 7.
  • There would be 9 players on a side. The Knickerbocker Club wanted 7.
  • A fielder would have to catch a batted ball on the “fly,” not one bounce, for an out. The Knickerbocker Club wanted the rule changed to “on the fly.” The convention kept it at “one bounce.”

There were other rules established that the Knickerbocker Club agreed with:

  • The distance between the bases would be 30 yards (90 feet)
  • The pitching distance would be 45 feet from home base
  • Five innings would determine a complete game

All the above changes remain in place to this day, except the pitching distance and the “fly” rule.

A number of other rules evolved over the years, such as the infield fly rule, what constituted a foul ball and whether it counted as a strike.

How many strikes for a “strike out” and how many “balls” for a walk varied from time to time before settling on 3 strikes and 4 balls in the late 1800s. At one time a batter wasn’t awarded first base until 9 balls were called.

Contributing Sources:
Baseball in the Garden of Eden
, by John Thorn, Simon & Schuster, 2011
“Convention of Base Ball Clubs,” New York Herald, January 22, 1857
“Our National Sports: The Game of Base Ball, etc.” New York Herald, January 23, 1857
Baseball Chronology
19th Century Baseball



Rogers Hornsby was elected to the Hall of Fame on this day in baseball history. Hornsby was one of the greatest hitters of all-time, probably the greatest right-handed hitter. He finished with a .358 lifetime average. Only Ty Cobb, a left-handed hitter, had a higher lifetime average at .366.

Hornsby’s most productive years were with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1915 to 1926. He helped the Cardinals win the 1926 World Series. He hit .424 in 1924 – the 6th highest single season batting average ever. No one has come close to since. Only three players have hit over .400 since 1924. One of them is named Hornsby.

Hornsby had a monster season for the Chicago Cubs in 1929, hitting .380 with 149 runs batted in and 156 runs scored. Hornsby also played for the New York Giants, St. Louis Browns (today’s Baltimore Orioles) and Boston Braves (today’s Atlanta  Braves).

“Rajah” as he was called, played all infield positions but was mostly a second baseman. He was a two-time National League Most Valuable Player. Hornsby and Ted Williams are the only players to win the Triple Crown (most home runs, runs batted in and highest average in one season) twice.

Rogers Hornsby was born April 27, 1896 in Winters, Texas. He died in Chicago January 5, 1963. He was the fourteenth player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Contributing sources:
Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1942 
More on Rogers Hornsby



Remember former New York Governor, and presidential candidate, Mario Cuomo? He had a promising baseball career cut short by a fastball. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1951 and assigned to their Brunswick minor league team. Later that first season he was hit in the head by a fastball. It was so serious doctors advised he give up baseball, which he did, and went on to finish law school.

Baseball’s loss was the Democratic party’s gain. Cuomo got involved in New York state politics. He served 3 terms as governor. He also, unsuccessfully, sought the democratic party’s nomination for president in 1988 and 1992.

Former Kentucky Senator and Congressman Jim Bunning is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a dominant pitcher for most of his 17 years in the majors. His best years were with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his career with a 224-184 record, 3.27 ERA, and is one of the few to throw no-hitters in both leagues. Bunning was a congressman from 1987 to 1999, and in the US Senate from 1999 to 2011

Talk about term limits, Connie Mack managed, and owned, the Philadelphia Athletics (today’s Oakland A’s) for 50 years – 1901 to 1950. His grandson, Connie Mack III, was a Republican congressman from Florida from 1983 to 1989 and U-S Senator from Florida from 1989 to 2001.

Contributing sources:
Jim Bunning stats
Mario Cuomo



I wonder if Chicago Cubs fans are aware that Theo Epstein walked away from the Boston Red Sox a little over a year after he assembled a team that won the World Series after their 88-year drought.

Epstein slipped away from Fenway Park October 31, 2005 – Halloween Night – in a gorilla suit to avoid the media. The Red Sox reportedly offered him a three-year contract worth $4.5 million. Epstein said it wasn’t “the right fit.”

As Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

It was announced on this date in 2006 that Epstein is  back  with the Red Sox. So he was gone about 2 and a half months. A joint statement from Epstein and owner John Henry read, “Ironically, Theo’s departure has brought us together in many respects… we now enjoy the bonds of a shared vision.”

The Red Sox won another World Series in 2007, but that shared vision got a little blurry after that. Theo left the Red Sox again in 2011, this time for the Cubs. The shared vision seems to be pretty clear on the northside of Chicago – at least for now.

Contributing sources:
Los Angeles Times, Epstein returns to the Red Sox, January 20, 2006



After winning 24, 27, 25, 26 and 20 games, then dropping down to 19 and 15 wins, future Hall of Famer Bob Feller not only accepted but suggested a 25% pay cut from the Cleveland Indians.

At $80,000 Feller was the highest paid player in the majors a few seasons earlier. His pay was cut $20,000 in 1950. Of course, this was before the days of free agency. The owners pretty much dictated salary terms. Players could accept them or go work for a living. Feller seemed resigned to the pay cut. While negotiations were going on he told the Associated Press that he was “not altogether unhappy. We seem to agree on almost everything.”

It turned out Feller had some good years still in him. He went 16-11 in 1950 and startling 22-8 in 1951. Like many other ball-players he missed some of his most productive seasons, 1942, ‘43 and ’44, to serve in the military during World War II.

The Van Meter, Iowa native finished his career with 266 win and 162 losses, a .621 winning percentage. He led the American League in wins six times. Bob Feller was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Contributing sources:
Los Angeles Times (AP),
“Bob Feller’s Pay Check Gets Scalped,” January 19, 1950
FoxSports, Dan Graf, January 18, 2016



Baseball great Willie Mays spoke out in favor of major league baseball owners on this date in baseball history.
The San Francisco Giant outfielder told broadcaster and former player Joe Garagiola, “If players control the game it is going to be bad. Owners must make some money, too.”
Mays’ comments were in reference to Curt Flood. The St. Louis Cardinals traded Flood to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood refused to report in protest of baseball’s reserve clause which put the player’s future totally in the hands of the team that held his contract.
Mays didn’t criticize Flood, only saying, “That’s a personal thing. For myself I want to stay in San Francisco, but if the Giants traded me I would go.”
Flood sued Major League Baseball and the case went all the way to the United State Supreme Court. The Court ruled against Flood in 1972, saying that Major League Baseball was exempt from antitrust laws. But the case paved the way for free agency.
Flood only played 13 more games in his career and retired at age 33. Willie Mays was traded to the New York Mets in 1972. He retired in 1973.
Contributing source:
 Jack Hanley, The Daily Review, Hayward, California, January 18, 1970


We go back to 2003 for our story. Major League Baseball owners met Scottsdale, Arizona on this date in 2003 to rectify a public relations embarrassment. The 2002 all-star game did not end well.

Commissioner Bud Selig stopped a tied game in the 11th inning because both teams ran out of pitchers. Fans felt cheated. The game was played in Milwaukee, Selig’s home town.
The owners decided to tweak the summer classic to make it more than an exhibition. Starting in 2003 the league that wins the all-star game will have home-field-advantage in the World Series. Fifteen of the previous 17 World Series champions had home-field advantage. The two leagues had been alternating home-field-advantage since the World Series began in 1903.
Teams will be urged to save pitchers and other position players for the eventuality of the game going into extra innings.
The January 16, 2003 rule change lasted about a dozen years. As of December 2016, the owners changed the home-field-advantage rule again. Starting with the 2017 post-season, home-field-advantage for the World Series goes to the team with the best regular season record.

Contributing sources:
MLB All-Star game
SBNation home-field-advantage
World Series recaps


JANUARY 15, 1981 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A feared and fearless Bob Gibson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on this date in 1981. St. Louis Cardinal righty Bob Gibson became, at the time, just the 11th player voted into the Hall in his first year of eligibility. Gibson said, “That didn’t affect me until I saw the guys who made it in their first year.”

They were Al Kaline, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn and Mickey Mantle (players like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb aren’t among the 11 because they were already voted into the Hall in its inaugural year of 1939).

Bob Gibson won 20 or more games 5 times. His best won-loss year was 1970 when he went 23-7. But his most dominant year, as far as he and most observers are concerned, was 1968. He went 22-9 with a 1.13 ERA and 13 shutouts. Let me repeat – 13 SHUTOUTS. An entire pitching staff is lucky to have that many shutouts in a season.

Oh, by the way, 2 of Gibson’s 9 losses were by scores of 1-0.

His ERA was the 3rd lowest in the modern era (since 1900). He won the Cy Young award and was National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1968.

The Omaha native pitched in 3 World Series. The Cardinals won two of them – 1964 against the Yankees and 1967 against the Boston Red Sox. He was MVP in both. His World Series record was 7-2.

Some little-known facts about Bob Gibson; He went to Creighton University on a basketball scholarship, averaging 22 point per game his junior year. Before he joined the Cardinals, the feared and fearless Bob Gibson played one year for the Harlem GlobeTrotters basketball team.

Contributing source:
Chicago Tribune Wire Services, January 16, 1981, “Gibson in Hall, no one else comes close.”
More on Bob Gibson


JANUARY 14, 1963 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS  Luis Aparicio was a Hall of Fame shortstop, a 13-time All-Star, a 9-time Gold Glove winner, a fan favorite everywhere he went, so why was he traded so often? “Little Louie” as he was called, was traded on this day in 1963 along with Al Smith, from the Chicago White Sox to the Baltimore Orioles for Hoyt Wilhelm, Dave Nicholson, Pete Ward, and Ron Hansen.

Aparicio was traded three times, but one of those was back to the White Sox, the team he started his career with. There was never a hint of Aparicio being anything but a team player.

When he retired in 1973 Aparicio was the all-time leader in games played, assists and putouts by a shortstop. He was the American League stolen base leader nine years in a row. He helped the White Sox get to the World Series in 1959 and helped the Baltimore Orioles win the World Series in 1966.

In an 18-year big league career the Venezuelan born Aparicio never played any position other than shortstop?

Luis Aparicio was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. So, why was he traded so often?

Contributing source:


JANUARY 13, 1958 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS The New York Times reported on this date in 1958 that disgraced Chicago White Sox third baseman Buck Weaver pleaded with the Commissioner who banned him to reconsider. Weaver and Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis met informally a week earlier, but it was not publicly disclosed.

Weaver had been kicked out of major league baseball for life for being part of a conspiracy to throw the 1919 World Series. Despite he and seven other players being acquitted of taking bribes from gamblers (mainly because their confessions were mysteriously lost), baseball banned them anyway for associating with gamblers. The evidence was that Weaver refused to take part in the plan but never spoke up about it either.

Weaver hit .324 in the series and played errorless third base, which lent credence to his declaration that he wasn’t involved, but Commissioner Landis wouldn’t budge.

This was the first of several pleas by George “Buck” Weaver during his lifetime to get his named cleared. He died in 1956 at age 65, his pleas going unanswered.

Contributing sources:
The New York Times, January 14, 1922
1919 World Series stats, box scores


JANUARY 12, 1961 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS • Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley dropped a bombshell on the baseball world on this date in 1961. He would not have a manager for the upcoming season. Instead he would institute a Cubs College of Coaches

The franchise had been struggling. The Cubs were 60-94 in 1960, the eighth year in a row the team lost more games than it won. The status quo wasn’t working. Wrigley wanted to change it.

Wrigley considered the manager a “dictator,” and instead would rotate eight coaches through the major and minor leagues. Each would take turns running the major league club. Length of stay would depend on how well the “coach” was doing. This brain trust became known as the College of Coaches.

Wrigley wanted help from another unlikely source, “Everyone has always said baseball is a game of percentages, but I have yet to find anyone in baseball who can figure the percentages.” He wanted an IBM machine in the dugout so whoever was running the team could access statistical information about opposing, as well as Cub players. This information would in turn help dictate game strategy. Mind you, this is decades before the personal computer.

The Ivy League approach didn’t work. The Cubs finished the 1961 season 64-90, just four games better than the year before. The situation got worse in 1962 when the Cubs lost 103 games on a 154-game schedule, the worst season the Cubs ever had. And that was the end of the Cubs College of Coaches.

Contributing sources:
Chicago Daily Tribune, 
January 13, 1961, by E. Prell, 
MLB stats
Philip K. Wrigley 


JANUARY 11, 1971 | DULUTH, MINNESOTA – Detroit Tiger pitcher John Hiller suffered a heart attack at his home in Duluth, Minnesota on this date in 1971. The Tiger was just 27-years old when he was stricken. According to Bruce Markusen of Detroit Sports History, Hiller was not out of shape or overweight, but he was a heavy smoker.

Hiller recovered, and amazingly, despite missing the entire 1971 season, had better years after the heart attack than before.

The Canadian native broke in with the Tigers in 1965. The most games he won before his heart attack was nine, the most saves he had (Hiller was mostly a reliever) was four. After returning to baseball Hiller won ten games and had thirty-eight saves in 1973. He won seventeen games in ’74 – all in relief, an American League record – and had twelve wins in ’76.

Hiller’s entire 15-year career was with Detroit. He finished with 87 wins and 76 losses and a sparkling earned run average of 2.83.

Contributing sources:
Detroit Sports History
John Hiller, Wikipedia


JANUARY 10, 2006 | ATLANTA, GEORGIA – For the first time a pitcher who never started a game was elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame on this date in 2006. Closer Bruce Sutter got the call at his home in Atlanta that he was just the fourth relief pitcher invited to the Hall. The others were Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley, but they all started games during their careers.

It was a bad break that paved the way for Sutter. Mike Spellman of Chicago’s Daily Herald wrote that Sutter was discovered by Chicago Cubs scout Ralph Diullo playing semi-pro ball in Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1971.

Sutter was only two games into his minor league career when he injured his elbow requiring surgery. He didn’t pitch again until 1973 and when he did his fastball was gone. Sutter credits Cubs minor league pitching coaches Fred Martin and Mike Roarke with showing him how to throw a splitter. That was the pitch that got him 300 Saves in a 12-year career.

Sutter was a throw-back closer. He frequently pitched more than one inning in an appearance. Five times he pitched over 100 innings. For ten straight seasons Sutter pitched at least 80 innings. Mariano Rivera pitched 100 innings once. Only twice has he pitched over 80. White Sox closer Bobby Jenks has never pitched more than 70 innings in a season.

Contributing Sources:
Paul Newberry, Associated Press, January 11, 2006
Mike Spellman, Daily Herald (suburban Chicago), January 11, 2006


JANUARY 9, 1903 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK • Here’s an “I didn’t know that” story. On this day in baseball history the owners of the Baltimore Orioles sold the team to New Yorkers Frank Farrell and Bill Devery who moved the franchise to New York City.

The team was called the Highlanders because they played in one of the highest spots in upper Manhattan on, what is now, the Columbia University campus. The team didn’t become known as the Yankees until 1913. So, No, the New York Yankees, the most storied franchise in professional sports, was not an original member of the American League.

*  *  *

Here’s how it evolved, according to several sources including Leonard Koppett, author of, Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, a good read by the way. The National League (NL) had been in business for a quarter century when Ban Johnson began shaking things up in 1900. He ran a minor league called the Western League. He wanted it to be “major” and compete with the National League. Should the leagues be adversaries or work something out?

The National League was torn. It had a monopoly on professional baseball as the only “major” league. It also knew expanding the major leagues would spread the gospel of baseball. And A. G. Spaulding, a major player in the National League, would sell more sports equipment – his real passion.

Ban Johnson forced the action in 1900 by changing the Western League’s name to the American League (AL). He declared it a “major” league in 1901. The NL and AL worked things out by agreeing to a uniform set of rules, not stealing each other’s players, etc., and began the 1901 season as dual major leagues.

The National League’s New York Giants didn’t want competition from the upstart American League. For two years, it got its way. Instead of putting a team in New York City the American League put a team in Baltimore for its inaugural season and called it the Orioles. Upon the sale of the Orioles to Farrell and Devery (referenced above) the National League could keep the American League out of New York City no longer. A franchise that would become the most prominent in sports, the Yankees, was put in place.

Today’s Baltimore Orioles are a different franchise all together, though, also one of the league’s originals [I know, this is like trying to keep score in an extra-inning game]. It started out as the Milwaukee Brewers (no connection to the current Brewers), but moved to Missouri after one season (1902) and became the St. Louis Browns. The Browns left St. Louis for Maryland in 1954 and changed its name to the Orioles – the Orioles that call The Ballpark at Camden Yards home today.

More information:
The New York Times
, January 10, 1903


JANUARY 8, 1991 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Three boom beauties – stars baby-boomers grew up watching – were elected to the Hall of Fame on this date in 1991. Hitting maestro Rod Carew made it in his first year of eligibility. Pitchers Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins each made it in their third.

Carew was born in Panama, and raised in New York City. He played most of his career with the Minnesota Twins. He finished his career with 3,053 hits and a .328 batting average. He hit .300 or better 15 years in a row. In the history of the game only Ty Cobb, Stan Musial and Honus Wagner did better.

Just about every year was a great year for Carew, but 1977 stands out. He hit .388 with 100 RBI and 128 runs scored, 239 hits and was named American League MVP.

Gaylord Perry was 314-265 in a 22-year career with seven different teams, mostly the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. He won the Cy Young award in both leagues, the first player to do that, and was a five-time all star. A cloud also obscured Gaylord Perry’s accomplishments. He was suspected throughout his career of throwing a spitball.

Ferguson Jenkins won at least 20-games six seasons in a row for the Chicago Cubs in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. He was traded to the Texas Rangers after winning only 14 games in 1973 but rebounded with a vengeance by winning 25 games for the Rangers in ’74. He had seven more double digit win seasons. The Canadian born right-hander won the Cy Young award in 1971 and was a 3-time all-star.

Despite being boom beauties, and as accomplished as Rod Carew, Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins were, none of them ever played in a World Series.

Contributing source:
Runs scored leaders


BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS  The Boston Red Sox had an easier time winning the 2004 World Series than figuring out who would take possession of the ball from the final out.

When Red Sox closer Keith Foulke fielded a grounder by Edgar Renteria and tossed it to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to end the game it completed a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, and gave the Red Sox their first World Series championship since 1918. Well aware of the significance of the ball, Mientkiewicz held on to it.

According to the Associated Press he gave the ball to his wife and eventually put it in a safe deposit box. The Red Sox management also saw the significance of the ball and wanted it in its possession rather than that of a part-time first baseman that had only been with the Red Sox for half a year.

The Associated Press also reported that team owner John Henry and Mientkiewicz talked by phone on this day in baseball history in 2005. Mientkiewicz only said it was a “nice conversation.”

It would be another fifteen months of haggling, which included the filing of a lawsuit, before Mientkiewicz, who had since been traded, and the Red Sox would settle the dispute. In the spring of 2006 both sides agreed to send the ball to the Hall of Fame.

Contributing sources:
The Lesson of Doug Mientkiewicz, by Wayne Drehs, ESPN,  April 20, 2011
Howard Ulman, The Associated Press, January 8, 2005


JANUARY 6, 1964 | FRANKFORT, KENTUCKY • Owner Charlie Finley‘s first choice for where to move his A’s was Louisville not Oakland. On this date in 1964 he signed a contract to move the franchise from Kansas City to Louisville. All that remained was the approval of 6 of the other 19 owners.
But Charlie Finley didn’t play well with others. He was not well liked by many of his colleagues. Chicago White Sox owner Arthur Allyn didn’t mince words, “Finley is a fool and his action is inexcusable. He has no right whatsoever to attempt such a move. He has an obligation to the people of Kansas City and he had better make it good. I don’t have to tell you how the White Sox will vote on the matter.”
Ironically, Cincinnati Reds General Manager Bill DeWitt didn’t have a problem with the move, even though Louisville was only 110 miles away. He thought it would increase the fan base for everyone.
As it turned out, the move was not approved. It never happened. The A’s, a charter American League franchise that originated in Philadelphia in 1901, moved to Kansas City in 1955, and Oakland in 1968 where they remain.
How does “Louisville A’s” sound? We’re unlikely to ever find out.
Contributing Sources:
“Vagabond A’s led colorful past lives in Philadelphia, Kansas City,“ Aug 16, 2016 by Thomas Neumann ESPN.com Associated Press, January 7, 1964
A’s history


JANUARY 5, 1915 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Did the National and American Leagues get preferential treatment? A short-lived 3rd major league sued the National and American Leagues on this date in 1915. The Federal League claimed the NL and AL created an illegal monopoly, which made it difficult for the upstart league to survive. Although the Federal League did not get a verdict in its favor, the effects of its lawsuit are felt more than 100 years later.

The lawsuit was presided over by Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. As Leonard Koppett writes in Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, Landis was known for his hard line against monopolies. That’s not how things worked out in this situation.

The case never went to trial. Landis helped bring about a settlement whereby the American and National Leagues bought-out some of the Federal League owners who were heavy in debt. A couple Federal League owners became owners of American and National League teams.

The bottom line is the Federal League lawsuit went away. The American and National League owners got their way. A few years later major league baseball hired its first commissioner – Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

The Federal League was the last major attempt at a 3rd major league. It was put together by a group of businessmen in 1913 hoping to cash in on the popularity of baseball. The league competed against the National and American Leagues in 1914 and 1915. It signed some established stars and had decent attendance, but the established major leagues felt threatened and began to match salaries and tie the Federal League up in court.

The Federal League won the lawsuits, but the costs became a burden. Owners went heavy into debt, so FL owners tried to turn the tables on the American and National Leagues by filing the lawsuit mentioned above.

There is an interesting and lasting postscript to this story. One of the Federal League teams neither bought out nor absorbed by the National and American Leagues was the Baltimore Terrapins, so they filed their own lawsuit against the major leagues. The result was a 1922 Supreme Court decision saying Major League Baseball was primarily entertainment and therefore except from the Sherman Antitrust Act. The exception remains basically intact today, though it’s been eroded somewhat by free-agency.

And one of the most famous venues in sports owes its birth to the long-deceased league. The ballpark now known as Wrigley Field was initially built for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League.

Back to the original question; did the National and American Leagues get preferential treatment? It appears so.

Federal League Teams
Baltimore Terrapins
Brooklyn Tip-Tops
Buffalo Blues
Chicago Whales
Indianapolis Hoosiers (1914 only)
Newark Peppers (1915 only)
Kansas City Packers
Pittsburgh Rebels
St. Louis Terriers

Contributing sources:
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball , by Leonard Koppett
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Sherman Antitrust Act
The Chicago Whales & Weeghman Park


JANUARY 4, 2002 | MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA The Minnesota Twins hired a new manager on this date in 2002 without knowing if there would be a team to manage. Ron Gardenhire was chosen to replace former manager Tom Kelly who retired.

The fate of the Twins and the National League’s Montreal Expos was in question because of contraction. Major League Baseball owners voted after the 2001 season to eliminate two franchises that weren’t making enough money and had lousy stadium deals. The owners didn’t say which two teams those were, but the Twins and Expos fit the criteria.

As it turned out the Minnesota Twins got a new stadium deal and remain in Minneapolis. Minnesota has a new manager and a team to manage. Montreal did not get a stadium deal. The Expos franchise moved to Washington, D. C. in 2005 and became the Washington Nationals.

Contributing Sources:
ESPN, (AP-Associated Press), “Twins spared through 2003 in lawsuit settlement
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), January 5, 2002


JANUARY 3, 1973 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK  George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees for $10-million on this date in 1973.  This is the date the Steinbrenner era begins. He put together a group that bought the team from the  CBS television network, but Steinbrenner was clearly the boss.

George Steinbrenner would prove to be the most domineering owner since Connie Mack. Where would the Yankees be without him? Where would Seinfeld be without him? He was more famous, or infamous, than many of his players. He was not one to sit back and let the baseball people run the team, although that’s what he said was his intention in 1973. As time went on he assumed more and more control of the daily operations, and grew more and more impatient, going through a slew of managers in a short time.

He was also loyal. He hired former Yankee second baseman Billy Martin as manager five times, which of course means he fired him five times.

George Steinbrenner was born July 4, 1930. He grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, the son of a Great Lakes shipping tycoon. He did well enough in the family business to have enough money to pursue the Yankees. Despite having little experience in baseball, he made a successful bid on the Yankees at the age of 42.

Prior to purchasing the Yankees, Steinbrenner’s experience was in other sports. He ran track and played football in college. He was an assistant football coach at Northwestern University and later at Purdue.

Steinbrenner got into sports ownership in 1960 when he bought the Cleveland Pipers of the National Industrial Basketball League.

As owner of the New York Yankees, Steinbrenner found himself in the baseball commissioner’s dog house more than once. He was suspended from baseball for two years in 1974 after making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon’s presidential re-election campaign. He was suspended again in 1990 after making payments to a confessed gambler who had some dirt on one of his former players, Dave Winfield.

But you can’t argue with success. During the Steinbrenner era the Yankees went to the World Series ten times and won seven of them. And that $10 Million investment in 1973 is now estimated to be worth $3.7 Billion, that’s “Billion” with a “B.” George Steinbrenner died in 2010 at the age of 80.

Contributing sources:
More on George Steinbrenner
MLB Team values


JANUARY 2,  1918 | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK  The Brooklyn Robins (today’s Los Angeles Dodgers) got a pitcher in a trade on this day in baseball history who became known for openly throwing an outlawed pitch. Burleigh Grimes came to the Robins by way of a 5-player deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Grimes made good use of the spitter, winning more than 20 games five times. Twice he won 19.

Grimes’ best pitch was the spitball, which was legal when he broke in, but banned by major league baseball in 1920 when he was just 26-years old. “Old Stubblebeard,” as he was called, became one of 17 pitchers already in the majors who were exempt from the ban. They could continue throwing the spitter as long as they played. Grimes ended up throwing it the longest, becoming the last pitcher to “legally” throw a spitball.

Grimes made good use of the spitter, winning more than 20 games five times. He was 25-14 in 1928. Twice he won 19. Grimes won 270 games in his career, appeared in four World Series, and ended up in the Hall of Fame. Though he wore 7 different uniforms in a 19-year career, Grimes spent most of his career with Brooklyn.

When his playing days were over, he managed the Dodgers for two unremarkable years. He stayed in baseball for many years, but mostly as a scout and minor league coach.

Burleigh Grimes was born August 18, 1983 in small farming community of Emerald, Wisconsin. He died in nearby Clear Lake in 1985 at the age of 92.

17 pitchers allowed to throw the spitter after 1920:
National League
Bill Doak
Phil Douglas
Dana Fillingim
Ray Fisher
Marv Goodwin
Burleigh Grimes
Clarence Mitchell
Dick Rudolph

American League
Doc Ayers
Ray Caldwell
Stan Coveleski
Red Faber
Dutch Leonard
Jack Quinn
Allan Russell
Urban Shocker
Allen Sothoron

Contributing sources:
Hall of Fame
Burleigh Grimes

Bill Grimes,  the author, is no relation to Burleigh Grimes, the pitcher.


JANUARY 1, 1911 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK • A star is born. Slugger Hank Greenberg was born to an orthodox Jewish family on this date in baseball history. He broke into the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1930, just 19 years later.

Greenberg was a 2-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) and 5-time all-star, though he only played 9 full seasons. Henry Benjamin Greenberg, like many major leaguers, had some of his best years interrupted by military service in World War II. He missed 3 full seasons and parts of 2 others.

Greenberg was a fearsome hitter. He hit 58 home runs in 1938 – at the time only Babe Ruth had hit more (Jimmie Foxx hit 58 home runs in 1932). Greenberg’s 183 RBI in 1937 are eclipsed only by Hack Wilson‘s 191 in 1930 and Lou Gehrig’s 184 in 1931. Only a handful of players have a higher lifetime slugging percentage than Greenberg’s .605.

As a youth, Greenberg was an all-around athlete in New York City. He led James Monroe High School to the New York City basketball championship, but his favorite sport was baseball. The Yankees showed interest in the first baseman in 1929, but he decided the odds of cracking the lineup were pretty slim with another New York born slugger already a fixture at first – Lou Gehrig. Greenberg enrolled at New York University, but signed with the Detroit Tigers the following year.

Greenberg quit playing in 1948 to become farm director of the Cleveland Indians. He moved into the Indians front office as general manager and part-owner with Bill Veeck two years later. He became a part-owner of the Chicago White Sox with Veeck in 1959. Their timing couldn’t have been better. The Sox won the pennant for the first time in 40 years. Greenberg and Veeck sold their interests in the White Sox in 1961, and Greenberg went on to a successful career in private business.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956. Hank Greenberg died September 4, 1986 in Beverly Hills, California.

Contributing sources:
More on Hank Greenberg
Jewish Virtual Library



DECEMBER 30, 1965 | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK • The great Sanford Braun was born on this date in 1935.  Sanford who? Braun? Never heard of him.

He won 3 Cy Young awards.

He’s in the Hall of Fame.

He’s one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.

You never heard of him?

That’s because he’s better known as Sandy Koufax.

Koufax was born to Evelyn and Jack Braun, but his parents divorced when he was a child. His mother remarried Irving Koufax.

Koufax played baseball and basketball growing up. In fact, attended the University of Cincinnati on a basketball scholarship. He impressed baseball scouts enough though that they offered him a contract in 1954.

Koufax’s major league baseball career was not long, eleven years (1955 to 1966). It took him a few seasons to harness his talent, but for a six year stretch he was as dominating a pitcher as there’s ever been.

From 1961 to 1966:

  • He won 129 games, losing just 47
  • His ERA was 2.76, lead the league 5 of those six year, 3 seasons his ERA was under 2.00
  • Lead the league in strikeouts 4 times, striking out more than 300 three times
  • Won 3 Cy Young awards

He ranks 19th in the major leagues in winning percentage (.655).

Arm trouble forced Koufax to retire at age 30. The great Sanford Braun was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

Sandy Koufax
Jewish Virtual Library


DECEMBER 29, 1951 | EL MANTE, MEXICO • It was a mystery then. It’s a mystery today. A one-time rising star for the Chicago Cubs was shot and killed in El Mante (Ciudad, Mante in Spanish) Mexico on this date in 1951.

Thirty-five year old Hi Bithorn, a native of Puerto Rico, was playing in the Mexican Winter League trying to make a comeback when he was killed.

According to an article written by Jane Allen Quevedo for the Society of American Baseball Research, the Bithorn family believes Officer Cano's motive for shooting Bithorn was because he wanted to steal his car.

According to several articles in The Chicago Tribune in the days after the shooting, Bithorn was broke and trying to sell a car for cash. El Mante policeman Ambrosio Castillo Cano asked Bithorn for the car’s registration papers. There was an altercation and Bithorn was shot in the stomach. Cano said Bithorn attacked him.

According to an article written by Jane Allen Quevedo for the Society of American Baseball Research, the Bithorn family believes Officer Cano’s motive for shooting Bithorn was because he wanted to steal his car.

For some unknown reason, Bithorn was driven to a hospital more than 80 miles away. He died enroute. Cano was charged with homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Bithorn was a shining star early in his career. He came up with the Chicago Cubs in 1942. He won 18 games in ’43, including a league leading 7 shutouts. It was the midst of World War II and Uncle Sam called. He missed the 1944 and ’45 seasons.

The luster Bithorn showed before entering the military wasn’t there when he got out in 1946. He bounced around the majors for a couple years, pitching two innings for the Chicago White Sox in 1947 until a sore arm put him out of action. He would never pitch in the major leagues again.

His attempt at a comeback in the Mexican Winter League ended violently, but the Bithorn mystery lives on. The largest baseball stadium in Puerto Rico is named after Hi Bithorn.

Contributing sources:
The Chicago Tribune
, January 1-5, 1952
Hi Bithorn stats



DECEMBER 25, 1862 | HILTON HEAD, SOUTH CAROLINA – Sports was not yet a popular pastime, let alone a spectator event in the mid-19th century, when, according to several sources, 40,000 people showed up on Christmas Day in 1862 in Hilton Head, South Carolina during the Civil War to watch a baseball game. The 165th New York Volunteer Regiment played a game against a team of men from other Union regiments. It was an unheard of gathering of spectators for any event, and hyperbole cannot be ruled out. But did 40,000 really attend a game 1862?

University of California-Berkley history professor Gunther Barth wrote in his book City People in 1980 that the report of 40,000 fans attending a game during the Civil War came from A. G. Mills who was a big part of creating the myth of Abner Doubleday. A committee chaired by Mills agreed upon the Doubleday myth after “studying” the issue. Mills went on to become president of the National League in 1907.

While the number of spectators at that Christmas Day game is debatable, even Barth agrees Civil War contests spread the popularity of baseball beyond the Northeast. Is 40,000 people attending a game in 1862 for real?

Contributing sources:
City People: The rise of modern city culture in 19th century America, by Gunther Barth, 1980, Oxford University Press
Civil War baseball


DECEMBER 22, 1915 | CINCINNATI, OHIO – The upstart Federal League‘s attempt at being a third major league came to an end on this date in 1915. The official word was National League, American League and Federal League bosses settled their differences at a meeting in Cincinnati. What in fact happened was the National and American leagues flex their muscles, and the Federal League ceased to exist.

The rise and fall of the renegade league also put the wheels in motion to exempt major league baseball from competition.

The Federal League came about as a minor league in 1912. It declared itself a “major league” in 1914. It had a couple successful seasons with good pennant races and good attendance after luring stars from the National and American Leagues. It was an eight-team league competing in the major league cities of Chicago, St. Louis, Brooklyn and Pittsburgh (it also had teams in Baltimore, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Buffalo).

What brought about the events of this day in 1915 was the Federal League had filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National and American Leagues claiming they were illegal monopolies. The case stalled in the court of federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis while the future baseball commissioner urged negotiation. The Federal League’s position weakened as the delay drained it of funds. Several FL owners were bought out and some teams absorbed into the NL and AL.

The Baltimore franchise of the Federal League was not happy with the agreement and sued. The lawsuit went all the way to the United States Supreme Court which ruled in 1922 that major league baseball was exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act, a decision in affect to this day.

Ironically, the episode gave a glimpse of what was to come 60 years later – free agency. Not only would the 1915 agreement bring amnesty for National and American League players who had jumped to the Federal League, but they would be able to sell their services to the highest bidder.

Another legacy of the defunct Federal League was Chicago’s Weeghman Park, built for the now defunct Chicago Whales. It was taken over by the National League franchise Chicago Cubs and renamed Wrigley Field, the same park they play in today. So, the National and American Leagues flex their muscles and major league baseball got a baseball shrine.

Contributing sources:
Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia, December 23, 1915
Federal League


DECEMBER 21, 2005 | OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA • The Oakland A’s hope is that it becomes addition by subtraction. ‘If you take away seats, they will come,’ seemed to be the intention when the ball club announced on this date in 2005 that they will no longer sell seats to the upper deck in McAfee Coliseum (now called Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum).

At a time when ballparks like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are squeezing more seats into their venues, the A’s are trying to pretend an upper deck of empty seats doesn’t exist. The move reduced the A’s ballpark’s capacity, at the time, to the lowest in the major leagues.

It was another act in the drama playing out in the East Bay over a new place for the A’s to play. Team president Michael Crowley told reporters back in 2005, “Our goal is to create a more intimate ballpark atmosphere and bring our seating capacity in line to what we have proposed for our new venue.”

While the team seems to annually over-achieve on the field the A’s have struck out on a new ballpark deal. But as of December 2016 the A’s have restructured their leadership with the goal of making it happen this time.

Stay tuned to see if less is more for the Oakland A’s.

Contributing sources:
Comcast SportsNet, “Futuristic, Transforming Stadiums offer Intriguing Solutions For Oakland,” by Andy Dolich, December 19, 2016
San Jose Mercury News, December 16, 2013


DECEMBER 7, 1941 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI • The St. Louis Browns was a struggling franchise in the standings and the box office throughout most of the time it shared St. Louis with the Cardinals. The team drew just 193,000 fans in 1940, about 2,500 a game. It was not unusual to have fewer than 1,000 people in the stands. The paid attendance on September 11, 1940 was 472. Needless to say owner Donald Barnes wanted a change of scenery. This is how Pearl Harbor affected baseball — almost.

It had been rumored for years that if the Japanese hadn’t bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on this date in 1941 – which ushered the United States into World War II – the Browns would have moved to Los Angeles more than a decade before the Dodgers did. Some said it was a “done deal.”

Researchers at the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) decided to investigate. What they found out is… maybe.

Read SABR’s Business of Baseball Committee paper “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Coliseum” by Norman Macht for all the details. In a nutshell the committee looked into a Los Angeles Examiner report in 1946 that the deal only needed formal approval from major league baseball at its winter meetings starting December 9, 1941. Pearl Harbor was attacked on the 7th.

One theory for why little was known about the almost move is that after the move fell through the Browns ownership were all hush-hush so the St. Louis faithful wouldn’t be offended.

The Browns ended up moving to Baltimore in 1953 and became, and remain, the Orioles.

Contributing Source:
“A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Coliseum,” by Norman Macht, Outside the Lines, Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), July 20, 2008



DECEMBER 5, 1996 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK • It became official on this date in 1996. For the first time in the 125-year history of major league baseball, the Cubs will play the White Sox, the Yankees will play the Mets, the Dodgers will play the Angels in regular season games. Eventually all National League teams would play all American League counterparts. Welcome to interleague play.

Interleague play was part of an agreement players unanimously approved to end four years of nasty labor unrest between players and owners that prompted a strike and cost the devotion of millions of fans.

Interleague play started with the 1997 season. Before then the only time a National League team played an American League team was in the World Series.

Some fans feel it should still be that way. But it can’t be denied many teams have seen a boost in attendance. Welcome to interleague play.

Associated Press (AP) December 6, 1996


DECEMBER 4, 1964 IN BASEBALL HISTORY | HOUSTON, TEXAS • It was trumpeted as the end of the “bonus baby” – throwing of tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of dollars (a lot of money in those days) at wide-eyed kids expected to become the next Mickey Mantle or Sandy Koufax. Too often these “can’t miss” prospects didn’t pan out. The owners wanted no more bonus babies.

They met in Houston on this date in 1964 to put an end to the chasing of unproven kids by hordes of scouts with wads of cash. Instead, the owners approved an amateur draft. The first one was held in 1965.

Blow are the first ten #1 picks. Some had decent careers. Most were mediocre. Some, well, have you ever head of Steve Chilcott? Chances are “no.” He never made to the big leagues. The second pick that year was Reggie Jackson.

1965 Rick Monday, Kansas City A’s
1966 Steve Chilcott, New York Mets
1967 Ron Blomberg, New York Yankees
1968 Tim Foli, New York Mets
1969 Jeff Burroughs, Washington Senators
1970 Mike Ivie, San Diego Padres
1971 Danny Goodwin, Chicago White Sox
1972 Dave Roberts, San Diego Padres
1973 David Clyde, Texas Rangers
1974 Bill Almon, San Diego Padres

There is still chasing after kids and some significant bonuses because the team that drafts the player retains the rights to signing a him only for a period of time until the next year’s draft. If a prospect is not signed he can re-enter a future draft and be chosen by any team but the one which selected him the previous year, unless the player consents.

Generally, those eligible to be drafted are:
•  Residents of the US or Canada including Puerto Rico and other territories
•  HS grads who have not yet attended college or junior college
•  College players who have completed their junior year
•  Junior college players
•  Players 21-years of age and older

While there are no more bonus babies, “free agency” has driven salaries into another stratosphere.

Sources/more information:
Complete draft information
Amateur draft rules 
United Press International, Houston, Texas, December 5, 1964


DECEMBER 2, 1952 | PHOENIX, ARIZONA – New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel went on a verbal rampage on this date in 1952. His running off at the mouth was targeted at several teams and Jackie Robinson.

Robinson, who became the major league’s first Black player five years earlier, stirred up emotions a few days earlier by criticizing the Yankees for not having hired a Black player. According to the United Press news service, while at a banquet in Phoenix Stengel let fly:

“I don’t care who you are in this organization, you’re going to get along and make the big team if you’ve got the ability. We’ve got good coaches, a good front office, good scouts and good minor league managers, and we’re not going to play a sap at second base just because somebody said we ought to put him there.”

Even after Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 it took a while for most teams to integrate. The Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns also integrated in ’47, but it took thirteen more years for all sixteen teams to put African Americans on their rosters.

Stengel also lashed out at the Cleveland Indians boss,

“Why does Hank Greenberg of Cleveland say, ‘I hate the Yankees?’ He should say that he ought to hate himself for not winning the pennant with the kind of a pitching staff he’s got. When do teams in this day fail to win pennants with three twenty-game winners on their pitching staff. The Yankee players don’t hate the Cleveland players, they hate you Mr. Greenberg.”

Stengel also blasted Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith who had accused the Yankees of shady dealing in going after one of their players.

The Yankee manager finished running off at the mouth by promising a 5th straight American League pennant in 1953, which is exactly what the Yankees did, and went on to win their fifth straight World Series.

Contributing Sources:
Carl Lundquist, United Press (UP), December 3, 1952
When teams integrated
World Series results

NOV 28 IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Monty Stratton’s career ends suddenly

NOVEMBER 28, 1936 | DALLAS, TEXAS  The 26-year old ace of the Chicago White Sox had his right leg amputated on this date in 1938. Monty Stratton accidentally shot himself in the leg while hunting the day before. The story appeared to be, ‘Monty Stratton’s career ends suddenly.’ Stratton had other ideas.

According the New York Times, the accident happened while Stratton was hunting for rabbits on the family farm. He slipped and fell, accidentally discharging his shotgun. The pellets ripped into his right leg, striking a major artery. Doctors were forced to remove the leg.

The 6-foot 5-inch Stratton had pitched five seasons for the Sox before the accident. He went 15-5 and 15-9 the previous two seasons. He spent the two seasons after he lost his leg coaching for the White Sox and pitching batting practice. But he was determined to pitch competitively again.

Stratton was fitted for a wooden leg. He got himself back in shape. Though he never pitched in the major leagues again, Stratton pitched in the minor leagues for Sherman and Waco, Texas, going 18-8 and 7-7 in 1946 and 1947.

While Monty Stratton’s career ended suddenly, his inspiring story is depicted in the 1949 film, The Monty Stratton Story  starring James Stewart.

Contributing Sources:
Monty Stratton
Associated Press (AP), The Montreal Gazette, November 29, 1938
Monty Stratton minor leagues stats


NOVEMBER 25, 1895 | YOUNGSVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA • A ballplayer by the name of Frank Spruiell May was born on this date in 1895. What’s so interesting about Jakie May, as he was called? Well, during the course of his 14-year major league baseball career he struck out Babe Ruth twice during the 1932 World Series while pitching for the Chicago Cubs. But I bring him up mainly for comparison of salaries-there’s comparison.

Jakie May was a dependable left-handed journeyman relief pitcher for the St. Louis CardinalsCincinnati Reds and Cubs from 1917 to 1932. He appeared in 410 games, won 72 and lost 95. Salary figures back in the day for guys not named Ruth are hard to come by, but May probably made around $70,000 for his entire career. Don’t even ask if Jakie May had to get a job when his playing days were over. He had to get a job every off-season, as did just about every other ballplayer not named Ruth.

Let’s compare May to a left-handed journeyman pitcher of the 21st Century. How about Alan Embree? He played 16 years with a number of teams, retiring in 2009.

Embree appeared in 882 games (though about half as many innings as Jakie May) with a record of 39 wins and 45 losses. Embree was paid an average of over $2-million dollars each year over the last decade if his career. He made over $22-million in his career. That’s 314 times greater than what Jakie May made in his career. Certainly costs of everything have gone up. The average home price in 1930 was about $7,000 compared to $211,000 when Alan Embree played. That’s about a 30-fold jump – significant, but no where near 314-fold.

Needless to say, while neither pitcher was ever a candidate for the Hall of Fame, Alan Embree will probably never have to work again. Jakie May never stopped working.

Contributing sources:
Raleigh News & Observer, “When baseball really was a game and nothing more,” by Dennis Rogers, October 11, 1994
Jakie May
MLB salary leaders, 1874-2012 (SABR)
Baseball in the 1930s

Special thanks to Kirk Kruger of Raleigh, NC for sending me press clippings about his grandfather, Jakie May.


NOVEMBER 18, 1980 | KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – This was an easy one. In 1980 Kansas City Royals’ 3rd baseman George Brett was the last American Leaguer since Ted Williams in the 1940’s to flirt with a .400 batting average since. So, who else but Brett should be awarded the American League’s Most Valuable Player award for that year?

Brett didn’t start out gang-busters in 1980. The first two months of the season his average hovered around .260 . As far into the season as May 22nd he was hitting only .255.

George Brett kicked it into gear in June and July, topping out at .390 July 31st. Brett eclipsed .400 (.401 to be exact) on August 17th, going 4 for 4 with 5 RBI.

Fans all over the country followed his march toward the first .400 average since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941 for the Boston Red Sox.

Brett was hitting .406 on August 20th,  .407 on August 26th. Brett’s batting average was over .400 16 of the final 35 days  of the regular season, but not the last day. He finished the 1980 season with a .390 average with 24 home runs and 118 runs batted in.

Brett’s .390 remains the second highest batting average in the Major Leagues since 1941. Tony Gwynn hit .394 in 1994 for the San Diego Padres.

The highest averages since Brett and Gwynn are:

Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies who hit .379 in 1999, and Nomar Garciaparra  of the Boston Red Sox and Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies both hit .372 in 2000.

Will we ever see a .400 batting average again? The Cubs won the World Series in 2016, so anything is possible.

Contributing Sources:
Single season batting average leaders

Nov 17th in baseball history-BROWNS FADE TO BLACK

NOVEMBER 17, 1953 | LOUIS, MISSOURI • The story from November 17, 1953 in baseball history is – Browns fade to black. Stockholders of the beleaguered franchise voted to change the team’s name from the St. Louis Browns to the Baltimore Orioles.

The name change was the final step in the transition from former owner Bill Veeck to a new group of owners which would start the 1954 baseball season near the shores of Chesapeake Bay rather than the banks of the Mississippi.

The Browns began as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901 – a charter American League franchise – not to be confused with the present day Brewers. The team stayed only one year in Milwaukee, moving to St. Louis in 1902 and becoming the Browns, which was the color of their uniforms.

In all the years spent in St. Louis (and one in Milwaukee) the Browns went to the post-season once. They won the American League Pennant in 1944, losing the World Series to the cross-town St. Louis Cardinals.

The franchise’s change of scenery did them good. The Baltimore Orioles have been to the post-season more than a dozen times since moving to Baltimore. They won the World Series in 1966, 1970 and 1983.

The story from November 17, 1953 is Browns fade to black, and the Orioles come out a winner.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 18, 1953
World Series results year-to-year 
More on the St. Louis Browns

November 16th: Most MVP’s were outfielders

NOVEMBER 16, 2017NEW YORK, NEW YORK • The baseball world is waiting to hear who the MVP (Most Valuable Player) award winners are for the 2017. The awards are announced tomorrow (November 17th). A review of past MVP’s is that more often than not, they were outfielders.

That knowledge would be valuable for your next baseball trivia game. Here are the answers:

MVP recipients by position (as of 11/16/2017)
American League
OF       29
1B       14
P          12
3B          9
SS           8
C            8
2B         4
DH        1

National League
OF       31
1B       15
P          10
3B          9
C            8
SS          7
2B         6

There were several MVP-type awards early in the 20th Century, but the criteria were often suspect. Raising doubts about their legitimacy was the fact that players like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb never won such an award.

The Baseball Writers Association of America took over voting for the Most Valuable Player award in 1931 and continues the task to this day. This brings credibility to the conclusion that most MVP’s were outfielders.

List of MVP winners
MVP recipients by position


NOVEMBER 15, 2007 |  CINCINNATI, OHIO • The youngest player to appear in a major league baseball game died on this date in 2007. The late Joe Nuxhall was 79 when he died. He was 15 the first time he faced a major league lineup.

The 15-year old Nuxhall would have made it nowhere near a major league mound without a ticket, had it not been for World War II.

Nuxhall made it to “THE SHOW” with the Cincinnati Reds on June 10, 1944. It was the height of World War II. Able-bodied ballplayers of a more mature age were hard to come by because they were all in the service.

The 15-year old Nuxhall would have made it nowhere near a major league mound without a ticket, had it not been for World War II.

It was not an auspicious beginning. As the box score and play-by-play of that game show, Nuxhall was brought in to mop up a game pretty much out of reach for the Reds.

The Reds were down 13-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals when Nuxhall entered the game in the 9th. He gave up 5 earned runs on 5 walks, 2 hits and a wild pitch. He wasn’t even able to close-out the 9th. The Reds had to bring another pitcher to get the 3rd out.

Nuxhall’s ERA for that appearance – 67.50. He was shipped back to the minors after the game, not to return for eight years.

Nuxhall went on to have a fine career when he returned to the Reds in 1953. He won 17 games in 1955, 15 in 1963. His career record was 135-117. He wasn’t a bad hitting pitcher either, finishing with 15 home runs and 78 RBI.

Nuxhall was a victim of bad timing when he was traded to the Kansas City A’s in 1961, missing Cincinnati’s only appearance in the World Series during his playing career. He returned to the Reds in 1962.

Contributing sources:
Youngest MLB players
The Associated Press (AP), June 11, 1944
More on Joe Nuxhall


NOVEMBER 13, 2017 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The most valuable player awards for 2017 are due out in a few days. It’s not unusual for each league’s most valuable player (MVP) to be a repeater. The leader of the pack by far is Barry Bonds. Evidence that he took PEDs (performance enhancement drugs) notwithstanding, Bonds won 7 MVP awards, more than twice as many as anyone else.

Multiple MVP winners as of November 12, 2016:
Barry Bonds (7)  

Albert Pujols (3)
Alex Rodriguez (3)
Mike Schmidt (3)
Yogi Berra (3)
Roy Campanella (3)
Joe DiMaggio (3)
Mickey Mantle (3)
Jimmie Foxx (3)
Stan Musial (3)  

Ernie Banks (2)
Johnny Bench (2)
Miguel Cabrera (2)
Mickey Cochrane (2)
Lou Gehrig (2)
Hank Greenberg (2)
Juan Gonzalez (2)
Rogers Hornsby (2)
Carl Hubbell (2)
Walter Johnson (2)
Roger Maris (2)
Willie Mays (2)
Joe Morgan (2)
Dale Murphy (2)
Hal Newhouser (2)
Cal Ripken (2)
Frank Robinson (2)
Frank Thomas (2)
Ted Williams (2)
Robin Yount (2)

There were several post-season “best player” awards prior to 1931, but their criteria was not always well thought out, as evidenced by the absence of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and others.

The current MVP awards have been presented in each league since 1931. They are presented annually by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA). Today – NOVEMBER 13th – in baseball history: The most valuable player awards

Baseball-Reference.com MVP awards

Multiple MVP winners


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS • Today – NOVEMBER 12TH  in baseball history: Pete Townsend wrote “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,”  in the Who classic, Won’t Get Fooled Again. That’s not unlike when Major League Baseball owners gave in to Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis on this date in 1920. They named him the game’s first Commissioner.

The public relations nightmare of the 1919 Black Sox scandal was just coming to light. Owners were fearful the effect of the scandal would have on the popularity of the game. They were pursuing an independent 3-member commission to rule the game. A favorite of the owners to be one of the commissioners was Judge Landis, but he would only serve if he was sole Commissioner. That’s how a single baseball Commissioner came to be.

According to Leonard Koppett, author of Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, Judge Landis negotiated a pretty good deal to help major league baseball “come clean.” He got an annual salary of $50,000 for seven years. He would remain on the federal bench, but his $7,500 judge salary would be deducted from his baseball salary.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis is most remembered for banning eight members of the Chicago White Sox for life in 1921 for throwing the 1919 World Series.

Koppett suspects Landis was named commissioner as payback for bailing out major league baseball when he was the presiding judge over an antitrust lawsuit in 1915.

While the antitrust litigation had a more lasting effect, Kennesaw Mountain Landis is most remembered for banning eight members of the Chicago White Sox for life in 1921 for throwing the 1919 World Series. A jury had found the players not guilty of throwing the series – partly because confessions they made were lost – but Judge Landis didn’t care about the acquittals. His view was they confessed to accepting bribes, so they were forbidden to ever play major league baseball again.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was Commissioner for 24 years – the longest of any baseball commissioner. That’s what happened TODAY – November 12th – in baseball history.

Contributing sources:
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball
, by Leonard Koppett, 2004


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA • TODAY – NOVEMBER 11TH – IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Fernandomania continued into the post-season on this date in 1981. Los Angeles Dodger phenom pitcher Fernando Valenzuela won the National League Cy Young award as the league’s best pitcher. He was the first rookie to win the award.

Valenzuela displayed excellent composure, enthusiasm and ability though he was only 20-years old.

Valenzuela could hit too. He hit .250 with 7 RBI in his rookie year. His career batting average was .200 with 10 home runs and 84 RBI.

Valenzuela finished the ’81 season with a 13 – 7 won-loss record and a 2.48 ERA (earned run average). He beat out established stars Tom SeaverSteve Carlton and Nolan Ryan for the Cy Young award.  Valenzuela also won the National League Rookie-of-the-year award.

Valenzuela could hit too. He hit .250 with 7 RBI in his rookie year. His career batter average was .200 with 10 home runs and 84 RBI .

Fernandomania lasted 17 years.  During that time Valenzuela won 173 games and lost 153. That’s today – November 11th – in baseball history.

Contributing Sources:
“Fairy Tale Ending to Fairy Tale season,” by Mike Littwin, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 1981
1981 Post-season awards 

NOVEMBER 5, 1998 IN BASEBALL HISTORY-Yankees 27 Astros 1

NOVEMBER 5, 1998 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Houston Astros fans are relishing in the team’s first-ever World Series championship. Compare that to what the New York Yankees accomplished on this date in 2009. They won their 27th World Series. Yankees 27 Astros 1.

That’s more than the next three World Series winning teams combined.

It’s more than double the 11 won by the team with the second-most – the St. Louis Cardinals.

But it’s a start – Yankees 27 Astros 1.

Number of World Series won by each team
Postseason results, BASEBALL-REFERENCE.com
Yankees post-season results  


Puckett carries Twins to promised land

cropped-ball-2.jpgOCTOBER 26, 1991 | MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTAMinnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett was not having a good World Series against the Atlanta Braves. The Twins were facing elimination in game 6 of the 1991 fall classic. It all changed on this date. The best way to describe it; ‘Puckett carries Twins to promised land.’

Kirby Puckett hit a triple in the first inning to drive in a run and later scored. In the third he robbed the Braves’ Ron Gant of extra bases by seeming to hang in mid-air to snag a 400-foot drive off the Plexiglas in left-center field. The future Hall-of-Famer broke a tie in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to deep center. After the Braves tied it up in the 8th, Puckett singled and stole second, but didn’t score.

Puckett’s real heroics came when the game went into extra innings. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis was packed with 51,155 frenzied fans. Puckett led off the 11th. He was facing the Braves’ Charlie Leibrandt. The count was 2-balls and 1-strike. Puckett hit the next pitch over the left field fence prompting television play-by-play man Jack Buck to say, simply, “And we’ll see you tomorrow night.”

The Twins won that game too, and won a thrilling 1991 World Series.

Contributing sources:
Still a Series to Savor

The first box-score

October 22, 1845 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Baseball historian John Thorn says in his book, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, the first box score appeared in the New York Herald newspaper on this date in 1845. It recorded a game from the previous day between The New York Ball Club and a team from Brooklyn. Unfortunately, the actual box score from 1845 could not be located. Here is another from the same era:

19th Century - Newark - Eckford NYSM

The box score appeared to be patterned after cricket, a more commonly played game in Manhattan, New York at the time.

The baseball graphic included a box with two columns listing players for each team in the order of how they batted. It recorded little more than their names, number of outs made and runs scored. It didn’t have pitching statistics, except for what the pitchers did at the plate.

Today the typical box score has names, positions, at bats, runs, hits and runs batted in. Many box scores also record who had extra base hits, committed errors, hit sacrifice flies, stole bases and stats on all pitchers. Plenty to lose yourself in for a half hour or so. Below is a how-to on a modern baseball box score courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.


Contributing sources:
Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, by John Thorn, 2011
The New York Times, “Cooperstown? Hoboken? Try New York City,” by Fox Butterfield, October 4, 1990
More on the box score 

OCT 17 IN BASEBALL HISTORY, “I’ll tell ya what. We’re having an earth…”

OCTOBER 17, 1989 | SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – Broadcaster Al Michaels was frantic as ABC lost its signal just before game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. Rain, sometimes snow, has been known to interrupt post-season play. This time the San Francisco earthquake of 1989 brought all activity in Candlestick Park, other than self-preservation, to a screeching halt, because, as Michaels’ said off-camera, “I’ll tell ya what. We’re having an earth…”. He was unable to get out “quake” before he was cut-off.

Millions watching the broadcast saw highlights of the previous game being described by announcer Tim McCarver when all of the sudden the picture sizzled and the broadcast signal was lost.

Candlestick Park, with 62,000 people inside, bent – fans felt the stands move and the light standards sway several feet – but did not break. There was catastrophic damage in other parts of the Bay Area; a section of the double deck Nimitz Freeway collapsed, as did part of the Bay Bridge. There were multiple explosions and fires in the Mission District of San Francisco. Sixty-three deaths and almost 4,000 injuries were reportedly caused by the earthquake.

The World Series, coincidentally involving the two Bay Area teams, was postponed for ten days, because, “I’ll tell ya what… we’re having an earth-“. The A’s eventually swept the Giants in four games.

1989 Earthquake
Oakland A’s post season

No Angels in the outfield

OCTOBER 12, 1986 | ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – The California Angels were one strike from their first World Series on this date in 1986 when they suffered a heartbreaking loss. It was a spectacular series that had tragic consequences beyond baseball. On this day, there were no Angels in the outfield.

It was game 5 of the best-of-five American League Championship Series (ALCS). California had a three games to one lead over the Boston Red Sox. The game was filled with drama.

The Angels were up 5-2 in the ninth. It was the Red Sox’ last at bat. Designated hitter Don Baylor hit a two-run homer on a two-strike pitch with one out. The Red Sox were within a run.

After the second out Angel’s reliever Gary Lucas hit catcher Rich Gedman. Angel’s manager Gene Mauch brought in Donnie Moore to pitch to the Red Sox’ Dave Henderson. Moore had bounced around the major leagues for several years, but appeared to have found a home with the Angels. Moore had two strikes on Henderson. The Angels were one strike from their first World Series.

Henderson hit a two-run homer to give the Red Sox the lead.

As dramatic as that was, it wasn’t the end. The Angels tied the game in the last of the 9th. Neither team scored in the 10th. The Red Sox scored the go-ahead run in 11th on a sacrifice fly by Dave Henderson. The Angels were held in check in the bottom of the 11th to end the game. The Red Sox were still down three games to two, but were heading back to Boston where they won the final two games.

Sadly, Donnie Moore’s life spiraled down after that. He was booed regularly by Angels’ fans who couldn’t forget that one fateful pitch. Moore was tough on himself too. It’s unlikely that failing to retire the Red Sox on that October day in 1986 was his only demon, but he fell into deep depression after being released in 1988. There were no Angels in the outfield for Donnie Moore on that day. He committed suicide in 1989 at the age of 35.

Contributing Sources: 
Game 5 of ALCS
1986 playoffs 
Another view of what happened to Donnie Moore

Curt Flood is most remembered for what he would not do

OCTOBER 7, 1969 – ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – Curt Flood was a pretty good baseball player. He broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 18. He had a .293 lifetime batting average and won several Gold Glove awards. Flood did a lot for the Cardinals. He is most remembered for what he would not do.

Flood was traded from St. Louis to the Philadelphia Phillies on this date in 1969. He wouldn’t go. Flood didn’t like that he had no control over where he played. If a team traded a player to another team, that’s where the player went. That was the essence of the “reserve clause.” Flood balked, “I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes.”

Flood’s case against the reserve clause went all the way to the U-S Supreme Court. While the court ruled against Flood in 1972, the decision altered the landscape which soon allowed much freedom of movement by the players – and much higher salaries.

Contributing Sources:
Kurt Flood https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/f/floodcu01.shtml
“Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball” by Leonard Koppett

“It’s gonna be I believe…”


“Branca throws.

There’s a long fly. It’s gonna be I believe…


Those were the words that blurted out of Russ Hodges‘ mouth as he described, arguably, the most dramatic moment in sports history – Bobby Thomson’s pennant clinching home run for the New York Giants to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers. Hodges was the Giants’ play-by-play man. His description was as much disbelief as excitement.

The drama was the result of a perfect storm; a Giants comeback from 13½ games down in August, a Brooklyn Dodgers‘ collapse, the third game of a best of three playoff to decide the pennant, the Giants’ last chance in the bottom of the 9th down 4-2, two men on, one out.

Bobby Thomson hitting a home run wasn’t so unusual. He hit 32 of them in 1951, 264 in a 15-year career. Thomson also had over a thousand RBI (1,026) in his career, and was a lifetime .270 hitter. Still, what happened at 3:58 p.m. Eastern Time on October 3, 1951 was as dramatic as anything that had ever happened in sports. The discovery of an audio recording of the play-by-play only intensified the drama.

It’s ironic that a recording of the radio broadcast is saved for posterity in that that game was one of the first to be televised nationally, but the TV broadcast was apparently not recorded.

Contributing sources:
NPR Story on Shot heard round the world
October 3, 1951 box score
The Wall Street Journal, Sept 19, 2006
The Echoing Green, by Joshua Prayer, 2006

Did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

OCTOBER 1, 1932 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – What did or didn’t happen in Wrigley Field on this date is debated to this day. Some believe Babe Ruth called his shot while batting in game-3 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees – that is, pointed toward the bleachers, indicating he was going to hit a home run there, and then hitting one there. So did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

Ruth definitely gestured, as film from that day shows, but was he calling his shot? [I don’t have the rights to show a still frame from that film, but you can see it by Google-ing “called shot copyright Kirk Kandle”.]

The Yankees were up 2 games to none against the Cubs in the ’32 series. New York took an early lead in game three on a home run by Ruth, only to be tied by the Cubs.

It was the 5th inning and Ruth came to bat again. He and the Cubs were jawing back and forth at each other. It’s obvious from the film that Ruth was gesturing with the count 2-balls and 2-strikes. On the next pitch, he hit a mammoth home run about 450 feet.

Did Ruth call his shot? Sportswriter Joe Williams of Scripps-Howard newspapers started it with this headline in the next day’s paper:

“Ruth calls shot as he puts home run no. 2 in side pocket”

Cubs pitcher Charlie Root, who gave up the home run, insisted Ruth did not call his shot. “If he had made a gesture like that I’d have put one in his ear and knocked him on his (backside).” Ruth did not initially acknowledge that he called his shot, but embraced the story more and more as time went on.

What may be most definitive is the typed play-by-play from Retrosheet, data gathered by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) for virtually every MLB game ever played.

Below is how Ruth’s 5th inning at-bat appears, including the bold type:

YANKEES 5TH: Sewell grounded out (shortstop to first); the Cubs bench players were riding Babe Ruth mercilessly and Ruth yelled and gestured back; Ruth homered;

Whoever wrote that does not believe he called his shot. And if you look at Ruth’s gesture it appears to be straight ahead. When a left-handed batter stands in the box straight ahead is toward the 3rd base dugout, which is the Cubs dugout. My belief is Ruth was gesturing toward the Cubs, not center-field. Did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

Contributing sources:
October 1, 1932 Box score/play-by-play
Charlie Root quote, USATODAY, September 27, 2007
Sports Illustrated Greatest Teams, by Tim Crothers, 1998

First pitcher to throw 5 no-hitters

SEPTEMBER 26, 1981 | HOUSTON, TEXAS – Nolan Ryan became the first pitcher to throw 5 no-hitters on this date in 1981. Ryan shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 while pitching for the Houston Astros in the Astrodome.

Nolan Ryan is in a class by himself when it comes to career no-hitters. He ended up with 7Sandy Koufax, with 4, is the only other pitcher to throw more than 3 (although indicative of Koufax’s short-lived dominance, he threw his no-hitters in a span of 4 seasons. Ryan’s no-no’s were thrown over a 19-year span – a testament to his enduring dominance.

I didn’t know thatPl

Ready for another “I didn’t know that” stat? Nolan Ryan had a no-hitter broken up after the 7th inning 24 times. Second on the list is Randy Johnson with less than half that number (11).

Back to September 26, 1981…
Ryan came close to losing his shutout in the 2nd when he walked Steve Garvey to lead off. The Dodger first baseman stole second and went to third on a wild pitch – still with nobody out. Ryan struck out Pedro Guerrero and Mike Scioscia (the current Angels manager) and got Ron Roenicke to fly out.

Ryan finished the day striking out 11, walking 3 and giving up no hits.

Contributing sources: 
September 26, 1981 box score/play-by-play (Baseball-Reference)

No-hitters statistics (Baseball-Almanac)
Nolan Ryan career stats (Baseball-Reference)


TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO MARCH 12, 1903 IN NEW YORK CITY. The New York Yankees are synonymous with Major League Baseball, especially the American League. Did you know they were not one of the original American League teams (I digress. Actually they were, but why let the facts stand in the way of a good story?)

Let me explain:
This much is true; there was no American League team in New York City when the AL was established in 1901. New York officially got a team on this date in 1903 when the owners approved a franchise move.

The franchise that would become the New York Yankees existed in Baltimore as the Orioles, not the Orioles currently taking up residence by Chesapeake Bay. Those Orioles trace their origins back to Milwaukee as the Brewers, no not the current Brewers, the Brewers of old that became the St. Louis Browns, which then moved to Baltimore and became the current Orioles.

Clear as pine tar?
This list of the charter American League franchises of the inaugural year of 1901 and what became of them may help:

  • Cleveland Blues – name changed to Bronchos in 1902, Naps in 1903 and finally Indians in 1914.
  • Milwaukee Brewers – Franchise moved to St. Louis in 1902 and became the Browns, moved to Baltimore in 1954 and became the Orioles
  • Baltimore Orioles – moved to New York in 1903 and became the Highlanders. Name changed to Yankees in 1913.
  • Chicago White Stockings – officially became the White Sox in 1903
  • Boston Americans – became the Red Sox in 1906.
  • Philadelphia Athletics – moved to Kansas City in 1956. Moved to Oakland in 1968. Named reduced to A’s over time.
  • Washington Senators – moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins
  • Detroit Tigers – remain in Detroit as the Tigers

It appears the Detroit Tigers are the only charter franchise to neither move nor change its name in the slightest.

Contributing sources:
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox,


a STORY from today in baseball history