DEC 7 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – HOW PEARL HARBOR AFFECTED BASEBALL

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

 

DEC 4 IN BASEBALL HISTORY-NO MORE BONUS BABIES

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

DEC 2 IN BASEBALL HISTORY: RUNNING OFF AT THE MOUTH

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

NOVEMBER 28TH 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

NOV 25th IN BASEBALL HISTORY: SALARIES-THERE’S NO COMPARISON

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 no 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 in baseball history: BRETT FLIRTS WITH .400

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
http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/batting_avg_season.shtml

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.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
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.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
List of MVP winners
MVP recipients by position

NOVEMBER 15th IN BASEBALL HISTORY – THE LATE JOE NUXHALL

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 – THE MOST MVP’s

NEW YORK, NEW YORK • TODAY – NOVEMBER 13th – IN BASEBALL HISTORY: 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

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Baseball-Reference.com MVP awards

Multiple MVP winners

NOVEMBER 12 – MEET THE NEW BOSS

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

NOVEMBER 11: FERNANDOMANIA

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 

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.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
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.

12491620-large

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 

“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.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
1989 Earthquake
ABC-TV
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…”

OCTOBER 3, 1951 | NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK 

“Branca throws.

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

THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!”


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)

a STORY from today in baseball history