Feb. 28th in baseball history-SPRING BUSINESS

2017 | FLORIDA & ARIZONA – Spring training 2017 is in full swing. At one time it was mostly a Florida experience. It began when the Chicago Cubs moved their training from New Orleans to Tampa in 1913.

The St. Louis Browns moved to St. Petersburg in 1914. According to the Tampa Bay Rays, more spring training games have been played in St. Petersburg than any other city.

Jump ahead to 2017…

Half the major league teams now train in Arizona, mostly in the Phoenix area. Phoenix suburbs such as Glendale and Peoria have gone all-out to lure teams to “The Valley of the Sun.”

After training in Florida for decades, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers now call an elaborate state-of-the-art complex called Camelback Ranch home in the spring. It has fully equipped training, exercise, weight-room facilities for each team, in addition to 16 diamonds.

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

Tampa Bay Rays

Feb 26 in baseball history-DO SPRING RECORDS MATTER?

2017 | ARIZONA & FLORIDA – Cactus and Grapefruit league games broke out all over Arizona and Florida this weekend. How predictable are spring won-loss records to the regular season?

As you can see below, some teams, like the Red Sox, Orioles and Mets, that were bottom-feeders in the Spring made the postseason.

The Cubs sucked in spring training, but won it all eight months later.

On the other hand, nobody had a better spring record than the Washington Nationals last year. The Nationals made the playoffs but lost the divisional series to the Dodgers.

The Dodgers didn’t have a great spring, but made it all the way to the League Championship Series before losing to the eventual World Series Champion, Cubs.

2016 PLAYOFF TEAMS (Spring Training record)
AL East – Boston (14-18)
AL Central – Cleveland (18-12)
AL West – Texas (17-15)
AL Wildcard – Toronto (17-8)
AL Wildcard – Baltimore (12-15)

NL East – Washington (19-4)
NL Central – Chicago (11-19)
NL West – Los Angeles (13-17)
NL Wildcard – San Francisco (13-20)
NL Wildcard – New York (8-17)

Feb 25th in baseball history-GETTING ALONG

1973 | NEW YORK, 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

Feb 24th in baseball history-GONE TOO SOON

1990 | BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS A life of such promise ended sadly at 4:30 in the afternoon on this date in 1990. Tony Conigliaro, the youngest player to hit 100 home runs died of pneumonia at the age of 45 [also see FEB 7th story]. “Tony C” as he was known, had been in poor health since suffering a heart attack in 1982.

The turning point in his life, though was 23 years earlier when he was on top of the world. On 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

FEB 23rd in baseball history-SOMBER NEWS

1987 | FORT MYERS, FLORIDAKansas 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 operations to try 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. 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 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

FEB 22nd in baseball history-Cards sign QB

1938 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – The St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of two-time All-American quarterback Sammy Baugh on this date in 1938. And, no, not the football Cardinals – they were still in Chicago –, the baseball Cardinals. 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. In fact, 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

FEB 21st in baseball history-Ted Williams returns

1969 | WASHINGTON, D.C.Ted Williams was lured back to baseball on this date in 1969 to manage the Washington Senators . The greatest hitter of all time was going to lead 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.

They lost 92 games in 1970, 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. Williams retired after that season and went back to fishing and hunting.

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

FEBRUARY 20th in Baseball History-THE STRIKE ZONE

1963 | SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – Baseball is often described as a never changing game of tradition. It’s a myth. On this date in 1963 the manager of the San Francisco Giants, Alvin Dark, bemoaned the fact that the strike zone had been raised from the top of the batter’s arm pits to the top of the shoulders.

Dark told the Associated Press (AP) that he was worried that his pitchers will have trouble keeping the ball down even though the bottom of the strike zone had not changed, “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 over the decades to the strike zone and balls and strikes:

1876  1-ft above ground to shoulders, batter calls for low or high pitch
1887 Knees to shoulders, batter can no longer call for high or low pitch
1950Top of the knees to armpits
1963Knees to the top of shoulders
1969Top of knees to armpits
1988 Top of the knees to midpoint between shoulders & the top of pants
1996Bottom of the 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 are counted as strikes
-the makeup of the baseball
-the height of the pitcher’s mound

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

FEB 18th in Baseball History-Prediction Time

2017 | FLORIDA & ARIZONA – Prediction time for fans and prognosticators as spring training begins for 2017. Baseball Prospectus (BP) has among the most knowledgeable baseball people. BP’s crunching of the numbers leads their experts to believe the following teams are most likely to win their respective divisions in 2017.

American League
East – Boston Red Sox
Central – Cleveland Indians
West – Houston Astros

National League
East – New York Mets
Central – Chicago Cubs
West – Los Angeles Dodgers

It’ll be fun to see what happens. But how well have Baseball Prospectus’ predictions fared? Let’s look back. Here are BP’s 1998 predictions, and whether they were correct or not:

American League
New York Yankees – CORRECT
Cleveland Indians – CORRECT
Seattle Mariners – WRONG (Texas)

National League
East – Atlanta Braves – CORRECT
Central – Houston Astros – CORRECT
West – LA Dodgers – WRONG (San Diego)

Here’s a look at the favored teams from 1999 and how then fared.

American League
East – New York Yankees – CORRECT
Central – Cleveland Indians – CORRECT
West – Texas Rangers – CORRECT

National League
East – Atlanta Braves – CORRECT
Central – Houston Astros – CORRECT
West – LA Dodgers – WRONG (Diamondbacks)

Overall, Baseball Prospectus did very well.

February 17th in Baseball History: Prediction time

2017 | FLORIDA & ARIZONA – Prediction time for fans and prognosticators as spring training begins for 2017. Baseball Prospectus (BP) has among the most knowledgeable baseball people. BP’s crunching of the numbers leads their experts to believe the following teams are most likely to win their respective divisions in 2017.

American League
East – Boston Red Sox
Central – Cleveland Indians
West – Houston Astros

National League
East – New York Mets
Central – Chicago Cubs
West – Los Angeles Dodgers

It’ll be fun to see what happens. But how well have Baseball Prospectus’ predictions fared? Let’s look back. Here are BP’s 1998 predictions, and whether they were correct or not:

American League
New York Yankees – CORRECT
Cleveland Indians – CORRECT
Seattle Mariners – WRONG (Texas)

National League
East – Atlanta Braves – CORRECT
Central – Houston Astros – CORRECT
West – LA Dodgers – WRONG (San Diego)

Here’s a look at the favored teams from 1999 and how then fared.

American League
East – New York Yankees – CORRECT
Central – Cleveland Indians – CORRECT
West – Texas Rangers – CORRECT

National League
East – Atlanta Braves – CORRECT
Central – Houston Astros – CORRECT
West – LA Dodgers – WRONG (Diamondbacks)

Overall, Baseball Prospectus did very well.