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.

Rules Rules Rules

FEBRUARY 16, 2007 | 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

Abe, Civil War, Baseball

FEBRUARY 12TH | UNITED STATES OF AMERICA • On his 208th birthday, let’s talk Abraham Lincoln and baseball.

“Abraham Lincoln’s rise to political prominence… occurred during the years when [base-ball] was achieving increasing popularity in all regions.”

There are those who believe the Civil War, of which President Lincoln was the Commander-in-Chief of the Union Army, helped spread the game of baseball because it served to bring men from all over the country together and, in their leisure, took up the game.

Others, such as Patricia Millen, author of From Pastime to Passion, say the war more likely served to slow down the spread of the game, 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 baseball 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

A Swap Opera

FEBRUARY 11, 1982 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI & SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – Wonder if the San Diego Padres wish they could have a do-over? A 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 lost the 1984 World Series to the Detroit Tigers.

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

White is the First Black

FEBRUARY 10, 1971 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – 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.

He became the first Black to be the regular play-by-play guy for any 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

What’s in a name?

FEBRUARY 9, 2006 | SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA – 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 plan 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 ball park 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