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The Little Giant

JULY 27, 1927 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS • 18-year old Mel Ott hit his first major league home run on this date in 1927. Being that he was just 5’9” and would hit 510 more home runs in his 22-year career, Ott was referred to as “The Little Giant.”

The Little Giant arrived on the scene at age 17. It wasn’t because a lot of stars were off to war. It was 1926, the First World War had been over for several years and World War II wouldn’t start for another 15.

The Gretna, Louisiana native had many great years, but his greatest may have been at the ripe old age of 20. Here are some of his 1929 stats – before he was old enough to vote:

Batting average         .328
Home runs                       42
RBI                                   151
Runs scored                 138     

Mel Ott played his entire career with the New York Giants (today’s San Francisco Giants). He was named to 9 All-Star games. Tragically, his life came to an end at age 49 when his car was hit head-on in foggy conditions.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Mel Ott Stats

Catfish, Billy & Ray enter Hall of Fame

July 26, 1987 | COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK – Three “stars” were inducted into the Hall of Fame on this date in 1987. Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Billy Williams and Ray Dandridge didn’t lust for headlines or seek attention so you know Catfish, Billy and Ray enter the Hall of Fame because of shear talent.

Catfish Hunter was a 20-game winner five times, four with Oakland A’s and once with the New York Yankees. He was in the starting rotation for five World Series Champions, usually the ace of the staff; three with the A’s and two with the Yankees.

The Hertford, North Carolina native finished his career with 224 wins and 166 losses and an earned run average of 3.26. Sadly, James Augustus Hunter was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease later in life and died at age 53 of injuries suffered in a fall probably caused by his illness.

Billy Williams spent most of career with the Chicago Cubs. He was NL Rookie of the Year in 1961, a 6-time All-Star, set a record for consecutive games played with 1,117 (later broken by Steve Garvey with 1,207). He finished his career with a .290 career batting average and 426 home runs. “Sweet Swingin” Billy Williams had at least 20 home runs for 14 seasons and at least 84 RBI for 13.

Ray Dandridge was a star of the Negro Leagues, so unfortunately much of American didn’t see him play. He played for teams in Detroit, Nashville and Newark.

He also played in the Mexican League in 1940 with and against Major Leaguers. He led the league with a .369 batting average but it was his fielding at 3rd base that sparkled. Monte Irvin, who played against major leaguers and Negro Leaguers said Dandridge was the one of the best 3rd basemen he’d ever seen.

Dandridge was finally signed by the New York Giants in 1949 but sent to Triple-A Minneapolis. Despite being named league MVP and leading his team to the championship, Dandridge was never called up to the majors.

  • Little known fact: Catfish Hunter hit .350 for the A’s in 1971 (before the DH), 36 hits in 103 at bats, 1 HR, 12 RBI.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
The disappearance of 20-game winners
The Hall of Fame

Baseball after Fidel Castro

July 25, 1959 | HAVANA, CUBA – Playing minor league baseball in Cuba after Fidel Castro took over became a risky venture.  On this date in 1959 a game between Rochester, New York from the International League and the Sugar Kings, an independent team from Havana, was abruptly halted when wild, jubilant gunfire broke out in and around the ball park.

It spilled into the stands. With the game tied in the 12th shots rang out in the direction of the field as Rochester mounted a rally. Havana shortstop Leo Cardenas, who later had a 16-year major league career, was grazed in the shoulder. Rochester third base coach Frank Verdi, was struck in the head. Fortunately, he had head-gear on because he’d been in the lineup earlier in the game. Neither was seriously hurt.

After this frightening display of fire power, the players and umpires quickly left the field. After things calmed down the league president said the game would be continued later that Sunday afternoon. The Rochester Red Wings wanted no part of that. After one more tense night in a Havana hotel, the team left Cuba for Miami. The Havana Sugar Kings played one more season in Cuba, then were relocated to New Jersey.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
“Gunfire in the Ballpark,” BASEBALL-ALMANAC
The Baltimore Sun, July 27, 1959, “Game is called: Rain of bullets”

The famous pine tar incident

July 24, 1983 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK • Had you ever seen anyone so angry as George Brett when a home run of his was disallowed? The famous pine tar incident took place at Yankee Stadium on this date in 1983. You knew Yankee manager Billy Martin had to be involved.

Brett’s outburst was the culmination of a dramatic moment:

Two outs, top of the ninth, Kansas City Royals down 4-3 to the New York Yankees. Brett is facing Yankee closer Rich “Goose” Gossage. He hits a 2-run homer to give the Royals the lead.

After Brett circles the bases, Billy Martin marches out to home plate to ask the umpires to examine the bat. Turns out the pine tar, what batters use on the bat handle to improve the grip, extended more than the rules allowed (see below). Home plate umpire Tim McClelland places the bat on the ground next to home plate. When he sees that the pine tar is spread over more than 20 inches of the bat he signals, “Batter’s out!” Incensed, George Brett charges from the dugout to home plate. If Brett had been a fullback and it was 3rd and 9, he would have made the first down.

Brett, his manager, Dick Howser, and a couple other players were thrown out of the game. The Royals protested. The game was suspended. A few weeks later, American League President Lee MacPhail, former president of the Yankees, I might add, overruled the umpires. The home run was reinstated. Play was resumed on August 18th with two outs in the 9th, Royals up 5-4, and that’s how the game ended.

Years later, Brett said he was so furious that day because a home run off Hall of Famer Goose Gossage was so rare, he couldn’t handle it being taken away.

Note the “note” from MLB Official Rules:

Rule 1.10 (c) The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game. NOTE: If the umpire discovers that the bat does not conform to (c) above until a time during or after which the bat has been used in play, it shall not be grounds for declaring the batter out, or ejected from the game.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
MLB Official rules
July 24, 1983 Royals-Yankees box score

 

MLB’s 18th Perfect Game

JULY 23, 2009 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – MLB’s 18th perfect game   was thrown by Mark Buerhle on this date in 2009. To take nothing away from the Chicago White Sox southpaw, another left-hander positioned about 250 feet behind Buerhle’s right shoulder did the unbelievable.

Dewayne Wise had just been put in as a defensive replacement in centerfield in the 9th inning. Defend, he did. Tampa Bay Rays’ right fielder Gabe Kapler hit a 2-2 pitch from Buerhle to the farthest point of left-center field. It was on its way out. The perfect game would be lost. The no-hitter would be lost. The shutout would be lost.

Dewayne Wise would not have it. He ran to the wall like he was the 4th leg of a relay race. Jumped at just the right time to pull the ball back into the field of play. Then the ball slipped out of his glove, but he managed to regain control, holding on to the perfect game as he fell the ground.

The 26th hitter struck out.
The 27th hitter grounded out to short.

Mark Buerhle had MLB’s 18th perfect game. How could he possibly thank Dewayne Wise enough?

Contributing sources:
July 23, 2009 box score, stats, play-by-play
Dewayne Wise