Category Archives: December

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

Dec 31, 1972-MORE THAN A BALLPLAYER

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO • Roberto Clemente was an outstanding baseball player. He was a better human being. He was on a plane bringing relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on this date – New Year’s Eve 1972. The plane crashed shortly after take-off from his native Puerto Rico. His body never found.

Clemente was a winner of Major League Baseball’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He was the type of baseball player who came across once in a lifetime. Clemente was a 5-tool player; run, throw, catch, hit and hit for power. It may be more accurate to say Clemente was a 10-tool player because he did all those things with an entertaining flair. It was exciting to see him hit a triple, throw a baserunner out at 3rd from right field, even take a ferocious swing and miss.

On the field, Clemente finished with a .317 lifetime batting average, 1,406 runs scored, exactly 3,000 hits, 12 all-star appearance and 12 Gold Gloves. But he didn’t intend for the ’72 season to be his last. Nor would he expect helping organize an earthquake relief effort be his last act of generosity. But he had to get on that plane to make sure the supplies got to the people who really needed them.

His legacy lives on in the Roberto Clemente Award given each year to the MLB player who “best exemplifies baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to the team.”

Dec 30, 1935 – A STAR BORN

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK • One of the greatest pitchers of all-time was born on this date in 1935, Sanford Braun.

Sanford who?
Braun.
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, and 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. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Sandy Koufax
Biography.com
Jewish Virtual Library