Category Archives: January

A STORY FROM JAN 19TH IN BASEBALL HISTORY – THEO EPSTEIN, HE’S BACK

TODAY’S STORY TAKES US BACK TO BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS IN 2006.

I wonder if Chicago Cubs fans are aware that Theo Epstein walked away from the Boston Red Sox a little over a year after he assembled a team that won the World Series after their 88-year drought.

Epstein slipped away from Fenway Park October 31, 2005 – Halloween Night – in a gorilla suit to avoid the media. The Red Sox reportedly offered him a three-year contract worth $4.5 million. Epstein said it wasn’t “the right fit.”

As Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

It was announced on this date in 2006 that Epstein is  back  with the Red Sox. So he was gone about 2 and a half months. A joint statement from Epstein and owner John Henry read, “Ironically, Theo’s departure has brought us together in many respects… we now enjoy the bonds of a shared vision.”

The Red Sox won another World Series in 2007, but that shared vision got a little blurry after that. Theo left the Red Sox again in 2011, this time for the Cubs. The shared vision seems to be pretty clear on the northside of Chicago – at least for now.

Contributing sources:
Los Angeles Times, Epstein returns to the Red Sox, January 20, 2006
ESPN.com
Fivethirtyeight.com

A STORY FROM JAN 18TH IN BASEBALL HISTORY – BOB FELLER ACCEPTS PAY CUT

TODAY’S STORY TAKES US BACK TO CLEVELAND, OHIO IN 1950. 

After winning 24, 27, 25, 26 and 20 games, then dropping down to 19 and 15 wins, future Hall of Famer Bob Feller not only accepted but suggested a 25% pay cut from the Cleveland Indians.

At $80,000 Feller was the highest paid player in the majors a few seasons earlier. His pay was cut $20,000 in 1950. Of course, this was before the days of free agency. The owners pretty much dictated salary terms. Players could accept them or go work for a living. Feller seemed resigned to the pay cut. While negotiations were going on he told the Associated Press that he was “not altogether unhappy. We seem to agree on almost everything.”

It turned out Feller had some good years still in him. He went 16-11 in 1950 and startling 22-8 in 1951. Like many other ball-players he missed some of his most productive seasons, 1942, ‘43 and ’44, to serve in the military during World War II.

The Van Meter, Iowa native finished his career with 266 win and 162 losses, a .621 winning percentage. He led the American League in wins six times. Bob Feller was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Contributing sources:
Los Angeles Times (AP),
“Bob Feller’s Pay Check Gets Scalped,” January 19, 1950
FoxSports, Dan Graf, January 18, 2016

A STORY FROM JAN 17TH IN BASEBALL HISTORY – MAYS DEFENDS OWNERS

TODAY’S STORY TAKES US BACK TO SAN FRANCISCO IN 1970. 

Baseball great Willie Mays spoke out in favor of major league baseball owners on this date in baseball history.
 
The San Francisco Giant outfielder told broadcaster and former player Joe Garagiola, “If players control the game it is going to be bad. Owners must make some money, too.”
 
Mays’ comments were in reference to Curt Flood. The St. Louis Cardinals traded Flood to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood refused to report in protest of baseball’s reserve clause which put the player’s future totally in the hands of the team that held his contract.
 
Mays didn’t criticize Flood, only saying, “That’s a personal thing. For myself I want to stay in San Francisco, but if the Giants traded me I would go.”
 
Flood sued Major League Baseball and the case went all the way to the United State Supreme Court. The Court ruled against Flood in 1972, saying that Major League Baseball was exempt from antitrust laws. But the case paved the way for free agency.
 
Flood only played 13 more games in his career and retired at age 33. Willie Mays was traded to the New York Mets in 1972. He retired in 1973.
Contributing source:
 Jack Hanley, The Daily Review, Hayward, California, January 18, 1970

A STORY FROM JAN 16TH IN BASEBALL HISTORY – TWEAKING THE ALL-STAR GAME

We go back to 2003 for our story. Major League Baseball owners met Scottsdale, Arizona on this date in 2003 to rectify a public relations embarrassment. The 2002 all-star game did not end well.

Commissioner Bud Selig stopped a tied game in the 11th inning because both teams ran out of pitchers. Fans felt cheated. The game was played in Milwaukee, Selig’s home town.
 
The owners decided to tweak the summer classic to make it more than an exhibition. Starting in 2003 the league that wins the all-star game will have home-field-advantage in the World Series. Fifteen of the previous 17 World Series champions had home-field advantage. The two leagues had been alternating home-field-advantage since the World Series began in 1903.
 
Teams will be urged to save pitchers and other position players for the eventuality of the game going into extra innings.
 
The January 16, 2003 rule change lasted about a dozen years. As of December 2016, the owners changed the home-field-advantage rule again. Starting with the 2017 post-season, home-field-advantage for the World Series goes to the team with the best regular season record.

Contributing sources:
MLB All-Star game
SBNation home-field-advantage
World Series recaps

JAN 15TH IN BASEBALL HISTORY – FEARED AND FEARLESS BOB GIBSON ELECTED TO THE HALL

JANUARY 15, 1981 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A feared and fearless Bob Gibson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on this date in 1981. St. Louis Cardinal righty Bob Gibson became, at the time, just the 11th player voted into the Hall in his first year of eligibility. Gibson said, “That didn’t affect me until I saw the guys who made it in their first year.”

They were Al Kaline, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn and Mickey Mantle (players like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb aren’t among the 11 because they were already voted into the Hall in its inaugural year of 1939).

Bob Gibson won 20 or more games 5 times. His best won-loss year was 1970 when he went 23-7. But his most dominant year, as far as he and most observers are concerned, was 1968. He went 22-9 with a 1.13 ERA and 13 shutouts. Let me repeat – 13 SHUTOUTS. An entire pitching staff is lucky to have that many shutouts in a season.

Oh, by the way, 2 of Gibson’s 9 losses were by scores of 1-0.

His ERA was the 3rd lowest in the modern era (since 1900). He won the Cy Young award and was National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1968.

The Omaha native pitched in 3 World Series. The Cardinals won two of them – 1964 against the Yankees and 1967 against the Boston Red Sox. He was MVP in both. His World Series record was 7-2.

Some little-known facts about Bob Gibson; He went to Creighton University on a basketball scholarship, averaging 22 point per game his junior year. Before he joined the Cardinals, the feared and fearless Bob Gibson played one year for the Harlem GlobeTrotters basketball team.

Contributing source:
Chicago Tribune Wire Services, January 16, 1981, “Gibson in Hall, no one else comes close.”
More on Bob Gibson