June 10-Colavito muscles 4 out of the park

*1959 | BALTIMORE, MARYLANDRocky Colavito hit four home runs against the Baltimore Orioles today in baseball history – June 10, 1969. He became the eighth major leaguer to jack four in a 9-inning game. His Cleveland Indians beat the Orioles 11 to 4.

“Rocky Colavito” was born Rocco Domenico Colavito in New York City in 1933. What a name. He could have been a prize fighter if he wasn’t a ball player. He was signed by the Indians in 1951.

Colavito hit 374 home runs in his relatively short 13 year major league career, which, as of June 10, 2017, puts him 77th on the all-time career home run list.

He was never a threat to the record, but in one eleven year span Colavito averaged 33 home runs, which is the same number career leader Henry Aaron averaged per season, and on par with the other career home run leaders; Barry Bonds (2nd-34), Babe Ruth (3rd-34), Willie Mays (4th-30) and Sammy Sosa (5th-35)

The 6-time all-star bounced around the majors a bit. Besides Cleveland, he played for the Detroit Tigers, and had short stints with the Kansas City A’s, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. His best year was 1961 with the Tigers when he hit .290 with 45 home runs and 113 RBI.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Career HR leaders

 

June 9-Sunday Night Lights

*1963 | HOUSTON, TEXAS – The first Sunday night major league baseball game was played on this date in 1963. Sunday night games were banned at the time, but the Houston Colt .45s asked for, and were granted, an exception because of the oppressive Texas heat.

“We would have been lucky to have drawn 4,000 fans if the game had been played in the afternoon.”

This was before the Astrodome was built, in fact the sweltering heat was an impetus for building it. At the time the Colt .45s were playing in open air Colt Stadium, which had virtually no shade for the fans.

The Houston ball club was ecstatic about the results. Besides beating the San Francisco Giants 3-0 in 1-hour and 58 minutes, in front of 17,437 fans, executive director George Kirksey said, “We would have been lucky to have drawn 4,000 fans if the game had been played in the afternoon. You can’t expect people to pay their money to come to the ball park and suffer in the heat.”

The Associated Press in Houston reported the night game temperature was 79°. It would have been 95º during the day.

Of the cities with major league teams at the time, the heat was an issue in Houston more than any other:

Average highs (from www.myforecast.com)
                                         June   July    August
Houston                       90          92         92
St. Louis                        85          89         87
Kansas City                 84          90         87
Washington , D.C.   84          88         86
Baltimore                    83          87         85
Philadelphia               82          86         85
Cincinnati                    82          86         85
Detroit                          79          83         81
Chicago                        79          84         82
New York                    79          84         83
Cleveland                     79          83         81
Minneapolis               79          84         84
Milwaukee                  76          80         79
Boston                          76          82         82
Los Angeles                72          75         76
San Francisco            71          71         72

The Houston club had to deal with the heat until 1966 when the Harris County Domed Stadium opened. Soon after the stadium name was changed to the Astrodome and the team name changed to Astros.

READ MORE/SOURCES:
June 9, 1963 box score/stats
Weather stats
Houston Astros
Associated Press, Houston, via The Hartford Courant, June 11, 1963

JUNE 8-Let’s play 2… sports that is

*1979 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Two future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks were drafted right out of high school by major league baseball teams on this date in 1979. Dan Marino was selected in the 4th round by the Kansas City Royals. John Elway was drafted in the 18th round, also by the Royals. They both chose college instead; Marino – Pittsburgh and Elway – Stanford.

Elway was drafted again by the Yankees in 1981. He played 42 games for the Yankees Oneonta, NY farm team in ‘82, and showed promise. He hit .318 with 4 home runs and 25 RBI. He was also trying to get the Baltimore Colts of the NFL, who drafted him #1 in 1983, to trade him. They did. That’s how Elway ended up in Denver. Dan Marino did not play any professional baseball.

There have been a bunch of other two-sport stars. Here are a few of them:

Michael Jordan – The basketball icon, made a flight of fancy to the White Sox minor leagues in the mid-90’s. Getting back into basketball was a better use of his talents.

Bo Jackson – Played football for the Oakland Raiders and major league baseball for the Royals and White Sox. A hip injury cut short his involvement in both sports.

Danny Ainge – The future NBA star ( and current Boston Celtics general manager) played 211 games as an infielder for the Toronto blue Jays from 1979 to ’81, finishing with a .220 average.

Deion Sanders – Deion was probably the most successful two-sport pro athlete. He played parts of 9 seasons for the Yankees, Braves, Reds and Giants, hitting .273 and stealing 56 bases for Cincinnati in 1997. Much of this overlapped with his 14 years in the NFL, 8 as a Pro Bowler, around the same time.

Brian Jordan – Played defensive back (with Deion Sanders) for the Atlanta Falcons in the early 90’s. Jordan settled on baseball after that.

Dave DeBussshere – Pitched 102 innings for the White Sox in 1962 & 63 with an impressive ERA of 2.90 before settling full time on an NBA career with the New York Knicks.

Chuck Connors – Played baseball for the Dodgers and Cubs and basketball for the Boston Celtics in the late 40’s and early 50’s. He’s probably best known, however, for his lead role in an old TV show, “The Rifleman.”

George Halas – Played 12 games for the Yankees in 1919 before focusing on football and helping found the National Football League and the Chicago Bears.

 

JUNE 7-From the school yard to “The Show”

*1973 | NEW YORK, NEW YORKThis doesn’t happen very often. Three players chosen in the first round of the major league draft on this date in 1973 went straight to the major leagues. Number one pick David Clyde went from high school to the Texas Rangers. Outfielder Dave Winfield went from the University of Minnesota campus to the San Diego Padres. And Eddie Bane went from Arizona State University to the Minnesota Twins as a pitcher.

Another player from that draft became a regular major leaguer at 18 – Robin Yount – though he technically did not go straight from high school. He became the regular Milwaukee Brewer shortstop the following spring.

The results of these “can’t miss” draftees were mixed.

David Clyde started and won his first major league start June 27, 1973. His career was not a memorable one though. Clyde developed arm problems and his major league career was over before he was 25.
Dave Winfield was a highly sought-after athlete. The same year he was drafted by MLB, he was also drafted by the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. He never played professional football or basketball, deciding to stick with baseball. His major league career was spent mostly with the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees. He made his MLB debut June 19, 1973

Eddie Bane had an impressive major league debut July 4th 1973. He gave up one earned run over 7 innings, but got a no-decision. He finished the year 0-5 in 1973. He never quite got it together in “the show,” and was out of baseball by 1976.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
MLB Draft: The 1970’s
David Clyde  
Robin Yount
Dave Winfield

 

June 6 – A shot in the dark?

DSCN2130*1983 • NEW YORK CITY – Tim Belcher was the #1 pick of the amateur draft on this date in 1983, but he turned down the Minnesota Twins’ signing bonus. He wanted to wait until the supplemental draft in January of 1984. He was selected first in that one too, this time by the New York Yankees.

How good a pick was Tim Belcher? He had a decent career, but he was no superstar. On the other hand, there are some number 1 picks that totally bombed.

Next time you have a bad day, say to yourself, ‘Well, at least I’m not responsible for drafting Shawn Abner.” Who? Exactly. Abner was the first pick in the 1984 draft.

Or, ‘At least I didn’t pass on Albert Pujols 12 times. Pujols was picked in the 13th round in 1999. Or, John Smoltz 21 times. Smoltz was chosen in the 22nd round in 1985. Or, Mark Buehrle 37 times. Buehrle was chosen in the 38th round in 1998!

A lot of scouts, general managers and player personnel directors go out on a limb around this time of year trying to figure out who the next Alex Rodriguez will be. Sometimes they’re very close, sometimes their way off.

Here are the 1st picks for every draft since 1980:

1980 Darrly Strawberry-Mets – Some great years. Lots of baggage
1981 Mike Moore-Mariners – 14 year career, 161-176, no superstar
1982 Shawon Dunston-Cubs – Solid, no superstar
1983 Tim Belcher-Twins – Some good years, some mediocre
1984 Shawn Abner-Mets – Total bust
1985 J. Surhoff Brewers – Solid, no superstar
1986 Jeff King Pittsburgh – Solid, no superstar
1987 Ken Griffey Jr. Seattle – Superstar when healthy
1988 Andy Benes-San Diego – Won 155 games in 12 seasons.
1989 Ben McDonald-Baltimore – Won 78 games in 6 seasons
1990 Chipper Jones-Atlanta – Superstar, Hall of Famer
1991 Brien Taylor-New York (AL) – Total bust
1992 Phil Nevin-Houston – Some good years, no superstar
1993 Alex Rodriguez-Seattle – Superstar, took steroids
1994 Paul Wilson-New York (NL) – 40-58 in 7-year career
1995 Darin Erstad-California – Solid, no superstar
1996 Kris Benson-Pittsburgh – 70-75 in 9-year MLB career
1997 Matt Anderson-Detroit – Starter, 15-7 in 7-year career
1998 Pat Burrell-Philadelphia – 292Hr, 976RBI over 12-years
1999 Josh Hamilton-Tampa Bay – Good numbers, a lot of baggage
2000 Adrian Gonzalez-Florida – Possible HOF. Still active
2001 Joe Mauer-Minnesota – Solid career. Still active
2002 Bryan Bullington-Pittsburgh – 1-9 over 5-years
2003 Delmon Young-Tampa Bay – .283 BA over 10 years
2004 Matthew Bush-San Diego – Drafted as SS. Today Texas’ closer
2005 Justin Upton-Arizona – >200 HRs, >700 RBI. Still active
2006 Luke Hochevar-Kansas City – Middle reliever in 9-year career
2007 David Price-Tampa Bay – #1 starter. Still active
2008 Tim Beckham-Tampa Bay – Up and down. Still young
2009 Stephen Strasburg-Washington, #1 starter/injury prone
2010 Bryce Harper-Washington, budding superstar
2011      Garrit Cole-Pittsburgh-Brilliant & mediocre. Still young
2012      Carlos Correa-Houston-Potential Hall of Fame SS
2013      Mark Appel-Houston-25 years old. Hasn’t played in majors
2014      Brady Aiken-Houston-20 years old. Hasn’t played in majors
2015      Dansby Swanson, Arizona-Braves starting SS
2016      Mickey Moniak, Philadelphia-20 years old. Hasn’t played in majors

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
First overall picks
Baseball Draft Research Application
http://www.baseball-almanac.com/

 

June 5-Can’t we all just get along?

*1974 | DETROIT, MICHIGAN – The Oakland A’s came out swinging on this date in 1974, before the game against the Detroit Tigers. A’s teammates Reggie Jackson and Billy North got into a fight in the visitors’ clubhouse. It was broken up by teammates Vida Blue and John “Blue Moon” Odom, who had their own scuffle two years earlier.

A few minutes after the first fight was broken up Jackson and North came to blows again. This time Jackson banged his shoulder, but teammate catcher Ray Fosse playing peacemaker crushed a disc in his neck that virtually ended his season.

Jackson and North were close friends at one time, but according to the Oakland Tribune they had not spoken in a month. Apparently they had something to say to each other that day.

The ’74 A’s weren’t exactly the picture of harmony, still they went on to win their third straight World Series; a feat no team not named Yankees has ever done.

Oakland players have said they played so well as a team because of their common dislike for micromanaging owner Charles Finley. Oh, by the way, the A’s beat the Tigers that day 9-1.

Contributing sources:
Oakland Tribune, June 6, 1974
Consecutive World Series winners
World Series winners

JUNE 1-Iron horse begins his journey

20170222_144857_resized*1925 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – On this date in 1925 twenty-one year old Henry Louis Gehrig pinched hit for New York Yankee shortstop Paul Wanninger. It was the start of something special. Lou Gehrig would play in every single game for the next 14 years. He would surpass Everett Scott‘s consecutive game record of 1,307 and set his own of 2,130 consecutive games played.

The oft-repeated story is that Gehrig’s streak began when New York Yankee first baseman Wally Pipp asked for a day off because of a headache. Another story is Yankee manager Miller Huggins didn’t start Pipp and several other regulars that day to shake up a slumping lineup. Either story may be true. Gehrig did start at first in place of Pipp, but it was the second day of his streak, June 2nd.

Interestingly, the guy Gehrig pinch hit for on June 1st to start his streak, Paul Wanninger, several years earlier had replaced former consecutive game record holder Everett Scott in the Yankee lineup.

Gehrig’s consecutive game streak ended sadly in 1939. He was forced out of the lineup by a rare disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), now more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His seemingly unbreakable record would stand for 56 years. It was broken by Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles in 1995.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
June 1, 1925
ESPN on Gehrig
Wally Pipp

 

May 31-Legends meet in Milwaukee

1975 | MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – Baseball generations were bridged in dramatic fashion at Milwaukee County Stadium on this date in 1975. The Brewers were hosting the Kansas City Royals. Hank Aaron, in a Brewer uniform, was in his 22 major league baseball season, as was Harmon Killebrew, in a Royals uniform.

Also in Royals blue was pitcher Lindy McDaniel, in his 21st season. Playing shortstop for the Brewers was a tall slender, curly haired 19-year old named Robin Yount. Aaron, Killebrew and McDaniel all started playing major league baseball before Yount was born.

Aaron and Killebrew were at the ends of Hall of Fame careers. Yount was at the beginning of one. He would end up in Cooperstown twenty-four years later.

Yount would be American League MVP as a shortstop in 1982, the year the Brewers went to the World Series. He would be MVP a second time in 1989, as a centerfielder. One of only three players in baseball history to win the MVP at two positions. The others were Stan Musial and Hank Greenberg.

The ever modest Yount was probably in awe being on the same field with those legends back in 1975, but he went on to prove he belonged.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCE:
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, by Leonard Koppett, 2004

 

MAY 29-1st place on Memorial Day good omen

*2017 | MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL – USA • It’s a surprise to many that the Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees were leading their divisions this Memorial Day (2017).

Since Major League Baseball (MLB) division play began in 1969 records show that teams leading their division or in a wild-card position on Memorial Day have a better than average chance of making the playoffs.

American League LEADERS today-May 29, 2017:
East: YANKEES
Central: TWINS
West: ASTROS
Wildcard #1: RED SOX
Wildcard #2: ORIOLES

National League LEADERS today-May 29, 2017:
East: NATIONALS
Central: BREWERS
West: ROCKIES
Wildcard #1: DODGERS
Wildcard #2: DIAMONDBACKS

We’ll have to wait and see how predictive the division leaders were today.

Here’s how predictable Memorial Day standings were in 2016:

American League LEADERS on Memorial Day 2016
East: RED SOX (PREDICTIVE-WON THE DIVISION)
Central: TWINS (DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS)
West: ASTROS (DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS)
Wildcard #1: BLUE JAYS (PREDICTIVE-WON WILDCARD #1)
Wildcard #2: BALTIMORE (PREDICTIVE-WON WILDCARD #2)

National League LEADERS on Memorial Day 2016
East: NATIONALS (PREDICTIVE-WON THE DIVISION)
Central: CUBS (PREDICTIVE-WON THE DIVISION)
West: GIANTS (PREDICTIVE-MADE PLAYOFFS AS WILDCARD)
Wildcard #1: PIRATES (DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS)
Wildcard #2: METS (PREDICTIVE-WON WILDCARD #1)

2016’s Memorial Day standings were quite predictive of who would make the playoffs. There were 10 postseason playoff slots available in, and 70% of the Division leaders on Memorial Day 2016 made the playoffs.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Division standings
Wild card standings
May 29, 2016

MAY 27 – Size matters

*1960 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK –  It’s been said, ‘catching a knuckle-ball is like trying to catch a butterfly with a fly swatter.’  It’s one of the biggest challenges a catcher faces. The Baltimore Orioles tried to do something about it on this date in 1960.

One of their starters was premier knuckler Hoyt Wilhelm. Oriole catchers had an especially difficult time catching him. The Orioles set a record in 1959 for the most passed ball with 49, 38 while Wilhelm was on the mound.

On this date in 1960, Baltimore manager Paul Richards. had an idea. He came up with an oversized catcher’s mitt for catcher Clint Courtney.

It worked. Courtney had no passed balls on this date – there had been 11 in Wilhelm’s previous 28 innings – and Wilhelm pitched his first complete game of the season beating the New York Yankees 3-2.

The oversized mitt led to a rule change a few years later. Beginning with the 1965 season catcher’s mitts were limited to 38 inches in circumference and 15 ½ inches from top to bottom.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
The Official Rules of Baseball Illustrated, David Nemec,  2006
The knuckle-ball

a STORY from today in baseball history