Jan 19, 2006 – HE’S BACK

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETS  In the lingering euphoria of their first World Series championship in 108 years, will the Chicago Cubs be unable to remember the past and therefore be condemned to repeat it? The past being, then Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein walking away from the Red Sox a little over a year after he assembled a team that won the World Series after an 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”

On this day in baseball history, January 19, 2006, it was announced that Epstein would return to the Red Sox. A joint statement from Epstein, owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and President Larry Lucchino 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. Theo left the Red Sox again for the Cubs in 2011. The shared vision seems to be pretty clear on the northside of Chicago – at least now.

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

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

Jan 18, 1950-STAR ACCEPTS CUT

CLEVELAND, OHIO  After seasons 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% cut in pay 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

Jan 17, 1970-OWNER’S DEFENSE

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – Baseball great Willie Mays spoke out in favor of major league (MLB) owners on this date in baseball history, and he was still playing at the time.

The San Francisco Giant outfielder told Joe Garagiola in an interview, “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‘s refusal to report to the Philadelphia Phillies, the team he was traded to by the St. Louis Cardinals. Mays didn’t criticize Flood’s refusal to report, 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.”

Curt flood refused to report to the Phillies in protest of baseball’s reserve clause which put the player’s future totally in the hands of the team that held his contract. Flood sued and the case went all the way to the United State Supreme Court. While he lost, it paved the way for free agency.

By the way, Willie Mays didn’t finish his career with the Giants. He was traded to the New York Mets in 1972.

Contributing source:
 Jack Hanley, The Daily Review, Hayward, California, January 18, 1970

Jan 16, 2003-HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA • MLB team owners voted unanimously on this day in baseball history to have the annual all-star game be more than an exhibition. Starting with the 2003 contest, the league that wins the all-star game will have home field advantage for the World Series.

Fifteen of the previous seventeen World Series champions (before the 2003 rule change) had home-field advantage. The two leagues had been alternating home field advantage since it began in 1903.

The move was precipitated by an embarrassing situation at the previous year’s all-star classic in 2002. Commissioner Bud Selig was forced to call the game, being played in his hometown of Milwaukee, in the 11th inning with it tied 7-7 because both teams ran out of pitchers.

The thinking now is that won’t happen again because the teams will be playing to win not just to get everyone in the game. Teams will be urged to save pitchers and other position players for the eventuality of the game going into extra innings.

*As a postscript, since 2003 the American League has had home field advantage 11 times to the National League’s 3. But the National League has been on the winning side of the World Series 8 times to the American League’s 6.

** Postscript #2, 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 will not go to the league that wins the All-star game. It will go to the World Series team with the best regular season record.

Contributing sources:
MLB All-Star game

Jan 15, 1981-GIBSON INVITED

NEW YORK, NEW YORK A feared and fearless pitcher 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. Two of his 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 he 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

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