Jan 14, 1963-APARICIO: MAGICIAN

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS  Luis Aparicio was a Hall of Fame shortstop, a 13-time All-Star, a 9-time Gold Glove winner, a fan favorite everywhere he went, so why was he traded so often? “Little Louie” as he was called, was traded on this day in 1963 along with Al Smith, from the Chicago White Sox to the Baltimore Orioles for Hoyt Wilhelm, Dave Nicholson, Pete Ward, and Ron Hansen.

Aparicio was traded three times, but one of those was back to the White Sox, the team he started his career with. There was never a hint of Aparicio being anything but a team player.

When he retired in 1973 Aparicio was the all-time leader in games played, assists and putouts by a shortstop. He was the American League stolen base leader nine years in a row. He helped the White Sox get to the World Series in 1959 and helped the Baltimore Orioles win the World Series in 1966.IN AN

In an 18-year big league career the Venezuelan born Aparicio never played any position other than shortstop?

Luis Aparicio was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

Contributing source:
Baseball-Reference

Jan 13, 1958-SILENT PARTNER

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – On this day in 1958 it became known that former Chicago White Sox third baseman Buck Weaver personally appealed to the Commissioner who banned him from the game to get reinstated. The New York Times reported that Weaver met with Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis the previous week, but since it was not a formal appeal, it was not publicly disclosed.

Weaver had been kicked out of major league baseball for life for being part of a conspiracy to throw the 1919 World Series. Despite he and seven other players being acquitted of taking bribes from gamblers (mainly because their confessions were mysteriously lost), baseball banned them anyway for associating with gamblers. The evidence was that Weaver refused to take part in the plan but never spoke up about it either.

Weaver hit .324 in the series and played errorless third base, which lent credence to his declaration that he wasn’t involved, but Commissioner Landis wouldn’t budge. This was the first of several unsuccessful attempts by George “Buck” Weaver during his lifetime to get his named cleared. He died in 1956 at age 65.

Contributing sources:
The New York Times, January 14, 1922
1919 World Series stats, box scores

Jan 12, 1961 – GENIUS OR FOOL?

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS • Chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley dropped a bombshell on the baseball world on this date in 1961 – he announced that the Cubs would not have a manager for the upcoming season.

The franchise had been struggling. The Cubs were 60-94 in 1960, the eighth year in a row the team lost more games than it won. Wrigley wanted a revolving door – a revolving door of coaches. Wrigley considered the manager a “dictator,” and instead would rotate eight coaches through the major and minor leagues. Each would take turns running the major league club. Length of stay would depend on how well the “coach” was doing. This brain trust became known as the College of Coaches.

Wrigley wanted help from another unlikely source, “Everyone has always said baseball is a game of percentages, but I have yet to find anyone in baseball who can figure the percentages.” He wanted an IBM machine in the dugout so whoever was running the team could access statistical information about opposing, as well as Cub players. This information would in turn help dictate game strategy. Mind you, this is decades before the personal computer.

The Ivy League approach didn’t work. The Cubs finished the 1961 season 64-90, just four games better than the year before. The situation got worse in 1962 when the Cubs lost 103 games on a 154 game schedule, the worst season the Cubs ever had. And that was the end of the College of Coaches.

Contributing sources:
Chicago Daily Tribune, 
January 13, 1961, by E. Prell, P. C1 
MLB stats
Philip K. Wrigley 

Jan 11, 1971-TIGER STRICKEN

DULUTH, MINNESOTA – Detroit Tiger pitcher John Hiller suffered a heart attack at his home in Duluth, Minnesota on this day in baseball history. He was just 27-years old. According to Bruce Markusen of Detroit Sports History, Hiller was not out of shape or overweight, but he was a heavy smoker.

Hiller recovered, and amazingly, despite missing the entire 1971 season, had better years after the heart attack than before.

The Canadian native broke in with the Tigers in 1965. The most games he won before his heart attack was nine, the most saves he had (Hiller was mostly a reliever) was four. After returning to baseball Hiller won ten games and had thirty-eight saves in 1973. He won seventeen games in ’74 – all in relief, an American League record – and had twelve wins in ’76.

Hiller’s entire 15-year career was with Detroit. He finished with 87 wins and 76 losses and a sparkling earned run average of 2.83.

Contributing sources:
Detroit Sports History
John Hiller, Wikipedia

Jan 10, 2006-FIRST CLOSER

ATLANTA, GEORGIA  On this day in baseball history, a pitcher who never started a game, was elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame – the first time it ever happened. Closer Bruce Sutter got the call at his home in Atlanta that he was just the fourth relief pitcher invited to the Hall. The others were Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley, but they all started games during their careers.

It was a bad break that paved the way for Sutter. Mike Spellman of Chicago’s Daily Herald wrote that Sutter was discovered by Chicago Cubs scout Ralph Diullo playing semi-pro ball in Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1971.

Sutter was only two games into his minor league career when he injured his elbow requiring surgery. He didn’t pitch again until 1973 and when he did his fastball was gone. Sutter credits Cubs minor league pitching coaches Fred Martin and Mike Roarke with showing him how to throw a splitter. That was the pitch that got him 300 Saves in a 12-year career.

Sutter was a throw-back closer. He frequently pitched more than one inning in an appearance. Five times he pitched over 100 innings. For ten straight seasons Sutter pitched at least 80 innings. Mariano Rivera pitched 100 innings once. Only twice has he pitched over 80. White Sox closer Bobby Jenks has never pitched more than 70 innings in a season.

Contributing Sources:
Paul Newberry, Associated Press, January 11, 2006
Mike Spellman, Daily Herald (suburban Chicago), January 11, 2006

a STORY from today in baseball history