Category Archives: February

A STORY FROM FEB 21 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – TED WILLIAMS RETURNS

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO WASHINGTON, D.C. ON FEBRUARY 21, 1969Ted Williams returns. The Hall-of-Fame slugger was lured back to baseball on this date in 1969 to manage the Washington Senators . This will be a challenge. The greatest hitter of all-time leading a struggling expansion franchise that had yet to finish a season with a winning record.

The Senators lost at least 100 games in four of its first eight seasons. Remember this was the new Washington Senators, a 1961 expansion team after the original Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.

Williams knew it would be a difficult task, telling the Associated Press (AP), “This may be a long, hard grind for a while.” And what about when he has to deal with a young player wound as tight as he was in his younger days? Would he tolerate a player with a temper, “If he can hit like Ted Williams, yes.”

Williams’ presence brought immediate results. The franchise had its first winning season in 1969, Williams first year as manager. They finished the season 86-76, but it was back downhill after that.

The Senators lost 92 games in 1970 and lost 96 in 1971. Attendance got so bad the team moved to Arlington, Texas in 1972 and became the Rangers.

That first year in Texas the Rangers finished with a record 54-100, the worst year of their history. The headline again could be, “Ted Williams Returns,”  but this time he returned to fishing and hunting. His baseball managing days were over.

Contributing Sources:
Chicago Tribune, February 22, 1969, “Ted signs to manage Senators for 5 years”
Washington Senators 1961-1971
Year to year results
Ted Williams

A STORY FROM FEB 20 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – TRADITIONAL GAME CHANGES OFTEN

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO  FEBRUARY 20, 1963 IN  SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA. Baseball is often described as a traditional game that never changes. It’s a myth. Baseball is a traditional games that changes often. For example, the strike-zone has changed several times.

On this date in 1963, Alvin Dark, the manager of the San Francisco Giants, bemoaned the fact that the strike-zone will be raised. It will go from the top of the batter’s arm pits to the top of the shoulders.

Dark is worried his pitchers will have trouble keeping the ball down even though the bottom of the strike zone is not changing, “It’s the way they [the umpires] stand that raises or lowers the strike zone. If they’re up higher [to see the higher strike] it may pull the strike zone up.”

 

 

 

 

The strike zone has changed numerous times over the years, and many believe it changes depending on who’s calling balls and strikes. Here, according to mlb.com, are the “official” changes to the strike zone and balls and strikes:

1876 - 1-foot above ground to shoulders, batter calls for low or high pitch
1887 - Knees to shoulders, batter no longer calls for high or low pitch
1950 - Top of the knees to armpits 
1963 - Knees to the top of shoulders
1969 - Top of knees to armpits
1988 - Top of the knees to midpoint between shoulders & the top of pants
1996 - Bottom of knees to midpoint between shoulders & top of the pants

There also have been changes to:

-how many balls for a base-on-balls
-whether foul balls become strikes
-the makeup of the baseball
-the height of the pitcher’s mound

Yes, baseball is a traditional game that changes often.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press (AP), San Francisco, California, February 21, 1963
Official changes to strike zone

A STORY FROM FEB 19 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – DIFFICULT EVEN FOR TED WILLIAMS

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO SEOUL, KOREA FEBRUARY 19, 1953. Ted Williams told the Associated Press (AP) on this date that trying to find a target with a Marine Panther jet “is harder than trying to hit that ball.” It was difficult even for Ted Williams.

The Boston Red Sox slugger had just returned from his sixth combat mission into North Korea. He was on the second military tour of his major league career. He served three years during World War II, and two more in Korea.

Williams was not alone among major league stars to interrupt some of their most productive years to get involved when the country was at war. Detroit Tiger slugger Hank Greenberg and Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller were some of the first to enlist after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 ushering the United States into World War II.

Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor if major league baseball should cease operations for the duration of the war and FDR said no, it would be good for morale.

While baseball continued during World War II, quality of play diminished significantly. If you were able-bodied enough to play baseball you were able-bodied enough to be drafted. Most players who hadn’t enlisted here.

By 1945, the last year of World War II, teenagers such as Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Red-Legs and men with conditions which kept them out of the service, such as one-armed Pete Gray of the St. Louis Browns were filling up MLB rosters. After June, 1945 many of the players began to return from military duty, which was difficult even Ted Williams, and get back to what they knew best – baseball.

Contributing sources:
David Whitley, ESPN.com on Ted Williams
David Hornestay, Baseball Survives World War II, January 7, 2008

A STORY FROM FEB 16 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – REGULATION GAME RULES CHANGED

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO 2007 IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA. Major League Baseball changed the rules for the first time in 11 years on this date in 2007. The Rules Committee decided that if a “regulation” game is interrupted because weather or some kind mechanical problem that forces the game to stop, and the game is tied, it is a “suspended” game and will resume from that point. A regulation game is “suspended” and resumed from that point if the visiting team has gone ahead but the home team has not completed an equal number of innings.

Under the old rule the game would have to start over and all statistics would be wiped clean if a regulation game was stopped with a tie score.

A “regulation” game is one that has gone at least 4½ innings if the home team is ahead or 5 innings if the home team is behind.

The rules are a little different in the postseason or any games that have significance to the postseason. All games stopped due to weather are suspended and completed later from the point of the termination.

Contributing Sources:
Los Angeles Times,
February 17, 2007
Suspended game

A STORY FROM FEB 15 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – BASEBALL PROSPECTUS PICKS NL DIVISION WINNERS FOR 2018

SPRING TRAINING 2018 IS UNDERWAY IN FLORIDA AND ARIZONA. THE NL DIVISION WINNER PREDICTIONS ARE COMING OUT TOO. Among the most eagerly awaited are the predictions from Baseball Prospectus (BP). Check out their in-depth analysis of every team and player in baseball. Here’s who BP predicts will win the National League divisions in 2018.

NL PREDICTIONS FOR 2018
EASTWashington Nationals
CENTRALChicago Cubs
WEST – Los Angeles Dodgers

How accurate was BP last year? As it turned, pretty accurate. Below are the teams Baseball Prospectus picked to win the National League Divisions in 2017 and who actually won (See Feb 13, 2018 story for AL 2017 predictions):

NL PREDICTIONS FOR 2017 
EASTWashington Nationals (CORRECT)
CENTRAL Chicago Cubs (CORRECT)
WEST Los Angeles Dodgers (CORRECT)

It’a quite remarkable that Baseball Prospectus batted 1000 in correctly predicting all six MLB division winners in 2017.

Contributing Sources:
Baseball Prospectus, February 3, 2018
Baseball Reference