Up & In, High & Tight

Tony C - SI

Baseball is the easiest sport for fans to criticize because almost all of us have played the game at some level. We’ve fielded ground balls, thrown from the outfield and maybe even hit a home run or two. So, when a batter flails away at a pitch in the dirt or a fielder misses the cutoff man, we’re quick to attach a negative analysis to the event. That all stops, however, when we see a major league player get hit in the head by a 95-mph fastball.

 

Watching the recent embarrassing brawl between the Tigers & Yankees, in which four batters were hit and eight were ejected, makes you wonder if baseball will ever get rid of the unwritten rules of “retaliation”. It’s one thing to go after a batter who has been “showing up” the opposition, but throwing at someone who hit a Home Run in his last at-bat is childish.

 

Even though some modern writers and broadcasters use the term “bean ball” to describe a pitch that hits a batter anywhere on his body, the historic definition seems much more narrow and means being hit in the head or “beaned”. As with many rules within the game, the issue in keeping it under control falls to the umpires and leaves them with the difficulty of determining “intent.” For that reason, players and managers still take the position that HBP (Hit By Pitcher) should be self-policed and retaliations often escalate into “beanball wars.” MLB has yet to figure out a reasonable solution to bench-clearing brawls and we all have some visual available in our brain of one of those fiascos. Mine is 72-year old Don Zimmer charging after Pedro Martinez in the 2003 Yankees – Red Sox ALCS.

 

The other day, I watched a telecast where an Aroldis Chapman fastball registered 105 mph on the radar gun. Ironically, a player named Chapman is the only major league player to have died from being hit in the head. On August 16th, 1920 at the Polo Grounds in New York, Indians Shortstop Ray Chapman was hit by a pitch thrown by Carl Mays and died 12 hours later. He was 29 years old and in his ninth major league season. Accounts of the incident seem to suggest that Mays was a noted “headhunter.” Pitching for the Yankees, he won 26 games that season and led the American League with 27 wins the following year. Babe Ruth was his teammate during this time and hit 113 Home Runs in those two campaigns.

 

Many players have had their careers impacted dramatically after being struck in the head by a baseball. Tigers Hall of Fame Catcher Mickey Cochrane was in his 13th season in 1937 when he was knocked unconscious by a pitch and spent seven days in the hospital…he never played another game. Another Hall Of Famer, Lou Boudreau, played very little after being beaned in 1951 and retired the following season. Despite this type of outcome, baseball waited until 1956 before implementing a requirement that batters either wear a batting helmet or protective plastic liners under their caps. Full helmets didn’t become mandatory until 1971 and the earflap was added in 1983.

 

Players of the last 50 years certainly haven’t been immune from these sad stories. Tony Conigliaro of the Red Sox was one of the brightest young stars of the game in the mid-60’s. In 1965, he led the AL in Home Runs at age 20! On the night of August 16th, 1967 at Fenway Park, “Tony C.” was hit in the face with a fastball thrown by Jack Hamilton of the Angels. The injuries were so devastating that he missed the entire 1968 season and even though he played with some success in ’69 & ’70, his deteriorating eyesight forced him to retire at age 26. Dickie Thon came back from a gruesome beaning in 1984, but was never the same player. Twins Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett had his jaw broken by a fastball late in the 1994 season and it would be his last game as he developed glaucoma the following Spring and had to retire.

 

Getting hit by a pitch can also be strategic instead of tragic. Ron Hunt of the Expos holds the major league record for HBP with 50 in 1971. This was right in the middle of a 7-year run where he led the National League each year. Minnie Minoso of the White Sox led the AL in 10 of 11 seasons from 1951-1961.

 

Of course, as in all things baseball, humor can always be found. In the 1950’s, Yankees legend Yogi Berra was hit in the head by a pitch and was carried off the field before being taken to the hospital. The headline in the newspaper the next morning said, “X-Rays of Yogi’s head show nothing.”

 

As for me, I’m going to fire up that InterWiFi thinggy and download some Chin Music.

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Field Of Dreams

AFL RD

OK, close your eyes and picture yourself sitting behind home plate at a beautiful ballpark, on a perfect day, surrounded by big league scouts, watching a game filled with prospects from ten different major league teams. Pretty nice dream, isn’t it? Well, without trying to rub it in, your fantasy is my reality because I’m fortunate enough to live in the Valley of the Sun.

 

An envelope arrived in the mail this week from the “Office of the Commissioner of Baseball”. No, it wasn’t my voting credential for the MVP & Cy Young Award…it was better! It was my annual invitation to purchase a season pass for the Arizona Fall League.

 

The Arizona Fall League, which was the brainchild of Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Roland Hemond, brings together 180 players for six weeks every October and November. Utilizing six of the Spring Training ballparks in the Phoenix area for six weeks, local fans pay $8 (or less) to watch some of the top prospects in baseball compete against each other and attempt to impress scouts and team executives with their talent. A few years ago, for example, Mike Trout & Bryce Harper patrolled the same outfield for the Scottsdale Scorpions. This Fall, at least ten of the MLB.com top 100 will be on rosters including Victor Robles (Nats), Ronald Acuna (Braves), Kyle Tucker (Astros), Francisco Mejia (Indians), Mitch Keller (Pirates), Kyle Lewis (Mariners) & Corey Ray (Brewers).

 

Today, we’ll take a retrospective look at the first decade of the league (1992-2001) and the players who made it to “the show”. We’ll use prospect lists that were published at the time along with award winners and all-star team members from the various campaigns. And, of course, a few oddities to flavor the stew.

 

> 1992

 

* #1 Ryan Klesko (Braves 1B) – Played 16 seasons in the NL and hit 278 Home Runs

 

* #2  Rondell White (Expos OF) – Battled injuries for most of his 15-year career but had a lifetime .284 Batting Average

 

* #9  Mike Piazza (Dodgers C) – Difficult to believe there were eight players rated ahead of him…arguably, the greatest hitting Catcher in history with 427 HR’s and a .308 BA in 16 seasons and now a member of the Hall of Fame

 

* The Manager of the Scottsdale team was Dusty Baker

 

> 1993

 

* #1 Cliff Floyd (Expos 1B) – Another injury-prone player, but lasted in the Majors for 17 seasons with 233 HR’s and a .278 BA

 

* # 2 Todd Hollandsworth (Dodgers OF) – Was the NL Rookie-of-the Year in 1996 but never really built upon that success in 12 seasons with six different teams

 

* # 4 Shawn Green (Blue Jays OF) – Had 42 HR’s & 123 RBI’s in his free agent walk-year of 1999 and used that as springboard to a big contract with the Dodgers…had two more 40+ HR campaigns with L.A. and played 15 years

 

* League MVP Orlando Miller (Astros SS) – Lasted only four seasons in the majors with a lifetime BA of .259…last seen in the big leagues in 1997, he continued to toil in the Minors, Mexico and Independent Leagues until 2008…his final stop was in Edmonton where he hit .319

 

> 1994

 

* #1 Ruben Rivera (Yankees OF) – Yes, he was rated ahead of Nomar & Derek…his 9 years in the Majors produced a BA of .216…during Spring Training in 2002, he was released by the Yankees after it was discovered that he had stolen some of Derek Jeter’s baseball equipment from the locker room and sold it…guess the MLB minimum salary of $300,000 just wasn’t enough

 

* #2 Nomar Garciaparra (Red Sox SS) – Became an icon in New England and made five All-Star teams as a member of the Red Sox before being traded in 2004…a lifetime .313 hitter in 14 seasons

 

* #3 Derek Jeter (Yankees SS) – The Captain of the Yankees is on a secure path to the Hall of Fame and could become the face of the Marlins franchise.

 

* League MVP Mark Grudzielanek (Expos 2B) – Played 15 years and accumulated over 2,000 hits with a BA of .289

 

* The Manager of the Scottsdale squad was Terry Francona

 

> 1995

 

* #1 Alan Benes (Cardinals P) – Won 13 games for St. Louis in 1996 but couldn’t overcome injuries…had a career record of 29 Wins & 28 Losses

 

* #2 Darin Erstad (Angels OF) – Had a very productive 14-year career and won three Gold Gloves as a member of the Angels…an integral part of their 2002 Championship team

 

* League MVP Robin Jennings (Cubs OF) – Only appeared in 93 Major League games

 

> 1996

 

* #1 Kevin Orie (Cubs 3B) – Also the Co-MVP, he was another Cub phenom who didn’t pan out, he played parts of four seasons and hit .249

 

* #2 Chris Carpenter (Blue Jays P) – Pitched in the Majors for 15 years and won the NL Cy Young Award in 2005 with a mark of 21-5

 

* #6 Derrek Lee (Padres 1B) – “D Lee” hit 331 HR’s in 15 big league seasons

 

* League Co-MVP Bubba Trammell (Tigers OF) – Played with five teams in seven seasons and had one 20+ HR campaign with a lifetime BA of .261

 

> 1997

 

* #1 Chad Hermansen (Pirates 2B) – Everyone thought he would be a star…hit .195 in six years with four teams…continued to hang on in the Minors until 2007

 

* #2 Preston Wilson (Mets OF) – Former Mets star Mookie Wilson is both his Uncle & Stepfather (think about that)…played 10 years in the Big Leagues and led the NL with 141 RBI’s while with the Rockies in 2003

 

* #5 Sean Casey (Indians 1B) – One of the most popular players in the Majors during his 12-year career, he had a lifetime BA of .302

 

* #9 John Rocker (Braves P) – Did have some success as a closer during his six years in the Majors, but is best known for his racist, homophobic and sexist remarks in a 1999 Sports Illustrated interview

 

* League MVP Rolando Arrojo (Devil Rays P) – This Cuban defector had an outstanding rookie year in 1998 but was never productive after that and posted a 40-42 W-L record in five seasons

 

* The Manager of the Peoria team was Mike Scioscia

 

> 1998

 

* #1 J.D. Drew (Cardinals OF) – Had some productive results during his 14-year career despite missing significant time with injuries…had 242 HR’s and a lifetime BA of .278

 

* #2 Matt Anderson (Tigers P) – Detroit was seduced by the 100 MPH Fastball and he did have 22 Saves in 2001…seven years in the majors produced a 5.19 ERA

 

* #4 Alfonso Soriano (Yankees SS) – A productive player in 16 big league seasons, he hit over 400 HR’s…he also made over $150 Million

 

* #7 Roy Halladay (Blue Jays P) – “Doc” became one of the best Pitchers in the game with two Cy Young Awards in his trophy room…his record over 16 seasons was 203-105

 

* League MVP Carlos Lee (White Sox 1B/3B) – After playing 14 MLB campaigns, “El Caballo” accumulated 358 HR’s and a .285 BA

 

* The Manager of the Maryvale roster was Ken Griffey Sr.

 

> 1999

 

* League MVP George Lombard (Braves OF) – Only had 350 AB’s in the Majors hitting .220…his last professional season was 2009, when he hit .343 for the Independent League Long Island Ducks

 

* Pitcher-of-the Year Doug Davis (Rangers) – If you looked up “Innings Eater” in the dictionary, his picture would be there…in 13 seasons, his record was 92-108 with a 4.44 ERA

 

* Batting Champion Chad Moeller (Twins OF) – The quintessential AAAA player, he was in the majors for parts of 11 seasons and hit .226

 

* ERA Leader Chad Durbin (Royals P) – Pitched for 14 seasons (and six teams) …lifetime record was 43-47 with 5.03 ERA

 

* Maryvale’s Manager was Bob Melvin

 

> 2000

 

* League MVP Donzell McDonald (Yankees OF) – Had a total of 25 MLB AB’s in 2001-02 and was never in “the show” again…his final pro year was 2010 when he hit .301 in the Mexican League

 

* Pitcher-of-the Year Matt Miller (Tigers) – Pitched 10 career innings for the Tigers, allowing 20 Hits and 10 Runs

 

* All-Star 3B Albert Pujols (Cardinals) – What ever happened to this guy?

 

* All-Star SS Jimmy Rollins (Phillies) – 2016 was his last year in the “Show”…he had over 2,400 hits and the 2007 NL MVP Award to his credit

 

> 2001

 

* #1 Hank Blalock (Rangers 3B) – Had a few productive seasons for Texas, but injuries took their toll…153 HR’s in nine years

 

* #2 Drew Henson (Yankees 3B) – Followed Tom Brady as the QB at Michigan, but decided to try baseball…those of us who watched him try to hit the breaking ball knew it was a bad idea…had only 9 MLB AB’s before going back to Football in 2004…played briefly for the Cowboys & Lions

 

* #3 Brandon Phillips (Expos SS) – Both the Expos & Indians gave up on this volatile personality, but he’s still a productive player in his 16th season and has four Gold Gloves to his credit

 

* #10 Carl Crawford (Devil Rays OF) – Was a real game-changer during his eight seasons with the Rays swiping 400 bases…the huge free-agent contract in Boston didn’t work out and now he’s out of baseball.

 

If you’ve played Fantasy Baseball for at least 15-20 years, some of these names will bring “Sweet Dreams” (Annie Lennox, 1983) while others will cause “Tears On My Pillow” (Little Anthony and the Imperials, 1958). Hope you can join us sometime at the ballpark in Arizona…you’ll recognize me as the one guy sitting behind home plate without a radar gun.

The State(s) Of Baseball

AAGPBL

Baseball is so ingrained in the fabric of America, it becomes more than just a sport or even a pastime. Every fan, young or old, takes something special from the memories of the baseball experience. With that in mind, this visit will not be about objective facts like statistics or baseball card values. Instead, it will be a subjective look into baseball and America. Because every square mile of our land has been touched by the game, we’ll pick one thought or anecdote for each of the 50 states. The best part of the exercise is that you might come up with 50 different ideas, so feel free to borrow the topic and write your own tribute.

 

> Alabama – The “Say Hey Kid” went to High School in Fairfield…Willie Mays

 

> Alaska – Ask any resident of Ketchikan and they’ll admit that their favorite ballplayer is Tim Salmon

 

> Arizona – Luis Gonzalez getting the winning hit off Mariano Rivera in the 2001 World Series, making us all forget 9/11 for a few moments

 

> Arkansas – The Phillies once had a Manager named Danny Ozark

 

> California – Sandy Koufax pitching a perfect game at Dodger Stadium…with Vin Scully making the call

 

> Colorado – The row of purple seats at Coors Field that is exactly one mile high.

 

> Connecticut – Lou Gehrig played minor league ball with the Hartford Senators before joining the Yankees

 

> Delaware – A graduate of Seaford High School, Delino DeShields was a good major league ballplayer…but he’ll always be remembered as the guy traded for Pedro Martinez

 

> Florida – Jim Morris making the majors at age 35…see “The Rookie” (2002)

 

> Georgia – Hank Aaron hitting #715

 

> Hawaii – Native son Shane Victorino swiped 231 bases in his big-league career earning the nickname “The Flyin’ Hawaiian”

 

> Idaho – Harmon Killebrew went straight from Payette High School to the majors and hit 573 HR’s

 

> Illinois – The Cubs ending the 100+ year drought in 2016’s thrilling 7-game series

 

> Indiana – In 1943, one of the original teams of the AAGBPL (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League) played in South Bend…”There’s no crying in baseball”

 

> Iowa – “If you build it, they will come”…the Field of Dreams is in Dyersville

 

> Kansas – Ray Sadecki pitched for 18 seasons and won 135 games, but on two separate occasions, was traded for a future Hall of Famer…Orlando Cepeda in 1966 and Joe Torre in 1974

 

> Kentucky – The Louisville Slugger Museum

 

> Louisiana – Ron Guidry’s nickname was “Louisiana Lightning”

 

> Maine – This state is famous for its blueberries…baseball is famous for Darryl Strawberry, Gordon Goldsberrry, Damon Berryhill, Quentin Berry and the occasional “raspberry” on your leg

 

> Maryland – Camden Yards and the “Iron Man”, Cal Ripken Jr.

 

> Massachusetts – The “Green Monster” at Fenway Park and the man who played in front of it for parts of four decades…Ted Williams

 

> Michigan – The meanest man to ever play the game also had the highest batting average in history (.366)…Ty Cobb

 

> Minnesota – Kirby Puckett stealing a HR by climbing the centerfield wall at the Metrodome

 

> Mississippi – In the South, the term “oil can” is slang for beer can…Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd was born in Meridian and went to Jackson State University

 

> Missouri – Stan “The Man” Musial had 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road in a 22 year career

 

> Montana – Dave McNally was a four-time 20 game winner for the Orioles…he was born (1942) and buried (2002) in Billings

 

> Nebraska – The College World Series every June in Omaha

 

> Nevada – Bryce Harper & Kris Bryant played together on the Southern Nevada Bulldogs…Bryant was 14, Harper was 13

 

> New Hampshire – Native son Carlton Fisk wore #27 with the Red Sox and #72 with the White Sox on his way to the Hall of Fame

 

> New Jersey – Jackie Robinson played his first minor league game in Jersey City on 4/18/46…he went 4-for-5 with four runs, a HR, four RBI’s and two SB’s

 

> New Mexico – In 1969, the Albuquerque Dukes of the Texas League had Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Ron Cey & Steve Yeager in the line-up…the pitching staff included Doyle Alexander, Charlie Hough & Geoff Zahn. Also on that team was Roy Gleason, the only major league player to be wounded while serving in Viet Nam

 

> New York – We may never have seen him play, but Babe Ruth changed the game forever…in 1920, he hit 54 HR’s and no other AL team hit more than 50

 

> North Carolina – “You just got lesson number one: don’t think; it can only hurt the ballclub”…”Bull Durham” (1988)

 

> North Dakota – Roger Maris went to High School in Fargo…and hit 61 in ’61

 

> Ohio – Ricky Vaughn coming in from the bullpen to the song “Wild Thing” in the movie “Major League” (1989)

 

> Oklahoma – Mickey Mantle went to High School in Commerce…one of his nicknames was the “Commerce Comet”

 

> Oregon – Portland is the birthplace of two very under-appreciated major leaguers…Mickey Lolich & Dale Murphy

 

> Pennsylvania – The pride, passion and tragic loss of Roberto Clemente

 

> Rhode Island – The city of Woonsocket produced two Hall of Famers, Napoleon Lajoie & Gabby Hartnett

 

> South Carolina – Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League (3 months after Jackie Robinson’s debut) was born in Camden in 1923

 

> South Dakota – 15 year big league OF Tito Francona played for Aberdeen of the Northern League while coming up through the minors…and that’s where his Son Terry was born in 1959

 

> Tennessee – Todd Helton played Quarterback for the University of Tennessee and after a knee injury during his Senior year, was replaced as the starter by Peyton Manning…Helton had over 2,500 hits in his major league career with the Rockies

 

> Texas – Nolan Ryan went to Alvin High School and struck out 5,714 batters in 27 big league seasons

 

> Utah – Less than 40 players have been from this state and the best is probably Bruce Hurst, who won 145 big league games

 

> Vermont – If Montreal ever gets an expansion franchise, it’s only about a two-hour drive from the state capital of Montpelier

 

> Virginia – The Richmond Virginians played one season (1884) with a record of 12-30…their Manager was Felix Moses and the only thing he parted was his mustache

 

> Washington – Ken Griffey Jr. gliding toward a fly ball in CF at the Kingdome

 

> West Virginia – Hall of Fame 2B Bill Mazeroski is one of over a dozen big leaguer players to come from Wheeling

 

> Wisconsin – Robin Yount won the AL MVP as a SS in 1982 and as a CF in 1989

 

> Wyoming – Only 15 major leaguers have been born in this state…six have been from Cheyenne including the Mets Brandon Nimmo

 

> Oops, we almost forgot the District of Columbia – Born in Washington in 1932, Maury Wills had 104 SB’s in 1962 and captured the NL MVP

 

Hope you enjoyed Baseball Geography 101.

 

 

Converting Baby Boomers To Analytics

'12 Morgan Ring

On a previous visit, the effort was made to convince fans who were youngsters in the 50’s & 60’s that advanced metrics are really more telling than just the stats on the back of a baseball card. A good friend of mine, who was born in the 40’s and might be the world’s most avid Willie Mays fan, isn’t quite ready to convert. However, after realizing that WAR (Wins Above Replacement) showed the “Say Hey Kid” as one of the top five players in the game for 13 consecutive seasons, he said, “Willie for sure got screwed out of the MVP Award several times”.

 

So, now it’s time for the Baby Boomers who found their heroes in and around the 1970’s to feel better or worse about their favorites. To set the table, “Wins Above Replacement” is an attempt by the SABRmetric community to summarize a player’s total contribution to their team in one statistic. The value is expressed in a wins format, so we could determine that player “A” is worth 5 wins to the team over the course of a season. 8+ is usually MVP quality while 5+ is All-Star quality. Mike Trout has led all of baseball in three of his first five seasons. We’ll use the top five WAR players from baseball-reference.com for each applicable year.

 

> 1969 – Bob Gibson 11.3, Rico Petrocelli 10.0, Reggie Jackson 9.2, Larry Dierker 8.4 and Sal Bando 8.3

 

“Gibby” was the best player in baseball the previous season and after MLB lowered the mound by 5 inches to improve offense, he was the best player again with 20 Wins and 28 complete games…Petrocelli hit 40 HR’s as a Shortstop batting clean-up and finished 7th in the MVP balloting (Harmon Killebrew won)…Jackson had an OPS of 1.018 with 47 HR’s and finished 5th in the MVP…Dierker won 20 games and pitched over 300 innings for a .500 team…Bando had 31 HR’s & 113 RBI’s. Willie McCovey had the 6th best WAR with 8.1 and won the NL MVP.

 

> 1970 – Bob Gibson 10.1, Carl Yastrzemski 9.5, Sam McDowell 7.9, Jim Fregosi 7.7 and Johnny Bench 7.4

 

Gibson went 23-7 for his 3rd consecutive WAR title…”Yaz” had 40 HR’s and a league-leading 1.044 OPS…McDowell won 20 games and led the AL in strikeouts for the 5th time in 6 seasons…Fregosi was a power-hitting shortstop in his prime, but a year later was traded for Nolan Ryan…Bench had 45 HR’s & 148 RBI’s earning him the NL MVP. Boog Powell won the AL MVP but his WAR was only 5.1.

 

> 1971 – Fergie Jenkins 12.0, Tom Seaver 10.9, Wilbur Wood 10.9, Mickey Lolich 8.7 and Vida Blue 8.6

 

Jenkins won 24 games for the Cubs in 325 innings and won the Cy Young…Seaver was the CY Young runner-up in the NL with 20 Wins and a 1.76 ERA…Wood’s knuckleball produced 22 wins and a 1.91 ERA for the White Sox…Lolich had 25 wins and pitched 376 innings but it was only good for 2nd in the AL Cy Young voting…at age 21, Blue posted 24 wins with an ERA of 1.82 and won both the Cy Young and AL MVP. The best offensive player was Willie Stargell at 7.9 but Joe Torre won the NL MVP, as he led the league in BA & RBI’s.

 

> 1972 – Steve Carlton 12.5, Gaylord Perry 11.2, Wilbur Wood 10.3, Joe Morgan 9.3 and Johnny Bench / Dick Allen 8.6

 

This was Carlton’s legendary season with 27 Wins and a 1.97 ERA for a Phillies team that won only 59 games…Perry won 24 games and joined Carlton as Cy Young winners for the year…Wood also won 24 games and pitched 376 innings to finish right behind Perry in the voting…Morgan led the NL in Runs & OBP…Bench won the NL MVP with 40 HR’s & 125 RBI’s…Allen won the AL MVP by leading the league in HR’s, RBI’s, OBP & OPS.

 

1973 – Tom Seaver 11.0, Bert Blyleven 9.9, Joe Morgan 9.2, Dwight Evans 9.0 and Bobby Grich / Pete Rose 8.3

 

Seaver won the NL Cy Young with 19 wins and a 2.08 ERA…Blyleven was the best pitcher in the AL and finished 7th in the Cy Young voting (Jim Palmer won with a WAR of 6.3)…Morgan had another amazing season which included 67 SB’s and a Gold Glove…Evans & Grich never got their due, as they were both better than AL MVP winner Reggie Jackson, while Rose captured the NL MVP.

 

> 1974 – Mike Schmidt 9.7, Jon Matlack 8.7, Joe Morgan 8.6, Gaylord Perry 8.6 and Phil Niekro 8.0

 

One of those inexplicable seasons where neither Cy Young winner or MVP was in the top ten in WAR…Schmidt led the NL in HR’s & Slugging Percentage but finished 6th behind Steve Garvey for the MVP…Matlack had a losing record but pitched 7 shutouts for a Mets team that was 71-91…Morgan had another stellar season and led the NL in OBP…Perry won 21 games at age 35…Niekro led the NL with 20 wins and 300+ innings. The AL MVP was Jeff Burroughs while the Cy Young plaques went to Mike Marshall & Catfish Hunter.

 

> 1975 – Joe Morgan 11.0, Jim Palmer 8.5, Goose Gossage 8.3, Tom Seaver 8.2 and Catfish Hunter 8.1

 

Morgan won the NL MVP by playing a different game than anyone else with a .466 OBP, .974 OPS and a Gold Glove…Palmer’s 2nd Cy Young season included 23 wins and 10 shutouts…before the era of 9th-inning closers, Gossage had 9 wins & 26 saves in 141+ innings…Seaver won his 3rd NL Cy Young with 22 wins…in his first season as a Yankee, Hunter has 23 wins and 30 complete games in 328 innings. Fred Lynn won the AL MVP & ROY with a WAR of 7.3, which was just outside the top ten.

 

1976 – Joe Morgan 9.6, Mark Fidrych 9.6, Mike Schmidt 8.0, Craig Nettles 8.0 and Vida Blue 7.7

 

Morgan was clearly the best position player in the game and won another MVP…Fidrych won the AL ROY and finished 2nd to Palmer in the CY Young vote with 19 wins, 24 complete games and a league-leading 2.34 ERA…Schmidt hit 38 HR’s and won the Gold Glove…Nettles had his best season which included leading the AL in HR’s but he finished 16th in the MVP vote, which was captured by his teammate Thurman Munson…Blue won 18 games for the A’s. The NL Cy Young went to Randy Jones with 22 victories for the Padres.

 

1977 – Rod Carew 9.7, Rick Reuschel 9.6, Mike Schmidt 8.8, Tom Seaver 8.5 and Phil Niekro / George Foster 8.4

 

Carew hit .388 with a 1.019 OPS to win the AL MVP…Reuschel won 20 games for the Cubs but Carlton got the Cy Young…Schmidt hit 38 HR’s (again) and won the Gold Glove (again)…Seaver was 7-3 with the Mets and then 14-3 with the Reds after being traded…Niekro went 16-20 in 330+ innings for a Braves team that won only 61 games…Foster’s 52 HR’s & 149 RBI’s got him the NL MVP. Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan were both in the top ten but the AL Cy Young went to Sparky Lyle.

 

1978 – Phil Niekro 10.4, Ron Guidry 9.6, Mike Caldwell 8.1, Jim Rice 7.5 and Amos Otis 7.4

 

Niekro’s “Rodney Dangerfield” act continued at age 39 with 19 wins, a 2.88 ERA and 22 complete games for a team that was 24 games under .500 – he finished 6th in the CY Young voting to Gaylord Perry…Guidry won the AL Cy Young with a record of 25-3…Caldwell finished 2nd to Guidry in the voting with 22 wins and 23 complete games…Rice ran away with the AL MVP as he led the league in HR’s, RBI’s, Triples, Hits and OPS…Otis had 22 HR’s, 96 RBI’s & 32 SB’s. Dave Parker was 7th on the list at 7.0 and won the NL MVP.

 

1979 – Fred Lynn 8.8, George Brett 8.6, Dave Winfield 8.3, Phil Niekro 8.0 and Mike Schmidt 7.9

 

Lynn’s season was even better than ’75, as he led the AL with a .333 BA and a 1.059 OPS while adding 39 HR’s, 122 RBI’s and a Gold Glove in CF – it got him 4th place in the MVP voting…Brett finished just ahead of him with a .329 BA and 20 Triples…Winfield led the NL in RBI’s & Total Bases while winning a Gold Glove…Niekro won 21 games and pitched 342 innings at age 40…Schmidt hit 45 HR’s, walked 120 times and won the Gold Glove but finished 13th on the MVP ballot. Keith Hernandez had a WAR of 7.6 and split the MVP award with Willie Stargell who had a WAR of only 2.5 in less than 500 AB’s. The AL MVP went to Don Baylor, who did lead the league in RBI’s but had a WAR of only 3.7 playing 40% of his games as a DH. Darrell Porter (7.6) and Buddy Bell (6.9) were both in the top ten but finished 9th & 10th in the MVP race. The Cy Young winners were Bruce Sutter & Mike Flanagan but WAR says Dennis Eckersley (7.3) and Jerry Koosman (7.2) had better years.  There were a lot of drugs in our society during this time and it seems that some of them were being consumed by baseball writers while they filled out their ballots.

 

So, Boomers, did your favorites show up positively in the WAR analysis? Or, are you now more sure than ever that your guy never got his due?

Converting The Old-School Fan

'54 Mays Bow 5

 

Back in the day, baseball writers who voted for the MVP award used their eyes but not very much statistical analysis. This same stubbornness exists with baseball fans of the 1950’s & 60’s when you talk to them about advanced metrics determining the value of a player. They still cling to the stats on the back of baseball cards and have a hard time with OPB (On-Base Percentage), OPS (On-Base + Slugging) WHIP (Walks + Hits divided by Innings Pitched) and especially WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

 

In an effort to somewhat convert a few of these old-school fans, let’s look at WAR in the era from 1954 (when most major stars of the time had become major leaguers) to 1968 (the year prior to the mound being lowered and divisional play being added). “Wins Above Replacement” is an attempt by the Sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contribution to their team in one statistic. It asks the question, “If this player got injured and had to be replaced by a minor leaguer or bench player, how much value would the team be losing?” The value is expressed in a wins format, so we could determine that player “A” is worth 5 wins to the team over the course of the season. WAR stats are available at two websites: FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference and their results are only slightly different. For this exercise, we’ll use the top five WAR players from the latter site for each applicable year.

 

> 1954 – Willie Mays 10.6, Robin Roberts 8.7, Duke Snider 8.4, Minnie Minoso 8.2 & Ted Kluszewski 7.9

 

Mays lead the league with a .345 BA, hit 41 HR’s and won the MVP…Roberts won 23 games and pitched 336 innings…Snider hit .341 with 40 HR’s & 130 RBI’s…Minoso hit .320 and led the AL in Triples & Total Bases…”Klu” led the NL with 49 HR’s & 141 RBI’s while finishing 2nd to Mays in the MVP voting. Yogi Berra won the AL MVP but wasn’t even in the top ten in WAR.

 

> 1955 – Mickey Mantle 9.5, Willie Mays 9.0, Duke Snider 8.6, Al Kaline 8.2 & Ernie Banks 8.1

 

Mantle only finished 5th in the MVP voting but his OBP (.431) & OPS (1.042) were off the charts and he also led the AL with 37 HR’s…Mays hit 51 HR’s and led the NL with a 1.059 OPS but finished 4th on the MVP ballot…Snider was almost as good with a league-leading 136 RBI’s and a 1.046 OPS while coming in 2nd to teammate Roy Campanella in the MVP race…Kaline also finished 2nd in MVP voting (Yogi won again) while leading the AL with a .340 BA…Banks had 44 HR’s & 117 RBI’s. Billy Pierce was he best pitcher, finishing  8th with 6.9.

 

> 1956 – Mickey Mantle 11.2, Early Wynn 8.3, Duke Snider 7.6, Willie Mays 7.6 & Herb Score 7.5

 

Mantle’s greatest season as he won the Triple Crown with 52 HR’s, 130 RBI’s, a .353 BA and an OPS of 1.169…Wynn won 20 games with an ERA of 2.72 in 277+ innings…Snider had another underappreciated season where he led the NL with 43 HR’s, a .399 OBP and .598 Slugging Percentage…Mays was just as good with 36 HR’s & a league-leading 40 SB’s…Score followed up his ’55 Rookie of the Year campaign with 20 Wins, a 2.53 ERA and 263 K’s.

 

> 1957 – Mickey Mantle 11.3, Ted Williams 9.7, Willie Mays 8.3, Hank Aaron 8.0 & Nellie Fox 7.9

 

Mantle won his second consecutive MVP with .365 BA and a .512 OBP…Williams hit .388 at age 38 with an OBP of .526 and OPS of 1.257…Mays led the NL in Triples and Stolen Bases while winning the Gold Glove…Aaron won the NL MVP by leading the league in HR’s with 44 and RBI’s with 132…Fox hit .317, led the AL with 196 Hits and won the Gold Glove at 2B. Jim Bunning was the top hurler, finishing 7th with a WAR of 7.0.

 

> 1958 – Willie Mays 10.2, Ernie Banks 9.4, Mickey Mantle 8.7, Hank Aaron 7.3 & Richie Ashburn 7.1

 

Mays continued his amazing run by leading the NL with 121 Runs, 31 SB’s and a 1.002 OPS…Banks captured his first of two consecutive MVP Awards with 47 HR’s & 129 RBI’s…Mantle led the AL with 127 Runs, 42 HR’s and 129 Walks…Aaron won a Gold Glove and hit 30 HR’s…Ashburn had his best season by topping NL batters with 215 Hits, 97 Walks, a .350 BA and .440 OBP. Tigers Pitcher Frank Lary finished 6th with a 6.7 WAR while Jackie Jensen of the Red Sox won the AL MVP despite a WAR of only 4.9.

 

> 1959 – Ernie Banks 10.2, Hank Aaron 8.6, Camilo Pasqual 8.6, Eddie Mathews 8.2 & Willie Mays 7.8

 

Banks had another spectacular year with 45 HR’s & 143 RBI’s…Aaron led the NL in hitting with a .355 BA while powering 39 HR’s…Pascual had one of the most “under the radar” seasons in baseball history with 17 Wins, 17 Complete Games, 6 Shutouts and a 2.64 ERA for the last-place Senators who won only 63 games…Mathews had three 6th place finishes earlier in the decade but his league-leading 46 HR’s got him into the top five…Mays had another boring season with 34 HR’s, 104 RBI’s and a league-leading 31 SB’s. Nellie Fox won the AL MVP as the leader of the pennant-winning White Sox, but his WAR was out of the top ten at 6.0.

 

1960 – Willie Mays 9.5, Hank Aaron 8.0, Ernie Banks 7.8, Ernie Broglio 7.7 & Roger Maris 7.5

 

Mays was clearly the best player hitting .319 with 110+ RBI’s but Dick Groat of the pennant-winning Pirates got the MVP even though his WAR was just out of the top ten at 6.0…Aaron had 40 HR’s & 126 RBI’s…Banks had 41 HR’s & 117 RBI’s…Four years before being traded for Lou Brock, Broglio led the NL with 21 Wins…Maris won the AL MVP by hitting 39 HR’s and leading the AL with 112 RBI’s and a .581 Slugging Percentage.

 

1961 – Mickey Mantle 10.5, Hank Aaron 9.4, Norm Cash 9.2, Willie Mays 8.7 & Al Kaline 8.4

 

Despite some late-season injuries, Mantle was dominant once again with 54 HR’s, 128 RBI’s and a .317 BA…Aaron hit .327 with 34 HR’s & 120 RBI’s…Cash had a career year for the Tigers and led the AL in BA with .361 and an OBP of .487…Mays had 40 HR’s & 123 RBI’s…Kaline hit .324, led the AL with 41 Doubles and won a Gold Glove. Frank Robinson won the NL MVP with the 7th best WAR of 7.7, while Maris and his 61 HR’s won the AL MVP, but his WAR of 6.9 was just outside the top ten. The best Pitcher was Cy Young Award winner Whitey Ford who won 25 games for the Yankees.

 

1962 – Willie Mays 10.5, Frank Robinson 8.7, Hank Aaron 8.5, Turk Farrell 7.3 & Bob Purkey 7.1

 

With the expansion of four teams in ’61 & ’62, you can see the beginning of a trend in player value. The great hitters were feasting on diluted pitching staffs, but pitchers were facing many players who were in AAA a year or two earlier. Six of the top ten WAR figures belonged to Pitchers. Mays was clearly the best player again with 49 HR’s & 141 RBI’s but lost the NL MVP to Maury Wills and his 104 SB’s, Gold Glove defense and 6.1 WAR…Robinson led the NL in Runs, OBP & Slugging Percentage…Aaron had 45 HR’s & 128 RBI’s…Farrell pitched 241+ innings with a 3.02 ERA for an expansion team that won only 64 games…Purkey was 23-5 with a 2.81 ERA for the Reds. Mickey Mantle won the AL MVP despite playing in only 123 games and putting up a WAR of 6.0.

 

1963 – Willie Mays 10.6, Dick Ellsworth 9.9, Sandy Koufax 9.9, Hank Aaron 9.1 & Juan Marichal 8.1

 

Mays finished 5th in the MVP voting despite a .314 BA, 38 HR’s, 103 RBI’s and a Gold Glove…Ellsworth had one of the most overlooked seasons for a starting pitcher with 22 Wins and a 2.11 ERA in 290+ innings…Koufax won the Cy Young Award (there was only one at the time) and NL MVP with 25 Wins and a 1.88 ERA in 311 innings with 306 K’s…Aaron led the NL in Runs, HR’s RBI’s and OPS…Marichal won 25 games for the Giants and pitched 321+ innings. Elston Howard won the AL MVP, but his WAR was only 5.1.

 

1964 – Willie Mays 11.0, Ron Santo 8.9, Dick Allen 8.8, Dean Chance 8.6 & Don Drysdale 8.4

 

Mays outclassed the field and finished 6th in the NL MVP vote, won by Ken Boyer and his 6.1 WAR…Santo won a Gold Glove and led the NL with a .398 OBP…Allen was Rookie of the Year and led the NL in Runs and Triples…Chance won the singular Cy Young Award with 20 Wins and a 1.65 ERA in 278+ innings…Drysdale had 18 Wins and an ERA of 2.18 in 321+ innings. The AL MVP went to Brooks Robinson and he was the highest rated AL offense player with a WAR of 8.0.

 

1965 – Willie Mays 11.2, Juan Marichal 10.5, Jim Maloney 9.0, Sandy Koufax 8.6 & Jim Bunning 8.4

 

It took 11 years for Mays to win his 2nd MVP and all he had to do was hit 52 HR’s, win the Gold Glove and lead the league in OBP & OPS…Marichal had 22 Wins, a 2.13 ERA and 10 Shutouts…Maloney won 20 games with a 2.54 ERA for the Reds…Koufax won another CY Young Award by going 26-8 with a 2.04 ERA and 27 complete games…Bunning was 19-9 with a 2.60 ERA for the Phils. Zoilo Versalles was the best offensive player in the AL with a 7.2 WAR and he won the AL MVP thanks to leading the league in Runs, Doubles, Triples and Total Bases.

 

1966 – Sandy Koufax 9.8, Juan Marichal 9.8, Willie Mays 9.0, Ron Santo 8.9 & Jim Bunning 8.9

 

In the final year of his career, Koufax won his 3rd Cy Young Award in four years by going 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA…Marichal was right there with 25-6 and a 2.23 ERA…Mays was once again the best all-around player with 37 HR’s, 103 RBI’s and another Gold Glove…Santo led the NL with a .412 OBP and won the Gold Glove but finished 12th in the MVP voting…Bunning was outstanding again with 19 Wins and a 2.41 ERA. Roberto Clemente was close behind with a WAR of 8.2 and won the NL MVP. Frank Robinson was the highest-rated AL position player at 7.7 WAR and his league-leading 49 HR’s & 122 RBI’s got him the MVP.

 

1967 – Carl Yastrzemski 12.4, Ron Santo 9.8, Roberto Clemente 8.9, Hank Aaron 8.5 & Jim Bunning 8.0

 

“Yaz” had one the great seasons in history as he won the AL triple Crown and led the Red Sox to the pennant in a pitching-dominant era with 44 HR’s, 121 RBI’s and a .326 BA…Santo contributed another huge season and had his best MVP showing, finishing 4th…Clemente led the NL with a .357 BA and 209 hits…Aaron kept plugging along, leading the NL in Runs, Home Runs & Total Bases…this was the 3rd straight season that Bunning had a WAR of 8 or better and his 17 Wins and a 2.29 ERA equaled a 2nd place finish in the CY Young voting. The NL Cy Young went to Mike McCormick and his 22 Wins for the Giants, but his WAR was only 4.4. Jim Lonborg of the Red Sox captured the AL Cy Young with 22 Wins for the pennant-winners and his WAR was 4.1. Orlando Cepeda had the 4th best WAR for NL position players at 6.8, but won the MVP.

 

1968 – Bob Gibson 11.9, Carl Yastrzemski 10.5, Brooks Robinson 8.4, Roberto Clemente 8.1 & Luis Tiant 7.8

 

Gibson’s magical season included mind-boggling stats like a 1.12 ERA and 13 Shutouts that catapulted him to both the Cy Young & MVP Awards…Yastrzemski led the AL in both BA & OBP but finished 9th in the MVP vote…Robinson won his 9th straight Gold Glove…Clemente won his 8th straight Gold Glove…Tiant won 21 games for the Indians with an ERA of 1.60 and 9 Shutouts. The AL Cy Young & MVP went Denny McClain and his 31 Wins while finishing 6th in overall WAR with 7.3.

 

Now that you old-timers understand how good (or bad) your favorite player really was, we’ll pick on some younger “Baby Boomers” in a future visit and discover the results of WAR through the 1970’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Pafko And The Cardboard Heroes

'52 Pafko

When former Major League Outfielder Andy Pafko passed away a few years ago at age 92, the wire service story cited many highlights of his career. He was a four-time All-Star, played on the last Chicago Cubs team to reach the World Series before 2016 (in 1945) and also played in three additional Fall Classics with the Dodgers and the Braves. Also, for trivia fans, he was Brooklyn’s left-fielder in the 1951 playoff game when Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard round the world” home run sailed over his head.

 

What the casual fan or younger-than-50 sportswriter doesn’t know is the impact Andy Pafko has had on card collectors for over two generations. Not every baseball card of significant value belongs to a Hall-of-Famer or star player. Sometimes circumstance and timing create a legendary story about an everyday ballplayer. This is the joy and wonderment of card collecting and why it continues to be a passion for Baby Boomers everywhere.

 

In 1952, the Topps Company issued their first full set of baseball cards. Even though Bowman produced cards in the late 40’s and early 50’s, this was the first “modern set” with 407 cards in four series sold in packs with bubble gum. To this day, the “holy grail” of modern cards is the Mickey Mantle issue from this set. It was the first card in the last series (#311), which meant that it had a scarcity value in addition to the popularity of the player. Today, if you owned this card in “Excellent” (EX 5) condition, it would be worth over $50,000! The set also includes Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra. The value of those four cards, however, pales in comparison to that of the card of Andy Pafko.

 

In the 1950’s, when youngsters opened their packs of baseball cards, the standard practice was to put them in order by the card number on the back, then stack them into an empty shoe box. In order to keep them neat and upright, rubber bands were used on groups of cards. Sometimes 50, sometimes 100 or even an entire group that wasn’t yet a complete set. This method seemed logical at the time because the condition of the cards wasn’t really an issue the kids cared about. After all, some duplicates ended up in the spokes of bicycle tires. Over the years, as card collecting became a real hobby, it became obvious that the top and bottom card from all these rubber-banded stacks took the most abuse. And the top card of every stack was #1 – Andy Pafko! Today, a “Near Mint” 1952 Topps Andy Pafko card is worth $10,000!

 

At the National Sports Collectibles Show in Anaheim about 20 years ago, one of the dealers had posters for sale. The picture was of an elderly woman in a housedress with her grey hair in a bun. She was standing next to a metal barrel that had flames coming out and she was tossing baseball cards into the fire. The title at the bottom said, “The Great American Tragedy”. For me and countless other kids of the 50’s & 60’s, this caused us to laugh and cry at almost the same moment. My Mom threw away my card collection sometime between our move from New England to California and I was well into my 30’s before the thought of card collecting crept into my brain once again.

 

The original goal for creating a new collection was very modest. Nostalgia was the motivation and I set out to collect all the Red Sox cards of the 50’s and all the Dodger cards of the 60’s. Of course, it was obvious that the cardboards of Ted Williams and Sandy Koufax wouldn’t come cheap, but with condition not being a priority, it seemed that the goal was achievable. In the days before the Internet, the best resource for this quest was a small publication called “Baseball Card Checklists”. It listed each year of Topps baseball cards and categorized the players by team and number. With my trusty book, I set out to Southern California cards shows and hobby shops to search through stacks of cards that included common players like Don Buddin & Jim Lefebvre while occasionally splurging on Maury Wills or Jimmy Piersall.

 

At some point, the realization was clear that not every card was going to be easy to find. The one that seemed most difficult was the 1963 rookie card of Dodgers 3B Ken McMullen (#537). He was modestly successful as a player, but his .248 lifetime batting average over 16 seasons wouldn’t really make anyone take notice. However, in every visit, I came up empty on the McMullen card – not even finding one in lousy condition. In retrospect, it becomes obvious that my knowledge of baseball cards was limited and the project I had created was a fool’s game. You see, in 1963, Topps decided to put four Rookie players on a card and so McMullen shared #537 with Pedro Gonzalez, Al Weis & Pete Rose. That’s right, I was looking through bargain bins for a Pete Rose rookie card! Today, a Ken McMullen Rookie Card in “Near Mint” condition will cost you over $1,500!

 

These two stories are not unique, as there as numerous examples of cards of ordinary players that will surprise you with their value. In the same ’63 set, fans of Tom Tresh would have to pay over $100 for card #173 because he shares it with Mickey Mantle. If you’re the world’s #1 fan of Jim Gosger, be prepared to pay $200+ for the ’63 rookie card he shares with Willie Stargell. Did you just love Jerry Koosman? His rookie card from 1968 (#177) will only set you back a little over $1,000 because the other young hurler on the cardboard is Nolan Ryan.

 

It is part of the charm of being a collector and keeps you from getting too carried away with yourself as an expert. As for me, I’m looking for that 1967 rookie card of Bill Denehy (#581). The last dealer wanted $900 because there’s also a guy named Seaver on the card, but I’ve never heard of him.

 

Good hunting.

 

 

In A Vintage State Of Mind

'53 Connelly

The four beautiful golf courses in my community have a set of tees slightly shorter in distance than the regular (white) tees. They are gold in color (maybe referring to the golden years?) and are called the “Vintage” tees. At this stage of my life, I’m proud to play from those tees and the name seems much more palatable than “Senior” tees.

 

Another reason for my positive attitude is the fact that I’m a collector and fan of vintage baseball cards. There is some difference of opinion as to where the line is drawn between vintage and modern (maybe around 1975) but there’s no question that cards from the 50’s & 60’s fall into the vintage category. Each time I purchase a collection with cards from this era, it brings a flood of baseball memories that go back to my childhood.

 

Last week, a collection came across my desk that included 100+ cards from the 1953 Topps set. They weren’t in great condition (then again, neither am I) but nostalgia isn’t based on a card being pristine. Even though the first Topps set in 1952 is more famous, there may not be a more beautiful card format than the ’53’s. Instead of photographs, the players are depicted by a beautiful line drawing in full color that makes every card a work of art. The set includes many famous players like Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays but also 272 other players who made their mark on the game. If you’re a vintage fan, the names will be familiar…if you’re a younger fan, consider it a history lesson. Let’s look at who we found in this magic box.

 

> Monte Irvin (#62), Giants OF – Played with the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues from 1938-1948 before joining the Giants in ’49. Led the NL with 121 RBI’s in ’51 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.

 

> Dick Williams (#125), Dodgers OF – Managed for 21 seasons and won two World Series titles with the A’s in the early 70’s.

 

> Allie Reynolds (#141), Yankees P – Nicknamed “The Chief” due to his Native American heritage, he was a mainstay of the Yanks rotation in the 50’s.

 

> Satchel Paige (#220), Browns P – Arguably the most famous player in the Negro Leagues, he didn’t get to the majors until 1948 at age 41.

 

> John Podres (#263), Dodgers P – This is the rookie card of the man who beat the Yankees in the 7th game of the 1955 World Series.

 

> Joe Nuxhall (#105), Reds P – The youngest player to ever appear in a major league game, he was a 15 year-old High School phenom who pitched in one game in 1944. Eventually became the Reds long-time broadcaster with the nickname of the “Ol’ Lefthander”.

 

> Vic Wertz (#142), Browns OF – One year later, he hit the ball that Willie Mays tracked down in the ’54 Series.

 

> Ferris Fain (#24), Athletics 1B – Was the AL batting champion in both 1951 (.344) & 1952 (.327).

 

> John Sain (#119), Yankees P – When he and Warren Spahn each won 21 games for the Braves in 1947 (and no other pitcher won more than 11), the fans said, “Spahn & Sain and pray for rain”.

 

> Pete Runnels (#219), Senators SS – Won two AL batting titles with the Red Sox in 1960 (.320) & 1962 (.326).

 

> Willie Jones (#88), Phillies 3B – Most remembered for his nickname…”Puddin’ Head”.

 

> Sibby Sisti (#124), Braves IF – His given name was Sebastian and he played 13 seasons as a utility player with the Braves in Boston & Milwaukee. The next time you watch “The Natural” and see the Pirates Manager go the mound, that is Sibby Sisti.

 

> Mike Garcia (#75), Indians P – A member of that great Tribe rotation in the 50’s that included Early Wynn, Bob Lemon & Bob Feller.

 

How about some of the great nicknames of that era…

 

> Virgil “Fire” Trucks

> “Rip” Repulski

> Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell

> Harry “Peanuts” Lowery

> “Jungle” Jim Rivera

> Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell

> Harry “Suitcase” Simpson

> “Sad” Sam Jones

> “Dixie” Howell

 

They’re all in the box along with a bunch of players you’ve never heard of…

 

> Gus Niarhos

> Don Kolloway

> Art Schult

> Earl Harrist

> Cliff Fannin

> Connie Marrero

> Keith Thomas

> Bill Connelly

> Tommy Glaviano

> Dave Madison

 

It never gets old having baseball history in your hands.