April 1 Again: No More Fooling, The Game Beyond Jeopardy!

April 2, 2011

On March 23, the Daily Diamond (“DD”), that immovable vehicle heralding the triumph of essentia over trivia, unloaded its usual loaded, diurnal dilemma in its infernally innocent manner (even as it continued to archive answers in its insatiable quest for questions!), querying Coders concerning two managers who had married actresses (an admittedly rare and yet still not illegal enjoinment):

“Two managers married actresses who starred (one on stage, one on screen) with Gregory Peck.  More importantly baseball-wise, they both managed future, winning World Series managers!  Each of our subjects furnished our culture with an immortal quote—the first, ‘Nice guys finish last!’ and the second, ‘If I had a little humility, I’d be perfect.’  Who are they (the managers, not the actresses!)?”

In honor of Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch (and lawyerly presentation in general), the four parties evidentially fulfilled the requisite stipulations of the ascertained entreaty, the resultant identities heretofore being the former and future co-respondents, messrs. Durocher and Turner.

The pinpointing of those unidentified, trying objects of attention literally left, by that grandiose inquisitor we call “The DD,” more questions than answers, as well as the tempting opportunity to answer the question without answering each question within.  However, today’s blog gives us the chance, before the serious games begin, to leisurely expand upon the missing names of those fleetingly anonymous idle wheels that powered our simple solution in the first place, and to find a last bit of off-season fun in the baseball fundament.  Or to paraphrase my new mayor (O Come, Emanuel!), the absence of a crisis is the worst thing to waste!  So let’s fill in those bountiful blanks before one more fine and final exhibition.   Haven’t we lived following season?  Isn’t the secret to baseball in the last game seen?

For now, most importantly, we ask who are these wives in (Daily Diamond) question?  Laraine Day’s marriage to Leo Durocher was perhaps the final straw for the fuming “Happy” Chandler, once and future Kentucky governor and successor to commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  Allegations from Day’s ex-husband about Leo’s “wife-stealing,” coupled with rampant rumors of unsavory gambling and Hollywood associates, prompted Chandler to suspend Dodger leader Durocher for the entire 1947 season (and the ensuing Jackie Robinson debut, final game of Hank Greenberg, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the birth of yours truly!).

Laraine not only starred with Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and John Wayne (you don’t need to name the movies!), but also co-starred with Gregory Peck in the national tour of “Angel Street.”  Although when she married Leo she knew nothing of baseball, by the time he moved on to his lone World Series success with the ’54 Giants, she had written a book called Day with the Giants (also the name of her daily player-interview show in New York) and was called the “First Lady of Baseball!”

Jane Fonda married media magnate Ted Turner and could be seen nationally doing the controversial “tomahawk chop” with Turner during the Braves’ yearly post-season appearances in the early ‘90s.  Ending another loose end, she was, of course, by this time an Oscar winner and movie superstar (costarring with the ubiquitous Peck in “Old Gringo”), yet in the shadow of her maverick husband.

Speaking of Turner, the managerial career referred to in our question in question was, like Durocher’s, shortened by executive edict (NL President’s Chub Feeney’s fiat).  In 1977, Brave owner Turner, after stating, “Managing isn’t that difficult:  you just have to score more runs than the other guy,” banished manager Dave Bristol, and took over for one game (thanks to Feeney), a seventeenth consecutive Brave loss, 2-1 to Pittsburgh, dropping future Hall of Famer and 300 game winner Phil Niekro’s record to 0-7 (Durocher, in this case, was bested by Turner–in 24 years of managing, he never had a 300 gamer!)

Moreover, when Turner penciled in utility outfielder Cito Gaston’s name in the lineup, no one could know he was managing that literally singular day a future two-time World Series champion manager (who would defeat Turner’s Braves in the ’92 Fall Classic!), retiring only last season, and thereby filling in another intriguing piece of the 3/23 “DD” puzzle.

And what of the last unanswered reference posed in the question?  Which future skipper who would helm a World Series winner was mentored by “the Lip?”  (O, those nicknames!  Remember “The Brat,” Eddie Stanky, jumping on Leo’s back after Bobby “The Flying Scot’s” famous “shot heard round the world?”)  As Merlin told King Arthur, and I must tell myself, “Think back Wart!”  A young catcher who broke in under Durocher in 1946 was moved to first base by Leo in 1948 (after all, another catcher named Campanella had arrived in Brooklyn!).  The new first baseman was none other than the great Gil Hodges, whose baseball success was capped over 20 years later at the expense of his tutor Durocher.  Who can forget Hodges’ “Miracle Mets” overtaking Leo’s beloved Cubbies down the stretch in 1969, and proceeding to win it all!

With all now explicable, we can finally sleep (or better, in the words of Cole Porter, “Wake up and dream!”).  Our question of managers marrying actresses, without mentioning divorces, is now fully answered.

In our foolhardy way, we’ve gone well beyond Jeopardy!  And today’s suggestion?  Don’t forget to answer the questions after answering the question!

Again, agon.  Ever closer, I wish the most hopeful opener for every other one . . . .

 

Saintly Sox Second Sacker Succumbs, Survives Still

December 15, 2010

He was playing his first season with the White Sox, which would be his last in major league baseball.  With but one home run entering the early June games that 1974 season against the Red Sox, his unexpected and unprecedented slugging surge made what is until now forgotten history.

To continue with the Taylor Spink’s Sporting News spirit of today’s title, our hero would deserve a Jerry Holtzman “doff of the fedora” for his unique Comiskey Park home run “hat trick” nestled within the two box scores to which he so mightily contributed that Saturday night game of June 8, followed by the Sunday afternoon June 9 finale against Boston.

For within a span of less than 24 hours, Chicago’s new scrappy second baseman had not only hit homers in consecutive games and consecutive at-bats, but had registered a solo shot, an inside-the-park home run, and a grand slammer!  All told, his two errorless, multiple hit-and-run games added, in less than a day, to these astounding totals:  3HR, 5R, 5H, 7RBI!  The second of his consecutive homers, off Bill Lee, proved to be the penultimate round-tripper of his career (his final of 342 career homers came later in the month).  While falling short of the Barry Code’s Batters Hall of Fame (with more outs than bases), he certainly deserves to join other Sox keystoners like Johnny Evers, Eddie Collins and Nellie Fox in Cooperstown immediately, yet too late.

So what else should the Barry Code say about him on this sad day?  Perhaps that he led all of baseball with a 200 EBOD (Essential Base-Out Differential–see Decoder) in 1964, beating out runners-up Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in that most significant category, or that Mr. Ron Santo also played some third base for the Chicago Cubs?

And also what a courageous athlete and humanitarian he was, inspiring and entertaining us all!  Rest in peace, Ronnie, you will remain in baseball’s memory as long as the game itself is remembered . . . .

Auld Acquaintances

The recent passing of Gil McDougald and Danny McDevitt must also regretfully be noted, as that wonderful diamond of the 1950’s passes brightly before our eyes.  In 1951, Gil McDougald became the first rookie to hit a grand slam home run in a World Series game.  His great 10-year career ended the moment Bill Mazeraski homered for the Pirates legendary game 7, 9th inning triumph over the Yankees in 1960.  He had made the All Star team 5 times, the only man ever selected as a third baseman, shortstop and second baseman.

The next year, the Bombers began the season with a new pitcher, former Dodger Danny McDevitt and, after trading him in June, went on to win the ’61 World Series, making the little lefty the only player to play with both the Yankees and the Dodgers during Championship seasons.  But it was his “super quality” complete game 2-0 shutout of the Pirates on September 24, 1957, in the last Brooklyn game at Ebbets Field, which secured his place in the game’s history.

We fellow followers resolutely salute these two Irish gentlemen who made their mark so gloriously in the Big Apple just yesterday, so long ago.

Let the No-Games Begin!

The off-season somehow beckons beyond reason or will.  As the bard says, “Seeming time speeds upward” (does anyone remember Uribe the Giant?), yet for a while the stats stay still.  Bliss is now that “baseball lack” for one looking forward to looking back.  Upon our furthest inspection, the seasons and off-seasons of the diamond create a game, not unlike baseball, of action and reflection.

Upon hearing words from Pedro Martinez that he was working out in the Dominican Republic while pondering a possible comeback, I think the Code’s first order of business this off-season is to capture the singularity of his astounding seasonal and career figures before he endangers them!

What better way to express Pedro’s uniqueness than to compare his dominance over all of history’s pitchers to the parallel preeminence of the Babe himself over all hitters?  And though they exhibited such necessarily dissimilar skills in striking out batters (like Martinez) and striking the baseball (like Ruth), there exists in all recordkeeping no such striking similarity of historical domination.

It takes, of course, your trusty Barry Code Decoder to see this clearly.  So let’s look first at a summation of Ruth and Martinez together:  each, against other hitters and hurlers, respectively, is the only man ever to top two Code categories, while being the sole player with a positive reading in both for his entire career.  Further, the Babe and Pedro had the top two all-time seasons (consecutively for both) in both these stats.

The details make for staggering case studies.  Babe Ruth’s lifetime Hitting Differential (HD) stands at +.032.  The HD is the difference between Slugging Average and Out Average (Batting Average reversed).  The next highest HD career is a negative number, -.022, attained by the great Ted Williams.  Ruth’s two unsurpassed HD seasons are the only +.200 campaigns ever (.225, 1920; and .224, 1921).

HD, from the Decoder Dropdown, is a measured stat, a decimal determined by denominator.  Its accountable components (TB, AB and Hits) can be presented in a very illuminating differential, TB – (AB-H) or Total Bases minus At Bat Outs (TBABO), found on the Barry Code “You Choose” button.  TBABO is a cumulative stat (equally telling in a different perspective, noting players’ attempts to accumulate Total Bases while avoiding Outs Batting), a differential showing again solely Ruth in a positive career setting (+268, followed by Williams at -168, with single-season list-toppers at +221 (1921) and +101 (1920).

Incredibly, Martinez perfectly duplicates this pattern on the pitching side.  It is revealing that his stats, like Ruth’s, come first from the Decoder Dropdown, Strikeout to Allowed Runners Differential (SOAR), and then from the You Choose, Strikeout minus Allowed Runners per Innings (KARI).  Pedro’s 2000 (110 SOAR) and 1999 (107 SOAR) soar above any seasons in pitching history, and his career +32 is its only positive number.  His 2000 .507 and 1999 .502 KARI figures are the only +.500 years ever, while his lifetime .011 KARI again tops the ledger as the only career “in the black.”  Like Ruth being pursued in career digits by Hall of Fame batsman Williams, Martinez was most closely challenged by immortal moundsman Randy Johnson in lifetime SOAR (-158) and KARI (- .038).

Measured or cumulative, that “mighty mite” Pedro Martinez’s statistics seem as overpowering from the mound as the mighty Babe’s do from the batter’s box.  Of course, the similarities do not end there.  Remarkably, as Boston pitchers, each had a season being both the toughest to hit safely against or score against in the American League (see Code pitching stats HERO and RIP).  So here’s hoping Pedro enjoys retirement, stays positive, and stays put–in the Barry Code Record Book!

Are Outlandish Speculators Again Fueling Hot Stove?

Interviewer: How come you think you’d hit only .300 against today’s pitchers, Mr. Cobb?

Ty Cobb: Well, I am 70 years old!

Speculative dealings finalized at the Winter Meetings by general managers may have, by nature, more impact on the game than the annual wild conjurings of the fans, which somehow help sustain it.  Together, however, these two forces are fueling the Hot Stove league as never before, for better or worse.  Can anyone recall Reality Baseball?  (In breaking news, the Phillies have signed prize free agent pitcher Cliff Lee to a five-year $120 million contract.  “Prognosticating projectionists” are already predicting a Philadelphia dynasty, conveniently forgetting the Phils have not once in their well-over-a-century history ever had even one season winning a World Series and having the best record in their league–speaking of Reality!)

What kind of dreamful purchasing has Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo embarked upon by signing of Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract (thereby upping the ante in all subsequent dealings), while allowing the White Sox to sign the half-year-younger Adam Dunn to a four-year $56 million pact?  Rizzo characterized Werth as “a young 31.”  What spectacular speculation!  His words evoke that baseball infamy from yesteryear when Reds’ owner Bill DeWitt called Frank Robinson “an old 30” before trading him to Baltimore after the 1965 season.

Four Robinson-led pennants, two World Champions, a triple crown and MVP later, F. Robby had made (not mincing words) total mincemeat out of the Cincinnati Redlegs.  How much, given the economy-defying figures thrown at free agents, would Frank Robinson command today?  Perhaps only $100 million, but in deference to Ty Cobb’s wisdom, he is 75 years old, after all!

Thanks again, Barry Coders, for reading, righting and recounting . . . .

Coming to a Series Near You — Mariners vs. Nationals?

October 27, 2010

That unparalleled, yet parallel, four-year rise of both the latest “World Serious” suitors (from last place season to losing season to winning season to pennant season!) may prompt Barry Coders to look back at history’s similarly inexperienced October opponents.

The Texas Rangers, never having been in a World Series, will face the San Francisco Giants, never having won one, after each dethroned their pennant predecessors, the Yankees and Phillies, respectively, in well earned upsets.  Thirty years before, the then championshipless Phils, led by Mike Schmidt, faced and finally defeated a World Series adversary, the novice Kansas City Royals, starring George Brett.  This was the first such structured encounter since 60 years before, in 1920, when player-manager Tris Speaker’s Cleveland Indians won their Series debut against old Wilbert Robinson’s boys, his Brooklyn Robins, playing in their second Classic.

The last pairing of two Series newcomers was the “Windy City World Series” of 1906 when those hitless, wondrous White Sox shocked Frank Chance’s “unbeatable” but suddenly chancy Cubs, four games to two.  With the Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners now the only current clubs never to have won a pennant, perhaps somehow buoyed by those fatefully promising last place finishes in 2010 (given the above Ranger-Giant precedent), get ready, albeit slowly, for that perfect 2013 match-up–Seattle vs. Washington.

For now, let’s quickly prepare to savor this diamond week’s guaranteed historical tricks and treats, starting, and perhaps ending, with Lee vs. Lincecum.  As the wily right-hander Israel Gershowitz queried the year George Earnshaw and Lefty Grove each beat the Cardinals twice to win the World Championship for Connie Mack’s Athletics, “Who could ask for anything more?”

“Son of the Year of the Pitcher” – Still Growing into Post-Season!

Those ever-younger pundits who proclaim 2010 the “Year of the Pitcher” have not “forgotten to remember” (to lightly paraphrase one Israel Baline, composer of “Jake, Jake the Yiddish Ballplayer” *) the year 1968, but rather, being such earnestly youthful observers of this latest craze, baseball, have sadly had no chance to even recall that season when the A.L. boasted a 30-game winner, 5 sub-2.00 ERA’s, and one .300 batter, while the N.L. had a 1.12 ERA champ and a hurler with 6 straight shutouts!

Being born too late, they will be held almost entirely blameless.  And this year’s terrific twirlers indeed have proven to be worthy heirs to those slingers of the sixties.  Some stunning recent post-season starts have added two hurling heroes to a new and nostalgic list in Barry Code pitching annals.

Here is a (Home Run) baker’s dozen “group of games” (totaling 50) that pitchers past and present have thrown that should stand the “many tests of many times!”

2 games of 20 strikeouts during career Roger Clemens
2 consecutive no-hitters Johnny Vandermeer
2 shutouts, one day Ed Ruelbach
2 shutouts, more than 10Ks, first  2 career games Karl Spooner
2 no hitters, same year, one regular, one post-season Roy Halliday
3 games facing 27 batters Mark Buerhrle
3 shutouts in one World Series Christy Mathewson
4 straight years with no-hit games Sandy Koufax
4 World Series wins with 10 SO, O BB Cliff Lee
5 straight shutouts vs. pennant-winning team Larry Jaster
6 straight shutouts Don Drysdale
7 no-hitters in career Nolan Ryan
8 straight games, 10 or more strikeouts Pedro Martinez

All in all, 50 games that still shake the pitching world!

*And speaking of songs and baseball, what tune could top “I Wonder What My Stomach Thinks of Me,” music by White Sox lefthander Doc White, words by Hall of Fame baseball writer Ring Lardner?

P.S. Still pitching pitching–speaking of the ‘60s, I believe it’s time to break the Gordian knot of stats–the MLB shutout championship 9-way tie of 1966.  In the tradition of (Grover) Alexander the Great, we’ll solve it simply and quickly!  How about bringing those shutouts into the SHOP (Shutout Percentage), dividing shutouts by starts?  (Use that “You Choose” button on the Code Super Calculator!)  And the standings are (44 years later) as follows:

SHO Starts SHOP
1. L. Tiant 5 16 .313
2. L. Jaster 5 21 .238
3. S. McDowell 5 28 .179
4. J. Maloney 5 32 .156
5. L. Jackson 5 33 .152
6. T. John 5 33 .152
7. B. Gibson 5 35 .143
8. J. Bunning 5 41 .122
9. S. Koufax 5 41 .122

Belated congrats to El Tiante!

P.P.S. And in case you haven’t heard it, “There’s a long drive, it’s gonna be, I believe . . . The Giants win the pennant!  The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!  Juan Uribe has homered into the first row of the right field stands, and the Giants win the pennant!  And they’re going crazy, they’re going crazy . . . !”

Mr. K, Pitcher Perfect—The One, The Only, The Genuine Article!

“Yom Koufax” (named by Mickey Mantle himself) is that holiday we observe each October 2, commemorating Sandy’s World Series record-breaking 15-strikeout Game 4 performance against the Yankees on October 2, 1963.  Reminding those “keeping score at home” that while “K” commonly signifies strikeout, the verb “to koufax” (meaning striking out the batter while making him look completely over-matched, e.g., “Sandy koufaxed Mantle his first two times up on that 2nd of October” or “Cliff Lee is koufaxing those hitters again”) can be abbreviated, for scoring purposes, to SK, meaning super-strikeout or, equivalently and fittingly, Sandy Koufax!

The span from October 2, 1965 to October 2, 1966, shows collectors and recollectors alike why both this special day and person must be remembered.  During this time, the inestimably estimable Mr. Koufax threw two pennant-clinching victories and one World Series clincher–with each of those three impossibly dramatic games on two days’ rest!

And there is more!  Koufax’s three starts were all, to use the Barry Code’s correctly exacting system, super-quality starts, i.e., shutouts permitting one runner or less per inning, or complete game wins allowing three runs or less, while permitting less than one baserunner per inning (traditional quality starts being the 6-inning, 3-earned-runs-allowed-or-less model, while the Code’s “higher quality starts” are defined as at least seven innings pitched, allowing three runs or less by a winning pitcher).

Super-quality starts were a Koufax specialty, rarely seen this century (most memorably, the White Sox’ four consecutive super-quality starts thrown by their four starters to win the 2005 ALCS, a sure “never before or after” feat!), when complete games themselves are the most endangered species of baseball stats.  Within this symmetry of these two more October 2nds, is the co-genesis, along with the preciously few pitches he threw at the astounding peak of his shortened career, of his genuine legend:  his refusal to pitch on the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, October 7, 1965, for the Dodgers’ first game of the series against Minnesota, thereby forcing him to an eventual deciding seventh-game triumph facing the Twins that cloudy, chilly afternoon of October 14 in Minnesota.

Beyond earning “The Day of Koufax,” here are six additional feats (covering durations of one to six years), each still seeming unmatchable let alone unbreakable, that set Sanford Koufax, now so much a part of baseball history, apart from all others!

1. Only pitcher to have a strikeout-walk-hit batsmen differential (see NCDA, Codell pitching) over 300 in one season
2. Only pitcher to surpass both 25 wins and 300 strikeouts in two seasons consecutively
3. Only pitcher to have Major League “Pitching Triple Crowns” (leading MLB in W, SO, and ERA) in three seasons
4. Only pitcher to throw a no-hitter in four seasons consecutively  (As Vin Scully said, “And he capped it all with a perfect game!” following Harvey Kuenn’s 1965 final-out strikeout.  One more “and” should be added:  And that very strikeout makes it the best of any perfect game ever pitched—the only one with the pitcher striking out more than half (14) of his batters faced (27)!
5. Only pitcher to have led his league in ERA in five seasons consecutively.
6. Only pitcher to have led his league in lowest Opponent Batting Average in six seasons

Bittersweetly, SK holds all possible records for Final Year Pitching (see Decoder).  Suddenly finding his remarkable rhythm at age 25, with each remaining delivery literally the most real deal, and forced to retire to save his arm at age 30, the Koufax luster, 44 years later, will still shine through each October inning in this Jewish year of 5771, reminding fans to reflect a while upon the living legacy of the nonpareil lefty from Brooklyn.

Close to Opening!

April 1, 2010

For Hayden Sidd and his amazing stats

With each batter’s swing, baseball comes closer to that real spring ensuing with Opening Day.  Leaving behind the artificial stimulation of computer simulation (so as not to promote endless fantasy over incomparable reality), presently we will not need to warily open each day to a sentence of gaudily flawed diamond numerals.  For baseball begins yet again, destroying the finalities of its soothsayers with its annual renewal.

This foolhardy day seems the perfect time to reveal the formula that, by its pedigree of unerring accuracy, is guaranteed to assure the name of this year’s World Champion, while rightfully giving the game back to its real players for the usual miraculous unfolding of the season.

Now, when herds of unsheepish fans are rooting for themselves (and the authenticity of their baseball expertise) in the guise of player projections and win predictions, it may be time to appropriately reappropriate a misused, maligned seer brought forth only to justify that imposter Predictability.  But first, a bit of history is chomping at the bit.

 “Rejoice for the Good”

Pythagoras

Early in Base-Out history, simple run translations led naturally to speculative idylls, conjecturing runs and wins that I seasoned with more than a few grains of salt.  Baseball Graphics pioneer professor John Davenport was especially enthusiastic about my defensive BOP — against totals, which I often enthusiastically countered.  Nonetheless, this morning, over 30 years later, I can notice the simple “offensive bases” accumulated (TB + BB + HBP + SB + S.O.E.) model divided by 4, combined with a “defensive bases” allowed model (H + BB + HP + S.O.E. + SB – CS) translate almost perfectly for the World Champion 2009 Yankees’ dominance of 915 Runs Scored (915 on Offensive Model), 753 Runs Allowed (756 on Defensive Model).

Presaging perhaps Pythagorean W/L (but armed realistically with theoretical runs, rather than actual runs), to get theoretical wins, I played with concepts of “managerial luck” and “optimum opportunism” to account for differences in Winning and Scoring Percentages before abandoning this toy and other “childhood things” in order to salute the sanctity of the pending season’s tabula rasa.  It was time to return purposefully to stats for the original purpose of revelatory review rather than presumptuous preview, time to re-respect a world of anti-prognostication!

While eschewing both the spirit and letter of pre-analyzing Baseball Future, I also looked to that pithy Pythagoras to find his extolling of the good the basis of the GOOD (Games Outscoring Opponents Differential).  This is what we have been awaiting, that surefire figure of our rational pastime that enables us to patiently await and enjoy the full sensorium of upcoming, ongoing games without subjection to the projectionists’ premature ejaculations.

The GOOD knows that actual play on the playing fields can never be anomaly, establishing the following formula:

 GOOD = W – L

Rejoice!  The highest regular season GOOD assures post-season play.  The highest world series GOOD wins it all — every year!  So simmer down, fantasizers!  Let’em play ball—and let it all be played out, as was meant to be ever since Pythagoras of Samo walked upon what he would call “this base ball,” or what I like to call “the earth.”

 Last Year or When Worlds Collide or Why Space Ends on Closing Day

Soon, as we approach the closing day of spring training, the most recent of official games in our baseball consciousness will no longer be of the 2009 variety.  Although its mental space will be supplanted with the 2010 season, the memory of last year still has just enough room and recency to connect exhibition game participants like Jim Edmonds (who did not play in ’09) or absentees like Jermaine Dye (who did).  And just what is their currency for our embattled attention?  Another beckoning list, as they may in the next few days join those players with 20 or more homers in their final season–a powerful swansong barely avoided by free agent signers such as Jim Thome, Hank Blalock, and Johnny Gomes in the days (post-season 2009) when the sacred end of the off-season seemed so far away.

Where will Edmonds and Dye be on the fateful April 4, when the off-season and new season numbers contest for our mind’s eye?  For on that Sunday is when worlds collide:  the final Cactus League tilt between the Giants and Padres in the afternoon, the season opener that night featuring the Yanks vs. Red Sox!  Only then, will we know with alacrity and assurance whether our former All Star outfielders will be primed for destiny’s latest ledger.

Let’s recount the names of a dozen sluggers who went out in such style, with appreciation for any additions from Barry Coders.  I forecast only that The Don will be right on it with a “Last Season” link on the Barry Code to make it official.

 Here are my top 12 last-season larrupers:

  Player Team Year Total Comment
1. Dave Kingman Athletics 1986 35 No takers, many HRs
2. Ted Williams Red Sox 1960 29 SA .645
3. Mark McGwire Cardinals 2001 29 BA .187
4. Barry Bonds Giants 2007 28 Steroid bust, no trust
5. Hank Greenberg Pirates 1947 25 Greenberg Gardens gone, too
6. Roy Cullenbine Tigers 1947 25 Easily career high
7. Kirby Puckett Twins 1995 23 Tragic ending of career, life
8. Albert Belle Orioles 2000 23 Bad hip, worse attitude
9. Dave Nilsson Brewers 1999 21 Off to Australia Olympian
10. Sammy Sosa Rangers 2008 21 “Comeback year” finale
11. Will Clark Orioles/Cardinals 2000 21 Only two-teamer
12. Paul O’Neill Yankees 2001 21 20/20 treasure

 No No-Hitter ‘til 1940?  No Way!

My father’s long, tweed coat, worn with his protestations against Chicago’s winters, had its historic moment in the cold sun on April 16, 1940.  Seymour put the day’s events just behind December 7, 1941, on his amazing “I was there” list, evidently watching the first opening day no-hitter in big league history, as Bob Feller shut down the White Sox 1-0 at Comiskey Park.  Ray Mack’s game-ending, no-hit saving play “could barely be seen through the snowflakes,” Dad recalled.

Upon the 70th anniversary of the storied feat, I am not casting aspersions (in this case) on Seymour Codell’s credibility.  But (pardoning the punishing pun) I now see more:  this April is also the 110th anniversary of, let me say (contrasting respectfully the Feller claim), perhaps the very first opening day no-hitter in big league history.

             “The act will never be forgotten as long as baseball lives.  The performance of Southpaw Amole with go on record as one of the seven wonders of the national game.”

Detroit Free Press, April 20, 1900

Yet it has been forgotten, until now.  Twenty-one-year-old Doc Amole’s 8-0 whitewashing of the Detroit Tigers shocked the celebratory home crowd of nearly 5,000 as Buffalo easily prevailed in the season opener.  Amole, using “all sorts of curves and speed” went on to win 22 games for the seventh place Bisons in 1900.

Morris George Amole never pitched in another big league game after that season, dying in 1912 at the age of 33 of pulmonary arrest.  Per my previous blog mention that equated the 1900 American League’s level of play with the universally accepted 1914-15 Federal League campaigns, the 1900 American League is here and hereby recognized as a major league season.  MLB erroneously, I believe, at the time and ever since gives the 1901 A.L. its first official big league status.

Therefore, let’s stick around to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the literal White Sox opening day in Chicago.  It was April 21, 1900, and we are there (dudes) when Connie Mack’s Milwaukee Brewers beat Charles Comiskey’s White Stockings 5-4 at boisterous South Side Park.  The rest, including a World Championship against the “invincible” Cubs (formerly White Stockings) six years later in that same stadium, is history, and it all counts — on the Barry Code!

 Who’ll Win the 2010 Hitting Title—And What is That?

HA!  Hitting Average has it all over Batting Average!  Easy to compute, easy to memorize, Hitting Average was an early way to remind fans about tracking outs, while considering the type of base hits a hitter produces.  Today the HA is nothing to laugh at, playing an essential part of the base-out game we call baseball:  TB/(AB-H) does the trick!

Last season, N.L. batting champ Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins (.342 BA, .647 HA) was trounced by St. Louis Albert Pujols (.332 BA, .979 HA) for the N.L. hitting crown.  In the A.L., Joe Mauer of the Twins (.332 BA, .925 HA) was the man in both departments.

The best Hitting Average brings forth the Hitting Champion.  It’s that simple!  HA history says it all:  Tony Gwynn, with but a .693 career HA, had 8 more batting titles than hitting titles (eight to none).  Babe Ruth, with a career-leading HA of 1.049 captured 8 more hitting titles than batting titles (nine to one).  A first Ichiro Hitting Championship in the offing?  With a .650 lifetime HA, highly unlikely—but keep going, Barry Coders, there is still so much to look backward to!

 Post Scripting:

The blog is indebted to researcher Gary Velich for continuing to share his favorite Barry Code stats with other sites.  Recently, Gary asked whether I would publicly acknowledge his findings that my Runs Recounted formula (RR) correlated to actual runs better than the Runs Created and Point System totals of Bill James and Steve Mann, respectively.  Thanks, Gary, for linking me to these old acquaintances.

 In 2010 I vow to search mainly, however, for the numbers of Carlos Slim and Grigori Perelman!

 As for the estimable Mr. Velich, I became a big fan of his when, overcoming Sabermetric presuppositions by recognizing RR, Gary also confirmed that (1) the man who tripled with the bases loaded and then scored had indeed hit a more valuable three-bagger than the poor fellow who tripled with nobody on base and was stranded, and (2) the two players, while equal in individual accomplishment were, per Code Stats, unequal in team contribution.

For Gary and all Code Talkers, thanks for realizing “mere counting stats” (including ball-strike counts, scores of games, and amounts of wins) have all along contained the magical recounting stats comprising the diamond present that the past gives us to this very opening day!

 Have a great season (no fooling)!

 Barry Codell

Celebrating Baseball Black History Month

February 25, 2010

For Quincy Trouppe, “Twenty Years Too Soon”

             The BarryCode’s February tribute to baseball’s black history could commence with any of its many topical tributaries:  Hank Aaron’s 76th birthday, Willie Mays’ new biography, Frank Thomas’ retirement.  However, as the month began, the obscured signing of outfielder Scott Hairston by the San Diego Padres may be the best place to start.

            Hairston’s $2.45 million one-year deal, avoiding arbitration, coupled with brother Jerry Jr.’s $2.12 million 2010 contract as a newly arrived Padre, completes an unprecedented family cycle that grandfather Sammy Hairston could not have imagined when, after years of Negro League stardom, in 1950 he became the first black player to ink a Chicago contract.

            That year, before his July signing with the White Sox, Sam had already won the Negro American League’s triple crown, hitting .424, with 17 HRs and 71 RBI in 70 games with the Indianapolis Clowns.  He then joined the Sox’s farm club in Colorado Springs, not making a big league showing until July 21, 1951, as a back-up catcher.  By mid-August, he was returned to the minors, where he was Western League MVP in 1952.

            While Sammy’s 2-for-5 four-game performance proved both his debut and swan song, his appearance in ML annals now seems not inauspicious at all, for this forgotten “.400 hitter” (“Better than Ty Cobb!” he later joked) was destined to become the patriarch of the largest baseball family in diamond history.

            After his playing days, as Hairston began his nearly 50-year career as the White Sox premier “organization man,” scouting and coaching a bevy of future big leaguers, his lineage extended to an outcome undreamable from his “futureless time” playing with the greatest black stars during the shameful era of baseball’s segregation.

            Son Johnny (born in Birmingham in 1944) partook of the same “cup of coffee” treatment with the star-crossed ’69 Cubs, going 1 for 4 in three games as a September outfield call-up, never to play in the majors again.

            But the Hairston story would not be denied, and it continued another 40 years to its present prominence.  By 1973, John Hairston’s brother Jerry (born in Birmingham in 1952) had come on the diamond scene as a White Sox utility man and pinch hitter deluxe, playing 14 seasons for Chicago, while fathering those current Hairston teammates (who were tutored by Grandpa Sam!) in San Diego.  A bit of happy Hairston essentia:  all five of the family had a 1.000 Fielding Average season in their big league careers.

            While considering this month the family’s remarkable achievement as baseball’s first five-member, three-generation family (sorry Boones and Bells!), we must always remember the baseball world of Sam Hairston.  Born in 1920, a boy growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, playing semi-pro there before joining the Black Barons, are facts revealing his beginnings.  Coaching until his death in 1997 for another Birmingham Baron team, in a completely changed baseball world, encapsulates his final years.  In between, with his constant dignity pitted against a constant indignity, he begat an incomparable part of baseball black history!

 *     *     *     *     *

 Believe me when I say that Minnie Minoso is to Latin ballplayers what Jackie Robinson is to black ballplayers.  As much as I loved Roberto Clemente and cherish his memory, Minnie is the one who made it possible for all us Latins.  Minnie was like a god to me.”

                                                                                                Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda

            He could steal home or hit the ball over the Comiskey roof!  Astoundingly neglected by Cooperstown, Orestes Arrieta Saturnino Armas “Minnie” Minoso was an absolute trailblazer for blacks as well as Latinos, pridefully fighting prejudice with his exuberant, exhilarating style through the 1950s.  Indeed, he was the first black to actually play in Chicago, as he broke in as a White Sox third baseman on May 1, 1951, against the Yankees, homering in his first at-bat in Comiskey Park (where, as a Negro League All Star, he had often thrilled the Chicago crowds) and launching the “Go Go Sox” into a streak of 17 consecutive winning seasons.

            Minnie, described by Hall of Fame executive legend Alex Pompez as the “best centerfielder [!] of the Negro Leagues,” and Willie Mays were the first blacks to play in All Star games in seven different years.  An early Gold Glover, a pioneering league leader in reached bases, total bases, stolen bases, hits, doubles and triples, he could do it all — in fact, Minnie was the first black or Latino with more than 10 years with 10 or more homers!

            Yet beyond his wondrous numbers, he is remembered today as an exemplary international goodwill ambassador for the game, the A.L.’s most exciting player for over a decade and even, for a brief time, a treasured teammate of Sammy Hairston.  Black Latino baseball history starts with Minnie Minoso!  And here in Chicago circa 2010, perhaps Minnie’s legacy will continue via Cub Starlin Castro, vying to be the major’s first player born in the 1990s . . . .

 *     *     *     *     *

             Further recalling the early ‘50s in Chicago black baseball, the North Side produced the following fine and certainly not forgotten fellow:  batting right, throwing right, a lanky youngster who started his career with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League, the first black signed by the Cubs, proclaimed by their head scouts as “already a better shortstop than Pee Wee Reese.”  Need a hint?  His initials are E.B.  In 1950, after signing, he was sent to the minors, first to the Western League, then the Pacific Coast League, perfectly mirroring the movements of his respected rival Sammy Hairston.  He made his Cub entrance with a part-time look in 1955, quickly became a fan favorite, hitting .274 as an “all-rookie” teammate of the one and only Hank Aaron.  In 1955, he played all 154 games, earning an N.L. All Star spot.  Of course, our mystery man is none other than Eugene Baker, “Bango” to Ernie Banks’ “Bingo” (you didn’t think Mr. Cub was the identity of our paragraph’s hero, did you?  By the time I finished it, I did!)

            Gene Baker was a special player and a special person.  Switching to second base to play alongside roommate Ernie Banks, Gene quickly established a reputation as a brilliant baseball mind.  His future manager Danny Murtaugh would say, “Gene Baker knows more baseball than fellows twice his age.  He’s one of the smartest I’ve ever met.”  As a matter of historical fact, after winning a World Series ring with Murtaugh’s Pirates in 1960 (how Ernie envied him — the last Cub pennant is still from the segregated era!), Gene became the first black to manage a team in a major league game, subbing in 1963 for two tilts in place of Murtaugh.  He was the Pirates’ top scout for a quarter century, always spreading the gospel of clean living and baseball, and choosing to stay only at those hotels that would accept him during the years he played facing daily discrimination.  What a man, what an example:  Gene Baker!

 *     *     *     *     *

            James Hirsch’s authorized and authoritative new biography of Willie Mays promotes the oft expressed idea that, despite Willie’s gleaming statistical slate, no one record sets him above the field.  Well, here are four records that show the reservoir of his still-standing numeric mastery that matches his intangible perfection:

            1.      Only player ever to have a four-homer game and a four-stolen base game over the course of his career

            2.      Only player to have consecutive 30-homer, 30-stolen bases seasons, while walking more than striking out in each

            3.      Only player to lead a league four times in homers and four times in stolen bases over the course of his career (consecutive in each department, to boot!!)

            4.      Only player to have a career surpassing .300 BA, 3000 H., 600 HRs and 300 SB!

            Connecting today’s dots, we note Willie’s father Willie Howard “Cat” Mays, Sr. played in 1942 for the Birmingham Industrial League team — with Sam Hairston who, like Willie himself, was a proud alumnus of the 1940s Birmingham Black Baron dynasty.

 *     *     *     *     *

             The 1990 season saw Mr. Hairston coaching a new prospect in Birmingham whose success there prompted the parent club to finish his year by bringing him to Chicago.  There, young Frank Thomas hit the last Sox home run in Comiskey Park history.  By the time he hit the first homer in the new ballpark the following April, Sammy’s prize protégé belonged to the world.  Now firmly established as the greatest player in White Sox 110-year history, Frank Thomas conducted a classy retirement press conference this month, followed by the White Sox announcement of the retirement of his number 35, which springs us forward for this grouping: 

35 HRs, 100 RBI, 100 BB, .300 BA, .600 SA, consecutive years

            5 consecutive years        Frank Thomas

            3 consecutive years        Babe Ruth

            3 consecutive years        Ted Williams

            3 consecutive years        Jimmie Foxx

            3 consecutive years        Barry Bonds

            The Big Hurt is on an inordinately large number of small lists.  And that’s a good thing!  How about this next one?  Career with one team of 10 or more “Averaged 162-game seasons” exceeding .300 BA, 300 RB, 300 TB, 300 BB-SO:

            1.      Ruth, Yankees

            2.      Gehrig, Yankees

            3.      Williams, Red Sox

            4.      Bonds, Giants

            5.      Thomas, White Sox

            And an even more select grouping of players with careers exceeding .300 average while surpassing 500 HRs, 1500 RBI, and 1500 walks before their 10,000th plate appearance:

            1.      Ruth

            2.      Williams

            3.      Thomas (only right-handed hitter, only black player to accomplish this feat–put him in the Hall!)

            Using my numbers, Frank is one of 10 in history with 10 or more years of 400 bases, all players in the BarryCode “Batters Hall of Fame.”  As Casey said, “You could look it up!”

            And so, a reminder:  Be a finder!  Use that Barry Code decoder to further verify the innumerable accomplishments of the black stars.  There’s so much to find under the radar!

            Exampling Extra:

                  Richie Allen          Only player to lead both leagues two times in OPS!

                  Vada Pinson          Three seasons with 200 hits, .300 BA, 20 HRs, 20 SBs—no other player in history had more than one season with those stats!

                  Matty Alou           Joined immortals Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie as the only man to lead the majors in hits, doubles, and singles in the same year!

Saluting all of the above and all the others,

Barry Codell

Stat! Stricken! They’re Out!

January 24, 2010

The Free Admission of Mark McGwire:  A Sad Reflection on Baseball

The St. Louis fandom’s screaming, standing ovation at last week’s Cardinal Winterfest indeed signaled “Mac is Back” in baseball (and what a chirping Redbird he is now!), ending a dubious miracle of time-lapse photography by which we (unlike McGwire’s Bud) can clearly see an emerging emergency.  First, Barry Bonds frustration at being anything but first fiddle bursts to stunning fruition during the elaborate staging of the Selig-produced “Mark McGwireSammy Sosa 1998 Saving Baseball Show.”

Next we view the rigged race to eternal fame and untold fortune.  This was an ugliness unfolding–Bonds’ simmering jealousies(described so tellingly in Mark Fainaru-Wada’s and Lance Williams’ Game of Shadows) and steroid-free frame becoming, by all accounts (see History of Devil’s Bargaining) too much psychologically and physically for him to bear,without scratching his fatal itch.  Now Mr.McGwire’s faux mea culpas not only reveal his own dormant mind-body dilemmas, but force me to take matters into my own hands, giving me just cause to utilize my Barry Code “stricken from the record clause” claws and literally remove Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and infamous others from the Code’s Batting Encyclopedia for their successful ruinations of baseball history.

After his recent belated admissions, the unnaturally Big Mac unleashed a volley of whiny regrets that centered on his own victimization:  the “steroid culture,” his body “breaking down”—even the “mistaken notion” of the public that his usage increased his home run totals!  Of course, mutually enabling and gifted manager Tony LaRussa tried to re-enforce the sullied slugger’s jaw-dropping claims about the unique swing and work ethic that will now be so generously shared with Albert Pujols and the rest of the needy Redbirds.

Those formerly secret and strangely ineffective PEDs that evidently had no part in propelling McGwire’s batted balls to previously unreached distances and numbers were only the beginning of his good natured, unabashed revisionist lies and delusions. When questioned about the possibility of clearing the air with George Mitchell in his 2007 report, McGwire, lost in circumspect retrospect, casually responded that aside from the fact that his lawyer had advised against it, “not one player, of course, had talked to Mitchell,” and closed the conversation pleading yet again his Congressional mantra, “Let’s all move on!”
“But when we look back, it’s funny: Frank Thomas really might have been the hero of the story.” Joe Posnanski, Sports Illustrated

Which brings us to Frank Thomas, the one player who did talk to Mitchell, the one player who railed most against rampant steroid use in baseball for years previous to 1998. As a critical matter of fact, ’98 was for Thomas, like Bonds, a year of decision for the leading batter of the ‘90s. As the great Bonds got second billing to the Slammin’ Sammy/Big Mac tour, despite his becoming the first player ever to pass the 400 HR/400 SB career combo, Thomas’s record eighth straight 100 RBI, 100 BB season was easily overlooked, especially since his average had slipped below .300 for the first time (.265).

The response to a somewhat lowered standing in the game could not have been more different.  For Bonds, it was thus (as written in the prologue of the resource-full Game of Shadows): “As the 1998 season unfolded, and as he watched Mark McGwire take over the game—his game—Barry Bonds decided that he, too, would begin using what he called ‘the shit.’”

Thomas’s concern was not the performances of McGwire, Sosa, or Bonds, but his own struggles: “This game has a way of humbling you. You have to work harder. You have to make adjustments.” And although Thomas would never recapture the full glory of his first seven seasons, he proudly batted and battled onward: a third MVP lost to that roid-using, law abusing Jason Giambi in 2000, finishing his fine career in the traditional manner hitters had always honorably attempted while facing the quickening pitches of Father Time. Surpassing 500 homers and .300 average should soon earn him a deserved place in Cooperstown.  With over 6000 Bases Batting and less than 6000 Outs Batting, the “Big Hurt” has already been ensconced in the BarryCode Batters Hall of Fame.

But what of the “juicers,” those obvious culprits who not only would shamelessly invade the Batters of Hall of Fame but also the innumerable leaders’ lists of the Batting Encyclopedia?  For all the years of airy talk that threatened “possible removal from the record books,” baseball’s policy of polite policing still extols the conspirators, further hallowing hollow records with Most Valuable Player and Silver Slugger awards.

What can be the code of the Code? If not a banishing, then a vanishing, a completely “out-of-site” penalty for such cheating.  Is there precedent for such umpiring? Aren’t these players innocent until proven guilty?  More pointedly, was McGwire culpable before his admission? A jury verdict of innocence didn’t prevent Judge Landis from sending Black Soxers into their exiles. For the sake of corrected chronicling, the BarryCode Batting Encyclopedia doesn’t need a court of law. That is why I can declare the righteous Judge Landis himself guilty for his “self-collusion,” historically preventing baseball’s integration with his one-man  prejudicial rule (another equally seamy diamond story).

So, armed with an opinion and a firm regard for the opinions of an informed baseball citizenry, I will strike the following “Dirty Dozen” from the records for contaminating our sacred pastime:

1. Barry Bonds
2. Mark McGwire
3. Sammy Sosa
4. Alex Rodriguez
5. Rafael Palmeiro
6. Gary Sheffield
7. Jason Giambi
8. Miguel Tejada
9. Manny Ramirez
10. David Ortiz
11. Ken Caminiti
12. Jose Canseco

Much more to come–and many more to go!

Welcome back, Henry Aaron and Roger Maris-755 and 61, what magical numbers! And Happy January 31 birthday, Ernie Banks–again Cub all-time HR leader with 512, after Flintstone-chewing, bat-corking, English-challenged Sammy bids adieu again!  As far as McGwire goes,he doesn’t go far–no need to taint any career Cardinal list headed by Stan Musial with the name of a bogus Bash Brother.  Finally, don’t buy Bonds–the true Giant is still Willie Mays!

How can we see the brave new world of PED-free statistics on the BarryCode website?  Simply by pressing the NOPE (No Performance Enhancing) button on the BarryCode Decoder (bottom left on Home Page).

Note that all players, including the steroidal sluggers listed above, appear on Don Sevcik’s BarryCode lists, fueled by an ever vigilant logic and providing further fortuitous comparisons while maintaining his original vision for the BarryCode. I thank Don for indulging my reality on this issue and dedicate today’s blog to Carlton Fisk, ex-Sox socker who in retirement has finally been socking it to this guilty group of artificial record holders!

So let us close with our soothing words of the day: Stat! Stricken! They’re Out!

All input and output appreciated, Barry

Encoding Essentia, Beyond Baseball’s Dementia . . . .

December 14, 2009

 Did You Not Know That?

In 1960, sitting on the bench of baseball’s worst team, the woeful 58-96 Kansas City A’s, was a second-string outfield that one day would ascend to a victorious Valhalla while remaining in danger only of unsplendid splinters. Did you not know that Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog and Hank Bauer would all one day manage World Champions? Upon announcement of Herzog’s entrance into the Hall of Fame this week, it’s a reminder to keep your eyes from the stars and look to the dugout once in a while, to conjure the improbable futures of current benchwarmers who may, like our unlikely immortals, wind up commanders in charge, winning the crown jewel of baseball bling–a World Series ring!

Speaking further of “unreckoned threes” (without resorting to Stengelese), if the pending trade of Boston’s Mike Lowell to Texas for Max Ramirez is finally approved, it would mean for the third time “Max Being Max” has been traded for a former All Star, without yet completing one major league season! Did you not know that in addition to ’07 W.S. MVP Lowell, Ramirez has already been traded for ex-big league stars Kenny Lofton and Bob Wickman? With three such transactions by the tender age of 25, Mr. M.R. has somehow, though benched in the bigs, with very little playing time, become a bastion of baseball essentia (by explanation, to be convivial, all that is not trivial!).

The recent unveiling of fascinating footage proving the National Anthem was first played during the seventh inning of Game #1 of the 1918 World Series between the visiting BoSox and the Cubs went without an essential bit of truth! Did you not know that the game was played at Comiskey Park? I thought so!

Switching to Pitching

Two Faves among Four-Inning Saves

July 19, 1955 – “Babe” Birrer earns nickname! Detroit rookie reliever Werner Joseph Birrer homers in consecutive at-bats, while hurling four shutout innings for his first big-league save, ensuring Frank Lary’s victory over the Orioles and becoming the only relief pitcher ever to save a game while hitting two home runs. Two years later, Millard Fillmore “Dixie” Howell of the White Sox (like Hank Bauer, a WW II hero) becomes the only reliever in history to win a game while hitting two homers.   Howell’s power display at Comiskey Park on June 16, 1957, is linked forever in my diamond mind with another favorite two-homer day for a ‘50s Sox left-handed hitter, all four landing in the distant right-field stands. On June 24, 1956, Hall of Fame centerfielder Larry Doby hit three-run homers in the first inning of each game of a White Sox double-header sweep over those Damn Yankees! And is this day, the anniversary of L.D.’s birth, December 13, 1925, not the right one to remember a slugging feat of that classy, history-making man?)

July 13, 1963 – Cleveland’s Jerry Walker pitches four scoreless frames to save the coveted 300th (and final) career win of the great, late Early Wynn!  Early’s precious 7-4 win over K.C. was his sole victory in 1963, and Jerry’s razor-sharp rescue was his lone save of the year, as well as the last of his career.  Historically, as AL All Star teammates in 1959, Wynn and Walker had already made their mark together.  Through the two All Star games of that year, starters Wynn of the White Sox and Walker of the Orioles proceeded to become, respectively, the oldest (Early,game 1) and youngest (Jerry,game 2) players ever to be in starting All Star Game lineups.  Ironically, in game 2, “Old Gus” relieved for youngest ever winning pitcher Walker in preparation, it seems, for their milestone win-and-save high-wire act!

What ties together these two historic saves and humbles even the most casual box score scanner (which I do not claim to be) are the pitching lines for the two games for the four aforementioned righties, perfectly mirroring each other, all 24 numerical entries in place!

Game No. 1 IP H R ER BB SO
Lary 5 6 4 4 3 3
Birrer 4 3 0 0 2 2
Game No. 2 IP H R ER BB SO
Wynn 5 6 4 4 3 3
Walker 4 3 0 0 2 2

Raves for “More Than Four Innings” Saves

June 1, 1920 – Hank “Lefty” Thormahlen pitches five relief innings in the Yankees 14-7 win over the Senators, saving the victory for George Herman Ruth (4IP, 4R, 2ER). The Babe’s only pitching appearance during his phenomenal 54-homer 1920 campaign is historically significant to this day, as he is the only pitcher (minimum 10 seasons pitched) to have had a winning season each year for each team he pitched for, a tribute to his underrated moundsmanship and the strange official scoring of that fateful June afternoon.

The man who is tied with Early Wynn at exactly 300 career wins, Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove is credited with the longest save in World Series annals. On October 9, 1929, in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, young Moses rescued “Swarthmore Smoothie” George Earnshaw, to preserve Game 2 laurels for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia crew, tossing 4-1/3 shutout innings following Earnshaw’s 4-2/3 IP, 3ER showing during the A’s 8-3 besting of the cursed Cubs.

Orioles Succumb to Two Strange Saves, But Prevent the Strangest

September 3, 2002Joaquin Benoit pitches seven innings of one-run ball to secure history’s longest save vs. the Birds.

August 22, 2007 – The highest scoring total by any team in one game saw the Rangers beat the Orioles 30-3 (after spotting Baltimore a 3-run lead), yet requiring a 3-inning save by Wes Littleton.

May 18, 1957 – With one minute to go before curfew ends the game in Baltimore, White Sox reliever Paul LaPalme does not hold the ball (or throw it to the screen!) but instead yields a homer to none other than Mr. Dick Williams, losing a save and 4-3 Sox win with a misguided pitch.

Two Cinch Series Saves

October 1, 1959Gerry Staley saves it for Early Wynn (11-0 White Sox over Dodgers) with 2 IP.

October 6, 1960 Bobby Shantz 2/3 inning preserves 16-3 win for Bob Turley, Yankees over Pirates.

In closing, thanks to Don Sevcik, my W-L differential (a simple significance) listings are on the Barry Code Boards, showing Randy Johnson and Jack Chesbro winning major league titles, pitching in both leagues, and Grover Cleveland Alexander capturing three straight. And speaking for all the other otherwise unacknowledged leaders, thanks to all for checking it out!

For Nathan Thurm and Johnny Sturm,Barry Codell…..

Greinke, Lincecum Win Cy Young, But Not Cy Falkenberg!

December 6, 2009

 The silken seasons spun by those (Cy) Young Gunslingers Zack Greinke of the Royals and Tim Lincecum of the Giants may indeed have been well deserving of the handsome hardware that handful of select scriveners deigned to hand them, despite the two twirlers’ respective victory totals of 16 and 15.

 Certainly, in the interest of fueling hot stove interest, as with Hall of Fame and MVP honors, the shared wealth of ever-newer statistical subjectivity is not (despite the attempted hypnotism) injurious to the health of our little “pastime past Time.”  But lost in baseball’s bustle of nouveau numbering designed to completely discredit pitching win totals, it might be worth remembering that a game’s opposing pitchers are facing each other as well as opposing hitters — with individual and team victory going most often to the one starter allowing fewer runs than the other — and that a pitcher’s won-lost record is that one individual statistic perfectly mirroring team won-lost.

 Which brings me to 25-game winner Cy Falkenberg and his “Marichal Year” (MY) and today’s most salient questions:  who is the former and what is the latter?

 Chicago-born Cy Falkenberg, after going 23-10 with a 2.22 ERA in 1913 for the Indians, jumped to a 25-16 year with Indianapolis of the Federal League in 1914, with another sparkling 2.22 ERA.  (The Chicago Federal League connection culminates with that historic ember of memory, i.e., Chicago sore spot, of the only major league championship won in Wrigley Field—by the 1915 Chicago Whales!)  That year, Cy paced the majors (yes, the Barry Code absolutely recognizes the Federal League as major league, further acknowledging 1900 as the first A.L. season) in both recorded outs (IP x 3) and strikeouts, with 1132 RO and 236 SO, edging Walter Johnson, who garnered 1115 RO and 225 SO.  The most forgotten of any pitcher accomplishing this previously unfeted feat, Cy Falkenberg most deserves the pub, hence the Cy Falkenberg Award, won but 27 times by 18 pitchers in baseball history.

 The most recent awardee is 2009 19-game winner Justin Verlander of the Tigers, out of the A.L., running for the less rare, but more coveted Cy Young award (remember the three Cy Young Awards in ’69 going to Tom Seaver, Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain, whose 1968 31-victory season is so aptly compared by the venerable Barry V. Codell to the Zach-Tim total of 31 in ’09?)  The comparative out and win declensions of Verlander (720, 19), Greinke (688, 16) and Lincecum (676, 15) indicate both Cy Young winners (and their teams) would ultimately be more relieved were they less relieved!

 Win totals of 25 or more like old Cy Falkenberg’s may be a thing of the past (Bob Welch’s 27 W in 1990 perhaps the last), and even the 20-game winning species endangered (although Brandon Webb’s and Cliff Lee’s 22 victories apiece in ‘08 may belie this), let’s give Greinke and Lincecum a real goal to attain, using additional traditional stats:  more than 20 wins, higher than .600 W/L, greater than 200 strikeouts and lower than 2.50 ERA–a combination cracked most miraculously by the “Juanderful” Juan Marichal, who had six such “surpassing seasons” (no Cy Youngs!) with “Li’l Tim’s” Giants!

 And who trailed most closely in Marichal years?  None other than The Big Train and Big Six immortals Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, with 5 and 4 similar campaigns, respectively, among the 31 hurlers who cumulatively “surpassed superiority” 56 times (sorry Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn, Lefty Grove and, yes, Cy Young!), including personal favorite Wilbur Wood (see Respect the Wood below).

 The lists of “Cy Falkenberg Awards” and “Juan Marichal Years” will be found on the Barry Code’s “Super Lists” link.  And a final word about these “scrolls unsung” (featuring a Ford not Whitey, and a Cy not Young):  the pitchers themselves voted with their own numbers to make the roll call.  Not to worry, baseball writers (and SABR righters), quite a few Cy Young Award winners are there, too–so keep pitching!

Note:

 

Respect the Wood – Going beyond the Marichal Years by lowering the ERA component to less than 2.00 and adding a 1000 RO requirement shows only three lively ball era (1920-2009) pitchers left standing as “five star flingers.”  In order of ERA, they are:

Pitcher Year Wins Pct. SO ERA RO
             
Wilbur Wood 1971 22 .629 210 1.91 1002
Denny McLain 1968 31 .838 280 1.96 1008
Steve Carlton 1972 27 .730 310 1.97 1039

 

Further into the WoodsWith Wilbur Wood’s singular sensation of 1971 now established; the lefty went on to forge a three-year streak of seasons above both 20 wins and 1000 recorded outs, the first (and, so far, the last) lively ball moundsman to do so!  Now we can quickly reveal the uniqueness of two other Woods, Smoky Joe and Kerry.  In 1912, the great Joe Wood became (and remains) the only pitcher ever to attain an overall (regular season plus post-season) won-lost differential over 30 (37W, 6L).  And in 1998, Kerry Wood’s “super game” against the Astros is still the only one in history in which a pitcher struck out more than two-thirds of his batters faced (20 of 29, for a .690 KBF – see “Super List” link for all .300 pitchers)!  Knuckleballs, curveballs, fastballs – straight from the Woods and into baseball immortality . . . . 

 

Deep in the Diamond Mine

November 10, 2009

November 9 – Now, then Then . . . .

The obvious headline of the November Classic is rightly, “Yanks Beat Phils, Capture 27th Title,” but the more interesting, hidden headline from future Arcane Archives is written, “Phils Beat Yanks, Giving Sox Distinction,” for with Philadelphia’s opening game victory over New York, those 2005 Sox arose once more as the Chicago gift that keeps giving! And I’m not referring to ex-Sox not-so-great Damaso Marte’s 0.00 post-season ERA, following his 9.45
regular season–an unprecedented difference.

For when at last Cliff Lee’s masterpiece was fully spun, the White Sox prevailed as the only 21st century, first decade team to have won a true traditional pennant (more victories than any team in its league) preceding a World Series sweep, a nearly invisible yet not small accomplishment.

But with the glorious opening day of the off-season giving baseball reflection the hardwon edge over baseball action, at last stilling those moveable numbers for six months, we seize the opportunity to more fully cement the past with a breaking story from the “It’s never too late to celebrate too early a diamond golden anniversary newsroom!”

Sticking with the Sox, that baseball bromide urging to wait a few years before judging a trade grants me a chance to finally analyze (a mere nearly 50 years later!) a transaction that supposedly ruined the budding dynasty the ’59 White Sox had begun. The December 1, 1959 deal that lives in franchise front office infamy featured Sox owner Bill Veeck’s sending young outfielder Johnny Callison to the Philadelphia Phillies for journeyman third baseman Gene Freese.

Callison’s play the next two years is both forgettable and forgotten. Freese’s better-than-Callison ’60 season for the third place Sox, and the abundant ’60-’61 production of outfield stars Minnie Minoso, Al Smith, Jim Landis and Floyd Robinson, made Callison’s possible impact at that time a moot (or, as a nameless Sox announcer would say, “mute”) point. Then Johnny truly blossomed: four excellent years followed, including three All Star selections, propelling the fine all-around right fielder to an outstanding 226-homer, .264 BA career that ended with the Yankees in 1973.

Gene Freese’s trade to the Redlegs before the ’61 season (where he starred for the N.L. champs) brought 10-13 veteran Cal McLish to Chicago, along with, without fanfare, the first two-headed lefthanded pitcher in baseball history, the great Wilbur Pizarro!

Somehow not even listed in the Baseball Encyclopedia, this fast-baller-turnedknuckleballer brought 238 wins and 64 saves to the Sox over a span of 18 years, with 5 All Star appearances and 4 20-game seasons from 1961 through 1978.

Of course, we could divide this hurling hydra into the more familiar names of Juan Pizarro, history’s top Puerto Rican pitching conquistador, and Wilbur Wood, that tireless, wondrous workhorse–the former obtained in the Sox-Reds Freese swap, the latter going to Chicago from Pittsburgh for Pizarro in 1966.

What winning pitching for winning (if not championship*) White Sox teams in the ‘60s and ’70s! Now looking back, it makes the Callison trade for Freese, with Gene bringing Juan who brought Wilbur, not only not one-sided but arguably beneficial for the Sox (if not quite crediting foresight over hindsight). Moral (as the Sox have just traded Chris Getz and Josh Fields for Mark Teahen): give a trade time, before you give it some more!

Barry Codell

*The most unique of these is the 1964 White Sox who won the highest percentage of games played that year of any major league team, yet missed the post-season, strongly competing now for our attention with those aforementioned, irrepressible 2005 Pale Hose and perhaps the 2009 World Champs, your (and Hideki Matsui’s) New York Yankees!

Whirled Series

October 27, 2009

October 27, 2009 . . . .

 That perfect Yankee-Phillie World Series matchup is the final chapter of the 60 storied seasons that began the year those same two teams first played each other for keeps in the 1950 World Series, swept by the New Yorkers.  Yet astoundingly, these six amazingly full decades have not in the least altered two facts astonishingly frozen in baseball history, whether written adverbially in 1950 or 2009:  The Bronx Bombers continue to have won the most undisputed (league’s best regular season record, i.e., true pennant, and majors’ best post-season record, i.e., World Champs) major league championships, and the “Fightin’ Phils” still have never won a one!  (See “Futility Streaks,” Art of the Article link.)  Even an inspired Philadelphia victory over the New Yorkers would not give them and their fans, at long last, their first ever, clear-cut, unchallengeable triumph.

 Let’s use and peruse that ’50 series, the “closest sweep” in fall classic annals (until the White Sox whitewash of the Astros in 2005) to return to Chicago for a worthwhile reminiscence:  the, if not infamous, famously unknown “Meeting of the Casimirs.”  The N.L. MVP in 1950 was none other than Phillie reliever supreme, major league save leader Casimir James “Jim” Konstanty (whom his future team Yankees edged 1-0 in his surprise Series opening start).  On July 11 in Comiskey Park that same season, former White Sox All Star Casimir Eugene “Cass” Michaels, now a Senator, doubled and scored for the A.L. as a pinch hitter, while Konstanty hurled a hitless, two-strikeout inning for the N.L. stars, marking the only time the only Casimirs in baseball history played (flawlessly, to boot) in the same All Star Game!

 Digressing again from that fortuitous digression just brought to us by MLB, we must return to New York City and the matter at hand.  The Phillies, coming full circle to avenge their 1950 “Whiz Kids” defeat, would bring home a second significant, if smaller success:  they can become the first team since the Yankees of the ’90s to repeat in the three-tier playoff era (and the first in the 21st century) and, in beating the posh Pinstripers head-to-head in 2009, would definitely deserve justifiable kudos, proper props and heavy hat-tipping for turning it all around, as well as continued encouragement for their now nearly Sisyphean task to really (and finally) “win it all”–next year!

Part II – New York Rites to Free Mason from Oblivion–
and A Fond Grim Reminder . . . .

 The Brian Doyles and Buddy Biancalanas of the world (I wouldn’t even mention Dusty Rhodes and Chuck Essegian but for the fact I just did), despite their unfathomable World Series numbers, have to stand (or lie) statistically with Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson et al. when it comes to unfailing success in October.

 That 1.000 BA, 5.000 OPS that stares back at us from the Classic’s ledger was first achieved by a defensive replacement who homered in his only career World Series at bat.  Jim Mason’s third-game 1976 Yankee Stadium home run against Cincinnati was a rare bright spot for the Yanks, who were summarily swept by the Big Red Machine.

 This perhaps doubtable achievement became Halloweenly redoubtable when it was eerily matched 29 years later by another defensive replacement in game 3 of a World Series sweep, when Geoff Blum shockingly homered in his one at-bat for the altogether shocking White Sox champs (see Ghosts of Octobers Past)!

 Jim (“Don’t Call Him James”) Mason, however, remains as the only man in baseball mystery to have homered in a World Series in his only post-season plate appearance, at once a perfect autumn opening and closing act . . . .

*          *          *          *          *

 Remembering another Yankee this October who in not making a World Series mark made his mark.  For can you imagine a Yankee All Star in the ’50s playing in five seasons for the Bombers but never in a winning World Series?  Highly mathematically improbable, to say the most!  But Bob Grim, after winning 20 games for the winningest Casey Stengel team of all (which, equally improbably, despite winning 103 games, missed the Series entirely, finishing in second place to the ready-to-be-swept 1954 Indians), pitched in the losing New York series of ’55 and ’57 and did not appear in the ’56 and ’58 victory runs.  So how should we remember fondly Grim?  Only as the only pitcher ever to both win 20 games his first season (1954) and be a major league save leader (1957) over the course of his career.  Who could ask for a more select company than our long-forgotten October star-crossed star, Robert Anton Grim.

 Speaking of missing World Series, I suddenly am thinking of a great player (and guy) who, while never playing in one, literally made Series history!  Do you know this bit of baseball essentia?  By dint of hint:  in 1929, seven of the top eight A.L. batting leaders were future Hall of Famers, but the man who led them all was not!  Who was he?  He co-starred with Joe E. Brown in the baseball film, “Slide, Kelly, Slide” (he was a classically trained singer), learning all the angles of the camera and eventually creating the official World Series film anthology we still so treasure today.  Of course, the answer is the great batting coach (and a champion at .369, alas, without playing in a championship game) Lew Fonseca.  A unique individual on and off the field, there can be none in lieu of Lew.

 Thanks for the World Series memories . . . .


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