The Great Lakes dominate the landscape of Michigan. The Wolverine State is an outdoor playground in every season. While the snow piles up in Winter, it has not prevented Michigan from sending 444 players to the Majors. The greatest pitcher born in Michigan is John Smoltz. His 68.96 career WAR ranks 17th highest among state and territory leaders. The greatest Michigan born position player is Charlie Gehringer. His 83.75 career WAR ranks 19th highest among state and territory leaders. The Wolverine State has a combined 152.71 WAR, ranking Michigan 18th highest.
John Smoltz is forever tied to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine as they led the Atlanta Braves to an unprecedented stretch of dominance in the 1990’s. The Detroit native pitched 21 seasons with three teams: Atlanta Braves (1988-2008), Boston Red Sox (2009), and St. Louis Cardinals (2009). Despite missing all of 2000 due to Tommy John Surgery, Smoltz pitched in 723 career Games, made 481 Starts, Finished 204 Games, threw 53 Complete Games, including 16 Shutouts, 154 Saves, Pitched 3,473 Innings, allowed 3,074 Hits, 1,391 Runs, 1,284 Earned Runs, 288 Home Runs, 1,010 Walks, 3,084 Strikeouts, posted a 210-147 record, 3.33 ERA, 1.176 WHIP, and 125 ERA+. Originally drafted in the 22nd Round by his hometown Detroit Tigers in 1985, he was traded to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander two years later. Smotz’s skills on the mound allowed him to lead the National League in Wins at age 29 and 39, and Saves at age 35. He was an eight time All Star. He was named the 1992 National League Championship Series MVP and won the 1995 World Series with the Braves. Smoltz won the Cy Young award in 1996 and the Silver Slugger award in 1997. After transitioning to the Closer role, he won the 2002 Rolaids Relief award. Smoltz received the 2005 Roberto Clemente Award. In 2015, Smoltz was elected to the Hall of Fame, becoming the then lowest drafted Hall of Famer.
Smoltz helped Atlanta reach the Postseason and continued his success in October. In 41 career Postseason Games, he made 27 Starts, Finished 11 Games, threw 2 Complete Games, including 1 Shutout, 4 Saves, Pitched 209 Innings, allowed 172 Hits, 67 Runs, 62 Earned Runs, 17 Home Runs, 67 Walks, 199 Strikeouts, posted a 15-4 record, 2.67 ERA, and 1.144 WHIP. Smoltz gave the Braves an opportunity to win every time he took the mound.
Smoltz’s best season was 1996. He made 35 Starts, threw 6 Complete Games, including 2 Shutouts, Pitched 253.2 Innings, allowed 199 Hits, 93 Runs, 83 Earned Runs, 19 Home Runs, 55 Walks, 276 Strikeouts, posted a 24-8 record, 2.94 ERA, 1.001 WHIP, and 149 ERA+. He led the National League in Wins, Winning Percentage, Innings Pitched, and Strikeouts. He was named an All Star, finished 11th in MVP voting, and won the Cy Young. Pure dominance.
Detroit fans voted Charlie Gehringer as the greatest second baseman in the storied history of the Tigers. Fan chose Gehringer over the beloved Lou Whitaker. Gehringer played 19 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1924-1942). The Fowlerville native played in 2,323 Games, collected 2,839 Hits, 574 Doubles, 146 Triples, 184 Home Runs, 1,427 RBI, scored 1,775 Runs, 181 Stolen Bases, 1,186 Walks, 372 Strikeouts, .320 BA, .404 OBP, .480 SLG, .884 OPS, and 125 OPS+. Gehringer hit over .300 13 times in 14 seasons, with his .298 BA in 1932 as the lone exception. He was named to the first six All Star games, helped the Tigers win the 1935 World Series, and won both the American League Batting Title and MVP in 1937. Gehringer was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949 in a special runoff election, but was unable to attend as the ceremony coincided with his own wedding. He served on the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee from 1953 to 1990. The Tigers retired his #2 in 1983.
Gehringer’s success helped the Tigers reach the World Series three times (1934, 1935, and 1940), winning in 1935. In the World Series, Gehringer played in 20 Games, collected 26 Hits, 4 Doubles, 1 Home Runs, 7 RBI, scored 12 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 7 Walks, 1 Strikeout, .321 BA, .375 OBP, .407 SLG, and .782 OPS. Detroit twice lost Game 7, the Tigers were close to dominating all of baseball not just the American League.
The best season of Gehringer’s career was 1934. He played in 154 Games, collected 214 Hits, 50 Doubles, 7 Triples, 11 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 135 Runs, 11 Stolen Bases, 99 Walks, 25 Strikeouts, .356 BA, .450 OBP, .517 SLG, .967 OPS, and 149 OPS+. He led the Junior Circuit in Games played, Hits, and Runs scored. Gehringer finished second in MVP voting while leading the Tigers to the American League Pennant.
Michigan’s proud baseball legacy continues to grow. The Wolverine State has sent seven native sons to Cooperstown: Kiki Cuyler, Charlie Gehringer, Larry MacPhail (Executive), Hal Newhouser, Ted Simmons, John Smoltz, and Tom Yawkey (Executive). More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball continues it’s exploration of the water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota is next.
Louisiana was once home to the Minor League New Orleans Baby Cakes. The team moved to Wichita, Kansas in 2020, leaving the Pelican State without a Major League affiliated team. Despite the absence, Louisiana has a strong baseball tradition, having sent 130 players to the Majors. The greatest pitcher born in the Pelican State is Ted Lyons. His 70.40 career WAR ranks 16th highest among state and territory pitching leaders. Mel Ott is the greatest position player from Louisiana. His 110.66 career WAR ranks 9th among position player leaders. Lyons and Ott combine to give Louisiana 181.06 WAR. The Pelican State has the 13th highest WAR.
Ted Lyons was beloved by White Sox players, coaches, and fans. The Lake Charles native spent his entire 21 season career (1923-1942, 1946) pitching on the South Side of Chicago. The Right Hander graduated from Baylor University and skipped the Minors. In his career, Lyons pitched in 594 Games, made 484 Starts, threw 356 Complete Games, including 27 Shutouts, pitched 4,161 Innings, allowed 4,489 Hits, 2,056 Runs, 1,696 Earned Runs, 222 Home Runs, 1,121 Walks, 1,073 Strikeouts, posted a 260-230 record, 3.67 ERA, 1.348 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He threw a No Hitter against the Red Sox on August 21, 1926. He was named to the 1939 All Star team and won the American League ERA Title in 1942. Lyons won at least 20 games three times, posted an ERA below 3.00 four times, threw 20 Complete Games seven times, and threw 10 Complete Games 18 times. After a shoulder injury nearly ended his career, Lyons began pitching only on Sundays to great effect. He led the Junior Circuit in Wins, Complete Games, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, and Hits twice each.
Chicago was never good during Lyons’ career. The closest the White Sox came to the Pennant was in 1940, finishing fourth, 8 Games Back of the Tigers. After missing three full seasons in the military during World War II, Lyons returned for five more games before retiring when he was named the Chicago’s manager. He holds the record for most Wins, Innings Pitched, and Complete Games by a White Sox pitcher. Lyons would have reached the hallowed 300 Wins mark if he had played on a better team. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955. His 6.0% Strikeout rate is the lowest for any Hall of Famer who began their career after 1920. He also has the second highest career ERA, 3.67, of any pitcher in Cooperstown. The White Sox wanted to retire his #16 in 1985, but Lyons could not attend due to poor health and a desire to see others wear the number. He passed away the next year, after which the White Sox officially retired #16.
Lyons’ best season was in 1927. He pitched in 39 Games, made 34 Starts, threw 30 Complete Games, including 2 Shutouts, pitched 307.2 Innings, allowed 291 Hits, 125 Runs, 97 Earned Runs, 7 Home Runs, 67 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, posted a 22-14 record, 2.84 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, and 143 ERA+. He led the American League in Wins, Complete Games, Innings Pitched, and Hits allowed. Despite the White Sox finishing 70-83, Lyons finished third in MVP voting. Ted Lyons’ career was filled with tough luck games and seasons.
Mel Ott was one of the greatest players in Major League history. The Gretna native patrolled Right Field at the Polo Grounds for 22 seasons with the New York Giants (1926-1947). Ott played in 2,730 career Games, collected 2,876 Hits, 488 Doubles, 72 Triples, 511 Home Runs, 1,860 RBI, scored 1,859 Runs, 89 Stolen Bases, 1,708 Walks, 896 Strikeouts, .304 BA, .414 OBP, .533 SLG, .947 OPS, and 155 OPS+. He led the National League in Runs scored and OPS twice, OBP four times, OPS+ five times, and Home Runs and Walks six times. His domination at the plate included hitting 30 Doubles five time, posting a 1.000 OPS seven times, slugging 30 Home Runs eight times, scoring 100 Runs and 100 RBI nine time, drawing 100 Walks 10 times, posting a .300 BA 11 times, and a 150 OPS+ 14 times. His skills with the bat and feared throwing arm earned him 12 All Star appearances. Ott set the National League record with 79 Runs scored and 87 RBI on the road in 1929. He retired as the Senior Circuit’s all time leader with 511 Home Runs (200 more than second place), trailing only Jimmie Foxx and Babe Ruth. He was also the National League’s all time leader in Runs scored, RBI, and Walks. Ott was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1951.
Ott played in three World Series. The Giants defeated the Washington Senators in 1933.. The Giants would return to the World Series in 1936 and 1937, losing both to the Yankees. In three World Series, Ott played 16 Games, collected 18 Hits, 2 Doubles, 4 Home Runs, 10 RBI, scored 8 Runs, 8 Walks, 9 Strikeouts, .295 BA, .377 OBP, .525 SLG, and .901 OPS. He tried to bring more titles back to the Polo Grounds.
The best season of Ott’s career was 1936. In 150 Games, he collected 175 Hits, 28 Doubles, 6 Triples, 33 Home Runs, 135 RBI, scored 120 Runs, 6 Stolen Bases, 111 Walks, 41 Strikeouts, .328 BA, .448 OBP, .588 SLG, 1.036 OPS, and 177 OPS+. He led the National League in Home Runs, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. He was named an All Star and finished sixth in MVP voting while leading the Giants to the Pennant.
Louisiana has a proud baseball history. The Louisiana State University baseball team remains one of the premier college teams every year. Five members of the Hall of Fame were born in the Pelican State: Willard Brown, Bill Dickey, Ted Lyons, Mel Ott, and Lee Smith. There are others with strong cases for induction. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to New England. Vacationland is next, Maine.
Fly over states may not have the large cities that attract Major League teams, but they play plenty of baseball. Kansas does not lack for baseball talent with 218 MLB players born in the Sunflower State. The best Kansas born pitcher is one of the greatest of all time. Walter Johnson has the most career WAR, 164.54, for a pitcher born in Kansas. He has the second highest WAR for any state and territory pitching leader. Johnny Damon is the greatest position player born in the Sunflower State. His 56.33 career WAR ranks 35th among state and territory leaders. Johnson and Damon give Kansas 220.87 WAR, 8th highest among all states and territories.
Walter Johnson is on the Mount Rushmore of Major League pitchers. Few pitchers can compare to the Humboldt native. The Right Hander pitched 21 seasons for the Washington Senators. In 802 career Games, Johnson made 666 Starts, threw 531 Complete Games, including 110 Shutouts, pitched 5,914.1 Innings, allowed 4,913 Hits, 1,902 Runs, 1,424 Earned Runs, 97 Home Runs, 1,363 Walks, 3,509 Strikeouts, posted a 417-279 record, 2.17 ERA, 1.061 WHIP, and 147 ERA+. On July 1, 1920 against the Red Sox Johnson threw his only career No Hitter. Four years later, he helped propel the Senators to their only World Series victory. The Big Train holds the record for most career 1-0 Wins (38) and Losses (26). He is likely the permanent all time leader in Shutouts.
Johnson dominated. He had 10 consecutive 20 Win seasons. He led the American League in Strikeouts 12 times, Shutouts seven times, Wins, Complete Games, WHIP, and ERA+ six times, and Innings Pitched five times. The Big Train struck out 300 batters twice and 200 batters seven times. He posted a WHIP below 1.000 nine times. His ERA+ was over 200 four times and 150 eight times. Johnson’s domination included an ERA under 2.00 11 times and winning five ERA Titles. He won the Pitching Triple Crown three times (1913, 1918, 1924) and the American League MVP twice (1913 and 1924). In 1936 Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class.
Johnson’s best season was 1913. He pitched in 48 Games, made 36 Starts, threw 29 Complete Games, including 11 Shutouts, pitched 346 Innings, allowed 232 Hits, 56 Runs, 44 Earned Runs, 9 Home Runs, 38 Walks, 243 Strikeouts, posted a 36-7 record, 1.14 ERA, 0.780 WHIP, and 259 ERA+. Johnson won the MVP award while leading the league in Wins, Winning %, Complete Games, Shutouts, Innings Pitched, Home Runs, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. Total control on the mound as the Senators won 90 games to finish second for the pennant.
“We’re idiots.” Boston’s Johnny Damon as the Red Sox marched to their 2004 World Series title. The Fort Riley native was a veteran leader that helped return Boston to baseball glory. The sometimes caveman looking Centerfielder played 18 seasons for seven teams: Kansas City Royals (1995-2000), Oakland Athletics (2001), Boston Red Sox (2002-2005), New York Yankees (2006-2009), Detroit Tigers (2010), Tampa Bay Rays (2011), and Cleveland Indians (2012). In 2,490 career Games, Damon collected 2,769 Hits, 522 Doubles, 109 Triples, 235 Home Runs, 1,139 RBI, scored 1,668 Runs, 408 Stolen Bases, 1,003 Walks, 1,257 Strikeouts, .284 BA, .352 OBP, .433 SLG, .785 OPS, and 104 OPS+. He scored at least 100 Runs 10 times. He was twice an All Star (2002 and 2005) and World Series champion (2004 and 2009). Damon appeared on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 1.8% of votes. He is best remembered for his departure in Oakland helping to usher in the Moneyball era and ending the Curse of the Bambino.
Damon’s best season was in 2000 for the Royals. He played in 159 Games, collected 214 Hits, 42 Doubles, 10 Triples, 16 Home Runs, 88 RBI, scored 136 Runs, 46 Stolen Bases, 65 Walks, 60 Strikeouts, .327 BA, .382 OBP, .495 SLG, .877 OPS, and 118 OPS+. He led the Junior Circuit in Runs scored and Stolen Bases. Damon set career highs in Plate Appearances, At Bats, Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Stolen Bases, BA, OBP, SLG, and Total Bases. He was the July Player of the Month as he posted a 6.2 WAR season. Damon finished 19th in MVP voting. The Royals tried to resign him, but the constant losing took its toll. Kansas City traded him to Oakland instead of losing him in Free Agency.
Kansas has sent two players to Cooperstown, Walter Johnson and Joe Tinker. Damon was a good player, but not quite Hall of Fame worthy. Kansas continues to wait for a third member in Cooperstown. Next week the United States of Baseball heads to the land of horse racing and basketball. The Bluegrass State is next, Kentucky.
“Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.”
Field of Dreams is one of the best baseball movies ever made. It shines a light on Iowa and its contribution to the game. The Hawkeye State has sent 222 players to the Major Leagues. There are several terrific pitchers from Iowa, but Red Faber is the best. His 67.67 career WAR ranks 21st among state and territory leaders. Cap Anson is the greatest position player from the Hawkeye State. His 94.28 career WAR is the 13th highest among state and territory leaders. Faber and Anson give Iowa 161.95 WAR, 17th highest among all states and territories.
Red Faber was on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Opening Day roster in 1911, but was sent to the minors before pitching in a game. In Minneapolis, of the American Association, the Cascade native hurt his arm in a distance throwing contest. If not for learning to throw the spitball, his career would have been over. Urban Clarence Faber was later one of 17 pitchers grandfathered in when the spitball was made illegal before the 1920 season. He would be the last spitballer to play his entire career in the American League.
Sometimes in life you are at the right place at the right time. A group of All Stars embarked on an Around The World Tour in 1914. They hoped to spread the game and create more business for Al Spalding’s sporting goods company. When Christy Mathewson backed out over concerns of seasickness, Faber replaced him. It was the break of a lifetime. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was impressed by the young right hander and bought his contract for the 1914 season. Faber would spend his entire 20 season career with the White Sox (1914-1933). He pitched in 669 Games, made 483 Starts, threw 273 Complete Games, including 29 Shutouts, pitched 4,086.2 Innings, allowed 4,106 Hits, 1,813 Runs, 1,430 Earned Runs, 111 Home Runs, 1,213 Walks, 1,471 Strikeouts, posting a 254-213 record, 3.15 ERA, 1.302 WHIP, and 119 ERA+. He pitched three career One Hitters, but never a No Hitter. Faber pitched in four games and won three for the White Sox in the 1917 World Series. He did not pitch for the Black Sox in the tarnished 1919 World Series as he recovered from the flu and multiple injuries. He twice led the American League in ERA (1921-1922). Faber was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veterans Committee.
Faber’s best season was in 1921. He pitched in 43 Games, made 39 Starts, threw 32 Complete Games, including 4 Shutouts, pitched 330.2 Innings, allowed 293 Hits 107 Runs, 91 Earned Runs, 10 Home Runs, 87 Walks, 124 Strikeouts, posted a 25-15 record, 2.48 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, and 170 ERA+. He led the Junior Circuit in Complete Games, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. Faber’s 25 Wins accounted for 40% of Chicago’s wins in the aftermath of the Black Sox Scandal.
Cap Anson was baseball’s first superstar and the face of racism in baseball. Adrian Constantine Anson alone did not prevent African-Americans from playing Major League Baseball, but his stature and fierce racism helped solidify baseball’s color line. The Marshalltown native played First Base and Managed for most of his career. In 27 seasons, Anson played for three teams: Rockford Forest Citys (1871), Philadelphia Athletics (1872-1875), and Chicago White Stockings/ Colts (1876-1897). He managed three teams in 21 seasons: Philadelphia Athletics (1875), Chicago White Stockings/ Colts (1879, 1880-1897), and New York Giants (1898). He was a fierce competitor, winning five National League pennants and posting a 1,295-947 record, .578 Win%, as a manager. Anson was the second manager with 1,000 wins, after Harry Wright, and the first player to collect 3,000 Hits.
The ferocity that made him such a great player also made Anson plenty of enemies. He was an outspoken opponent of the Players League, and sought to undermine it. Anson later believed former members of the Players League conspired to deny him multiple pennants after the Players League’s collapse. He never let go of a grudge.
Cap Anson was the last barehanded first baseman, finally wearing a glove in 1892. He helped lead the 1914 Around the World Baseball tour with his good friend Al Spalding. In his legendary career, Anson played in 2,524 Games, collected 3,435 Hits. 582 Doubles, 142 Triples, 97 Home Runs, 2,075 RBI, scored 1,999 Runs, 277 Stolen Bases, 984 Walks, 330 Strikeouts, .334 BA, .394 OBP, .447 SLG, .841 OPS, and 142 OPS+. When he retired, Anson was the all time leader in Games Played, At Bats, Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, RBI, and Managerial Wins. Over 120 years after he last played for the Cubs, he remains the franchise leader in Hits, Runs scored, Doubles, and RBI. Anson won four Batting Titles (1879, 1881, 1887, and 1888). He remains 9th all time in Runs scored, 7th in Hits, 22nd in Doubles, 5th in RBI, and 4th in Singles. Defensively at First, Anson is 7th in Games Played, 2nd in Putouts, and 1st in Errors. Anson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939.
In his long career, Anson had plenty of great seasons, but his 1886 season with the White Stockings was his best. In 125 Games, he collected 187 Hits, 35 Doubles, 11 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 147 RBI, scored 117 Runs, 29 Stolen Bases, 55 Walks, 19 Strikeouts, .371 BA, .433 OBP, .544 SLG, .977 OPS, and 180 OPS+. He led the National League in RBI. Anson’s greatness on the field is difficult to confine to a single season, but 1886 provides a useful comparison to the modern game.
Iowa continues to play an important role in the growth of baseball. The Hawkeye State has seven native sons in the Hall of Fame: Cap Anson, Dave Bancroft, Fred Clarke, Red Faber, Bob Feller, Dazzy Vance, and J.L. Wilkinson (Executive). More will surely follow. Next week the United States of Baseball moves to the Great Plains and the Sunflower State. Kansas is next.
Major League Baseball continues to see a steady stream of players from Georgia. The warm weather for much of the year combined with the Braves dynasty in the 1990’s and early 2000’s created a generation of baseball crazed players and fans. The Peach State has sent 390 players to MLB. The Hall of Fame has welcomed six Georgia natives: Ty Cobb, Josh Gibson, Johnny Mize, Jackie Robinson, Bill Terry, and Frank Thomas. Kevin Brown is the greatest pitcher from the Peach State. His career 68.21 WAR ranks 20th among all state and territory leaders. Ty Cobb is the greatest position player. His career 151.02 WAR is the 4th highest among position players. Brown and Cobb’s combined 219.23 WAR ranks Georgia 9th highest among all states and territories.
Kevin Brown was born in Milledgeville. He played 19 seasons in the Majors for six teams: Texas Rangers (1986, 1988-1994), Baltimore Orioles (1995), Florida Marlins (1996-1997), San Diego Padres (1998), Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2003), and New York Yankees (2004-2005). On the mound, Brown pitched in 486 Games, making 476 Starts, throwing 72 Complete Games, 17 Shutouts, pitching 3,256.1 Innings, allowing 3,079 Hits, 1,357 Runs, 1,185 Earned Runs, 208 Home Runs, 901 Walks, 2,397 Strikeouts, posting a 211-144 record, 3.28 ERA, 1.222 WHIP, and 127 ERA+. Opposing hitters knew they were in for a rough day with Brown pitching.
Brown’s elite pitching earned him six All Star selections, the 1997 World Series, and two ERA titles (1996 and 2000). He finished sixth in the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year voting. He finished in the top six for Cy Young voting five times (1992- 6th, 1996- 2nd, 1998- 3rd, 1999- 6th, and 2000- 6th). He threw a No Hitter against the Giants in 1997. A year later, Brown’s success on the mound saw him rewarded with the then largest contract in MLB history. He signed a seven year free agent contract with the Dodgers for $105 million. It was baseball’s first $100+ million contract. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2011. He received 2.1% of the vote, failing to reach the minimum 5% to remain on the ballot.
Unquestionably, Brown’s best season was in 1996 with the Florida Marlins. In 32 Starts, he threw 5 Complete Games, including 3 Shutouts, pitched 233 Innings, allowed 187 Hits, 60 Runs, 49 Earned Runs, 8 Home Runs, 33 Walks, 159 Strikeouts, posted a 17-11 record, 1.89 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, and 215 ERA+. Brown led the National League in ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. He was an All Star, finished second for the Cy Young award, and 22nd for the MVP. Kevin Brown was outstanding and was among the National League’s best in 1996.
No player was ever more fanatical about baseball than Ty Cobb. He was born in Narrows and played 24 seasons for the Detroit Tigers (1905-1926) and Philadelphia Athletics (1927-1928). In 3,034 career Games he collected 4,189 Hits, 724 Doubles, 295 Triples, 117 Home Runs, 1,944 RBI, scored 2,245 Runs, 897 Stolen Bases, 1,249 Walks, 680 Strikeouts, .366 BA, .433 OBP, .512 SLG, .944 OPS, 168 OPS+, and 5,854 Total Bases. When he retired, Cobb held the record for most Hits, Stolen Bases, and BA. Both Hits and Stolen Bases have since been surpassed, but his record .366 BA seems untouchable.
Cobb is perhaps the greatest hitter of all time. He hit over .400 three times. He won 12 Batting Titles in 13 seasons, including nine straight. He led the American League in Hits eight times and collected at least 200 Hits nine times. He led the league in Doubles three times. He hit at least 30 Doubles in 15 seasons and at least 40 Doubles in four seasons. Cobb led the league in Triples four times, legging out at least 10 Triples in 17 seasons, and at least 20 in four seasons. He had seven 100 RBI seasons, leading the American League four times. He led the Junior Circuit in Stolen Bases six times with nine seasons of at least 50 Steals. Cobb was the premier player of his era, winning the 1909 Triple Crown (9 HR, 107 RBI, .377 BA). In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its first class: Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. It was Cobb, not Ruth, who received the most votes, with 98.2% for induction into Cooperstown.
Selecting the greatest individual season of Cobb’s career is nearly impossible. He was consistently brilliant. Examining his MVP 1911 season with the Tigers seems the most appropriate. In 146 Games, he collected 248 Hits, 47 Doubles, 24 Triples, 8 Home Runs, 127 RBI, scored 148 Runs, 83 Stolen Bases, 44 Walks, 42 Strikeouts, .419 BA, .466 OBP, .620 SLG, 1.086 OPS, 196 OPS+, and 367 Total Bases. Cobb led the league in Runs scored, Hits, Doubles, Triples, RBI, Stolen Bases, BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and Total Bases. He won the first American League MVP award. He finished 7th in 1912, 20th in 1913, and 14th in 1914 after which the award was discontinued. The MVP returned to the Junior Circuit in 1922, but previous winners were ineligible to win again. It is not difficult to imagine the Georgia Peach winning at least five MVP awards if he was eligible.
Georgia continues to send great players to the Majors every year. The state shows no sign of slowing down. Next week the United States of Baseball goes west, really far west to the Land of the Chamorro. Guam is next.
The District of Columbia is home to the federal government of the United States. However, the people who live there have long been under represented. It is not a state, they have only had a representative in the House of Representatives since 1972 and do not have a Senator. Governance of the city remains mostly under the control of Congress. Despite their lack of representation in our national government, the District of Columbia has left its mark on baseball. 102 Major League players hail from the nation’s capital. The greatest pitcher born in the District of Columbia is Doc White. His 47.11 career WAR is the 32nd highest among state and territory leaders. Maury Wills is the greatest position player. His 39.75 WAR ranks him 42nd. White and Wills give the District of Columbia a combined 86.86 WAR, 40th highest.
Guy Harris White earned the nickname Doc after graduating from the Georgetown University school of dentistry. The lefty came to the attention of baseball scouts in 1899 when he struck out the first nine Holy Cross batters in a game. White signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1901. He was among the rare players to move from the amateurs to the Majors, skipping the Minor Leagues. After just two seasons with the Phillies, White jumped to the Chicago White Stockings of the new American League. He remained with Chicago for 11 seasons, retiring in 1913.
In 13 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (1901-1902) and Chicago White Stockings (1903-1913), Doc White put together an impressive career. He pitched in 427 Games, making 363 Starts, throwing 262 Complete Games, including 45 Shutouts, pitching 3,041 Innings, allowing 2,738 Hits, 1,118 Runs, 808 Earned Runs, 33 Home Runs, 670 Walks, 1,384 Strikeouts, posting a 189-156 record, 2.39 ERA, 1.121 WHIP, and 113 ERA+. While White was not a Hall of Fame pitcher, he did help build the new American League into a serious rival of the National League.
White’s best season on the mound was 1906. He pitched in 28 Games for Chicago, making 24 Starts, throwing 20 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, pitching 219.1 Innings, allowing 160 Hits, 47 Runs, 37 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 38 Walks, 95 Strikeouts, posting a 18-6 record, 1.52 ERA, 0.903 WHIP, and 167 ERA+. He led the American League in ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. White helped the White Sox win the 1906 World Series. The Hitless Wonders needed him to pitch three times to claim the championship against the crosstown Cubs. In 3 Games White made 2 Starts, throwing 1 Complete Game, pitching 15 Innings, allowing 12 Hits, 7 Runs, 3 Earned Runs, 7 Walks, 4 Strikeouts, posting a 1-1 record, 1.80 ERA, and 1.267 WHIP. He pitched Game 2, losing 7-1, pitching 3 Innings, allowing 4 Runs, but 0 Earned Runs. In Game 5 he came on in relief of Ed Walsh for the final 3 Innings to nail down a 8-6 victory. White returned to the mound in Game 6, throwing a Complete Game, allowing 3 Earned Runs to beat Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and clinch the World Series.
So many great players fade with time, but White’s legacy lived on thanks to Don Drysdale. In 1968 the Dodger pitcher surpassed White’s record of 5 consecutive Shutouts. White congratulated Drysdale on his accomplishment via telegram. Baseball’s long history ensures the legends of the game are not lost to history.
Go, go, go, Maury, go. Dodger fans went wild anytime Maury Wills reached base. Everyone knew he was going to steal. Wills was called up to the Majors thanks to Don Zimmer breaking his toe. Arriving in Los Angeles at 26 years old, the speedster still enjoyed a long career. He played 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1959-1966, 1969-1972), Pittsburgh Pirates (1967-1968), and Montreal Expos (1969). The Switch Hitting Shortstop made the most of his opportunities.
Wills was never shy about running. In 1,942 career Games he collected 2,134 Hits, 177 Doubles, 71 Triples, 20 Home Runs, 458 RBI, 1,067 Runs scored, 586 Stolen Bases, 552 Walks, 684 Strikeouts, .281 BA, .330 OBP, .331 SLG, .661 OPS, and 88 OPS+. Wills was elected to seven All Star games, won two Gold Gloves, and won three World Series. In the Fall Classic, he played in 21 Games, collected 19 Hits, 3 Doubles, 4 RBI, 6 Runs scored, 6 Stolen Bases, 5 Walks, 12 Strikeouts, .244 BA, .289 OBP, .282 SLG, and .571 OPS. Wills did not play his best in the World Series, but he played a critical part in the Dodgers winning each National League pennant.
Unquestionably, 1962 was the best season of Wills’ career. He played in a record 165 Games thanks to a three game playoff series with the Giants to decide the National League pennant. Wills collected 208 Hits, 13 Doubles, 10 Triples, 6 Home Runs, 48 RBI, 130 Runs scored, 104 Stolen Bases, 13 Caught Stealing, 51 Walks, 57 Strikeouts, .299 BA, .347 OBP, .373 SLG, .720 OPS, and 99 OPS+. He led the National League in Games, Plate Appearances, At Bats, Triples, Stolen Bases, and Caught Stealing. Wills broke Ty Cobb’s single season record of 96 Stolen Bases. Commissioner Ford Frick said the record would only count if Wills achieved 97 Stolen Bases in 156 Games, the season length during Cobb’s career. Wills did break the record within the Commissioner’s guidelines and then added on a few more for good measure. Wills was named to both All Star games in 1962, winning the very first All Star MVP award in the first game. After the season, Wills won another MVP award, the National League MVP.
Wills bounced around in the latter half of his career, but remains one of the great players in baseball history. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for all 15 years of eligibility, never reaching the necessary 75% of votes for induction, topping out at 40.6%. Not every player is a Hall of Famer, but it does not mean they do not leave a lasting legacy.
If one of the Hall of Fame committees inducts Wills, he would become the first Hall of Famer born in the District of Columbia. Leaving the home of the American government, the United States of Baseball heads south to one of baseball’s great talent hotbeds. We are off to the Sunshine State, Florida is next.
It is both a great honor for Frank Robinson, and a failure for baseball, that he was the first African-American manager in the American League AND the National League. His leading the way for fellow African-American managers is a testament to the relentlessness that made Robinson a Hall of Fame player. African-Americans, and all minorities, deserve more opportunities to demonstrate their leadership abilities. Too often they do not receive a second opportunity if they are unsuccessful. While Robinson did not enjoy overwhelming success, he was critical in furthering racial equality in baseball.
Frank Robinson’s desire to become baseball’s first African-American manager was not a secret. He was nearing the end of his playing career, when the California Angels traded him to Cleveland. Robinson was named player/manager, playing sparingly for the next two seasons and retiring following the 1976 season. Robinson, now just the manager, lasted just 57 games into the 1977 season on the shores of Lake Erie. In Cleveland, he led the team to back to back fourth place finishes and a 186-189 record. Robinson’s next opportunity to manage was a few years away.
The 1981 Players Strike interrupted the season, with no Regular Season games between mid June and mid August. The tumultuous season also featured the first African-American manager in the National League. Robinson again broke the managerial color barrier. His tenure with the San Francisco Giants was more successful than in Cleveland. He guided the Giants to a 56-55 Strike shortened record, finishing fourth in the National League West. San Francisco followed with a 87-75 season in 1982, finishing third, just 2 games behind the division winning Atlanta Braves. The Bay Area was hopeful the Giants would finally bring a World Series championship to San Francisco. Unfortunately, the Giants regressed to a 79-83 campaign in 1983 before Robinson was fired with a 42-64 record in 1984. Robinson guided the Giants to a 264-277 record in four seasons, but October remained elusive.
Robinson served as a coach and worked in the Baltimore Orioles’ Front Office while waiting for another opportunity. The Orioles fired Cal Ripken Sr. following an 0-6 start in 1988, naming Robinson as his replacement. Baltimore finally won its first game of the season on April 29. Their 0-22 start remains the worst in Major League history. The Orioles finished 54-101, last in the American League East, a mere 23.5 behind sixth place Cleveland. 1989 was better for everyone in Baltimore. Robinson guided the team to a 87-75 record. A dramatic turn around, which earned him the American League Manager of the Year award. Once again Robinson’s team was two games short of October. The Orioles finished fifth in 1990 and Robinson was fired after a 13-24 start in 1991. He led Baltimore for four seasons, posting a 230-285 record in what appeared to be his final managerial stop. However, Robinson would return to the dugout one more time.
The 1994 Players Strike helped kill the Montreal Expos. The star studded team was 74-40, six games ahead of the Braves, with the best record in baseball when the season came to a crashing halt. After the Strike, the Montreal ownership had a fire sale from which the franchise never recovered. MLB took over ownership of the team after a failed contraction attempt. The Expos began playing some home games in Puerto Rico before moving to Washington and becoming the Nationals in 2005. Amid the turmoil MLB named Robinson manager, giving him the near impossible task of producing wins while the team was uncertain season to season where they would play or if they would exist. The Expos won 83 games in each of Robinson’s first two seasons before a 67 win season on the way out of Montreal. He managed the Nationals in their first two seasons in Washington, winning 81 and 71 games, before he was fired. In five seasons with the Expos and Nationals, Robinson went 385-425 in his final managerial stop.
Frank Robinson is not the greatest Manager, but the pain of pulling Matt LeCroy in the middle of an inning sums up the man. LeCroy was catching for the Nationals in Robinson’s last season in Washington. Despite some injuries LeCroy went behind the plate to help the team. Seven stolen bases and two throwing errors later, Robinson made the painful decision to pull LeCroy in the middle of an inning. His body could not meet the demands of the game. Pulling a position player in the middle of an inning virtually never happens. The story could have been about embarrassing LeCroy, instead it was about the anguish and torment Robinson felt for doing what was best for his team and player. Baseball is a tough game played by tough people, but humanity does exist within the game.
The abilities that sent Frank Robinson to Cooperstown did not translate to managing. He was not a terrible leader, but his accomplishments playing baseball far outpace those managing. Robinson managed four teams: Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and Montreal Expos/ Washington Nationals. In 16 seasons he posted a 1,065-1,176 record. No Robinson led team ever won the division or made the postseason. His teams stole Third, laid down Sacrifice Bunts, issued Intentionally Walks, and Substituted players more than other teams. Ultimately Robinson’s legacy is breaking the managerial color barrier in both leagues. It was long overdue and Robinson paved the way for other African-Americans to follow. Baseball still has work to do, but Frank Robinson helped move the game forward.
On the Eleventh Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the lowest Batting Average for a position player, the most Passed Balls in a game, the worst ERA, the worst ERA with a Win, the most Runners Left on Base in a season, the most times Caught Stealing without a Stolen Base, the most Hits without an RBI, the most Innings Pitched without a Win or Save, the most Games Managed without finishing first, the most Home Runs without a Triple, and the most Complete Games without a Shutout.
Andrew “Skeeter” Shelton spent his post playing career in his native West Virginia coaching baseball and football for the University of West Virginia and Marshall University. His playing career was short, 10 games for the Yankees in the final weeks of the 1915 season. New York finished 69-83, 5th in the American League. Shelton played a flawless Centerfield in 22 Chances. At the plate was a different story. He was 0 for 4 in his debut on August 25 in Cleveland. The next day Shelton drew a walk and scored his only Run, helping the Yankees win 6-5.
Shelton’s hitless streak had grown to four games and 16 At Bats when the Yankees played a Doubleheader against the Tigers on August 28. He was hitless yet again in the first game, 0 for 3 with a walk. In the second game, Shelton’s luck finally changed. Facing Harry Covelesko, he connected for his only career hit, a Single. The hit would not matter, New York lost 6-2. Four more hitless games and Shelton’s Major League career was over.
The fearsome Yankees were a few seasons away when Shelton played for New York. He played his entire 10 game career on the road, with the Yankees going 3-7. Shelton was not destined for baseball glory. In 40 At Bats he had just one hit, a career .025 BA, the lowest for a position player with at least one Hit. There are plenty of pitchers who struggled to hit. However, the frustration for a position player builds daily. Pitchers bat a few times a week, but a position player can feel the hitless At Bats piling up. Hopefully no player is ever tormented like Skeeter Shelton was in his brief Major League career.
Happy Eleventh Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas.
On the Tenth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the most Passed Balls in a game, the worst ERA, the worst ERA with a Win, the most Runners Left on Base in a season, the most times Caught Stealing without a Stolen Base, the most Hits without an RBI, the most Innings Pitched without a Win or Save, the most Games Managed without finishing first, the most Home Runs without a Triple, and the most Complete Games without a Shutout.
Legendary announcer and catcher Bob Uecker said it best, “the best way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up.” Geno Petralli should have listened. On August 30, 1987 Petralli and the Rangers were in Detroit playing the Tigers. On the mound for Texas was knuckleballer Charlie Hough. It would be a long game for Petralli.
Trouble began in the 1st Inning. Lou Whitaker walked and Bill Madlock Singled. In steps Darrell Evans. Hough threw his knuckleball and it fooled Petralli. Both runners advanced as he chased the ball to the backstop. Evan struck out, but Alan Trammell hit an RBI groundout to Shortstop Scott Fletcher, scoring Whitaker. 1-0 Tigers.
Petralli made it through the 2nd unscaved. In the 3rd Whitaker Doubled and Madlock bunted him to Third. Once again Evans was At Bat when Hough’s knuckleball ventured away from Petralli allowing Whitaker to scamper Home. 2-0 Detroit.
The 4th Inning was uneventful, but a frustrating day was about to get worse. Tom Brookens Fouled Out to start the 5th. Whitaker struckout, but strike three also fooled Petralli allowing Whitaker to reach First. He then stole Second and a second Passed Ball of the inning sent him to Third. A wandering Knuckleball hit Madlock before Evans hit a comebacker to Hough who took the out at First as Whitaker scored. Trammell hit a Home Run, pushing the Tiger lead to 5-0.
Even numbered innings were simple, odd innings were not. Back out in the 7th, Hough struckout Brookens, but again both the batter and catcher were fooled. The ball skipped away from Petralli, allowing Brookens to reach. The official scorer had mercy, charging Hough with a Wild Pitch. Whitaker walked and Madlock flew out. Evans moved the runners over with a grounder to Second Baseman Curt Wilkerson. Trammell walked but Petralli could not handle another Knuckleball, allowing Brookens to score and Whitaker to move to Third. His fifth Passed Ball. Matt Nokes looked to drive in Whitaker, instead Hough fooled Petralli for the sixth time allowing Whitaker to score. 7-0 Detroit.
Petralli allowed six Passed Balls, a record he never wanted, resulting in 7 Unearned Runs. The Rangers lost 7-0. Hough’s final line was 7 Innings, 3 Hits, 7 Runs, 0 Earned Runs, 6 Walks, 6 Strikeouts, 1 Home Run, 1 Wild Pitch, and 1 Frustrated Catcher. Petralli led the American League with 35 Passed Balls in 1987, 20 in 1988, and 20 in 1990. Hough signed with the White Sox as a free agent before the 1991 season, Petralli helped him pack. Geno Petralli had a day for the record books for all the wrong reasons in Detroit. Six Passed Balls in one game made for a long day behind the plate.
Happy Tenth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas.
On the Ninth Twelfth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: the worst ERA, the worst ERA with a Win, the most Runners Left on Base in a season, the most times Caught Stealing without a Stolen Base, the most Hits without an RBI, the most Innings Pitched without a Win or Save, the most Games Managed without finishing first, the most Home Runs without a Triple, and the most Complete Games without a Shutout.
Joe Cleary’s only Major League appearance was for the Washington Senators on August 4, 1945. The Senators were hosting the Red Sox in the second game of a Doubleheader at Griffith Stadium. The Irish born Cleary entered the game in the top of the 4th with one out and a runner on Third. Washington trailed 3-2. A tough situation for a debut. The first batter, George Metkovich, rudely welcomed Cleary with an RBI Single. Next Dolph Camilli walked and Pete Fox Singled to score Metkovich. Flustered, Cleary threw a Wild Pitch sending Camilli to Third. He then walked Skeeter Newsome to load the bases. Bob Garbark then drove in Camilli and Fox with a 2 Run Single.
A moment of relief came as Dave Ferriss struckout looking. Two outs. After this moment of respite the onslaught continued. Eddie Lake Singled to score Newsome. Ty LaForest walked to load the bases again. Tom McBride, who was on Third when Cleary entered the game, put an end to the misery with a bases clearing Double. Manager Ossie Bluege finally had mercy on Cleary and brought in Bert Shepard. The Senators trailed 11-2.
Joe Cleary never returned to a Major League mound. His pitching line is brutal; 0.1 Innings Pitched, 9 batters based, 5 Hits, 7 Runs, 7 Earned Runs, 3 Walks, 1 Strikeout, 1 Wild Pitch, a 189.00 ERA, 24.000 WHIP, and 4 ERA+. It was a rough day on the mound.
Cleary holds the record for the highest ERA for a pitcher who recorded an out. It is not a record anyone wishes to challenge. All teams have bad days. The Senators finished second in the American League. Cleary just happened to pitch on the day Washington fell apart.
Happy Ninth Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas.