Minnesota has had its share of baseball glory. The Twins have put the Land of 10,000 Lakes on the baseball map with players like Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, and Joe Mauer. The fear of contraction is gone. On the field the state of Minnesota has been well represented. The greatest pitcher born in Minnesota is Jerry Koosman. His 56.96 career WAR ranks 24th highest among state and territory leaders. Paul Molitor is the greatest Minnesota born position player. His 75.71 career WAR ranks 23rd highest. Minnesota’s combined 132.67 WAR ranks 24th highest among all states and territories.
Jerry Koosman would have been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam if not for a military dentist transferring him to Texas and the son of a Mets usher pointing a scout in the right direction. The Lefty from Appleton pitched 19 seasons in the Majors with four teams: New York Mets (1967-1978), Minnesota Twins (1979-1981), Chicago White Sox (1981-1983), and Philadelphia Phillies (1984-1985). Koosman pitched in 612 career Games, made 527 Starts, Finished 43 Games, threw 140 Complete Games, including 33 Shutouts, collected 17 Saves, Pitched 3,839.1 Innings, allowed 3,635 Hits, 1,608 Runs, 1,433 Earned Runs, 290 Home Runs, 1,198 Walks, 2,556 Strikeouts, posted a 222-209 record, 3.36 ERA, 1.259 WHIP, and 110 ERA+. He was a two time All Star. Koosman is the last pitcher to win 20 Games one season and then lose 20 the next. In 1991 he failed to receive 5% of the vote for the Hall of Fame and was removed from the ballot.
Koosman helped build the Mets into a winner. He pitched behind Tom Seaver and helped lead the Amazin’s to the World Series in 1969 and 1973. In the Fall Classics, Koosman made 4 Starts, threw 1 Complete Game, Pitched 26.1 Innings, allowed 16 Hits, 7 Runs, 7 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 11 Walks, 17 Strikeouts, posted a 3-0 record, 2.39 ERA, and 1.025 WHIP. He was on the mound when the Miracle Mets of 1969 brought a World Series title to Queens.
The best season of Koosman’s career was the year of the pitcher. In 1968 he pitched in 35 Games for the Mets, made 34 Starts, threw 17 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, Pitched 263.2 Innings, allowed 221 Hits, 72 Runs, 61 Earned Runs, 16 Home Runs, 69 Walks, 178 Strikeouts, posted a 19-12 record, 2.08 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, and 145 ERA+. Koosman’s 7 Shutouts set the then Mets record. He was an All Star and finished second for the National League Rookie of the Year, one vote behind Johnny Bench. He also finished 13th for the MVP. In the Year of the Pitcher, Koosman was not strongly considered for the Cy Young despite having an outstanding season.
Paul Molitor’s Hall of Fame career almost did not happen. Injuries and a cocaine habit nearly derailed the St. Paul native. Molitor played 21 seasons with three teams: Milwaukee Brewers (1978-1992), Toronto Blue Jays (1993-1995), and Minnesota Twins (1996-1998). He played all over the field, but primarily Third and Second Base. In 2,683 career Games, Molitor collected 3,319 Hits, 605 Doubles, 114 Triples, 234 Home Runs, 1,307 RBI, scored 1,782 Runs, 504 Stolen Bases, 1,094 Walks, 1,244 Strikeouts, .306 BA, .367 OBP, .444 SLG, .817 OPS, and 122 OPS+. He was a seven time All Star and four time Silver Slugger. Molitor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004 on the first ballot. After his playing career, Molitor returned to the Twins as their manager for four seasons, winning the 2017 American League Manager of the Year award.
Molitor played in two World Series. His 1982 Brewers lost to the Cardinals, while his 1993 Blue Jays defeated the Phillies. Molitor played in 13 World Series Games, collected 23 Hits, 2 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 11 RBI, scored 15 Runs, 2 Stolen Bases, 5 Walks, 4 Strikeouts, .418 BA, .475 OBP, .636 SLG, and 1.112 OPS. He was the 1993 World Series MVP after hitting .500 in 24 At Bats. Many thought Molitor’s best years were behind him, but they were wrong.
The best season of Molitor’s career was 1993 with Toronto. He played in 160 Games, collected 211 Hits, 37 Doubles, 5 Triples, 22 Home Runs, 111 RBI, scored 121 Runs, 22 Stolen Bases, 77 Walks, 71 Strikeouts, .332 BA, .402 OBP, .509 SLG, .911 OPS, and 143 OPS+. Molitor led the Junior Circuit in Hits and Plate Appearances (725). He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger award. He finished second in the American League MVP voting behind Frank Thomas.
Minnesota has plenty of baseball history. The state is represented in Cooperstown by four players: Chief Bender, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and Dave Winfield. The Land of 10,000 Lakes continues building upon its great baseball legacy. The United States of Baseball is taking a break as The Winning Run prepares for our 30 in 30 road trip. When we return we will head south to the Magnolia State. Mississippi is next.
Everyone needs a vacation from time to time. Few states can compete with the beauty of Maine. Vacationland is a natural playground from the sea to the mountains and forests. Major League Baseball has seen 78 Mainers take the field. The greatest pitcher born in Maine is Bob Stanley. His 23.86 career WAR is the 48th highest among pitcher state and territory leaders. George Gore is the greatest position player born in Maine. His 39.94 career WAR is 41st highest among state and territory leaders. Maine has a combined 63.80 WAR, ranking Vacationland 46th among states and territories.
Bob Stanley was a critical part of Boston’s attempt to break the Curse of the Bambino. The Portland native played 13 seasons with the Red Sox (1977-1989). Stanley pitched in 637 career Games, made 85 Starts, 377 Games Finished, threw 21 Complete Games, including 7 Shutouts, 132 Saves, 1,707 Innings Pitched, allowed 1,858 Hits, 797 Runs, 690 Earned Runs, 113 Home Runs, 471 Walks, 693 Strikeouts, posting a 115-97 record, 3.64 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, and 118 ERA+. He was twice an All Star. Stanley was the American League Pitcher of the Month in August 1980. His 115 Wins are the most for a pitcher born in Maine. Stanley’s 33 saves in 1983 and 132 career Saves set then Red Sox records. He retains the Boston record for most career pitching appearances.
In the 1986 World Series, Stanley did his best to break the Curse. He pitched in 5 Games, Finished 4 Games, with 1 Save, Pitched 6.1 Innings, allowed 5 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, 4 Strikeouts, posting a 0-0 record, 0.00 ERA, and 0.947 WHIP. Boston was close to ending its World Series drought before the team collapsed.
Stanley’s best season was his sophomore season. In 1978 he pitched in 52 Games, made 3 Starts, 35 Games Finished, including 10 Saves, Pitched 141.2 Innings, allowed 142 Hits, 50 Runs, 41 Earned Runs, 5 Home Runs, 34 Walks, 38 Strikeouts, posted a 15-2 record, 2.60 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, and 160 ERA+. He finished 7th for the American League Cy Young and 25th for the MVP. While Stanley never surpassed 1978, he was a key arm in Boston for another decade.
George Gore was one of baseball’s earliest stars. The Saccarappa native patrolled Centerfield for 14 seasons with four teams: Chicago White Stockings (1879-1886), New York Giants (1887-1889, 1891-1892), New York Giants of the Players League (1890), and St. Louis Browns (1892). He was a feared presence at the plate. In 1,310 career Games, Gore collected 1,612 Hits, 262 Doubles, 94 Triples, 46 Home Runs, 618 RBI, scored 1,327 Runs, 170 Stolen Bases, 717 Walks, 332 Strikeouts, .301 BA, .386 OBP, .411 SLG, .797 OPS, and 136 OPS+. His career began by conducting baseball’s first holdout, A.G. Spalding offered Gore $1,200 to sign with the White Stockings. He countered with $2500. The sides eventually agreed to $1900. It was money well spent as Gore led the National League in Runs scored twice (1881-1882) and Walks four times (1882-1884, and 1886). His career 1.01 Runs scored per Game far exceeds many Hall of Famers including Henry Aaron and Ted Williams. Gore brought excitement to every game he played.
Gore played in four World Series. He lost in 1885 and 1886 with the White Stockings and won in 1888 and 1889 with the Giants. In his four trips to the Fall Classic, Gore collected 16 Hits, 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 3 RBI, scored 15 Runs, 4 Stolen Bases, 9 Walks, 5 Strikeouts, .276 BA, .373 OBP, .397 SLG, and .770 OPS. He helped lay the groundwork for the World Series we know today.
Gore’s best season was 1880 with the White Stockings. He played 77 Games of a 82 Game season, collected 116 Hits, 23 Doubles, 2 Triples, 2 Home Runs, 47 RBI, scored 70 Runs, 21 Walks, 10 Strikeouts, .360 BA, .399 OBP, .463 SLG, .862 OPS, and 185 OPS+. He led the National League in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Gore is the only Mainer to win a Batting Title, which came in a season so dominated by pitchers that the Pitcher’s Box was moved from 45 to 50 feet after the season.
Maine does not have a representative in Cooperstown. However, Vacationland has contributed greatly to the growth of baseball. Next week the United States of Baseball heads down the Atlantic coast to the Old Line State. Maryland is next.
On the Seventh Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas the baseball gods sent to me: 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.
The St. Louis Browns were rarely competitive. They had only 11 winning seasons in 51 summers in St. Louis. Miraculously they won the 1944 American League Pennant, but three years before their improbable run to the Fall Classic, the Browns put together one of baseball’s most bizarre seasons. In 1941, the St. Louis Browns set the record for most Runners Left on Base in a season, 1,334.
Losing is never fun, but the Browns turned it into an art form. The 1941 Browns finished 70-84, a mere 31 Games Behind the Yankees. They played 40 one run games, winning 17 of them. Despite scoring the third most Runs per game, 4.9, the Browns left 8.5 Runners on Base per game. They left at least 10 Runners on Base 58 times. Driving in runners at a bad pace could have given St. Louis at 10 more wins. Half of baseball is offense, which the Browns seemed to forget with runners on base.
Three games sum up the 1941 Browns. On June 26 the Browns were in the Bronx to face the Yankees. A miracle happened in the House That Ruth Built, St. Louis left 0 Runners on Base. How? They went down in order in the 1st Inning. In the 2nd, Harlond Clift walked but was erased by a 6-4-3 Double Play. The 3rd saw Rick Ferrell’s walk go for nothing after a Strikeout Throw Out Double Play. The Browns went down in order in the 4th, 5th, and 6th. George McQuinn provided the only Hit of the day in the 7th, a solo Home Run. St. Louis then went down in order in the 8th and 9th. This successful day at the ballpark took 1:35 and the Browns lost 4-1.
Again playing in Yankee Stadium, the Browns had an abysmal day on August 1. They lost 9-0 and left 15 Runners on Base, their worst 9 Inning game of the season. St. Louis began by leaving the bases loaded in the 1st. They proceeded to leave one on in the 2nd, two in the 3rd, one in the 4th, two in the 5th, one in the 6th, one in the 7th, and one in the 8th. They completed their futility by leaving the bases loaded in the 9th. The Browns were Shutout despite having runners on base every Inning. The 1962 Mets are heralded as the worst team in modern baseball, but the Browns are not far behind.
Like much of the Browns’ season, August 12 was frustrating. Playing the White Sox in Chicago, St. Louis left 16 Runners on Base. Their lack of timely hitting was on full display. They went down in order in the 1st and then proceeded to leave two on in the 2nd, one in the 3rd, and one in the 4th. St. Louis left the bases loaded in the 5th before a one, two, three 6th inning. They left one on in the 7th, two in the 8th, and one in the 9th. Time for free baseball. The Browns did not leave a runner on in the 10th thanks to a 5-4-3 Double Play. They left one on in the 11th, one in the 12th, and the bases loaded again in the 13th. The 14th Inning looked promising until Bob Muncrief was picked off of First. Home Plate umpire Bill McGowan was then forced to call the game due to darkness. If any of the 16 Runners Left on Base scored the Browns win, instead they tied the White Sox, 6-6.
The 1941 St. Louis Browns were terrible. They did not hit when it mattered most. Leaving so many Runners on Base hounded them all season. Teams struggle for stretches each season, but St. Louis was masterful. The Browns hold the record for leaving the most Runners on Base in a season. It is doubtful they will ever be challenged.
Happy Seventh Lousy Day of Baseball Christmas.
Eddie Cicotte takes the sign from Ray Schalk, winds and fires. OUCH! Cicotte drills the first Cincinnati Red, signaling the Chicago White Sox will throw the 1919 World Series. Baseball fans know what happened next. Eight White Sox players were accused, brought to trial, found not guilty, and then banned by new Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Chick Gandil, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, and Lefty Williams were placed on the ineligible list, where they have remained ever since.
The Black Sox scandal overshadowed the 1919 World Series. The Reds were largely ignored. So too was Cincinnati Second Baseman Morrie Rath who received the painful signal. Rath played for four teams in six seasons between stents in the Minors from 1909 to 1920. Connie Mack bought Rath from the Reading Pretzels of the Tri-State League on August 21, 1909. A month later, Rath went hitless in his Major League debut against the Cleveland Naps. On July 23, 1910, after playing just 18 games for Philadelphia, Rath and a Player To Be Named Later, Shoeless Joe Jackson, were traded to Cleveland for Bris Lord. Rath played 24 games for the Naps before his demotion to the Baltimore Orioles of the Eastern League. He stayed in Baltimore through the 1911 season, when the White Sox selected him in the Rule 5 Draft. He played 249 Games for Chicago before he was sold to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association in August 1913. He was again traded to the Salt Lake City Bees for Dutch Ruether in November 1915. The Cincinnati Reds selected Rath in the 1917 Rule 5 Draft. He finally joined the Cincinnati Reds in 1919 after spending 1918 in the Navy.
Morrie Rath was the recipient of the most famous Hit By Pitch in baseball history. (www.sabr.com)
Rath played 565 Games for the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Naps, Chicago White Sox, and Cincinnati Reds. He posted a career .254 BA, .342 OBP, .285 SLG, 521 Hits, 36 Doubles, 7 Triples, 4 Home Runs, 92 RBI, 291 Runs scored, 83 Stolen Bases, 258 Walks, 112 Strike Outs, and 14 Hit By Pitch. Defensively, Rath was a good, not great, Second Baseman. In 4,518 Innings he had 2,817 Chances, made 1,167 Putouts, 1,565 Assists, turned 200 Double Plays, 85 Errors, for a .970 Fielding %. Baseball history is littered with players like Rath. Playing for multiple teams with a few successful seasons, before fading into history.
October 1, 1919 was Rath’s most memorable game. The Reds hosted the heavily favored White Sox at Redland Field in Game 1 of the World Series. Reds Manager Pat Moran inserted Rath in the leadoff spot against Eddie Cicotte, who was 29-7 with a 1.82 ERA in the Regular Season. Rath waited as Cicotte fired his first pitch. SMACK! Rath trotted to First. Jake Daubert followed, singling to Right Center, Rath took third. Heinie Groh then flew out to Left, allowing Rath to score. 1-0 Reds.
The Black Sox lost the 1919 World Series and were then banned from baseball. (www.worthpoint.com)
Reds pitcher Duth Ruether allowed an unearned run in the Second. Cicotte walked Ruether to lead off the Bottom of the Third. Rath dropped a sacrifice bunt to Cicotte moving Ruether to Second. However, Daubert and Groh failed to drive Ruether in, stranding him at Second. The game remained tied 1-1.
The wheels came off for Chicago with two outs in the Bottom of the Fourth. Runner on first when Greasy Neale reached on an infield hit. Ivey Wingo then singled to Right, scoring Larry Kopf. Dutch Ruether tripled to Left Center, scoring Neale and Wingo. Rath Doubled to Left, scoring Ruether. Daubert singled to Right scoring Rath. Chicago’s frustrated Manager Kid Gleason pulled Cicotte for Roy Wilkinson who retired Groh. 6-1 Reds.
Morrie Rath was a good player that would have faded into history if Eddie Cicotte did not hit him to begin the 1919 World Series. (www.cincinnati.com)
Rath lined into an inning ending double play in the Sixth and grounded out to Short for the second out of the Eighth. The Reds won Game 1, 9-1. Rath went 1 for 3, 1 Double, 1 RBI, 2 Runs scored, 1 Hit By Pitch, and 1 Sac Bunt. Defensively he had 4 Putouts and 2 Assists. In Rath’s only Fall Classic, he played all 8 Games, with a .226 BA and .333 OBP. He collected 7 Hits, 1 Double, 5 Runs scored, 2 RBI, 4 Walks, 2 Stolen Bases, and 1 Hit By Pitch. In the field, he played 72 innings, in 40 Chances he had 21 Putouts, 17 Assists, 2 Errors, and 4 Double Plays.
Morrie Rath played his final Major League game a year after the 1919 World Series. He went 1 for 5 in a 6-3 Reds defeat on the final day of the season. Cincinnati finished third in the National League, 10.5 games behind the Brooklyn Robins. On January 4, 1921, Rath was one of three Players To Be Named Later and $10,000 traded to the Seattle Rainiers of Pacific Coast League for Sam Bohne. He ended his career playing 124 games for the San Francisco Seals in 1921. After retiring from baseball, Rath returned to suburban Philadelphia to run a sporting goods store.
On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy addressed a Joint Session of Congress with a Special Message To The Congress On Urgent National Needs. As every President does, Kennedy spoke of the pressing needs facing the nation and his plan to solve them. When the speech reached the ninth section, President Kennedy told Congress, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” The Space Race began before Kennedy took office, but he pushed the race with the Soviets to the next level. The Soviets reached space first, but the moon was America’s opportunity to win.
On July 20, 1969, 2,979 days after President Kennedy spoke to Congress, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle in Tranquility Base as Michael Collins circled in lunar orbit in the Columbia Command Module. America achieved Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade.
Wally Moon adjusted his swing to take advantage of the strange configuration at the Coliseum. (Los Angeles Times)
Back on earth, the Dodgers and the Giants have one of the most intense rivalries in baseball, regardless of the standings. In 1958, Dodger owner Walter O’Malley moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Construction on Dodger Stadium would not begin until September 1959 forcing the Dodgers to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum is home, most prominently, to the University of Southern California football team. Turning the Coliseum into a baseball field meant the fence in Leftfield was only 251 feet from home plate. A 41 foot tall screen was constructed, making Home Runs more difficult. Batters needed to loft the ball high above the screen for a Home Run, and no player is more remembered for this than Wally Moon and his Moonshots.
Wally Moon broke into the Majors in 1954 with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the Rookie of the Year Award over Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron. He was an All Star in 1957 before a disappointing 1958 season made him expendable. Moon and Phil Paine were traded to the Dodgers for Gino Cimoli. Moon played 12 seasons in the Majors, five in St. Louis and seven in Los Angeles. In 1,457 career Games, Moon hit .289, with a .371 OBP, .445 SLG, and .817 OPS. He scored 737 Runs, collected 1,399 Hits, 212 Doubles, 60 Triples, slugged 142 Home Runs, drove in 661 RBI, stole 89 bases, drew 644 walks, and struck out 591 times. He was a three time All Star, 1957 and twice in 1959, and won a Gold Glove in Leftfield in 1960. Moon won two World Series with the Dodgers, 1959 and 1965. His pinch hit ground out in Game 6 of the 1965 Fall Classic was his final game. Moon sat on the bench in Game 7, watching Sandy Koufax pitch a Complete Game shutout to secure the World Series victory. Wally Moon enjoyed a successful career, however he appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot just once, in 1971, receiving just two votes (0.6%) and falling off the ballot.
Arriving in Los Angeles, Wally Moon was greeted by two things. The short, yet high porch in Leftfield and the rivalry with the Giants. Moon, hitting from the left side, understood he did not possess the power to launch baseballs out of the Coliseum to Rightfield, as the wall was 440 feet away. His career high in Home Runs was just 24. Moon adjusted his swing with Stan Musial’s help to hit balls to the opposite field.
The Coliseum created one of the strangest field configurations in baseball. (www.cbssports.com)
The Dodgers and Giants were locked in a pennant race as summer began to wane in 1959. San Francisco held a slim two game lead entering play at the Coliseum on August 31. Jack Sanford and Sandy Koufax were locked in a pitchers duel, allowing two runs each in the first eight innings. Koufax struck out the side on just 10 pitches in the top of the ninth. Sanford began the ninth by inducing a Maury Wills ground out. Koufax and Jim Gilliam hit back to back singles to Left. Giants manager Bill Rigney called in Al Worthington from the bullpen to end the threat. Worthington threw a first pitch strike to Wally Moon. His next pitch missed. On the third pitch, Moon lofted a deep fly ball to Left, clearing the screen. The Moonshot gave the Dodgers a 5 to 2 walk off victory. Los Angeles trailed the Giants by one game.
The Dodgers won the 1959 National League Pennant, two games ahead of the Milwaukee Braves and four ahead of the third place Giants. Los Angeles defeated the Chicago White Sox in six games, winning the only World Series ever played at the Coliseum. Wally Moon’s Moonshot against the Giants came 634 days before President Kennedy presented his vision of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to earth.
The Moonshot took men to the moon and safely returned them back to earth. (NASA)
A walk off Home Run between bitter rivals foreshadowed the next stage of the Space Race. Wally Moon used the short porch in Leftfield at the Coliseum to his advantage. President Kennedy and NASA did the unimaginable, sending a man to the moon and back defeating the non-baseball playing Soviet Union. The United States won the Space Race with a few steps by Neil Armstrong, while Wally Moon helped to win the Pennant with one swing of his bat. Both were incredible Moonshots.
Happy 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.
Lou Gehrig is remembered for three things: his greatness on the field, a speech, and the disease that claimed his life. He left a legacy in baseball and for those facing adversity, especially those battling ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Today is the 80th anniversary of Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium and Gehrig delivering baseball’s most famous speech. He did not focus on his problems, rather he spoke of the good in his life. A life cut short less than two years later.
On the diamond, Lou Gehrig was a tremendous competitor, forming the toughest duo in baseball history with Babe Ruth. Gehrig played 17 seasons for the Yankees, 1923 to 1939. In 2,164 Games, Gehrig collected 2,721 Hits, 534 Doubles, 163 Triples, 493 Home Runs, 1,995 RBI, scored 1,888 Runs, Stole 102 Bases, drew 1,508 Walks, 790 Strike Outs, .340 BA, .447 OBP, .632 SLG, and 1.080 OPS. Gehrig’s career numbers ensured his enshrinement into Cooperstown, even without his special election in 1939.
Putting Lou Gehrig’s greatness into perspective, consider his all time rankings today. Gehrig ranks 64th in Hits with 2,271. He is 42nd in Doubles with 534 and 33rd in Triples with 163. His 493 Home Runs still ranks him 28th. His 1,995 RBI are seventh all time. Gehrig’s 1,190 extra base hits are 11th most and his 5,060 total bases are 19th all time. His 1,888 runs scored rank 12th all time. He walked 1,508 times, 17th most. A career .340 hitter, 16th best. His .447 OBP is fifth, his .632 SLG and 1.079 OPS both place him third all time. His 179 OPS+ ranks fourth and his 112.3 oWAR places him 14th. 80 years after his final game, Lou Gehrig remains an all time great.
Hall of Fame numbers are not compiled in a few good seasons here and there, they come from excellence year after year. In Gehrig’s 17 seasons with the Yankees, he played fewer than 13 games in three seasons. Playing 14 full seasons before ALS robbed him of his abilities further shows Gehrig’s greatness. The Iron Horse registered eight seasons of 200 or more hits, leading the league in 1931. In 1927 and 1928 he led baseball in Doubles with 52 and 47 respectively. In 1926, his 20 triples paced baseball. Gehrig was the Home Run King three times (1931, 1934, and 1936). He was perfectly placed in Murderers’ Row, leading the league in RBI five times, driving in at least 109 in 13 consecutive seasons. He led baseball in Runs Scored four times, scoring 115 or more Runs in 13 consecutive seasons. The Iron Horse possessed both power and patience at the plate, drawing at least 100 Walks in 11 seasons, leading baseball on three occasions. Gehrig struck out a career high 84 times in 1927, he would never strike out more than 75 times in any other season. Gehrig hit .300 or better in 12 straight seasons, led the league in Slugging twice, OPS three times with 11 consecutive seasons above 1.000. He had five seasons with at least 400 total bases, leading baseball four times. In 1934, Gehrig won the American League Triple Crown with a .363 BA, 49 Home Runs, and 166 RBI. Shockingly he finished fifth in MVP voting behind a trio of Tigers (Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, and Schoolboy Rowe) and teammate Lefty Gomez. Gehrig did win two MVP Awards (1927 and 1936), while finishing in the top five in six other seasons. The Iron Horse was always a MVP contender.
Lou Gehrig was one of the greatest players to ever step on a diamond. (Mark Rucker/ Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
The Yankees during the Gehrig years were seemingly in the World Series every October. Lou Gehrig played in seven Fall Classics. New York won six World Series with Gehrig (1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, and 1938), sweeping their National League opponents four times. Gehrig played in 34 Games with 119 At Bats. He collected 43 Hits, 8 Doubles, 3 Triples, 10 Home Runs, 35 RBI, and scored 30 Runs. He drew 26 walks against 17 Strikeouts. Gehrig hit .361, .483 OBP, .731 SLG, and 1.214 OPS. The Iron Horse helped the Yankees reach and win multiple World Series.
Despite his greatness on the diamond, Lou Gehrig is best remembered for the speech he gave on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Day, as the Yankees honored him as he fought ALS. The Gettysburg Address of Baseball remains one of the most famous moments in baseball history. There is no known full recording of the speech, however we do have a partial recording and a transcript of Gehrig’s words.
“For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such a fine looking men as they’re standing in uniform in this ballpark today? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift- that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies- that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter- that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body- it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed- that’s the finest I know.
So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
Baseball is a team sport. Individual players do not guarantee World Series Championships, if they did Mike Trout and the Angels would have several Fall Classic victories already. Baseball fandom is the same way, individuals can enjoy the game, but baseball with friends is always better. Watching a baseball game on TV or in the stands, allows people to indulge themselves with the game and pause the rest of the world. Watching with your friends is even better as you self indulge and grow your friendship.
Bernie, Kevin, and I met in graduate school. Bernie and I met when he kicked a water bottle out of my hand at shoulder level to prove he could to someone. Critical life skills. I met Kevin through Bernie and other mutual friends. Unfortunately Kevin does not possess the same skills as Bernie, so our friendship followed a more usual path. Our individual love of baseball quickly became apparent, which after graduation led to our annual baseball road trip. This year we ventured to Denver to watch the Colorado Rockies host the Toronto Blue Jays in a three game weekend series.
Coors Field is a beautiful venue to watch baseball. The stadium was built after baseball realized cookie cutter stadiums were boring. Even the seats tucked behind support columns in right field have a good view of the field. Fans do not feel like they are passing through a cave when they are walking around Coors Field. You can see the field as you circle the lower level. Coors Field embraced the radical concept of fan comfort and enjoyment of their day at the ballpark.
Game 1- Friday
Coors Field has many great view points to watch a game. Our first night in Denver we sat in the Left Field bleachers, the Rockpile. The view was outstanding. We were aligned with first and second base, perfect for watching both teams turn a double play. The true artistry of baseball is lost on TV, players gracefully gliding across the diamond, a ballet in spikes.
Edwin Jackson started for Toronto, pitching for his record 14th MLB franchise, surpassing former teammate Octavio Dotel. Jackson entered the game with a 9.00 ERA in three starts for the Blue Jays. In the top of the first, Toronto drew two walks before a double play and a ground out ended any hope for early runs against German Marquez. In the bottom of the first, the first five Rockies reached base. Colorado scored four runs on three hits, including a two run home run by Trevor Story, a walk, and David Dahl reached on a strike three wild pitch. Jackson did strike out the side in the middle of the mess.
The Blue Jays fought back in the top of the second, with a lead off home run by Randal Grichuk and Cavan Biggio scoring on a Luke Maile RBI groundout. Colorado scored a run in the second and five in the third forcing Jackson out of the game. He gave up 10 runs in just 2.1 innings, ballooning his ERA to 13.22. Relieving Jackson was Elvis Luciano, the first MLB player born in the 2000’s. A Nolan Arenado RBI double in the fifth off Luciano and another two run home run by Story off Sam Gaviglio in the seventh gave Colorado a commanding 13 to 2 lead.
Toronto made one final push in the eighth inning. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a lead off solo home run on the first pitch from Chris Rusin, in to relieve Marquez after seven innings. Grichuk scored Brandon Drury on a sacrifice fly to right. Jake McGee came in to relieve Rusin with the bases loaded. Rusin faced six batters, allowing two runs, four hits, and a walk. McGee walked Maile to score Lourdes Gurriel and a sacrifice fly to right center scored Biggio before shutting Toronto down. Both teams had lead off hits in the ninth, only to leave runners stranded. The Rockies’ early onslaught was too much for the Blue Jays, as Colorado won 13 to 6.
Game 2- Saturday
We always pick good seats for one game, usually the best pitching matchup. Saturday night was Marcus Stroman against Jon Gray. Both Righties, so we sat just beyond Third Base, 11 rows from the field. Stroman is a master at altering his delivery to fool batters. It is difficult for hitters to time Stroman when he is unpredictable. Gray is a solid pitcher for the Rockies, which has often been a difficult task at Coors Field.
After the drumming Toronto took Friday night, one might expect the Blue Jays to come out with some energy. Nope. The Blue Jays went down in order in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, Stroman allowed four consecutive hits, three singles and a double, giving Colorado a 3 to 0 lead. Toronto mustered only a single, weakly hit infield as they took the field in the bottom of the fifth. After Jon Gray struck out looking, Raimel Tapia stepped to the plate. Tapia lined a double to Centerfield on the first pitch, then circus music began to play. Centerfielder Jonathan Davis had trouble picking up the ball, allowing Tapia to reach third. On the relay throw, Second Baseman Cavan Biggio threw the ball out of play, awarding Tapia home. Yes Stroman allowed the hit, but his defense dug him an even deeper hole. The Rockies brought in Carlos Estevez in the ninth to close out the Blue Jays. He served up a lead off solo home run to Justin Smoak. Biggio reached on a Trevor Story throwing error and scored on a Danny Jansen double. Estevez eventually got the final out, securing the 4 to 2 Colorado victory.
Marcus Stroman is one of the most exciting young pitchers in baseball. However the young Toronto team has wasted his 2.84 ERA (post game), leaving him with a 3-7 record. Toronto is extremely young, hopefully Stroman gets help soon and does not become the American League Jacob deGrom.
Game 3- Sunday
Day baseball is perfection. The sun shining on the green grass, the extra white baseballs, the game is more alive. The Rockies were looking to sweep the Blue Jays in the final game of our baseball road trip. Toronto finally showing some life as Eric Sogard and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit back to back singles off Colorado starter Antonio Senzatela to begin the game. Justin Smoak grounded into a Fielder’s Choice at first, scoring Sogard and giving the Blue Jays their first lead of the series. Again the offense could not sustain the momentum, scoring just one run despite sending seven batters to the plate. In the bottom of the first, Raimel Tapia lined out before Blue Jays’ starter Aaron Sanchez surrendered consecutive singles to David Dahl, Nolan Arenado, and Daniel Murphy to tie the game.
Toronto went down in order in the second, third, and fourth. Colorado scored a run in the second and third. Our seats for the finale at Coors Field were in the upper deck, first base side. Looking out, the Rocky Mountains rose beyond left field. Sadly thunderstorms rolled through Denver, forcing us to retreat. Despite the huge raindrops from the soaking downpour, the game was not delayed. The rain faded and Chris Iannetta launched a lead off home run in the sixth that may not have returned to earth yet. Nolan Arenado hit a solo home run in the seventh extending the lead to 5 to 1. Justin Smoak walked to lead off the Toronto eighth, but was stranded by two fly outs and a Brandon Drury strike out. Luke Maile’s single was Toronto’s last gasp as Bryan Shaw struck out the side to complete the Colorado sweep.
The Rockies began the home stand 23-26, fourth in the NL West, 4.5 games behind the second Wild Card. They won eight of nine games on the home stand; winning two of three from the Orioles, before sweeping the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. Colorado finished the home stand 31-27, second in the NL West, 0.5 games behind the second Wild Card; most likely saving their season.
Baseball is beautiful wherever it is played. A sandlot in Georgia, a high school field in Ohio, a Minor League park in Indiana, or a Major League park in Colorado. Since graduation we have scattered across the country, our annual baseball road trip allows us to get together, catch up, and enjoy the game we love. Our lives constantly change, yet baseball remains constant. Next year will be no different.
There is getaway day and then there was September 28, 1919. The New York Giants hosted the Philadelphia Phillies in a doubleheader on the last day of the season. The first game, all nine innings lasted just 51 minutes, the fastest game in Major League history. MLB is eager to increase the pace of play, New York and Philadelphia may have taken this too far a century before pace of play was an issue. The game was the opposite of Dan Barry’s Bottom of the 33rd.
It was the final day of the season, neither team won the pennant, and both teams knew the faster they played, the sooner they could head home for the winter. The Giants finished the season in second place, 9 games behind the eventual World Series champion Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati’s World Series victory is a story for another day. Philadelphia’s season was over in August, the Phillies finished last in the National League, 8th place, 47.5 games behind the Reds. The doubleheader was played simply because it was on the schedule.
The first game featured six future Hall of Famers; four players, a manager, and an umpire. Dave Bancroft was Philadelphia’s future Hall of Fame shortstop. New York had future Hall of Famer Ross Youngs in Right Field, Frankie Frisch at Third, High Pockets Kelly at First, and manager John McGraw. Umpiring the game were Future Hall of Famer Bill Klem and the notorious Bob Emslie. Klem is the father of baseball umpiring, working a record 18 World Series. He was the first umpire to wear a chest protector, taught other umpires to call balls and strikes from the slot, and the first to use arm signals when making his calls. Emslie was the base umpire during Merkle’s Boner in 1908. The controversial play earned him the despised nickname Blind Bob.
The Polo Grounds, a few seasons after the 51 minute sprint in 1919. The view from the outfield bleachers towards the infield and Coogan’s Bluff, with fans watching from behind the Grandstand. (Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)
The Phillies got off to a great start, scoring in the top of the first inning. Lena Blackburne doubled and later scored thanks to an Art Fletcher error, giving Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. Philadelphia held the Giants scoreless in their turn at bat, and New York returned the favor in the top of the second.
In the bottom of the second, the Giants offense awoke. New York scored one in the second, three in the third, and two in the sixth on their way to a 6 to 1 victory. The Giants pounded out 13 hits, including five doubles, and drew three walks. Every Giants starter collected at least one hit; Larry Doyle and Art Fletcher collected two hits and High Pockets Kelly collected three hits. The final line for Phillies starting pitcher Lee Meadows was ugly: 8 innings (Complete Game), 13 Hits, 6 Runs, 5 Earned Runs, 3 walks, and 1 strikeout. Taking the loss, Meadows, who split the 1919 season between the Cardinals and Phillies, finished with a 12-20 record and 2.59 ERA.
The Phillies completed their anemic campaign on the final day of the season. Philadelphia collected five hits, one double, no walks, two strikeouts, scoring one unearned run. New York’s Jesse Barnes pitched 9 innings (Complete Game), allowing 5 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, no walks, and 2 strikeouts. The victory gave Barnes his National League leading 25th victory, finishing with a 25-9 record and a 2.40 ERA. The Giants swept the Phillies, winning Game Two 7 to 1, closing the 1919 season and the career of Phillies’ catcher Bert Adams.
Jesse Barnes, winning pitcher, fastest game in MLB history. (1922 Eastern Exhibit Supply Company/ http://www.vintagecardprices.com)
Some games are historically significant for Major League Baseball, others are played because they are on the schedule. The Giants and Phillies played a doubleheader on September 28, 1919 because the games were on the schedule. While neither game altered the 1919 season or baseball history, the first game set an almost unbreakable record and gave insight into the future of both franchises.
The Phillies were just four seasons removed from their first World Series appearance, yet they were in the second of 14 consecutive losing seasons. The team would not return to the Fall Classic until 1950. The Phillies had just four winning season (1916, 1917, 1932, and 1949) between their first and second World Series appearances. The 1919 Phillies changed managers midseason. Jack Coombs began the season, managing the Phillies to an 18-44-1 record before he was replaced by Gavvy Cravath. Cravath finished the season 29-46. He would return to the Phillies for the 1920 before he was fired at seasons end, concluding his playing and managing career. Coombs went on to become the winningest baseball coach in Duke University history, winning 381 games over 24 seasons in Durham.
The Giants thrived with 28 winning seasons between 1919 and their move to San Francisco in 1957. They played in nine World Series, winning four. New York finished within five games of the National League pennant in seven other seasons. John McGraw managed the Giants until 1932, compiling 2,583 wins for New York. The Giants were a powerhouse.
One game, even if not important in the moment, can tell you so much about baseball and a franchise. Never underestimate a baseball game, regardless of the pace of play, or if it is played just because it is on the schedule.
After a little time to reflect on the great World Series we just watched, we can now answer the question, which bullpen would run out of gas first. The Dodgers bullpen could bend no more and finally broke against the Astros in Game 7. Houston cruised to a fairly unthreatened 5-1 victory to secure their first World Series Championship. The Astros lineup continued to hit and Charlie Morton pitched the game of his life in relief. The 2017 World Series was thrilling; hitting, defense, and great relief pitching was on full display throughout the Fall Classic.
George Springer was the easy choice for Most Valuable Player, yet this year’s World Series did not have the sense that a single player was carrying either team. If Los Angeles had won Game 7, the choice for which Dodger should be named the Most Valuable Player would have almost certainly come down to who performed the best in Game 7. The constant back and forth between Houston and Los Angeles made no lead safe. Five of the seven games were decided by one or two runs. The lack of a single blow out meant both teams were fighting it out until the final out in every game.
The rebuild is complete, Houston has its first World Series Championship. (Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images)
The differences between the Astros and the Dodgers over the seven game series was miniscule. However, Houston’s bullpen was able to bend without breaking and the Astros lineup never cooled off. Every game came down to a few plays and the ability to make a catch, move a runner over, or get a batter to chase a pitch out of the zone. It would be easy to pin the blame on the loses in Game 3 and 7 on Yu Darvish, however there is plenty of blame and what ifs to go around throughout the series. Dave Roberts lifting Rich Hill after 4 innings in Game 2 and 4 ⅔ innings in Game 6, were both questionable moves. The Dodgers lost Game 2 in 11 innings, if Hill pitches just one more inning maybe the Dodgers bullpen can hold the lead. The Dodgers did win Game 6, but did they push their already tired bullpen one bridge too far heading into Game 7? We will never know the answers to the what ifs, and there is a chance that Dave Roberts made the right moves. Second guessing is what people outside the clubhouse do best, yet if those same second guessers were put in charge of a team they would not have all the answers.
A team cannot run out the clock in baseball, they have to play until all 27 outs have been recorded. The 2017 World Series showed in exciting fashion that a baseball game is never over until the final out is made. Few World Series are as closely matched as this one. Hope you enjoyed the drama, because next year’s version of the Fall Classic is not guaranteed to be as exciting as this one.
Congratulations to the Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions.
There is so much to write about the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. Game 3 was a classic. The final score of a few of the games have been misleading, but overall it has been an excellent Fall Classic. I will revisit the World Series soon.
The World Series drought for the Cubs has been well documented, to the point of nausea. Over 70 years since they last played in the World Series and over 100 years since they last won it all. This background was great leading up to the World Series, but as the series has gone on I am less interested in it and more focused on the here and now.
Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd…(World Series of Dreaming)
Four years ago I had to opportunity to go to a game at Wrigley Field with Jesse. He was working in Chicago for a month and I flew over from New York to stay with him for a few days. We went to a game at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and Giants. We sat in the right field bleachers right behind Hunter Pence. It was a beautiful day game. Madison Bumgarner pitched for the Giants (I honestly did not remember him pitching until I looked up the game tonight). The Cubs were in the middle of rebuilding and were not very good that season. However, the Baseball Gods smiled upon us and the Cubs beat the Giants 6-4.
The most lasting memory I have, besides just being at Wrigley was singing Go Cubs Go after the final out. I am by no means a die hard Cubs fan. I grew up watching their games after I got home from school. I loved listening to Harry Caray announce the games and singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game. I felt a connection to the Cubs even as they were rebuilding, so watching them win a game then singing Go Cubs Go was magical.
The end of Game 5 of the World Series was a nice reminder of my experience at Wrigley with Jesse. Joe Buck managed to stay out of the way for a few minutes and allow the Cubs fans to sing Go Cubs Go on national television. There is something about listening to an entire stadium sing a song in celebration of their beloved team. For all the heartbreak and the decades of waiting, the Game 5 victory at Wrigley Field felt like a weight was lifted off Cubs fans. In some way that victory is enough to allow Cubs fans to wait until next year. The time, money, effort, and energy that many people put into baseball out of love can seem like a one way street, but there are moments like after Game 5 where it is clear that the love is traveling in both directions.