Saturday, February 12, 2005


February 12th, 1985

Van Lingle Mungo Dies

Van Lingle Mungo was a pitcher for the Dodgers in the 30s and into the 40s, after which he finished his career with the Giants. In his time, Mungo was widely regarded as having the best fastball in the league. In 1935 he (along with Lefty Gomez and others) went to West Point to attempt to measure their velocity with a device used to measure the speed of bullets. Mungo was the fastest easily and repeated the feat in 1937. Mungo's problem was that despite blazing velocity, he often had no idea where the ball was going. As a rookie in 1932 he pitched 223 innings and was seventh in the league with 107 strikeouts. However, he managed just a 4.43 ERA, well over league average, because he walked 115 men, the most in the league. It was a problem that would plague him throughout his career; Mungo would lead the league in walks three times, topping one hundred each time. When he retired in 1945 after fourteen seasons, Mungo had thrown 2,113 innings and walked 868 men, nearly four per nine innings. This combined with 52 wild pitches and 33 hit batsmen to create a vivid picture of what Mungo’s control was like.

Mungo was able to have several good seasons despite his lack of control, further testament to his speed. His best year came in 1934, when he pitched 315 innings with a 3.37 ERA and won 18 games. His manager was Casey Stengel who again demonstrated a knowledge of what makes a good manager and an ability to put it glibly when he observed that "Mungo and I get along fine. I just tell him I won't stand for no nonsense, and then I duck."

Mungo's immortality was secured in 1970 when singer David Frishberg used his name for the title of his nostalgic bossa nova song, Van Lingle Mungo.

February 12th, 1945

Don Wilson Born

Happy Birthday to Don, who I've written about before.

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