Thursday, July 14, 2005

July 14th, 1967

Robin Ventura Born

Something I really like about my scorebook, beyond having a record of the actual game played on the field, is that it leaves me with an experience of the game as I attended it. I can write "Rainy" in the little "Weather" box, but I can tell without checking which games were rainy; they’re the ones on which the ink is blotted by rain drops. It also allows me to record some of the truly inane "facts" about players that are displayed on the scoreboard, usually next to a frequently less-than-flattering photo during a player's third or fourth at-bat. One of my all-time favorites for these was one from a Yankee game on June 17th, 2003, which reported of today's subject: "Robin has hit a HR in 36 different parks (6th all time)"

Now, I could spend a while--too long--explaining my problems with this, so I'll just go over them quickly. For one thing, it's simply minutiae, it doesn't tell us anything about Robin except maybe that's played in both leagues, hit a fair number of home runs and they've replaced a lot of stadiums in the course of his time in the league. For another, it's not even especially good minutiae. If Robin was first all-time, or even in the top three or five for having hit HRs in multiple ballparks, that's something. But sixth? Sixth? That's not exactly impressive. If you're going to list something in which he was sixth, how about the 1999 NL MVP vote?

For a list in which he does slightly better, they could've listed his career rank in Grand Slams; at the time of the game
he was third all time (he's since dropped to fourth) a distinction which is equally trivial to the home runs in ballparks one, but at least portrays him in a bit of a better light. It’s unfair to pick on the Yankee Stadium ones, of course, since these kinds of statements are about par for course. At Camden Yards in 2002 I was informed that Geronimo Gil had "11 HRs, most ever by a Mexican rookie." This was a good one as it was both inane and poorly written, being open to the interpretation that that Gil was a Mexican in his first season playing baseball or a baseball player in his first year as a Mexican. (He would later up his total to 12.)

Ventura was traded in the middle of the 2003 season to the Dodgers, which perhaps enabled him to move slightly higher in the list of all-time ballpark home runs kings. Gil, so far as I know, still holds the Mexican rookie distinction, but has rather flamed out as a ballplayer otherwise, hitting just seven home runs since that rookie year. But I doubt that will change anything in when a Mexican hits 7 HRs thirty years in the future and a graphic is prepared: "Juan Doe has seven home runs, good for sixth all time by a Mexican rookie."

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