Saturday, February 05, 2005
February 5th, 1928
Don Hoak Born
Don Hoak was a third baseman for a variety of teams in the 50s and 60s, best known probably for his time with the Pirates where he was viewed as the emotional leader of the 1960 team that defeated the Yankees in the World Series. Hoak had formerly been a boxer but he retired after receiving seven straight knockouts, although I can assume Don only remembered the first two or three.
Hoak is one of only a few players in the post World War II era to have a rule change instituted based solely on a play he made. In April 1957, Hoak was on second base with Gus Bell on first and Wally Post at the plate. Post hit a groundball to shortstop Johnny Logan for a seemingly sure double-play. However, before
Hoak died in 1969, he was pursuing a car thief who had stolen his brother-in-law's car when he apparently suffered a heart attack. It was the end—quite literally, I suppose—of a bad day all around for Hoak. Earlier he had received word that his manager from 1960, Danny Murtaugh, had been named manager of the Pirates for the 1970 season, a job that Hoak had coveted after some successful seasons managing in the minors.
Friday, February 04, 2005
February 4th, 1909
John Clarkson Dies
John Clarkson was a star in the 1800s, in the 50 foot mound era actually, during which time he won 328 games in just twelve seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963, more than half a century since he died and almost seventy years since he had last played a professional game.
The Hall of Fame has, including the 2005 elections of Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg--both good choices by the way--260 members elected as players, managers and executives. Until I looked him up, I knew absolutely nothing about Clarkson. Not which position he played, not for which teams, nothing. At most I could've guessed he was probably a player (there are so few managers and executives in the Hall of Fame that most of them are familiar names) and might've taken a wild guess that he played prior to World War I, since the post Great War players are also more familiar. I decided to take a look through the Hall of Fame's complete list of members (it can be found here) and see how many of them I could provide bare bones biographies for, and attempt to fill in the blanks.
Presented in alphabetical order:
- Morgan Bulkeley: So it turns out what I said a moment ago about the few executives and managers being prominent enough that I would know them is, in fact, a lie. Morgan Bulkeley was a "distinguished banker and politician" who was elected the first President of the National League. He would later serve as Governor and Senator from
- Dave Bancroft: Bancroft was a shortstop who played for the Phillies, Giants, Braves and Robins (Dodgers) in a sixteen year career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971 by the Veterans' Committee, and seems a fairly dubious selection given his lifetime numbers, which include a 98 OPS+
- Al Barlick: Oh, right. There are umpires in the Hall of Fame too. Like Al Barlick, who was the league's youngest umpire at age 25 in 1940 and would go on to umpire a record seven All-Star games.
- Jake Beckley: The B's have not been treating me kindly, I knew all 9 of the A's but these B's are killing me.
's career--like most of the players I don't know--began in the 1800s, where he put together several excellent seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates as their first baseman. Beckley
- Jim Bottomley: Bottomley was a slugging first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals who finished in the top 10 in home runs seven times, including every year of a six year stretch 1924-1929
- Stan Coveleski: Coveleski was a spitballer, one of the few "grandfathered" when the pitch was outlawed in 1921. He is another dubious selection by the Veterans' Committee.
- Nestor Chylak: I was quite confident that Chylak had been President of the American League, which meant, of course that he was an Umpire. Chylak was the Umpire who declared the Indians had to forfeit after Bill Veeck's "Ten Cent Beer Night." Ten cent beer night was, of course, the worst idea in history at least until Godfather: Part III.
- Kiki Cuyler: I really should have known this one. I read a fairly long biography of Walter Johnson not long ago and it was Cuyler, a high average outfielder with the Pirates and Cubs whose name isn't exactly run-of-the-mill, who hit a two-run double off Johnson that would break a 7-7 tie in Game 7 of the 1925 World Series.
- Tom Connolly: He was an Umpire. He called balls and strikes, safes and outs.
- Ray Dandridge: A Negro Leaguer, Dandridge was a spray hitter who was said to be the finest third baseman in the Negro Leagues.
- Ed Delahanty: I actually knew who Ed Delahanty was, he and a parade of siblings played in the 1800s, but I include him because Delahanty died when he was swept over
while drunkenly chasing a train he had been ejected from. I mean, you can't make this stuff up. Niagara Falls
- Martin Dihigo: A legendary Cuban player Dihigo was said to be able to play all nine positions with equal skill. Given the increasing specialization of roles in the modern game, I'm always surprised more players don't try to hit and pitch to make a club, but so far only Brooks Kieschnick has done it and stuck.
- Rube Foster: Foster was a slightly different jack of all trades. He began his career as a pitcher in the early 1900s but would progress on to be a successful manager and founder of the Negro National League, the first widely successful Negro League.
- Bill Foster: Rube's half brother, Bill was a leading pitcher in his sibling's league, and would later coach the team at
, his alma mater. Alcorn State
- Chick Hafey: The only one of twenty-nine "Chick's" in baseball history to have made the Hall of Fame, Hafey was a slugging outfielder for the Cardinals and Reds.
- Travis Jackson:
was the shortstop on four Giant pennant winners and is another in a long line of dubious Veterans' Committee selections. Jackson
- Judy Johnson: A Negro Leaguer, real name: William Julius Johnson. Me, I would've gone by "Bill" but to each their own.
- Joe Kelley: Another 1800s ballplayer, Kelley began his career as an outfielder but began to see time in the infield at the turn of the century. Kelley was a lifetime .317 hitter who hit over .300 eleven consecutive seasons.
- Man...there are a lot more of these than I thought there would be. Stupid Veterans' Committee.
- Bill McGowan: He was an Umpire. He called balls and strikes, safes and outs.
- Bid McPhee: If you thought John Clarkson's induction was late, meet Bid McPhee who was elected in 2000, fifty-seven years after he died and one-hundred and one years after he last played a game.
- Tommy McCarthy: An outfielder and occasion infielder with the 1800s Boston Beaneaters, McCarthy is credited with having invented the idea of trapping fly balls he couldn’t catch in order to fool opposing players and umpires. Although this strikes me as iffy at best, it's such a simple idea, McCarthy probably at most popularized it.
- Jim O'Rourke: If nothing else, all these 1800s ballplayers have slowly begun to convince me that its time to bring the waxed mustache back in style. O'Rourke was a catcher who holds two National League records of note, the first hit ever in the National League in 1876 and oldest player when he played a single game for the Giants at age 53 in 1904.
- Frank Selee: The first truly successful NL manager, Selee led his Boston Beaneaters to five NL pennants when pennants were all one could win. He later helped build the early 1900s Cub Dynasty but turned over managerial duties to Frank Chance in mid 1905, just before the Cubs went on their run of four pennants (and two titles) in five years. This was probably a good decision as Selee only lived four more years.
- Sam Thompson: Would you believe Thompson played in the 1800s? And if his Hall of Fame Plaque is any indication, he had a damned fine waxed mustache to boot.
- Willie Wells: Wells was a Negro Leaguer who was nicknamed "El Diablo" by Mexican League fans for his fielding prowess, although I much prefer his other nickname: The Shakespeare of Shortstops. Its a shame no one thought to give Derek Jeter that one, because I've got the Christopher Marlowe all lined up.
So there it is. Every Hall of Famer that I couldn't provide at least a bare minimum of detail for. All said it comes to twenty-five plus Clarkson for an even twenty-six out of two-hundred and sixty, or exactly ten percent. What have we learned? There are umpires in the Hall of Fame, the waxed mustache is coming back and I really need to get out more.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
February 3rd, 1885
Slim Sallee Born
Slim Sallee (no relation to Tubby Spencer) was indeed slim, standing 6'3" but weighing in at just 180 pounds, thus earning the nickname. He was a good pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals during their truly awful period in the late aughts and early teens going 106-107 for a team that was over .500 just once during his time there. In 1916 he was sold to the Giants in midseason. In 1917, after going 18-7, 2.17, Sallee started Game One of the World Series for John McGraw and pitched a gem but lost to Eddie Cicotte 2-1. With the series tied 2-2, McGraw again called on Sallee. He started Game Five and was again out pitched by Cicotte (who came on in relief in the first inning despite having started Game 3 just two days prior) while allowing eight runs in a 8-5 Giants loss. The Giants would lose the series the next game leaving Sallee without a chance at redemption in a potential Game Seven. Sallee's final line was a mediocre 0-2, 5.28 for the series. Despite another solid season for the Giants in 1918, the Giants placed Sallee on waivers where he was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds.
Despite being thirty-four and in his twelfth Major League season, Sallee posted his best season going 21-7 while delivering a career low 2.06 ERA. The Reds in 1919 went to the World Series where they met Sallee's old nemesis Eddie Cicotte and the Chicago White Sox. Sallee started Game Two and won 4-2, although like all records from that year, it must be viewed through the lens of the White Sox efforts to throw the Series. Sallee started Game Seven (the series was best of nine that year) with a chance to clinch but with the Sox and their gambler backers feuding, he was again out pitched by his nemesis Cicotte, and lost the game 4-1. The Reds clinched the next day, leaving Sallee with a more dignified 1-1, 1.35 record for his second attempt at postseason play.
After an ineffective stretch with the Reds in 1920, they placed him on waivers, and the Giants claimed him, reuniting Sallee with many of his former teammates. Evidently happy to be back in
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
February 2nd, 1972
Jared Fernandez Born
Jared Fernandez is among the last of a dying breed, the Knuckleballers. Besides Tim Wakefield and Steve Sparks, Fernandez was the only knuckleballer to pitch in MLB last season, and the only one under the age of 35. Of course, Fernandez pitched just one inning (in two games) for the Astros, including getting crushed in a start against St. Louis allowing 4 runs while managing to retire just one batter--despite being spotted a 4 run lead of his own before he even took the mound.
Fernandez is unique not just in throwing the knuckleball, but also for the style of knuckleball he throws.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
February 1st, 1926
Wally Pipp Sold to Cincinnatti Reds
A lot of people, even ones who aren't really baseball fans, know the story of Wally Pipp. Plagued with a minor injury (a headache, according to most versions) Pipp asked out of the Yankees' game in early June 1925, to be replaced with a young rookie out of Columbia University, with Pipp doomed to waste away on the Yankee bench. The story has a nice little Paul Harvey aspect about it ("and that rookie's name was Lou Gehrig...so now you know the rest of the story") as well as a kind of Aesop, or perhaps Gordon Gecko-ish moral: next time you take the easy way out you might be replaced by someone more dedicated and talented than you.
The only problem with this little story is that bears only passing resemblance to the truth. Pipp was benched for the June 2nd, 1925 game (which, incidentally, was not the actual start of Gehrig's streak, he had pinch hit the day before) but it was not because of a headache. The aging Pipp was having a terrible season (he would finish at .230/.286/.348) and manager Miller Huggins figured the 22 year-old Gehrig deserved some time in lieu of the struggling veteran. Gehrig hardly set the league afire initially in 1925; he was pinch-hit for several times by Huggins, especially against left-handers. Pipp never got another start for two reasons. The first was that in 1925--on account of injuries to many including Babe Ruth--the Yankees had their first under .500 season since 1918 (and, in a side note, the last they would suffer until 1965 which is astounding) meaning Huggins had no incentive to play the aging Pipp over the younger Gehrig. The other reason was that on July 2nd Pipp was beaned during batting practice, severely enough that many thought he would meet the fate of Ray Chapman but he survived. These two circumstances combined to give Wally Pipp few chances to start in the rest of 1925.
Also, compared to many versions where Pipp is forced to sit on the Yankee bench watching Gehrig play the game, a veritable Tantalus of the Roaring 20s, Pipp was sold to Cincinatti where he actually had a rebound season in 1926 (.291/.352/.413) until age got to him in 1927. In 1928 the Reds replaced him with another first baseman whose best days were behind him, George "Highpockets" Kelly.
Pipp would spend many of his remaining days--he died in 1965--denying the headache story, sometimes without explanation and sometimes mixing chronology so that his beaning occurred on June 2nd, providing a reason for his being out of the line-up on that day. Pipp should've saved his breath, like so many others, his story was lost to legend.
February 1st, 1958
Mysterious Walker Dies
No kidding, that was his nickname. Frederick Mitchell "Mysterious"
Monday, January 31, 2005
January 31st, 1947
Johnny Kling Dies
Johnny Kling was the catcher for the Cubs' teams that went to four World Series in five years in the late aughts, winning two of them. Kling was above average for each year the Cubs went to the World Series, an impressive feat for a catcher in his late 30s, a time when most have begun to decline. The only season in the period 1906-1910 that the Cubs did not go the World Series was 1909, when Kling wasn't on the team. He had retired prior the 1909 season when in the winter of 1908 he won the World Pocket Billiards Championship and decided to hold out, working on the theory that he could always fall back on his billiards career. When Kling failed to hold the title and discovered that playing for a semi-pro team in
Early in the 1911 season Kling was traded to the Boston Braves where he served as the starter on a pair of truly miserable Braves' teams, the latter of which Kling also managed. The team lost 101 games (it was actually an improvement, they had lost 107 the year before) and Kling was sold to
Besides his brief career as Minnesota Fats, Kling is also notable for his long run as holder of the National League stolen base record for catchers, with 23 in 1902 and 1903. Kling held the record for more than seventy-five years until it was broken by John Sterns of the Mets in 1978. Kling has since been dropped to third on the list behind the current record holder, Jason Kendall and his 26 steals in 1998.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
January 30th, 1973
Bob Henley Born
Bob Henley played just one season for the Montreal Expos. Debuting in late July, he played 40 games the rest of the season and hit .304/.377/.470, and altough an Associated Press story credits him with "good defense"