Saturday, June 04, 2005
June 4th, 1951
Indians Hold "Beat Eddie Lopat" Night
That's the kind of promotion you don't see anymore. Lopat had beaten the Indians eleven times in a row, and in an effort to defeat him, the Indians held this night. The giveaway that night was lucky rabbits’ feet, going to the first 15,000 fans. Perhaps fearing it wasn't enough, a
You wouldn't see this kind of promotion these days for any number of reasons. For one thing, you would probably get a million shrill sports columnists and sports radio hosts complaining about how "classless" it was and so in, indicating further just how much they lack a sense of humor. More practically, if you tried to give away 15,000 rabbit feet, you would have at least an equal number of PETA protesters standing outside your stadium, throwing buckets of red paint at everyone walking in. Not a good night at the ballpark.
Friday, June 03, 2005
June 3rd, 1971
Carl Everett Born
Ok, this one is cheating a little bit, but Carl Everett was drafted on June 4th and I really can't wait another day to do "Crazy Carl."
After a couple of forgettable cups of coffee with the Marlins,
More seriously, also with the Mets, Everett and wife were arrested on charges of child abuse, after a Shea employee became concerned with the appearance of one of their children. A judge eventually ruled that Carl's wife was guilty of excessive corporal punishment while Everett himself did little to stop it. Carl's assertion of course is that this is all patently absurd--there's that persecution complex again--but it was serious enough for the judge to put one of the
Traded to the Red Sox,
One final note on
Thursday, June 02, 2005
June 2nd, 1987
Pete Harnisch Drafted
(If you can't tell, its draft season, I'll be doing drafted players for the next couple of days.)
As I think I’ve said before, I believe all players of any career longer than a cup of coffee are involved in at least one interesting story. Some, like Pete Harnisch, manage to involve themselves in several interesting stories.Harnisch who still holds the strikeout and ERA records for Fordham University (presumably because the records of another Rams' Major Leaguer, Ed Walsh, are a bit shaky), was drafted by the Orioles in 1987 and promoted in September 1988 to an Orioles team that had started the season a worst-ever 0-21 (the ’62 Mets were 5-16, the ’03 Tigers 2-19) and were more than forty games under .500 by the time Harnisch was pitching. Not surprisingly, he lost his first two starts. The next year however, featured the “Why Not?” Orioles, who went from thirty-four games out of first to just two in the course of one season. Harnisch made two starts in April, was demoted to Triple-A then recalled in July making fifteen starts and finishing the year five and nine.
Harnisch, who left Fordham with the fastball-slider-change combination that would serve him well for the bulk of his career, joined the Oriole rotation for good in 1990. A quick step back in history is required before we can continue Pete’s story, however. In 1988,
In 1997, after a successful ’95 season, and a less successful ’96, Harnisch gave up chewing smokeless tobacco before the season started and found he was losing his appetite and suffering from insomnia. Visiting his doctor, Harnisch was diagnosed with depression and put on medication. Although he had seemingly recovered—he started Opening Day for the Mets—he would not pitch again until August. After feuding with Bobby Valentine regarding his condition, Harnisch was sent to the Brewers to end the season and become a free agent.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
June 1st, 1988
Steve Foster Drafted
One of the things I sometimes wonder is how one becomes a Major League General Manager. I know on an intellectual level, you join a baseball team at some low level and work your way up, but even if you dropped me in a team at an entry-level position on the chain, I wouldn't have much of an idea how one really makes it up the ladder.
That being said, I do have some vauge notions. One hint is provided to me by a Steve Foster baseball card I have. On the back, in lieu of information about Steve or his family or his career, it informs us that "Steve was signed by scout Chuck LaMar." That is, I assume, the same Chuck LaMar who was later promoted to the position of General Manager of the Devil Rays. Now, Foster didn't last long as a pitcher--I don't know why; he pitched effectively in relief in all three of his MLB seaons--but I suppose he still shows us one step on the ladder to the GM's office, signing players who reach the Major League level.
Of course, if I'm following the steps that Chuck "Career .399 Winning Percentage*" LaMar took to the top, I may be in some trouble once I get there.
*That's through the 2004 season, but the D-Rays are playing .358 ball at the moment. So I don't think I'm being unfairly snarky.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
May 31st, 1949
Charley Lupica Ascends Flagpole
This is one of those stories that everyone sort-of knows, but almost no one really knows. "Oh yeah, the nut who climbed up a flagpole and promised to stay there until the Indians won the pennant," that kind of thing. That's right and it’s wrong. Charley Lupica--no relation, so far as I know, to Mike--did indeed climb a flagpole and promise to sit there until the Indians won the pennant, but he wasn't really a nut anymore than I am for refusing to watch the first hour of Yankee playoff games (it brings them good luck, you see); he just did his nuttiness on a grander scale.
In 1948, the Indians had won the World Series (they've not won it since, as I'm sure you know) but were struggling a bit in 1949. On the morning of May 31st, as Charley ascended his post, the Indians were in seventh place, just 17-18 and seven games behind the first place Yankees.
Before we go any farther, however, a brief diversion into how Charley ended up there anyway. While the story may be apocryphal, legend has it that Lupica was sitting in a bar on May 30th when he heard another group of patrons knocking the Indians. Lupica went over to confront them and discovered they were Yankee fans. After some banter, Lupica finally got frustrated with Yankee fans in "his" town and challenged them: "if you hate the Indians so much, and love the Yankees, why don't you move to
Lupica accepted the challenge and a sixteen foot pole was constructed with a little booth thing on top for Charley to sit in. Unfortunately for Charley, while the Indians did turn their season around, they would go 72-47 the rest of the way; it wasn't enough as both the Yankees and BoSox performed better, with the Yankees stealing the pennant from
Lupica would live until 2003, meaning he did get to enjoy the Indians 1954 111-win season (although I imagine he was less fond of the 0-4 defeat in the World Series) but then had to suffer through their forty year drought, plus the humiliation of being mocked in Major League. However, he get to see the Indians make the playoffs six times in the last eight years of his life, including two pennants, 1995 and 1997 although the latter ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Tribe. I like to think Charley Lupica is still rooting for the Indians to finally win him another World Series, and one can only assume he's doing it from a place more comfortable than the top of a flagpole.
Monday, May 30, 2005
May 30th, 1871
Amos Rusie Born
Amos Rusie was a pitcher for the New York Giants in the end of the nineteenth century, who pitched the high inning totals typical of the era--over five hundred innings thrice, over four hundred and three hundred twice--and was finished as a Major League pitcher by age twenty-eight. There's plenty to say about Rusie's career; a
Rusie, after having not pitched in the Majors since 1898, made a comeback, or thirty innings worth of one anyway, for the Cincinnati Reds. He had been traded by the Giants to the Reds in exchange for a name you'd know, Christy Mathewson. At first blush this seems an awful trade, a washed-up former star, and one used to pitching from a fifty foot mound to boot, for one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. However, it was actually a gigantic scam. The Giants wanted Mathewson but didn't want to pay the $2,000 it would have taken to get him from the Norfolk Mary Janes of the Virginia League as required by previous agreement. To this end, the Giants returned Mathewson to the Mary Janes--some name, by the way--where he was then drafted by the Reds who, as part of a prearranged deal, then took Mathewson from the Mary Janes for the mere $100 as required by the rules and then traded him to the Giants for Rusie.
After the stretch in
Sunday, May 29, 2005
May 29th, 1972
Moe Berg Dies
Most of the stories I tell have been told elsewhere, in many cases better told or with more detail. (Or both better told and with more detail, which is really annoying.) That said, I do what I do here, and that's that, so I rarely recommend other sources. In this case however, the varied life of Moe Berg is worthy of book-length history and one has been expertly written by Nicholas Dawidoff, The Catcher Was a Spy. It is probably one of the best baseball books ever and well worth a read.