Saturday, July 30, 2005

 

July 30th, 1907

Doc White Faces Washington Senators



The internet is really quite something. It has amazing resources and with a little searching one can turn up just about anything. One of the things you can find is an extensive list of phobias, provided by the aptly named Phobia List. No matter how much you review that list however, you will notice there is not anywhere a "Senatoraphobia," defined here as fear of facing the Washington Senators. But perhaps there should be. When Doc White faced the Senators on this day in 1907 it was the first time he had faced them since 1903, a course of 113 starts. Given it was still just an eight team league then, something was obviously up, since mere coincidence could not have prevented him from seeing them for four full seasons and a large part of two others.

Thanks to the work of Chris Jaffe, however, we do know that something was up, even if we don't know exactly what it was. For that period he was clearly being deliberately saved for certain teams in certain seasons. In 1904, more than half his starts were facing the Indians or Yankees. In 1905 nearly sixty percent of his starts were against the Tigers or Yankees. In 1907 he faced the Tigers or Browns for more than forty percent of his starts. For whatever reason--neither Chris nor I could turn up a reason--White's managers kept him for specific teams, and away from the Washingtonians. Perhaps it really was White's bad case of Senatoraphobia.


Friday, July 29, 2005

 

July 29th, 2000

Brewers Host "Bob Wickman Poster Night"


On its face, this seems like a perfectly reasonable promotion. While Bob is not much to look at--his posters probably didn't replace very many of Orlando Bloom or his 2000 equivalent--he had been one of Milwaukee's better players since he arrived in a trade in mid-1996. As the Brewers' closer the previous year Wickman had racked up thirty-seven saves with a 3.39 ERA. Earlier in the 2000 season, he had been the Brew Crew's lone All-Star representative, pitching a scoreless inning at Turner Field. Moreover, Wickman would continue to help the Brewers even with his departure, as part of a trade that netted them Richie Sexson, who would hit more than forty home-runs in two of his three seasons in the land of Beer and Brats.

However, it was Wickman's departure, even with the haul the Indians got, that made Bob Wickman Poster Night a bit of an odd promotion. The reason for this was that the posters being disturbed of their erstwhile All-Star and closer were now of their ex-closer as Wickman had been dealt the previous night. Brewers' fans then--all 21,762 of them--had the double indignity of not only watching their team get absolutely creamed by the Rockies 10-2, but also of collecting a poster of their arguably best pitcher, who was no longer with the team.

On the plus side, at least the game didn't feature a Brewers' save situation.



Thursday, July 28, 2005

 

July 28th, 2001

Astros play at Pirates


I remember this game quite clearly, despite only having seen one at-bat, probably on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight or something similar. That one at-bat however, served as a perfect example of the incredible skills Major League players possess, on both sides of the ball, and by just how much they are in another world from the rest of us.

The Astros entered the ninth leading 8-2 but the Pirates managed to pull it to 8-5 and had the bases loaded and their best hitter, Brian Giles, at the plate. Pitching for the Astros was their ace closer Billy Wagner. Wagner is a lefty, and while he's generally listed a 5'11", 200 pounds that's probably adding a couple of inches and a score of pounds. I'm also a lefty, and might realistically be listed at 5'11", 200 pounds. The notable difference between Wagner and me then, is that while I struggle to break seventy on a radar gun at carnivals, Wagner has been clocked as high as 102 (that looks more impressive written out in numbers than words) and consistently throws in the ninety-six to one hundred range. His second pitch is usually listed as a slider (or sometimes curveball) but by his own admission Wagner usually throws ninety-five percent fastballs.


Back to the game meanwhile, and the man facing Wagner. Giles is also a lefty, like me, and listed at 5'10", 195. That's a little short and more than a little light for me, but I could probably pass as such. Of course, that's where the resemblance between Giles and me ends. While I often struggled to hit high school pitching, Giles is a two-time All Star and was second in the league in OPS in 2002.

So here you had two men who were, more or less, the same physical size as I, but who had natural talents obviously so beyond what I (and millions of others) can possibly imagine. Wagner with his amazing heat, Giles with his bat speed and power. Wagner threw and Giles rocketed a home run for a game winning, walk-off two out Grand Slam. For that game then, Giles' talents triumphed over Wagner's. But watching the at-bat was just another reminder that those talents exist on a plane so far above what any of us can imagine.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 

July 27th, 1952

Bump Wills Born


Elliott Taylor (Alias: "Bump") Wills was the son of Maury Wills, which represents exactly a quarter of the interesting facts I managed to turn up about Bump. The rest, in no particular order:

  1. When Bump--as a Texas Ranger--faced the Seattle Mariner team managed by his father it was the first time a father and son had faced each other as manager/player. Felipe/Moises Alou and Buddy/David Bell have since done it as well.
  2. On August 27th, 1977 Wills hit an inside-the-park HR aganist the Yankees. The batter immediately before him, Toby Harrah had also hit an inside-the-park HR on the previous pitch from Ken Clay. This was the first time since 1946 such an event had occurred.
  3. Bump’s career stolen base percentage was ever-so-slightly higher than his father’s, 75% to 73.8%, albeit in just over two hundred fifty attempts to his father's nearly eight-hundred


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

 

July 26th, 2000

Curt Schilling Traded


I was thinking about this the other day, Curt Schilling has been traded five times in his career. And each one of them was just an awful, awful trade for the team getting rid of Schilling. I don't know if that's some kind of record, but it sure sounds like one. The first bad trade was from the Boston Red Sox. I've discussed this trade elsewhere, but the short version is that the Red Sox surrendered both Schilling and Brady Anderson to the Orioles for pitcher Mike Boddicker. While Boddicker did go 7-3, 2.63 down the stretch to help Boston reach the playoffs, they were swept by the A's in the ALCS with Boddicker pitching ineffectively in his only start of the series. Meanwhile, in exchange for this, the Red Sox surrendered a man who would become a very good pitcher and a man who would become a very effective center fielder.

Not knowing what they had however, the Orioles promptly turned around and made an awful, awful, Schilling trade of their own. They packaged Schilling with Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch and traded them to
Houston for Glenn Davis. While I know it's the height of vanity to quote oneself, I think I summed up the trade quite nicely from Baltimore's perspective with regards to Davis who "[stunk] and cost a lot of money doing it."

Meanwhile, Schilling pitched an uninspiring seventy-five innings for
Houston so the Astros decided to move him. As was becoming a pattern, this turned into an awful trade for the team giving up Curt. They traded him straight up to Philly for Jason Grimsley--who they would end up releasing before he even threw a pitch for the big club, meaning they basically traded Curt Schilling for nothing. It was in Philly, of course, that Schilling turned into the very good pitcher he still is (recent bullpen adventures not withstanding). He pitched well there for several years but had to go under the knife after the 1999 season. Once he returned, Schilling was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Not surprisingly, it was a bad trade for the Phillies, although probably the best of any Schilling trade, as the Phils at least got rotation stalwart Vincente Padilla from the D-Backs.

After three and a half years (and a World Series) in
Arizona, Schilling was traded to the Boston Red Sox. In contrast to having been on the bad end of a bad trade in giving up Schilling so many years before, this time the Sox were on the favorable side of the deal, getting an ace (and a World Series) in exchange for four mediocrities, three of whom have already left the Diamondbacks.

I know being traded five times isn't a record, but the more I think about it, the surer I am that being traded five times in five bad trades is one.


Monday, July 25, 2005

 

July 25th, 1975

Biff Pocoroba Born


Biff Pocoroba holds the dual distinctions of being not just the only "Biff" in Major League Baseball to have made an All-Star team--he went for the Braves in 1978--but also the only man to have played baseball history to have actually been named Biff. The other four Biff's (none of whom played after 1932 suggesting the Biff name has fallen out of style, Back to the Future notwithstanding) were all merely nicknamed Biff's, whereas Mr. Pocoroba was actually born as one: Biff Benedict Pocoroba.

As the All-Star appearance suggests, Pocoroba was a pretty decent player, although his career was derailed by rotator cuff surgery which both ended his career as a catcher (he had once thrown out eleven straight base runners in Spring Training) and forced him to give up switch-hitting and become strictly a righty hitter. His career ended with a whimper in 1984, but Pocoroba still has the honor of being the best player (excluding those active) to have spent his entire career with the Atlanta Braves.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

 

July 24th, 1972

Shawn Wooten Born


Shawn Wooten, a man whose best position is DH, but who can occasionally be situated at both corner infield positions and catcher has made himself a decent career on the strength of his stick, including winning a World Series ring with Anaheim in 2002. What is of interest to me however, is his high school baseball team. Wooten attended South Hills High School, which has sent nineteen players to Division I baseball or the draft since the late 60s. However, one particular South Hills team stood out, and was in the news lately. That team had Wooten, his teammate in 2004, pitcher Cory Lidle, noted Yankee slugger/PED user Jason Giambi--although Giambi also pitched on that team--and Giambi's new Yankee teammate, pitcher Aaron Small. I don't know how they did that year, but one can only assume a team that had four future Major Leaguers was, you know, pretty good.


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