Saturday, September 03, 2005

September 3rd, 1965

Los Angeles Angels Change Name

After all the--fairly ridiculous it seems to me--hullabaloo about the Angels' name change this off-season, it does seem worth nothing that a team which has played in three stadiums over the course of less than fifty years has managed to nonetheless have four different names.

The Angels franchise was born in 1961 as the Los Angeles Angels (and yes, if translated that does make them "The Angels Angels" but never mind) and played in Wrigley Field. No, no, the other Wrigley Field. Modeled after its more famous cousin in Chicago, this Wrigley Field actually had the name a year earlier, was built to house the minor league Angels in the 20s who were also owned by Cubs' (and bubble gum) chief William Wrigley. Truth be told, it wasn't really a Major League stadium, holding fewer than twenty one thousand people and with power alleys measuring fewer than three hundred and fifty feet. So, after a year there, the Angels moved for the first time in this history to Chavez Ravine. This move took them seven miles and required no name changed.

The Angels shared Dodger Stadium with its namesake tenants for four seasons before making the second (and to this point last) move in their history. Their new home was Anaheim Stadium (which has itself had several names over the years) just about thirty miles and one name change from Dodger Stadium. So the record then, to this point the Angels had traveled a total of thirty-eight miles and had two different names, or a name per nineteen miles.

The team would remain the California Angels until 1996 when they were purchased by the Disney Company and renamed the Anaheim Angels, to better reflect the city in which they occupied. This brings the total to three names, thirty-eight miles or a name per twelve and two-thirds miles. It was as the Anaheim Angels that the team would be most successful, winning their only World Series (and
AL pennant) and making the playoff twice in an eight year run.

For the 2005 season however, the name once again changed, making them the Los Angeles of Anaheim. We'll see how long it lasts (the team and city are currently involved in some bizarre bit of litigation about it) but for now Anaheim holds what must be an all-time record, four names for a franchise that has traveled just thirty-eight miles in its history. That comes to a new name every nine and a half miles. It's a good thing the Boston-Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves didn't stick to such a standard; they might be on their 200th name by now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

September 2nd, 1918

Nick Altrock Homers

Nick Altrock was a pitcher with a sixteen year career who hit--in toto--two home runs in his career. The first was in 1904 when he was a twenty-seven year old member of the White Sox. The second was in 1918. Altrock had only come to the plate three times since 1912, making his home run seemingly an awesome feat. In this case, however, there is a story, but it is not one based in great accomplishment.

By 1918, Altrock was a coach for the Senators and part of a baseball comedy team with baseball original Clown Prince, Al Schacht. The Senators traditionally ended their season with a joke game and the second half of this double-header was no exception. Altrock entered the game as a relief pitcher in the eighth. When his turn at-bat came around, the A's brought in Wickey McAvoy--a catcher at first base that day--to 'pitch' to Altrock. With McAvoy lobbing balls in, Altrock managed to finally connect with one and knock, relatively speaking, the ball into the outfield. Altrock ambled around the bases, missing both second and third by some accounts, and completed his inside-the-park 'home run.'

Thursday, September 01, 2005

September 1st, 1937

Giants Sign Bill Terry

In the "Um, Oops" Department: the Giants gave Terry a five year contract, worth $8,000 a year--about $100,000 by modern standards--in the midst of his fifth consecutive ninety win season as a manager. Terry, who had taken over for John McGraw in 1932, was signed to be both manager and farm system director. The Giants would go on to win to the National League pennant in 1937, although they'd lose the World Series to the Yankees in five games...and that was basically the end of Bill Terry as a successful Giants' manager.

The next year the Giants slumped to 83-67, finishing third, five games behind the pennant winning Cubs. The next season they went down even farther to 77-74. The next year they dropped even further, to below .500 at 72-80 and recovered only slightly the next year to finish 74-79, after which the Giants--despite a year remaining on Terry's contract--canned him, replacing him the Giants' best player, Mel Ott.

In the four year period of the contract then, Terry managed a 306-300 record (.504), but taking out the first year, the total record was only 223-233 (.489). Comparing that figure to the Giants previous four year record of 371-241 (.606), it is little surprise that after his debacles running the team, Terry never managed--or ran a farm system--again.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

August 31st, 1903

Joe McGinnity Pitches Doubleheader

I've done Joe McGinnity before, but today's feat is worth noting on two levels. First, McGinnity performed the rare even then but of course unheard of now feat of pitching--and winning--both ends of a Giants' doubleheader. McGinnity defeated the Phillies 4-1 and 9-2. Notable though this is, it was even more so as it was the third time in August that McGinnity had managed the feat.

This was the year, not surprisingly, when McGinnity set the modern era National League record for innings in a season, four hundred thirty-four. The game was different then of course, but the number still blows the mind. For sake of comparison, McGinnity's inning total represents the National League 2004 innings leader (Livan Hernandez) and to catch up to McGinnity, Hernandez would have had to pitch an additional one hundred seventy-nine innings, or about equal to the number pitched by Matt Clement, who ranked in the top thirty in National League innings pitched last year.

Seasons like McGinnity's also further demonstrates a concept one of my guest writers pointed out: that Pedro Martinez's 1999 is almost certainly the greatest pitching season of all time. However, a season like McGinnity's 1904 (I know I'm jumping ahead a year in his career here) presents an interesting contrast.
Martinez threw two hundred seventeen innings at an ERA one hundred eighty-five percent better than the league average. Those innings represent fifteen percent of his team's innings that year. In contrast, McGinnity's 1904 saw him post an ERA 'only' sixty nine percent better than league average, yet do so in four hundred and eight innings, or nearly thirty percent of his team's innings.

Pedro then, threw fifteen percent fewer innings relatively to his team total, but still holds a huge lead in ERA, as he was one hundred sixteen percent better compared to the league. McGinnity's huge inning totals are impressive, and a feat like pitching both ends of a doubleheader--victoriously--are more so. But in the end, it is merely another indication of how great Pedro Martinez truly was.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

August 30th, 1905

Ty Cobb Debuts

A short one today, as I'm afraid the real world and the responsibilities thereof are occupying valuable time I normally spend on this--a situation I am planning to remedy as soon as possible--so instead of writing about Cobb myself I will direct to a well-written article by's Jason Beck about Cobb, his debut, and all the rest.

Monday, August 29, 2005

August 29th, 1969

Joe Pepitone Quits Yankees

Pepitone didn't actually quit the Yankees; of course, he just made a show of announcing he was quitting after they fined him $500 for leaving the bench during a game. It is perhaps a reflection on the Yankees' organization in the late 60s that they were still trying to wrangle Pepitone under control despite all evidence that it simply couldn't be done.

Signed with a $20,000 bonus, Pepitone used it to purchase himself a car and motorboat (and probably, the first in his series of lavish hairpieces). According to Pepitone, in his first season the local mob near where the Yankees had Spring Training thought it was greatly unfair the young Italian was not getting the starting job and offered to have the incumbent, Moose Skowron, involved in an "accident" but Joe apparently turned them down.

He won out on talent the next season however, and responded by hitting reasonably well and making the All-Star team. His hitting would decline the next two years, although Pepitone would win the first of his three Gold Gloves in 1965. The Gold Glove was something of redemption for Pepitone who had made a crucial error in the 1963 World Series--leading, according to Jim Bouton, to Pepitone being the only man he had ever seen shake-off a pick-off signal during the 1964 World Series.

After the incident and fine that is today's event, Pepitone was traded to the Astros and would finish his career with the Cubs and Braves. He also spent a brief time in Japan, but the Japanese hardly knew what to make of 'Pepi' and when he jumped his team while hitting just .163. In the 1980s Pepitone fell back in with a bad crowd and served some brief time in prison but happily managed to put his life back together and is currently employed by the Yankee front office.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

August 28th, 1932

Indians Play at Red Sox

This game, an otherwise routine eleven inning 4-3 Sox victory is notable for the day on which it was played. The Red Sox were first scheduled to take on the Tribe on August 31st. On that day however, scientists reported--this is true--a solar eclipse was due. Responding to this, the Sox moved the game a few days up so that it would not be delayed.

As it happened, the scientists had hit the nail right on the head, as on August 31st the eclipse occurred. Fenway Park was rendered almost entirely dark for twenty minutes that would've fallen straight in the middle of the game, so I suppose in that respect the Red Sox dodged a bullet. On the other hand, they missed having claim to a game delayed by solar eclipse, which, frankly, would've been pretty cool.

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