Monday, March 20, 2006

March 20th, 1981

Gee Walker Dies

One of my least favorite things as a Yankee fan when they're playing the Red Sox is watching Manny Ramirez hit, the man can flat-out rake. On the other hand, one of my favorite things is watching Manny Ramirez do pretty much anything else asscioated with being a Major League player. I've never bought into the argument that Manny is stupid--he hits much too well for that--but he's quite clearly a big-time space cadet.

Gee Walker never hit as well as Manny, his career OPS+ is nearly sixty points less, but when it came to the other stuff he and Manny were quite clearly in orbit over the same planet. Walker debuted with the Tigers in 1931 and although he hit over .300 several times, it was not long before he demonstrated his own unique take on baserunning. In a 1934 game Walker was on first with Hank Greenberg on second. When catcher Rollie Hemsley threw down to first, Walker was caught off the bag and saved only by Greenberg making a break for third. Greenberg was thrown out, but Walker managed to advance safely to second. Once on second, it was not long before Walker once again found himself trapped off base and was picked off by the pitcher. So enraged was manger Mickey Cochrane that he suspended Walker for ten games and fined him twenty dollars.

1934 was a bad year for Walker's baserunning generally, as that year in the World Series he was standing on first base when the Cardinals bench began shouting at him. Walker began shouting back and really getting into with his opponents...until he was tagged out on a pick-off throw that he had never even seen coming. On another, at least non World Series occasion, Walker was picked-off after he tried stealing a base during an intentional walk. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Tigers evantually tired of these sorts of things--although oddly Walker was a pretty good base-stealer--and sent him to the White Sox. Walker would bounce around for a while, finally retiring at age thirty-seven after the 1945 season with the Reds.

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