Saturday, March 04, 2006

March 4th, 1948

Stan Musial Ends Holdout

I know I do two or three of these a year--maybe two or three a month--but they never fail to both fascinate and amuse me. Musial was coming off something of a down season for him, he hit just .312 with a 134 OPS+ compared to hitting .365 and .347 with OPS+ of 183 and 175 in 1946 and 1947 respectively. Musial's 1946, when the Cards had won the World Series, was a MVP-winning season and he would win the award again in 1948. He settled with his team for a salary of $31,000, in what marked his seventh year in the league. In modern dollars, that's about $250,000 for the season.

Now in the department of "My, how things change!" In 2006, the Cardinals best will be "Prince Albert" Pujols. Pujols is a brilliant hitter and might someday be good enough to pass Musial as the Redbirds' all-time best hitter. (That being said he has a long, long way to go.) Pujols is in the midst of a seven year contract that pays him an average of fourteen million a year, while this is Pujols sixth year in the Majors. In modern dollars then, Pujols is earning--you might want to sit down here--fifty-six times more than Stan Musial.

Fifty-six times. I don't know how that compares to other industries (although I'm guessing plumbers in 2006 don't earn inflation-adjusted fifty-six times more than plumbers in 1948) but it is still a mind-boggling figure. Stan Musial, born too soon.

Friday, March 03, 2006

March 3rd, 1953

Clyde Milan Dies

What's that? It's the beginning of March and I haven't done a cheap clip show yet this year? Well, no time like the present. Our titular death is Clyde Milan, the long-time Senators' outfielder who I did last March. Also moving from this world to the next (or back into our world in a different form depending on what you believe, I suppose) on this day, but in 1977 was Stubby Overmire.

Finally this entry here is something of a commentary on Kirk Gibson's sense of pride; it's not the only example. On his day in 1988, a few months before he would hit a rather crucial home run, Gibson walked out of Dodger camp. The reason? Gibson was put off by a prank played by teammate Jesse Orosco when Orosco put eyeblack on Gibson's cap. Maybe that's a bit of a temper tantrum more than an example of pride, but what can you do?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

March 2nd, 1909

Mel Ott Born

Ott was nicknamed "Master Melvin" which might be the single dorkiest nickname ever bestowed upon a truly great player. Actually, having thought about that some, it was the single dorkiest nickname ever bestowed upon a truly great player. "Master Melvin" sounds like the kind of nickname a guy who does really well in the Math League would give himself.

Ott is a quarter of the answer to something that is, for no particular reason, one of my favorite questions of all time: who are the four players with four letters or less in their name and five hundred or more home runs? The answer is written below in white text, so if you highlight the next paragraph with your mouse, it should be revealed.

Answer: Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), and Jimmie Foxx (534).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

March 1st, 1990

Creepy Crespi Dies

That's a nickname, of course; his real name is the drawn-out and distinctly Italian Frank Angelo Joseph Crespi. The nickname's origin, according to Crespi came from his ability to run nearly full speed after ground balls despite being in a full crouch. That seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but it's all I can find. For what it's worth, Crespi wasn't a bad looking man, so that's out.

Crespi had cups of coffee with the Cards in 1938, '39 and '40 but debuted as a regular in 1941 and immediately made an impact. Playing second base, Crespi hit .279 but with a .355 on-base percentage and was tenth in the league for times on base, in part because of willingness to take the HBP; he was second in the league with nine. (I suppose the other interpretation of that was Crespi was a jerk who pitchers were taking shots at, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt.) There wasn't a Rookie of the Year back then but Crespi would've been a contender had it existed, he finished in the top twenty in MVP voting.

His performance slipped slightly in 1942--Crespi hit just .243--and he was drafted into the Army in 1943. As it turned out, that would be his undoing. Crespi broke his leg playing baseball in the Army (well, they couldn't be fighting Hitler all the time) and had it set and was placed in a wheelchair. He might've returned and resumed his ball playing career except Crespi decided to prove his was still a decent athlete and got himself into a wheelchair race where he crashed into a wall and broke his leg, again. (I don't know if it’s ok to laugh at that, but it ought to be.)

He managed briefly in the minors before leaving baseball entirely and died in St. Louis , site of his greatest triumphs.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

February 28th, 1963

Eppa Rixey Dies

Eppa Rixey is one of those guys who names I know--it's distinctive--but not really much beyond it. As it turns out, Rixey is in the Hall of Fame although I'm at a loss to explain why his career record is 266-251 which is a lot of wins--thirty-fourth all time--but a fair amount of losses too--ninth all time. He never led his league in ERA, although he finished second a couple of times, his career ERA+ is just 115. He's still better than Rube Marquard, but then, so is David Wells and we're not putting him in the Hall.

Anyway, Rixey does have some good stories behind him. He was regarded as something of a Southern gentleman, having graduated from the University of Virginia (where he also excelled at basketball for the Cavaliers in addition to baseball) and opponents used to attempt to rile him by making taunts about the Civil War.

Speaking of wars, Rixey joined the army for the First World War after the 1917 when he was put off by the sales of Grover Cleveland Alexander that he retired. As it turned out, Rixey had been planning to retire after one more year anyway, and then go into the army but he kind of pitched a fit and joined the army after the 1917 season instead. Evidently, life as a doughboy made Rixey appreciate life as a ballplayer more as he returned to America in 1919 and promptly pitched for another fifteen years.

Finally, as a closing note, Rixey was apparently something of a student of pitching, he got by largely on his fastball, but knew something about when to use it. In 1927, he gave an interview explaining his theory, in rather plain words: "how dumb can hitters in this league get? I've been doing this for fifteen years. When they're batting with the county two balls and no strikes, or three and one, they're always looking for the fastball. And they never get it."

Monday, February 27, 2006

February 27th, 1962

Candlestick Park Wind Solution Proposed

Although perhaps now more famous for his Gates in New York City (to say nothing of my favorite, his killer Umbrellas) the project that truly brought Christo to fame was wrapping the Reichstag. Chriso proposed, and ultimately did wrap the Reichstag--that's the German parliament building, incidentally--in more than a hundred thousand meters of fabric. He later repeated the project on Paris' Pont Neuf as well as Snoopy's dog house as a tribute to the late Charles Schultz.

Now, that's all very interesting, but what does any of it have to do with Candlestick Park? I've detailed the problems with the park before, notably with its swirling winds. Well, plenty of people had solutions they thought would rid Candlestick of this problem. I mentioned the park's shape in that earlier entry, as well as the 1970s era enclosure, neither of which did much to eliminate the winds. This solution by an unknown architect however, is positively Christoesque. The architect suggested that the park be wrapped with a plastic screen so as to shield it from the wind. Put more plainly, he wanted to take a big piece of saran wrap and stretch across the open part of the outfield. Perhaps not surprisingly--although maybe unwisely, it could've worked--the Giants declined and the unknown architect fell back into obscurity.

Actually, 1961 marked the beginning of Christo's wrapping phase, I wonder if anyone remembers just what that architect’s name was...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

February 26th, 1980

Gary Majewski Born

Last season Gary Majewski appeared in seventy-nine games for the Nationals, good for second in the league. Majewski was effective, posting a 2.93 ERA in eighty-six innings, although that was even lower (just over two and a half) until Majewski gave up four runs in his last appearance in the season. That aside, a very effective Majewski was a member of the very effective Nats' pen, leading the team with twenty-four holds and giving up just two home runs all season. He was especially good in May (sixteen innings, no runs) and August (fifteen innings, three runs) although those were somewhat balanced by a rather ugly June (twelve and two-thirds innings, ten runs).

Appropriately enough for Majewski's high number of games--and something I just discovered--Majewski appeared in all three Nationals games I went to last season, doing a pretty good job too: three and a third innings, no runs, one hit. Perhaps because of the familiarity, (because there isn't really any other reason) he's become my favorite player on the team, so I hope he continues his success in '06.

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