Saturday, April 08, 2006

April 8th, 1946

Jim "Catfish" Hunter Born

The story about that nickname is well-known by now, Charley O. Finley decided Jim Hunter needed a nickname and made up a story about how Hunter used to catch catfish in the backwoods of North Carolina. The nickname ended up serving him well, in addition to being quite snappy, Hunter knew if someone who was calling his name really knew him or not, as friends never called him "Catfish."

Bill James has a pretty good section on Catfish--albeit a trifle flawed, he notes that the Yankees lost six more games Hunter's first year with the team, that's true, but it sure wasn't the fault of the man who threw 328 innings with the league's second best ERA--and observes that Catfish pitched his entire career not making trouble for himself. Hunter rarely walked anyone--his career BB/9 was just 2.4--and while he gave up a fair amount of home runs (374 in exactly 500 career games) that was largely because Hunter was almost always going to throw strike one, so while he gave up some home runs on that pitch, he also got a lot of outs that way and was nearly always throwing from ahead in the count.

As an aside, I would've liked Hunter as a pitcher, and not just because he was a Yankee. Home runs annoy me but pitchers who walk guys (and go to long counts doing so) just drive me absolutely insane, as you might've noticed. Hunter almost never walked anyone, threw a lot of strikes and did it quickly. That's my kind of guy.

Friday, April 07, 2006

April 7th, 1944

Bill Stoneman Born

That's the same Bill Stoneman who is currently GM of the Angels, a job he's had since 1999 and in the time had three trips to the playoffs, including, of course, a World Series in 2002. Stoneman was also a mediocre pitcher for many years. Although a sometime horse, he threw 294 innings for the Expos in 1971, a huge total even in those days; Stoneman was second in the league.

What got me thinking about Stoneman was actually something from yesterday, which was Kenny Williams' birthday. That's Kenny Williams, a mediocre player in his own right, but also GM of a World Championship team. This means two of the last four World Series have been won by teams with an ex-mediocre player as their GM, and that says nothing of the A's, who've averaged more than ninety-five wins a year with ex-mediocre player Billy Beane at their head. And that leaves out the Diamondbacks who made the playoffs three times and won once with Joe Garagiola Jr., as their GM. And while Joe isn't technically an ex-mediocre player, he is the son of one, which kind of counts.

Is employing an ex-mediocre player as GM the key to winning a title? Well, probably not. But hey, at this point, it couldn't hurt the Royals or D-Rays to try it. I'm sure Joe McEwing isn't doing much these days.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


April 6th, 1999

Denny McLain Has Pension Garnished

Judge: Mr. Simpson, that means half your paycheck goes to Bart
Homer: Half goes to Bart, half goes to my Vegas wife, what's left for Moe?

Denny McLain--still the last pitcher to win thirty games in a season in 1968--had a fairly rough post-baseball life. In early 1970, less than 18 months away from his thirtieth win, McLain was suspended by Bowie Kuhn for bookmaking. In the eighties, McLain was sentenced to a twenty-five year prison term for a variety of charges, he served twenty-nine months but released after a judge overturned the sentence.

McLain has been back in prison a few times since then and had many low points, including a stint working in a 7-11. Perhaps the ultimate low point came on this day in '99. McLain, who had recently been convicted of raiding a company pension fund, had his own pension fund garnished in order to pay off the debts he had accumulated. As it turned out, this was only adding insult to injury for McLain, as didn't have control of the pension fund anyway; a few weeks earlier all of McLain's sources of income had been awarded to his ex-wife in a divorce preceding, while McLain was saddled with all the couple's (and his own) debts.

This was probably something of a worse day for his ex, I suppose, she being the one who actually lost the money. Nonetheless, as bad days go, this was probably high on the list, even for Denny McLain.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

April 5th, 1978

Brandon Backe Born

I apologize for this, my second repeat in three days, but I've had larger projects (for which read: school dominating my ilfe) to concern myself with lately. I promise a long string of original entries in the next couple of weeks as my life becomes slighly less hectic.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

April 4th, 1969

Carlos Reyes Born

Now here's something you don't see every day: a switch-hitting pitcher. Reyes was a fairly mediocre pitcher; his best years were 1998 and 1999 when he posted about average ERAs in middle relief for the Padres and Red Sox. The rest of Reyes' career was underwhelming however, although he did provide some league average innings for the A's in 1996, he surfaced for the D-Rays in 2003 after being out of baseball in 2001-02, but his performance that year (5.22 in 39 2/3 IP) probably kept out of the big leagues for good.

Reyes wouldn't have merited an impression otherwise but for his apparent switch-hitter. Reyes was a righty thrower, so I assume that's his natural side but I'm generally puzzled how he even revealed himself as a switch-hitter. Reyes only came to the plate five times in his career, never batted more than once a season and only reached on one occasion, drawing a walk in 2003. I suppose it's snide--if probably true--to observe that perhaps Reyes should've spent less time learning to switch hit and more time learning to pitch. But hey, he got a blog out of it, so at least it did him some good.

Monday, April 03, 2006

April 3rd, 2001

David Eckstein Debuts

This might've been the smartest I wrote in a blog all of last year, so I see no harm in repeating last year's April 3rd.

Site News: As you might've noticed there on the left side of the screen, I crossed the 10,000 visitor mark today. Oddly enough, #10,000 was a visitor from Bulgaria, but I suppose baseball is an international game; maybe Bulgaria will get a team in the next WBC. Anyway, I just wanted to once again thank everyone who comes here, either just every now-and-then or every day. Thanks, and keep on coming by.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

April 2nd, 1937

Dick Radatz Born

Dick Radatz was nicknamed "The Monster"--supposedly by Mickey Mantle--because there was a lot monstrous about him. For one thing, Radatz stood 6'6" and weighed somewhere in the 235-250 range, which is a big man now but was huge when he pitched (1962-1969), espcailly for pitchers. The other montorous about Radatz was his fastball. He threw it upwards of the eighty percent of the time and did so at a startling velocity, usually around ninety-five. Compounding all this, Radatz, a righty, pitched to righties from a low sidearm angle, for an all-around terrifying package. (For an idea of Radatz's motion, you can check out this photo strip, taken from a Red Sox yearbook of the period.)

All of this combined to make The Monster one astoundingly hard-to-hit pitcher for a while in the early 60s, despite never starting game, Radatz won 15 and 16 games in 1963 and '64, the latter year finishing in the top ten in the wins while also leading the league with twenty-nine saves. All said in his first three years in Boston Radatz went 40-21 with 78 saves and a 2.17 ERA in 414 innings. Those innings would catch up with Radatz however, as lost it in 1965 (Radatz blames his problems on trying to fix what wasn't broken in developing a third pitch to compliment his fastball and slider) and by 1966 the most truly monstrous thing about Radatz was his control as he was walking 5.4 men per nine. Radatz hung around for a few more years, but he was out of baseball by 1969. After his retirement Radatz worked in the media in Boston, but died early last year after falling down stairs in his home.

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