Saturday, April 15, 2006

April 15th, 1915

Joe Hoover Born

In the department of "Woah, that's creepy" there have been six Hoovers to ever play in the Majors. Of that six, four were either born, died, or both within the period April 12th through April 16th. Charlie and John Hoover--astoundingly, they're all no relation as best as I can figure--are on the only Major League Hoovers to not have April 12th-16th represent a significant point in their existence. (Although Charlie has a weird thing of his own, he was born on September 28th and died on September 21st.)

As for all the rest, that five-day span is a big one. The first is Buster Hoover, who was born on April 12th, 1863. He would go onto a mediocre career in the 1880s and 90s, but meanwhile Joe Hoover--that's our title guy--was born in April 15th, 1915. The next Hoover April event was, sadly, Buster's death which came on April 16th, 1929. Nothing major would happen for a while until 1976 when Phil Hoover--the most recent Major League Hoover--was born on April 14th. Just a few years later however, Dick Hoover (terrible name, that one) passed away on April 12th, 1981. To review then:

April 12th, 1863: Buster Hoover Born
April 15th, 1915: Joe Hoover Born
April 16th, 1929: Buster Hoover Dies
April 14th, 1976: Paul Hoover Born
April 12th, 1981: Dick Hoover Dies

Like I said, whoa, that's creepy.

Friday, April 14, 2006

April 14th, 1884

Wild Bill Luhrsen Born

He's in the Encyclopedia that way, one of--believe it or not--two men to make it as "Wild Bill," the other was Wild Bill Widner, who played 1887-1891 right around when this Wild Bill was learning to walk. The most famous--and best--Wild Bill is probably "Wild Bill" Donovan who won 186 games over an eighteen year career that lasted from 1898 all the way to 1918, and included twenty-five win seasons in 1901 and 1907.

The origin of the nickname seems to be either issues with either control of the ball (this Wild Bill walked almost five per nine innings over the course of his limited big league career) or control of oneself. Donovan is listed as one of Bill James' "Drinking Men" of the 1900s and Christy Mathewson characterized Donovan's readiness to pitch as "a delightful atmosphere of uncertainty." Either way, Wild Bill is probably not something one wanted to be, and not surprisingly there hasn't been one since 1950.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

April 13th, 1915

Oscar Grimes Born

Fair warning, this is going to be one of those entries where I start off one place and end up somewhere completely different, so head's up. Anyway, Oscar Grimes was a utility infielder for the Indians in the 40s; he later moved to the Yankees and was given a starting job at third base in 1945. Grimes could hit--he made the All-Star team--but was just a deplorable fielder, making thirty-one errors in a hundred and forty-one games.

Anyway, what really drew my attention about Grimes was his parents. Grimes was the son of Ray Grimes, a first baseman in the 20s and the nephew of Roy "Bummer" Grimes, who saw time at second base for the Giants in 1920. (None of them, incidentally, were any relation to Frank Grimes.) Ray and Roy, as you might've gathered by their similar names, were in fact twins; one of eight sets of twins to play in the Majors.

The most famous of those twins, of course, would be Jose and Ozzie Canseco; Jose is far-and-away the best twin to ever play in the big leagues, although Ray is probably second. I don't know why, maybe its something physiological, but twins--with the notable exception of Canseco (and his steroids, I suppose)--are almost entirely mediocre, or worse, players. So here we are, a long way from Oscar Grimes, but hey, I warned you.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

April 12th, 2004

Frank Seward Dies

I spent a fair amount of time studying this name, trying to remember why it seemed so familiar to me until I realized it was because he shares a last name with one-time Secretary of State William Henry Seward (1801-1872) who is a major player in my recently written thesis. In a related story, I need to get out more.

Anyway, this Seward--no relation, so far as I can tell--doesn't quite have the distinguished resume of the earlier Seward, who managed to keep European powers out of the Civil War and later purchased Alaska from Russia. Frank Seward attended Duke University (where one hopes he stayed away from the lacrosse team) and pitched one game for the Giants, a complete game loss, in 1943. Returning in 1944, Seward threw seven-eight and a third ineffective innings, managing a brutal 5.40 ERA (68 ERA+), although to be fair he might've slipped by largely unnoticed as the Giants had the second worst staff in baseball that year.

As players began to return from the war in 1945, fill-ins like Seward were rendered unnecessary and he never again appeared in the Majors, although he did pitch for the San Francisco Seals from 1945 and '47, hoping perhaps for another chance at the big leagues. It would never come and Seward was out of baseball thereafter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

April 11th, 1999

Scott Aldred Wins Game

Generally speaking, streaks broken with a win are fondly remembered. Anthony Young, who once lost a Major League record twenty-seven straight decisions no doubt feels nothing but good when remembering the win that broke the streak. The situation with Scott Aldred was not quite as desperate, but no doubt he remembers this day fondly as well.

Aldred's win came for the Devil Rays against the Red Sox. Aldred pitched just a third of an inning in a 4-4 game in the top of the eighth inning but after the Rays rallied for one in their half of the eighth and Roberto Hernandez shut the door in the ninth, he was given the win. Although Aldred had won as many as six games in a season before this, this win was still a big one and a streak breaker. On June 16th, 1997 Aldred had taken the loss (his tenth of the season) for the Twins in an interleague battle against the Pirates. He then appeared in another fifty games, all in relief, without recording a decision.

As it turned out, fifty appearances in a row without a decision was a Major League record--albeit a rather obscure one. Aldred's one-third of an inning victory then marked a happy end to Aldred having only the occasion hold to show for his efforts.

Monday, April 10, 2006

April 10th, 1946

Bob Watson Born

When I was doing my piece on mediocre players turned quality GMs the other day, I was originally going to include another GM with good success, Bob Watson. Watson was the architect of the 1996 Yankee championship team, and the 1998 team that might be the greatest ever was partially his as well. I ended up not including him in part because of the timeline doesn't really fit but largely because Watson was not really a mediocre player.

Actually, that's quite unfair. Watson is one of the best fifty first basemen of all time, while the players/GMs in that list aren't the top fifty anything of all-time. Watson's raw numbers aren't anything special (.295/.364/.447) but when viewed in the context his park and era--Watson played most of his career in the Astrodome in the 60s and 70s--he was pretty good. Watson was putting OPS over .800 at the time when the park average was under .700. As a player, Watson was probably best known for scoring baseball's millionth run, a feat which earned him both a million pennies (they went to charity) and a million Tootsie Rolls (to a Houston Boys and Girls club).

Watson was the first African-American GM, and the first to win a World Series; he was responsible for putting together the United States' gold medal winning team in the Sydney Olympics, and has been announced as filling the same role for the 2008 Beijing games. Watson's day job is as Major League Baseball Vice President for Rules and On-Field Discipline, so next time you hear about someone being suspended, that's Bob’s doing.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

April 9th, 1980

Frank Pastore Starts Game

Last year around this time I did an entry on Tom Seaver and his multiple Opening Day starts. Seaver shares the Major League record with Randy Johnson (the Unit tied it this year) but would have one more if not for the circumstances of Opening Day 1980. Seaver, coming off a 16-6, 3.14 year in 1979 was scheduled to make the start for the Reds. However, he was unable to do so, and was scratched from his start after being felled with the flu.

In his place Reds' skipper John McNamara (still a few years yet from his poor decision not to pull Bill Buckner in the '86 World Series) went to Frank Pastore. Pastore had pitched fewer than one hundred innings the year before but came through brilliantly on this day, throwing a shutout, giving up just three hits while striking out five. Pastore would pitch again a couple of weeks later, once more against the Braves and once more was dominant, giving up just one run on five hits in a complete game win.

April would make the season highlight for Pastore though he did put together a good year, going 13-7 with a 3.27 ERA. Pastore would blow out his arm a few years later--without ever having started another Opening Day--and discover God; he now hosts a drive-time radio show in LA. Seaver, of course, had a few Opening Day starts left in him and is now also involved in the media as a Mets' broadcaster.

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