Saturday, May 13, 2006

May 13th, 1958

Stan Musial Gets 3,000th Hit

I spent most of the day traveling up to Baltimore, watching the Orioles destroy the woeful Royals and then getting back to DC, nothing original today. Instead we'll honor the accomplishment of one of the most overlooked great players and give some more "blog time" to Stan Musial.

Friday, May 12, 2006

May 12th, 1978

Amos Otis Hits Inside-the-Park Home Run

Amos Otis, whose departure from the Mets I've written about before, was a speedy guy so his hitting an inside-the-park was, although remarkable, probably not unprecedented. That being said, even in his wildest dreams even "AO" probably didn't imagine an inside-the-park like this one.

Before explaining why, it is somewhat necessary to set the scene. The Royals were hosting the Yankees. At the time the teams had something of a fierce rivalry, with the Yankees have defeated the Royals in dramatic five-game (full length, in those days) ALCS the previous two years. On this day the Yankees appeared to once again have the upper hand, taking a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning behind starter Ed Figueroa. Figueroa was cruising entering the ninth and retired Hal McRae and Al Cowens for the first two outs. With the Royals in their death throes, Figueroa walked Darrell Porter to keep the inning alive. Yankee manager Billy Martin then went to Goose Gossage to close out the game.

Gossage appeared to have succeeded as Otis lifted a routine fly ball to right-center field. Reminiscent of Game Five of this year's ALDS however, a lack of communication among Yankee outfielders would cost them dearly, as centerfielder Paul Blair (filling in after pinch-running for regular Mickey Rivers) and Reggie Jackson collided, letting the ball fall untouched. Otis hustled around the bases and incredibly managed to score, thus having hit a walk-off inside-the-park home run; and doubtless unleashing bedlam among the more than thirty-thousand who had attended.

As so often happened in the history of baseball, the Yankees would have the last laugh, however, sending the Royals home in the ALCS for the third year in a row, with Gossage nailing down the save in the final game to preserve a 2-1 lead, despite Otis' leadoff double in the ninth. That was still to come, however, and on this day Otis and the Royals ruled supreme.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

May 11th, 1971

Steve Dunning Hits Grand Slam

Steve Dunning, as a little research will reveal, finished his career with just four home runs, but twenty-three victories. Put more simply, he was a pitcher. Not really much of a pitcher, as those twenty-three wins indicate, although he had been the MVP of the Stanford baseball team and Cleveland's number one draft pick. Dunning never won more than eight games in a season (1971) and finished with an underwhelming 4.56 ERA in over six hundred lifetime innings.

Pitchers as a rule don't hit many grand slams (they don't hit many home runs, of course) but Dunning's feat was a particularly remarkable one. Dunning's grand slam came off of the A's Diego Segui (father of recent Major League David Segui) but the really important part of what Dunning did is the year. In 1972 the American League introduced the designated hitter rule, meaning their pitchers went from hitting not many home runs to hitting almost literally none.

Not surprisingly, this not did exactly boost pitcher grand slam numbers. In fact, no American League pitcher has hit a grand slam in a game guessed it: Steve Dunning. With the advent of interleague play, it figures to be only a matter of time before an AL pitcher finally jerks one with the bases juiced. For now however, Steve Dunning holds the title.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

May 10th, 1938

Merritt Ranew Born

"[Fred] Talbot and Ranew get into a deep discussion about the South. Ranew is from Georgia and Talbot is from Virginia. Talbot started it because he said that all guys from the South are dumb.
'Well, where the hell are you from?' Ranew says, because he knows the answer.
‘I'm from the north part of the South,’ Talbot says.
‘It's better down where I live than it is where you are,’ Ranew says.
‘Everything but the people,’ Talbot says. ‘The people are dumb’
...’I tell you one thing,’ Ranew says. ‘We got better-looking guys down where I am.’
Talbot is shocked. ‘Better looking?’ he says. ‘For crissakes, look at yourself. You've got hair like a sissy.’


Today's Marvin Milkes' [story concerns]...Merritt Ranew. Ranew was called up to fill in for Larry Haney, who had to put in some service time. Ranew had been hitting like .400 in [Triple-A] Vancouver and in his first game here he got two hits. Today he got another and he's hitting the ball good every time up. So Marvin Milkes told him, 'You keep hitting the ball like that and you'll be back up here again sometime.'

And never is heard a discouraging word."

~Jim Bouton, Ball Four

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

May 9th, 1999

Mike Stanton Starts Game

Mike Stanton has been a very effective reliever for many years, appearing in every post-season from 1991 through 2002 for the Braves, Red Sox, Rangers, and Yankees. Stanton accumulated a 5-2 record in those post seasons appearances with a 2.10 ERA in more than 55 innings, including 3-0, 1.54 in the World Series. Stanton was pretty good in the regular season too. Although it's tempting to say he's hung on too long, Stanton has a 2.40 ERA so far this year for the Nats, bringing his career ERA down to a more-than-respectable 3.78.

That career ERA has come in more than a thousand games--he's the active leader and has a chance this season to move into the top five all-time--but this day in May was the only time ever that Stanton started a game. Caught short of a starter, the Yankees (managed by Don Zimmer filling in for Joe Torre who was recovering from prostate cancer) decided to have the rarely-seen "bullpen start." It worked as Stanton went four shutout innings, Jason Grimsley came in and gave up a run over his four innings and Mariano Rivera preserved a Yankee victory.

The choice of Stanton to start was notable as he had previously appeared in 552 games as reliever without, as I noted, starting. The start represented a new record, breaking the previous one held by Gary Lavelle who went 443 games before his first start. And here's something I just thought of: assuming Stanton stays reasonably healthy and effective, this season he should cross the barrier of five hundred games after his first (and only) start, which is probably also a record. Mike Stanton: most games pitched in before his first start, and most games pitched in without a start after. Might not go on a Hall of Fame plaque, but it's still a pretty good accomplishment.

Monday, May 08, 2006

May 8th, 1878

Paul Hines Turns Triple Play

Except for that headline, Paul Hines would be a pretty forgotten player. That's a shame, because his story is one worth hearing and he was a terrific ballplayer besides. Hines won the Triple Crown for the NL in 1878 and was for many years the center fielder for the team that would eventually become the Cubs. Hines was deafened after being beaned in 1886, and later gained a patronage job from President William McKinley. He died in 1935, apparently in a nursing home after people in baseball began to care for Hines who was arrested on pickpocket charges in 1921 having lost nearly all his sight in addition to his hearing.

The headline nevertheless remains his claim-to-fame, not just because it was an unassisted triple play (a rarity even today) but because it was, if records are to be believed, the first unassisted triple play in history. Hines caught a long out and then retired both runners by stepping on either second or third (reports vary; second would seem more logical given he was a center fielder) thus putting out the runners who had passed the base, as were the rules at the time.

So next time you need a trivia question (and not that will get you decked in the mouth) you can think of Paul Hines and his feat. But do try to remember him for more than that, he surely deserves it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

May 7th, 2003

David Horton Arrested

That's not a player, so don't bother trying to discover his stats. His arrest is nonetheless related to baseball. Most ballparks these days have at least one, sometimes more, between inning promotions where they scan the crowd and show fans. At Yankee games, at least last season, it was the "Delta Dental Smile Cam." In Cincinnati in 2003, they had the "Kiss Cam" where the camera focuses on fans, to encourage them to kiss. I've seen it at other events and while silly, it can be fun.

It was not fun, however, for Horton. Horton had served two and a half years of a four-year sentence for stabbing two men and was released on parole. As is standard, a condition of said parole was that Horton had to stay out of trouble. Horton failed to do this, however, being arrested for possessing more than five-hundred grams of cocaine, including nearly fifty he sold to an undercover officer. He was charged and released on bail. After that however, Horton dropped off the map, failing to show up for later court appearances or check in with his parole officer.

Despite this, Horton was not exactly cause for launching a man hunt, so chances are if he had laid low--maybe moved to another city--he could've ducked the charges. Laying low was apparently not Horton strong suit however, as he not only decided to attend the Reds' game at the Great American Ballpark with his girlfriend, but further allowed himself to be on the Kiss Cam!

When someone is so foolish, the universe often seems to punish them. In this case, that punishment came in the form of Horton's parole officer, who was sitting in the stands. Noticing the fugitive on the big screen, the officer rounded up a couple of
Cincinnati’s finest, who went to the section and arrested him. After a few months of pre-trial maneuverings and such, Horton (wisely) struck a plea and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for the combination of his parole violations and drug charges. Assuming he's not been paroled--a safe assumption I imagine--this June will mark Horton's three-year anniversary back as a guest of the state.

The lesson then, don't break the law. But if you do, stay off the Kiss Cam.

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