Saturday, June 10, 2006

June 10th, 1997

A's at Tigers

One interesting thing about truly bad teams--maybe the only interesting thing about them--is the variety of different ways they find to lose games. This year's desperately bad Kansas City Royals, for example, managed to blow a 7-4 ninth inning lead against Baltimore after their closer walked the bases loaded with no one out. The 2003 Tigers lost a seventeen inning game during which the Yankees deployed David Wells (fresh off the DL) to pitch almost six innings.

The 1997 A's weren't quite as bad as those teams, but they nonetheless found new and different ways to lose. Facing the Tigers (who weren't altogether that good themselves) the A's turned five double plays, including old standards 6-4-3, 4-6-3 and 5-4-3, plus the sometimes seen line-out 1-3 double play and the always exciting 8-2 double play on a (failed) sac fly. That runner gunned out at home was one of three the Tigers had thrown out at the plate, all by A's center fielder Damon Mashore. Today excepted, Mashore had a career that was matched in its level of mediocrity only by that of his father, Clyde Mashore.

For the day, the A's managed to get five "free" outs from the double plays, plus the two "free" outs from Mashore's defense. That's seven outs, more than a quarter of the twenty-seven they needed. Despite that, the A's still managed to lose the game (which, incidentally, marked the debut of Boston post-season hero Mark Bellhorn) 6-4. From the depths of a bad team, a new and creative way to lose a game: the free-outs-but-all-for-naught loss.

Friday, June 09, 2006

June 9th, 1989

Darryl Strawberry Hits 200th Home Run

Apologies today, a very late trip picking someone up from the airport has forced me to rely on a re-run. I'll be back with new (and weather-free) entries over the weekend and beyond.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

June 8th, 2006

Weather Week Continues

So the headline is cheating a little--ok, a lot. But this is worth it, on a couple of levels. The inspiration for "Weather Week" was the first rain out, which I blogged on a few days ago. In that entry I wrote that the game might be legend, since much of early baseball is. That second part is true, but I can now say for sure that the game is not legend, and is almost surely the first rain out ever. I am sure of that information on account of an e-mail I receieved from Scott Sanders, the Archivist at Antioch College (more on that in a bit). With Scott's permission, I'm reprinting his e-mail to me here:

As the Antioch College Archivist, I can confirm that the rainout in question was no legend. The Red Stockings schedule for that year is on display at the Reds Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, and our college Nine is listed as the first game. It was a rematch of a practice game we played at the Red Stockings home park, the Union Grounds (there's a train station there that's now a museum) in April. They scheduled a handful of tune-ups against local clubs before their big debut, and Antioch College played in one of them. The Red Stockings owner, Aaron B. Champion, had been an Antioch student in the 1850s, so he's probably a good reason why we were first on the schedule. Of course, back then we were just a few hours away by train, and what with their second game scheduled in Mansfield, OH, Yellow Springs where Antioch is located is kind of on the way. Newspapers of the time (primarily the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette) confirm that the Red Stockings went to Yellow Springs on the 30th, stayed the night at our finest hotel (ok, the only one), but were unable to get in the next day's game due to rain. The team went on to Mansfield and history from there. The Reds Hall of Fame Hall of Famer director Greg Rhodes wrote a fine book about that season called The First Boys of Summer which I highly recommend.

Being the helpful sort that he is--and he most definitely is, Scott also managed to answer another one of my questions from the blog:

The tiny Protestant sect that founded [Antioch College] called themselves simply "The Christian Church," and they named their college after the Antioch in Syria, where the book of Acts says the disciples of Jesus were first referred to as Christians. It's all this guy Antiochus' fault. He was this ancient ruler who named all this stuff after himself, hence the multiple Antiochs.

So we can now close the book on a pair of mysteries, with a big assist (and a big thank you) to Scott.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

June 7th, 1989

(Not a) Rain Out

Continuing this week's weather theme--unplanned, I assure you--we come to today, the first non-rain out in Major League history. At first blush that seems kind of silly, since technically every game not played in the rain (which is to say, a healthy percentage of all games played) is a non-rain out, but today was a special kind.

The Blue Jays, who had opened the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) for baseball just a couple of days earlier, were hosting the Brewers. It started off as a nice day in Toronto, but as the game went on, the weather began to turn. By the fifth inning, it was raining hard enough for the umpires to pull the teams off the field. Unlike the situation in every other ballpark (at that point) however, the umpires didn't have to retreat to their locker room to check the weather and hope for the best. All they had to do was put in a call to stadium management and order the roof closed.

Approximately twenty minutes later the game resumed as the roof had closed, keeping out the rain and allowing baseball to continue. For the first time then, despite game-stopping rain going on in the exact same vicinity as the game, baseball could continue as the Jays withstood a Brew Crew rally to win four to two. The first non-rain out. How appropriate for weather week.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June 6th, 1957

Fog Out

Having done another weather-related first just a few days ago, it only seems fitting to do another one today. There are a lot of things that can force the cancellation or halting of a ball game. The still most popular option, even in the days of domes and retractable roofs is rain, but one occasionally sees a game snowed out. (Rain is still sometimes a problem in the age of domes; today in Houston in 1976 the city was largely flooded from a rain storm, forcing the cancellation of a game even though the AstroDome itself remained bone dry; twenty fans had actually canoed to the ballpark in the hopes the game would be played anyway.) Darkness used to be the cause of many games being called early, but stadium lighting has eliminated that. Every once in a great while, games that go an especially long time were called on account of a curfew, although I believe the Major Leagues have since abolished that.

On this day in 1957, however, the Dodgers and Cubs discovered a to that point unknown reason for calling off a Major League game: fog. When the teams (and umpires) arrived at Ebbets Field, they noticed it was covered with the sort of fog better suited to Victorian-era London. So foggy, in fact, that they couldn't even see the outfield from home plate. (By the way, I deserve lots of credit here for not making a Mel Tormé joke.) The umpires waited nearly an hour and a half, but it became apparent that the fog was not lifting.

The game was called off, producing the first "Fog-Out" in Major League history. Although it was probably unrelated, one can't help but notice that the Dodgers moved out of Brooklyn and to California the very next season. Of course, as it turned out, the joke was on the O'Malley family, Brooklyn might've had occasional fog, but Los Angeles has perpetual smog.

Monday, June 05, 2006

June 5th, 1977

Dodgers Retired Number

The number was twenty-four, and it belonged to Walter Alston, the man who had been their manager until the very end of the previous season all the way back to 1954. Alston's record was quite remarkable as a manager; going across a period of more than two decades, Alston won the eighth most games in history with the seventeenth best winning percentage. He won four World Series with the Dodgers--including their first ever in Brooklyn--and two other pennants.

The list of players managed by Alston reads like an all-time team for the Dodgers: Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Don Sutton are only some of the names who played (and prospered) under "Smokey," as Alston was popularly known.

Alston's retirement cleared the way for Tommy Lasorda to take over as skipper, he would hold that position for another twenty years, giving the Dodgers an almost unparalleled run of consistency at the head of the team, a consistency they've worked hard at throwing away, having five managers in the ten years since Lasorda retired. It's enough to make Alston, who died in 1981, roll over in his grave.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

June 4th, 1957

Paul Krichell Dies

A look at Paul Krichell's statistics on BaseballReference would seem to suggest a pretty forgettable guy. Krichell saw time in just two seasons, 1911-12, as a back-up catcher with the St. Louis Browns. He played in just eighty-seven games over two years, managing a .222/.295/.259 line that was every bit as bad as looks. He also managed to make twenty-one errors (and allow six passed balls) in just eighty-four games behind the plate. As I said, very forgettable.

Krichell is remembered, however, and rightly so, for something else entirely: Krichell might have been the greatest scout who ever lived. After coaching for the Red Sox in 1919, Krichell followed Ed Barrow to New York and became a scout for the Yankees. Krichell would serve as a scout until his death. The collection of players he discovered and/or signed goes a long way to explaining the Yankees' dominance in that period. Krichell is credited with bringing in all but one member of the Murderers' Row infield, as he was responsible for second baseman Tony Lazzeri, shortstop Mark Koenig and, most impressively, Lou Gehrig.

To find a player of Gehrig's caliber would be impressive enough for a scout, but Krichell found another Hall of Famer, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford. Although not quite of Ford's quality, Krichell also found "The Springfield Rifle" Vic Raschi who won twenty-one games three years in a row for the Yankees, and was 5-3 with a 2.24 ERA in six World Series for the Yankees--all victories.

Krichell isn't in the Hall of Fame, no one is strictly for scouting, but if the Hall ever decides to start admitting scouts (and it really should) Krichell should be in the front of the line.

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