Saturday, July 29, 2006

July 29th, 2005

Richard Barbieri Returns to Washington DC

With my diploma (metaphorically, but also actually, it came in the mail yesterday) in hand, I will be returning to the home of both my college education and of the Nats for a weekend of visiting friends. So I will rerun an old classic, on our nation's capital's best ballplayers.

Friday, July 28, 2006

July 28th, 1925

Freddie Fitzsimmons Born

It isn't often that you can trade a thirty-five year old pitcher putting up a 4.61 ERA for a twenty-four year old pitcher and end up looking pretty bad, but it does happen. Such was the case with "Fat" Freddie Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons was the sometime ace of the Giants' staff, winning twenty games once and fifteen or more seven times. By 1937 however, he was looking washed. Fitzsimmons had gone 10-7 in limited time the year before and was now 2-2 with the aforementioned 4.61 ERA. The Dodgers however, decided to take a chance on Fat Freddie, and exchanged young Tom Baker for him.

As it turned out, Fitzsimmons wasn't all that great for the Dodgers either that year--but he was also hardly cooked. Freddie lasted another six seasons in Brooklyn (until he was forty-three) winning as many as sixteen games in a season and once throwing seven shut out innings in the World Series. Baker meanwhile flamed out in a huge way for the Giants, posting a 4.37 ERA in just thirty-seven innings before being out of the Majors for good at age twenty-five in 1938.

As the deadline approaches, it is easy to look back on veteran-for-prospect deals gone horribly wrong (
Scott Kazmir, anyone?) but it is worth remembering that sometimes it is the team with the veteran that wins out.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Editor's Note: There is almost literally nothing I like more than when one of my guest writers of the past writes to me--without prompting--offering an interesting story and does it in a way that I only need edit it slightly to produce a wonderful entry. So thank you, Chris Jaffe, and everyone else, enjoy the blog.

July 27th, 1946

Hal Newhouser Wins 20th Game

This game gave the Tigers a record of 52-39. Winning 20 games in 91 decisions is a pace no one has matched since then. Even Denny McLain took 100 decisions. The only person I know of to get to 20 before the team got to 100 decision came, incredibly, that same year in the same league when Bob Feller did it.

As a result of the game Newhouser was on pace for 34 wins. Neat.

Also, it meant the team was under .500 when he wasn't starting. [Ed. Note: Not so Neat.]

Want more? Well, he did it in 22 starts. I know Roger Clemens is the only person to ever have a record of 20-1, so Newhouser should've been 20-2 at the time. (I forget if he had any relief decisions that year but IIRC, he had no relief losses). It's especially interesting because there's always been a question about Newhouser - how good was he really? He had huge year, but they were in the uber-depleted seasons of 1944-5. 1946 was his only "real" season where he did great, and he fizzled shortly afterwards. Well, his performance that year indicates his fizzling was caused by arm erosion. He won more games by his 30th birthday than any other liveballer, and that took it's toll. (If you're curious, if you check the Hal Newhouser page of Baseball Reference’s Bullpen you'll see a list of all liveballers who won 150 before turning 30. There's only 16 and half blew their arms out in their early 30s; the other half largely just saw considerably reduced effectiveness.) Hal Newhouser won 188 games before turning 30. He won his 189th on his 30th birthday.

In many ways, this game marked his high tide as a pitcher. He didn't win again until August fifteenth and won only six more in the remaining sixty-three games. The next year he went 17-17. He was 25 years old in 1946, and this game marked his 108th career victory. He had only ninety-nine more left in his arm.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

July 26th, 1977

Joaquin Benoit Born

I know--and I don't say this to brag, merely as an observation--a lot about baseball. I spend way too much time, thinking about it, watching it, listening to it, reading about it and probably some other "verb-ing it" combinations I've forgotten. As much as I know, though, I'm always a little stunned (and perhaps disappointed) by how much I don't know. Obviously there are some not-so-good old time ballplayers of whom I have never heard--as an example, born today in 1894 was Larry Woodall who played every year of the 1920s for the Tigers, hit .268 and faded into obscurity--but even modern players tend to escape me.

Such is the case of Joaquin Benoit. He came into yesterday's Yankee game and while I knew the name, I couldn't really say anything about him. Was he a started converted to a reliever? A flamed out prospect? Had he been with Texas his whole career, or traded at some point? This wasn't exactly a difficult thing to discover, Benoit had indeed been with Texas his whole career, and he’s bounced back-and-forth between starting and relieving most of his career though he's pitched exclusively from the pen this year. Benoit was signed as an amateur free agent in 1996 when he was just eighteen and reached the Majors five years later, making his status as a hot-shot prospect unlikely.

The internet has made this sort of information incredibly easy to find, but every Joaquin Benoit (and Larry Woodall) reminds me that for all I know about baseball, there's ten times as much I don't know.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

July 25th, 1935

Larry Sherry Born

Larry Sherry is part of an elite club, those World Series MVPs who were otherwise mediocre ballplayers but who had one truly great year and capped it off with the MVP trophy. The only other real person in that group is my favorite player Scott Brosius (1998) although there are some borderline others like Frank Viola (1987) and Bob Turley (1957).

Sherry was just in his rookie year with the Dodgers in 1959, and but pitched nearly a hundred innings with an excellent 2.19 ERA and managed a 7-2 record with three saves. In the World Series Sherry was even better. He saw time in Game Two, giving up a run in three innings to seal up a Dodger win, and came back in Game Three to nail down the save for Don Drysdale. In Game Four, Sherry came in relief of Roger Craig and pitched two shutout innings while the Dodgers rallied to earn his first victory of the series. In Game Six, Sherry relieved Johnny Podres with one out in the fourth and pitched the rest of the game, scattering four hits and no runs to earn his second (and the clinching) victory.

For the series, Sherry was 2-0 with two saves, and a 0.71 ERA across just over twelve innings. He was a no-brainer pick for the MVP, as no Dodger pitched had more innings, more wins, more saves and among the best ERAs. Sherry was never as good again as he was in 1959, either in the series or in the regular season although he lasted through the 1968 season by bouncing around the league. He always has 1959 though.

Monday, July 24, 2006

July 24th, 1965

Joe Oliver Born

To Whom it May Concern at the Donross Card Corporation,

Enclosed is a picture which does not depict me being knocked on my somewhat sizeable behind by an inside pitch. Please consider using it for my card next year.

Joe Oliver

Sunday, July 23, 2006

July 23d, 1969

Henry Mercedes Born

Almost exactly a month ago I did an entry on the all-car brand pitching rotation. Without even looking, I'm going to assume it would be damn near impossible to create an all-car brand starting line-up, especially since the people would have to not only have car names, but also fit in the defensive alignment. The other thing is that while my pitching rotation wasn't too great, it at least had Whitey Ford out there, giving them a chance once every five days; if Henry Mercedes is anything to go on, the all-car name hitters would likely be shut out three or four days a week.

Bouncing around as a back-up catcher, Mercedes spent time in Oakland, Kansas City and Texas, accumulating a career .247 average and although he showed a decent batting eye (walking about once every ten plate appearances) when that was combined with the anemic batting average and a total lack of any power Mercedes was unable to hang on even as a back-up. He was out of the league by 1997, having played in fewer than a hundred career games.

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