Saturday, August 05, 2006

August 5th, 1939

Tommie Aaron Born

Why is it, and I'm genuinely curious, this isn't some sort of smart-ass question that Tommie Aaron finished with thirteen home runs, ninety-four RBIs and a career .229 average, while his brother Hank finished with seven hundred and fifty-six home runs, two-thousand two hundred and ninety-seven RBIs (both most all-time, of course) and a career .305 average? There are lots of examples of things like this, fantastic players with virtually inept siblings: Honus and Butts Wagner (no, really, Butts, they actually called him that), Christy and Henry Mathewson, Jose and Ozzie Canseco; to say nothing of sibling pairs where one player isn't bad, but the other just blows him away: Pedro and Ramon Martinez, for example.

There is seemingly no logical explanation for these things. They were presumably raised in nearly identical surroundings, have the same generic make-up, all the rest. And yet Honus Wagner is the greatest shortstop who lived while Butts could barely hit .225. Maybe there's something in the genetics, Butts Wagner, Henry Mathewson and Tommie Aaron all died well before their siblings; only Butts made it to fifty. Perhaps the superior (as a ballplayer, that is) sibling simply hit the lucky point on the genetic wheel. Or maybe there's something else altogether. I suspect we'll never know.

Friday, August 04, 2006

August 4th, 1970

Dax Jones Born

His given name was Dax Xenos Jones, suggesting his parents had something of an "x" thing going on. The middle name complicates things a bit, but I think "Dax Jones" sounds like perhaps what the Men in Black would use to describe aliens whom they hadn't identified by name, something like an extraterrestrial version of "John Doe."

It's a good thing Jones has the name, because otherwise there's not much to say about the man. He played just one season as an outfielder for the Giants, mostly center field, and couldn't hit at all, barely getting his OPS within fifty percent of league average and hitting .172 in the bargain. It is hardly surprising that he failed to return to the Majors after that season, and despite the distinctive name records of him stop shortly thereafter.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

August 3rd, 1959

Jim Gott Born

"In many ways Gott offers a complete contrast with [Orel] Hershiser. Hershiser is intergalactically famous. Gott is not. No Bob Hope specials for him. Hershiser works in one of the nation's two biggest media markets. Gott worked in one of the smallest of the 26 major league markets. Los Angeles is synonymous with glitter. It should not be. It is as much the home of gang as Hollywood. (Gott, by the way, was born in Hollywood.) Pittsburgh is synonymous with sweat and soot. It should not be. The image of Pittsburgh as the Steel City is more than a generation out of date. No steel is made within the city limits. There is only one producing steel mill in the metropolitan area. The city's largest employer is the University of Pittsburgh. But the biggest contrast between Hershiser and Gott is what they do. Hershiser has a star's job: starting pitcher. Gott's job is to prevent disasters and sometimes tidy up messes that other pitchers have made. Hershiser has the glamour of a surgeon. Gott is one of those harried doctors you see--and are mighty glad to see--coping with crises in busy emergency rooms. When major league managers reach for the dugout phone to call the bullpen they should dial 911. The Book of Job--the relief pitcher's handbook--got it right: Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward."

~George F. Will, Men at Work

[Editor's Note: That quotes comes from Job Chapter 5, Verse 7 if anyone is curious. Gott would join Hershiser and the Dodgers in 1990 and pitch several good years--notably 1992 and '93--before leaving the game after a season in Philly in 1995]

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

August 2nd, 1979

Thurman Munson Dies

First off, apologies for the not-so-daily postings lately, I've been having major trouble with Blogger (the software/web site that powers the site) that I'm hoping are worked out, but I basically have no control over.

Our blog today is actually a pair of throwbacks, both on Thurman Munson, the late Yankee captain. In something of a bad, albeit unintentional choice, I wrote my piece on Munson the man for his
birth while my piece on Munson the ballplayer was for his death. Even if they ought to be flip-flopped, I think they work pretty well as companion pieces for giving an overview of the Captain.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

August 1st, 1968

Shigetoshi Hasegawa Born

Remembered of course, as the best ever Japanese born converted starter who became a closer late in his career while posting an astounding 300 ERA+. Actually, he's probably more remembered for being what must one of only a handful (only one?) of Major Leaguers with an eight syllable (Shig-a-toe-c Has-e-ga-wa) name. Yankee Stadium's legendary public address announcer Bob Sheppard has said that Hasegawa was one of his personal favorite names to annouce and one could hear the relish with which Sheppard would announce the pitcher.

That 300 ERA+ came in 2003, when Hasegawa was thirty-six and his countryman Kaz Sasaki either flamed or flaked out, depending on how you look at it. Forced into the closer's role, Hasegawa was masterful, recording sixteen saves with a 1.48 ERA, despite an astoundingly low thirty-two strike outs in seventy-three innings. (That's not even four per nine.) Given the K rate and his age, it was little surprise Hasegawa was never that good again, and he retired after last year.

Monday, July 31, 2006

July 31st, 1888

Pembroke Finlayson Born

Well, should I ever have to impersonate a British Lord--an unlikely possibility I'll grant you--I now have my name picked out. Pembroke, Lord Finlayson. Good times.

Good times were not, sadly, in the cards for the actual Pembroke Finlayson. Born in South Carolina, he reached the Majors as a pitched at the age of nineteen, throwing a third of an inning for whatever the Dodgers were calling themselves in 1908 and seven more in 1909. He ended his Major League career with a rather brutal 11.05 ERA. Even more sadly, Finlayson died just a few years later at age twenty-three. Newspapers reported the cause as "peritonitis" of the heart, the definition of which you're just better off looking at here than having me try to explain it. Papers also mentioned the peritonitis was caused by a pitching injury, I can't quite work out if that's possible or not, but it marked a sad ending to Finlayson's story.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

July 30th, 1957

Steve Trout Born

Steve Trout--who was Esteban Loaiza for the 1987 Yankees the way Esteban Loaiza was himself for the 2004 edition--has prompted a new thought for me. While in the past I've done ballplayers named for cars and birds, it only seems fitting to do fish today, in honor of Mr. Trout.

While there are a fair number of "Fisher" and "Fishburn" ballplayers, there's no actual "Fish" so we'll have to make do without a category heading. That's not to say there aren't any other fish ballplayers. The best one is probably Tim Salmon who although overrated on account of his status as a member of All-Character team was a pretty damn fine player for a lot of years. He easily trounces the two of other Salmons, Roger and Chico. Steve can sadly not claim himself as the best pitching Trout, that honor falls to
Dizzy Trout. The 1880s and '90s saw the career of one Oyster Burns (and before all of you write me, I know that oysters aren't technically fish, but they're in the seafood section of the menu so they're in here) who was a pretty good hitter--thrice finishing in the top ten in batting--and also led the league in saves twice.

Like birds, one couldn't assemble a whole team out of the fish names. But our collection of underwater themed ballplayers is pretty decent, probably a better group than their aviary counterparts.

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