Saturday, September 02, 2006

September 2nd, 2006

Kevin Kouzmanoff Homers

Although it is a few weeks yet before I can review my Predictions from this year and see how I actually did, today provides an opportunity to look back at how one of my off-hand comments has managed to come, unbelievably if only sort-of, true.

Last year Jeremy Hermida hit a grand slam in his first Major League at-bat, as a pinch-hitter no less. The following spring, on Hermida's birthday, I
blogged the topic. In the course of that entry, while observing how rare a feat it was, I mentioned, parenthetically and about ten percent seriously, that "now having said [how rare it is], six or seven people will do it this year to spite me." Well, six or seven people haven't done it this year, but given that no one has done it before Hermida save pitcher Bill Duggleby in 1898, that was to be expected. In fact, given it appeared to happen once every one hundred and seven years, chances were I wouldn't be around to see the next guy do it.

Of course, that's the best laid plans of mice and men. As it turned out, Kevin Kouzmanoff came to the plate today in Arlington, as the DH filling in for Travis Hafner. (Also worth noting, Hafner has six grand slams this year, tied for most ever in a single season.) This was the first at-bat of Kouzmanoff's career, and the bases were loaded. You can probably tell where this is going, as he jacked one over the wall to add four to the Indians' already one-run lead.

So "six or seven people" didn't hit grand slams in their first at-bat this year (although the year isn't over, and this is call-up time) but given that something had previously happened once every century has now happened twice in two years. Maybe I'll be a little more careful about what I say off-the-cuff in the future.

Friday, September 01, 2006

September 1st, 1938

Merlin Nippert Born

No kidding, that was his real name: Merlin Lee Nippert. The name has to come from the mythical wizard, there's just no other possible explanation although why Nippert's parents--who lived in Mangum, Oklahoma--choose to name their son after King Arthur's wizard I can't imagine.

As it turned out, this Merlin could've used some his namesake's magic. He appeared in just four games over the course of his career while pitching just six innings all in 1962 as a thirty-three year old. His performance that year would be best classified as acceptable, managing a 4.50 ERA. I don't know why it took him so long to reach the Majors, or why he was there only briefly, but I do know that for the ten days in September while Nippert was pitching for the Red Sox they had a certain magical air about them.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

August 31st, 2001

Crash Davis Dies

I'm usually loath to make something amusing out of someone's death, but this one is just too good to pass up. And yes, that's right, "Crash" Davis, just like the Kevin Costner character in Bull Durham. While that Crash Davis was the all-time minor league home run leader, but had just a cup of coffee in "the show," this one spent parts of three different seasons.

To be fair, real Davis saw the majority of his time--eighty-six of a career one hundred and forty-eight--in 1942 when the war was already beginning to take players away. Real Davis also wasn't much a hitter, managing only a lifetime .230 average and a measly .279 slugging percentage. I don't know if Ron Shelton (Bull Durham's writer/director, and himself a former minor league player) had this Davis in mind when he named his character--seems like too much of a coincidence for it to be otherwise--it provides a measure of immortality that might otherwise be lacking.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

August 30th, 1905

Ty Cobb Debuts

Having just returned from the Yankees' disheartening loss to the Tigers--although made somewhat less so given the Yankees reduced their magic number by two on the day--I'm both physically and mentally not up for blogging. I'll be back with a new one tomorrow, until then, enjoy the throwback.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

August 29th, 1960

Rusty Tillman Born

It's often interesting to plug a name into Google and see what pops up. For most players, save the active and those with names better known for other things (Terry Bradshaw, I'm looking at you), the first thing that pops up is their BaseballReference page. That's no different for Rusty Tillman, and it reveals an underwhelming three season career, stretched over seven years during which he hit just .232. The second link for Tillman continues to expand on his baseball career, as the Ultimate Mets Database provides a little headshot, and a bit of information on Tillman's season with the Mets in 1982.

The third entry is a bit of a shift, as it is a Wikipedia entry about another Rusty Tillman. This Rusty Tillman was a football player and coach, nicknamed "The King" for his play on special teams. He would later go on to, I suppose, infamy as coach of the New York/New Jersey Hitmen in the short-lived XFL. The fourth entry is a short listing on for the same Rusty Tillman, crediting him for his appearances on "XFL Gameday." Rounding out the top five is a press release from the WWE announcing Tillman's hiring as Hitmen coach, including an offer to log onto to buy tickets. Oops.

You might be wondering why I bothered to go through all this Google stuff for a relatively low quality ballplayer (and, evidently, not much better football coach). It's simple really. Although I don't quite dislike football with the vigor that some baseball fans--like my mother--do, I bring all this up to point out that even a ballplayer with a career .232 average rates higher on the world scale (or, at least, the Google scale) than a man who played several years in the NFL, and was at one point the head coach of a football in a league with national aspirations.

Monday, August 28, 2006

August 28th, 1907

Tex Neuer Debuts

It was a pretty good debut too, as Neuer started for the Yankees (then the Highlanders) in the back end of a double header against the Red Sox. Neuer pitched a shutout, and did it the hard way with the Highlankees winning by a razor thin 1-0 margin. This marked the beginning of the one of the shortest non cup-of-coffee and perhaps most bizarre careers in history. Neuer's last game of the season would be October Third; that would also be the last game of his Major League career.

For those of you less inclined to check the calendar, that means Neuer's entire career lasted basically six weeks. But it was some six weeks. Neuer appeared in seven games, starting six of them. In those six starts, Neuer threw a complete game each time (admittedly a sign of the times) but did so while throwing three shutouts. Neuer's ERA in fifty-innings--that works out to nearly eight innings per game--was just 2.17, albeit less impressive given the league ERA was 2.79.

And, as I mentioned, that was it for Neuer. He was thirty at the time of his debut, so perhaps all those innings in so few games killed his arm. Or maybe having done it, Neuer decided pitching in the big leagues just wasn't for him. Whatever the reason, Tex Neuer ended his career with fifty-four pretty decent innings in seven games over six weeks, and that's all there is.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

August 27th, 1947

Jim York Born

In all the years I've lived, I've never met anyone with the last name of "York." I went to high school with a kid whose first name was York, but that's neither here nor there. I mention this because despite my total lack of experience with Yorks, there have actually been six in the Major Leagues. The best of them was Rudy York who was a seven-time All-Star and finished as high as third in the AL MVP voting.

The best name among the bench belongs to Tom York, who was born in 1851 and legally known as Thomas Jefferson York. Tom York played (as you might've guessed from his birthday) in baseball early days, so much in the early days in fact, that he was able to lead the league in games played twice with eighty-six and eighty-five respectively. As for today's birthday boy, Jim York was probably the third best York who ever played (behind Rudy and Tom) although he wasn't really much of a player. York pitched seven years, totaled two hundred and eighty-five innings in the 70s and ended with a 3.79 ERA and a record of sixteen wins and seventeen losses.

Now that I've written all this, of course, I'll go into work tomorrow and discover that there is a "Mr. York" waiting to speak to me. But now, Yorks in the Majors is holding a six-zip lead on Yorks I know.

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