Saturday, September 16, 2006

September 16th, 1928

Vito Valentinetti Born

Well, this ends the discussion. This is absolutely the most Italian name in the history of baseball. I had long thought the title belonged to Archi Cianfrocco but it turns out I was wrong, Vito takes it, hands down. Something else I like about Vito, his listed place of birth is "West New York, NJ." I don't know if that's a typo or what, but it works on a couple of levels since you can definitely see some gangster types being from West New York (this is "Vito, from West New York, we brought him for some protection) but then, we all know there are also gangsters in New Jersey.

His name aside, Vito wasn't much of a player, he pitched just over two hundred and fifty innings for his career and finished with a 13-14 record and a substantially below average 4.73 ERA. Vito seemed to have a special talent for pitching a good half a season with one team, only to be accquired by another and let them down, performing the trick twice in a five a year career, burning the Indians in 1957 and Senators in 1958. After ten terrible innings with the Senators in 1959 Vito was out of baseball for good, and into Italian-named legend.

Friday, September 15, 2006

September 15th, 2003

Hanshin Tigers Clinch Division

As there is a very good chance tonight will see the New York Mets clinch the NL East--the first team to secure a playoff spot this year--it seemed appropriate to do a clinching themed blog. Should the Mets clinch tonight, it will be their first division title since 1988, a period of eighteen years. Coincidentally enough, the Tigers clinching on this date also represented their first Central League title in eighteen years.

Before we get to that, some background is required. A local tradition for Tigers' fans--who are famed in Japan for their loyalty and fanaticism, closer to European football fans than any Americans--is to jump from the Ebisubashi Bridge into the Dotonbori Canal. When the Tigers won the Japan League title in 1985, fans called out player names and had fans resembling that player jump into the Canal. Failing to find a fan resembling Series MVP (and American) Randy Bass, they instead threw in a nearby statue of Colonel Sanders. The Colonel's physical similarity to Bass seemed to basically be a beard and not being Japanese, but given the circumstances it was the best that could be found. However, the Tigers soon found themselves losing season-after-season, and the Curse of the Colonel was born, claiming the team would never again be victorious until the statue was recovered from the river.

The statue has still not been recovered, but when the Tigers finally won the Central League title in 2003, fans nonetheless resumed the tradition and an estimated fifty three hundred people jumped into the Canal. Sadly, in the bedlam one fan died, and officials in Osaka (where the Canal is located) have since put up a fence to discourage further jumps. However, being that it has been eighteen years since the Mets last had a division triumph, perhaps tonight will we will be treated to masses of people taking the leap into Flushing Bay.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

September 14th, 1912

Icehouse Wilson Born

I always sort-of wonder if people think I make these things up. I mean, "Icehouse" Wilson? Whose real name was George Peacock Wilson? That has to be made up, right? Well, it's not. I wish I could make these things up, but it's all the truth.

I don't know the story behind Wilson's nickname, I assume it's not for the brand of
beer popular with college students, the unemployed and anyone else in an economic class where the primary merits of a beer are how many of them can be obtained for under ten dollars. Wilson had one of those Moonlight Graham careers: one game, one at-bat (an out) and nothing else in the Majors for the rest of his life. That probable explains why information on him is so hard to come by, but does leave me rather unsatisfied.

Even with that unsatisfying lack of information, I can promise you one thing: Icehouse Wilson really did exist, he really did go 0-for-1 in his Major League career. Other than that, it's all a mystery to me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

September 13th, 1996

Charlies O'Brien Debuts New Equipment

I know, I know, I've been bad. But I know you'll forgive me for a repeat since I had a really good reason to not have time today. I'll be back with original material tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

September 12th, 1934

Albie Pearson Born

I'd like to say there's a logic behind how I pick my entries, and while occasionally there is, today is far more representative of how these blog topics get selected. I noticed the name Albie Pearson and immediately recognized it only to realize that I couldn't recognize it since Albie's career, even the last few years, predates me by nearly twenty years. Armed with the knowledge that this Albie was clearly not the Albie I was thinking of, I went in search of more information.

As it turns out, the Albie I'm thinking of must've been Albie Lopez, who pitched from 1993 to 2003. But that started a new mystery, why would I remember that Albie? His best year was 2000, when he was eighth in the AL in ERA and won eleven games for Tampa Bay. Not really that memorable. Further investigation revealed, however, that in mid 2001 Albie Lopez had been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Lopez, it turns out, was the losing pitcher in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, recording only one out--a
Scott Brosius sac bunt--before Alfonso Soriano drove in the winning run for the Yankees. So that's why I remember Albie Lopez.

Of course, none of this (well, almost none) has anything to do with Albie Pearson. And being that Albie Lopez' birthday is recently passed, it only seems fair to give Albie Pearson his due. Pearson wasn't actually a bad ballplayer. A center fielder for most of his career, Pearson won the Rookie of the Year award in 1958 and would make the All-Star team in 1963 when he hit over .300 for the year. That was atypical for his offensive output though; he was close to a .275 kind of a hitter.

So there we are; that's the life-and-times of Albie Pearson in one neat paragraph and the life-and-times of how I pick these topics in two longer ones.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11th, 2001


Sunday, September 10, 2006

September 10th, 1940

Sam Crane Begins Parole Preceedings

A long weekend for me--probably my last one for a while during which I spent extensive time at the beach--so we'll do just a callback today, and be back with regular work in the coming days.

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