Saturday, November 04, 2006

November 4th, 1980

Steve Carlton Wins Cy Young Award

This was Lefty's third Cy Young award, making him at the time only the fourth man--along with Jim Palmer, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver--to win the award that many times. (Since joined, of course, by Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson.) Carlton is a no-brainier choice for the Hall of Fame, he has three hundred wins, won twenty or more six times and was a ten time All-Star and was rightly elected in 1994.

I bring up the Hall of Fame element because it raises an interesting point: how many single-season awards does a player have to win before they are worthy of Hall of Fame induction regardless of the rest of their career. As it stands, every player who has three (or more) MVP or Cy Young awards is either in the Hall of Fame or is a sure thing to someday be elected. (I suppose the exception to that is Barry Bonds' and his seven MVPs, but it is worth noting that he had won three by 1993 so he qualifies even leaving out the BALCO portion of his career.)

What I can say for sure is that two awards of that nature are insufficient to ensure Hall of Fame election. In fact, there is a small handful of players with two awards who are clearly not Hall of Famers. Those with two MVP awards who are almost certainly not Hall of Famers include Juan Gonzalez, Dale Murphy, and Roger Maris. Bret Saberhagen and Denny McLain both have two Cy Young awards but McLain dropped off the ballot after three years and Saberhagen will be lucky to last that long. (Incidentally, McLain also won the MVP in 1968, meaning he actually has three awards total, but since two of them were awarded for the same performance set, I don't think it counts in the same way as having three awards of some nature from three different seasons.)

If Denny McLain had managed another Cy Young award or Dale Murphy another MVP would that put them in the Hall of Fame? I would tend to think not, but until an otherwise undeserving player has three awards I guess we'll never know.

Friday, November 03, 2006

November 3rd, 1953

Bobby Thompson Born

For a sake of contrast with past entries, this isn't the Bobby Thomson of "The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!" fame, but that is how you spell his name, with the "p." Of course, this Bobby Thompson hasn't had his name misspelled very much, because he wasn't at the Major League level very much. All said, Bobby Thompson played in just sixty-four games for the Rangers in 1978, getting just one hundred and thirty-six plate appearances, and batted just .225/.284/.350.

Never let it be said, however, that he and the other Bobby Thomson had nothing in common. On June 18th, 1978 the Rangers entered the bottom of the ninth tied with the Blue Jays at two. Bobby Bonds doubled with one out and after a pair of intentional walks and a ground-out, Thompson came up with a chance to win the game. And win it he did, lining a single that scored Bonds and gave the Rangers a 3-2 victory.

Of course, giving a team one of its eighty-seven wins with a single in June isn't quite on the same level of drama as giving a team the pennant with a home run in October. But then, Bobby Thompson wasn't the player Bobby Thomson was; perhaps it is only fitting that his walk-off moment isn't the moment Bobby Thomson's was.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

November 2nd, 1971

Orioles at Giants

That's the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yomiuri (Tokyo) Giants. As the MLB All-Star team begins its tour across Japan it only seems fitting to do a story based on past times US players have toured the Land of the Rising Sun and today is an especially good one. (As an aside, did anyone notice that Bruce Bochy, is somewhat comically managing this All-Star team in his first act as Giants' manager?)

A while back I did an entry on a no-hitter by an American born player playing for a Japanese team. Today, however, represents the first no-hitter by an American player, playing for an American team, against a Japanese team. The pitcher in question is Pat Dobson. Oddly, Dobson was perhaps the least heralded of Baltimore's collection of four starters who each won twenty games that year; he was the only man never to win twenty before or after and finished with the fewest wins of the quartet. (The other three were Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar.)

On this day however, Dobson was the man, pitching the O's to a 2-0 win while not giving up a single hit. It is a fear unlikely to be repeated as these days the All-Star games are truly treated as exhibitions and no pitcher is left in for an entire game, making a no-hitter a rather unlikelihood. It is nice--and in some ways fitting--that Pat Dobson, the least of the Twenty Win Quartet is the man who holds this unique accomplishment.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November 1st, 1931

Russ Kemmerer Born

That's more than your standard Kemmer, folks, he's Kemmerer. Admittedly he's not Kemmerest, but what are you going to do? While he might have been the Kemmerest of the world, Russ was able to lay claim to three different nicknames: Rusty, Dutch and Kimmersak. The first and third nicknames are obviously based on his given name (although how you get from Kemmerer to Kimmersak is a little hazy to me) while I assume the second is on account of Kemmerer playing in the era when Federal law mandated each team have at least one "Dutch."

Kemmerer actually filled that role for a variety of teams, playing for the Red Sox, Senators, White Sox and Colt .45's during his career. (That last one, in case you didn't know, is the team that became the Astros when they moved into their new domed stadium--it was named the Astrodome for them, not the other way around--and someone finally realized that a baseball team named after a gun was just too tacky for words.) Kemmerer was never an especially great pitcher but he was consistent and able to both relieve and start. According to Kemmerer his best pitch was a hard sinking fastball, although he also threw a breaking ball.

A few years ago, Kemmerer authored a book, Ted Williams: Hey kid, just get it over the plate! I can't speak to the book's quality, but I have to say that I admire Kemmerer for having written it, it's something more players of past eras should do, so that when they are gone the times and context can be remembered.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

October 31st, 2006


This being the day typically associated with things that go bump in the night, it only seems fitting to do baseball players whose nicknames correspond to such things. One obvious choice would be Dick "Monster" Radatz, who not only has a nickname more than suitable for Halloween, but who I've also already written about, saving me a bit of effort! And speaking of saving me some effort, Halloween always aims to be creepy, and who knows more about that than Creepy Crespi?

But fear not, I'm not copping out with a couple of mere linkbacks. There's also Jo-Jo Moore, known as The Gause Ghost. The first part of that nickname comes from his hometown, Gause, TX, while second part comes from his supposed frail appearance, although I rather think this photo tells you all you need to know. Moore was a leadoff hitter for the Giants for many years, and an incredibly difficult man to strike zone, never going down without contact more than thirty-seven times in a season.

Sadly, that's all I can find insofar as truly Halloween-related names go, but a trio isn't bad, after all. Happy Halloween, everyone.

Monday, October 30, 2006

October 30th, 1915

Pinky Woods Born

From the College of the Holy Cross, the people who brought you Jigga Statz (and Bill Simmons) comes Pinky Woods. Sadly, I have no information on how George Rowland Woods became "Pinky," unless it was some sort of bizarre reference to his political sensibilities. Given that's an unlikelihood, however, I think this may be one mystery that endures.

All said, Woods' Major League career lasted just three seasons, all during the Second World War. Even facing weakened wartime competition (although presumably weakened competition himself) Woods only managed a career 3.97 ERA for the Red Sox. His best year was 1944 when Woods appeared in thirty-eight games and posted a 3.27 ERA, second best among Sox starters that year.

Perhaps the most interesting element of Pinky's career--and one that now that I think about it may help explain the nickname--concerns his big toe. Apparently Pinky arrived with the Red Sox as a flamethrower but apparently lost much of the velocity on his fastball after being spiked and losing his big toe. I'm still at something of a loss as to how badly you'd have to be spiked to totally lose a toe--perhaps because I'd really rather not think about it--but I can see how the rather cruel world of baseball nicknames would come up with "Pinky" for someone down to a mere nine toes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

October 29th, 1959

Jesse Barfield Born

Jesse Barfield ended his career with a series of marginally worsening seasons for a series of marginally improving Yankee teams. That's where I know Jesse from, although I can't claim to remember him that well which is sort of a shame, since Barfield is widely thought to have had the best outfield arm in baseball even up to the end of his career. The numbers bear this out, as Barfield averaged seventeen and a half assists per one hundred and fifty games for his career, an outstanding figure, higher than names like Clemente or Ichiro.

Barfield spent the prime of his career for the Blue Jays in the mid-80s and was often a brilliant all around player. In 1986 he led the league with forty home runs, recorded twenty outfield assists and managed a 147 OPS+, all combining to place him fifth in the MVP vote. Barfield never showed league leading HR power before or after that season but he hit twenty or more six times and also had enough speed to steal twenty-two bases in 1985.

These days Jesse is known for being the father of Padres' second baseman Josh Barfield and for an unfortunate incident when Barfield's younger son Jeremy apparently pushed his father down a flight of stairs, leading to the latter's arrest. Jesse was treated at a local hospital but released the same day apparently indicating that he is fully recovered.

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