Saturday, November 25, 2006

November 25th, 1946

Wenty Ford Born

That's no typo, it's 'Wenty' Ford, no relation to Whitey. I don't have DNA or anything to confirm that, but given that Whitey Ford was born in New York and Wenty was from the Bahamas, I'm thinking that's a safe assumption. If I were feeling snide, I could say that their performance is another indication, since while Whitey managed two hundred and thirty-six wins and a career 2.75 ERA, Wenty had one career victory and a 5.51 in sixteen and a third innings.

But Wenty does have two things going for him worth pointing out. For one, he is even to this day the only pitcher native to the Bahamas to ever pitch in a Major League game. There have been other players from the Bahamas--the best of whom is probably Andre Rodgers--but Ford remains the sole moundsman. The other thing Ford has going for him is name. Not 'Wenty' which is a fairly silly nickname, but rather his full name: Percival Edmund Wentworth Ford. I don't know if he's the only player whose name would seem to indicate he should be the Duke of Sussex, but he must be among only a handful of them at most.

Friday, November 24, 2006

November 24th, 1955

Rafael Santo Domingo Born

I know I just did a funny name day the other day, but I promise this one isn't just funny names, it's funny names with a theme: people with world capital names. Of course, having the same name as a world captial doesn't necessary mean you are from that world capital. Rafael Santo Domingo, for example, may share his last name with the seat of the goverment of the Dominican Republic but he was nonetheless born in Orcovis, Puerto Rico. Santo Domingo has had more sucess as a capital than Santo Domingo did as a ballplayer; he got only seven plate appearences over the course of his career walking once and hitting a single another time.

As it turns out, with the notable exception of one world capital, they don't generally make great players. Kelly Paris played small parts of five seasons with the Cardinals, Reds, Orioles and White Sox in the '80s, but hit just .217 doing it. There have been six different Sydney's to play in the big leagues, but they are all more-or-less interchangably mediocre. There's Miguel Cairo who has made a respectable eleven--to this point--year career has a utlity infielder and can claim a career .328 average in nineteen post-season games. Jose Lima won twenty-one games one season but also has had six of his thirteen seasons end with an ERA over six.

It should be obvious what world capital is the far-and-away leader in big league players: Washington. All said thirty-four players have been named Washington with eighteen of them being fully named for the same Washington who inspired the city's name. Three Washingtons have been All-Stars, the best is probably Claudell Washington who made the team twice ('75 and '84) and spent seventeen years in the Majors. I suppose this might be a trifle jingoistic, but when it comes to capital players, America really is number one.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

November 23rd, 2006


What are you, nuts? It's Thanksgiving! Go, eat turkey, see family, watch (shudder) football. I'll be back tomorrow

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

November 22nd, 1950

Greg Luzinski Born

To my infinite regret, I never got to see "The Bull" play--I was six months and twenty-four days old when he retired--but he was my kind of player. Or, more accurately, the kind of player I enjoy on a theoretical level but would hate to have on my team. Luzinski was basically a 1990s kind of a player, a huge--6"1', 225--slugger who basically lacked any defensive skills. Despite this, the Phillies thought it was a good idea to continue to stick their slugger out in left field. We'll get to more on that in a minute.

But first, it is only fair to pay tribute to what Luzinski could do: hit. And boy, could he do that, especially for power. Luzinski finished in the top ten for home runs seven times, doubles four times, slugging percentage four times and OPS+ five times. His home runs were also noted for their distance. Although Luzinski had trouble controlling his weight, he was almost always able to hit, slugging over five hundred as a DH for the White Sox in 1983 at age thirty-three.

But it should come as no surprise that "The Bull" had become a DH by the end of his career, given that he was always basically a DH, he was just one who had the misfortune of playing left field. One fan I know described Luzinski simply as "dreadful" while Bill James notes that he "played with his back turned to center field, sort of officially notifying [Garry] Maddox that he considered anything hit to his left Maddox' s responsibility." James also goes into some detail explaining Luzinski's troubles with the wall, the sun, his throwing arm--it was both non-existent and hugely inaccurate--finally summing it up by explaining that "it was like having Herman Munster playing left field."

These days, Luzinski is the "host" at Bull's BBQ in Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia. For Luzinski, this allows him what must be his ideal: a clear view of an outfield and him not in it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

November 21st, 1958

Mel Ott Dies

One of the things I'm sorry I haven't done more of here is trivia. I don't mean that in the truly trivia sense--who finished 16th in the AL MVP in 1991?--but in the sense of questions that tell you something about the games great players but also require knowledge of those great players. This entry is good example of the sort I wish I'd done more of over the last couple of years. A goal for the last few weeks of this year, I suppose.

Monday, November 20, 2006

November 20th, 1919

Rugger Ardizoia Born

Know what I haven't done in a while? A good ol' fashioned funny names day. And what better way to start then with a foreign name, as any of the Blue Collar Comedy guys can tell you, foreign names are always funny! Well, ok, so they aren't, but this one rather is. "Rugger" is a nickname of some sort, Ardizoia's given name was Rinaldo, a name which was probably more common in Oleggio, Italy where he grew up than in New York where he pitched two poor innings for the Yankees in 1947.

Also born today was Felix Mackiewicz, the original "Eyechart," whose name doubtless brought much merriment to people in the 40s as Doug Mientkiewicz brings people today. As an added bonus, his full name was Felix Thaddeus Mackiewicz which is probably one of the five or ten best baseball names of all-time. Today also marks the birthday of John Olgus "Augie" Prudhomme, who shares a name but--luckily for him--not a body type with the noted New Orleans chef. They are, best as I can tell, no relation although both were born in Louisiana. Also born on the bayou was George Mundinger whose last name is so marvelous I need not even comment upon it. Mundinger. That's just fun to say.

Today also marked the first day on earth for Eddie Edmonson, whose real name, believe it or not was Earl Edward Edmonson, which to me suggests parents with rather an off-colour sense of humor. A rough contemporary of Edmonson was "Swat" McCabe and Harry Welchonce. I'm accepting suggestions for how you pronounce the latter's last name.

Finally, today marked the birth of a man who is not only a former ThisDayer but also the owner of far and away the best name ever by a man in a position of power in any sport: Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

November 19th, 1939

National Professional Indoor Baseball League Begins Play

You read that right, it's the National Professional Indoor Baseball League. In addition to having an absolute mouthful of a name, the NPIBL is another of those wacky ideas that pop up every now and then in baseball history only to vanish almost as quickly as they appeared. Most of them are worthy of having their story told, and the NPIBL is no exception.

For starters, let's get one thing straight. When they say "Indoor Baseball," they don't mean the kind played here but rather the kind played in gymnasiums and the like. Apparently this was quite a popular activity during the winter months in the early part of the twentieth century until basketball began to take over as the primary gym sport. Of course, this wasn't quite moving baseball indoors with no regard for the different environment; the diamond was smaller, the ball more like a softball and pitchers threw underhand. (As you might've guessed, this is generally considered the origin of modern softball.)

During the Depression the game was widely popular with what a contemporary Time article dubbed "the U.S. army of unemployed" under a wide range of names (including my personal favorite: mushball) but generally outside as people now had, not to be glib, a lot more time to stand outside playing games. As the Depression came to a close someone had the inspired idea of taking mushball, moving it back inside and setting up a league.

Teams were placed in every Major League city save Washington and the plan called for a hundred game schedule to be played November through March with a championship series at the end. The Grey Eagle Tris Speaker was recruited to be league president--at a reported salary of seventy-five hundred dollars--while a series of former Major League trivia answers and mediocrities (including Bubbles Hargrave) were recruited to serve as managers.

In a development that frankly should have surprised no one but evidently came as a shock to quite a few people, the American public reacted to the new league with marked indifference. Apparently the thought of seeing a bunch of people they'd never heard of play a scaled-down indoor version of baseball failed to set hearts aflutter, and the league was out of business within a month, thus ending one of the stranger start-up leagues in history.

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