Tagged: Dave Dombrowski

So, Are We Sure About These Tigers Scrimmages?

Ever seen this singular photo before?

It is one of the few remaining documentations of the day a bright idea by the Boston Red Sox that wound up – in all likelihood – costing them the 1946 World Series:

Photo Courtesy Boston Red Sox

On the left, Red Sox centerfielder Dom DiMaggio. In the center, pitcher Tex Hughson. On the right, in the Sox road gray: Joe DiMaggio – who didn’t have his regular uniform with him for one of the fateful games Boston played 66 years ago.

The Detroit Tigers’ idea to address their five day layoff between finishing sweeping the Yankees and facing the Cards or Giants in the Series by playing a pair of exhibition games is not new. The Red Sox did the same thing in 1946.

And it killed them.

We forget this now, but the Red Sox were prohibitive favorites to win a Series remembered for “Slaughter’s Mad Dash” and the disastrous 5-for-25 performance of Ted Williams. Boston had clinched the American League pennant with a 1-0 win on September 13th (courtesy of a Williams homer, naturally). They won by 12 games over a defending champion Tiger team that nearly played .600 ball, and a tidy 17 over the third place Yankees who imploded and went through three managers. Williams supplied a slash line of 38/123/.342 and had an OPS of 1.164 (and four other guys in the line-up were at .799 or better). The Red Sox were the team to beat.

But the National League race was back-and-forth between the Dodgers and Cardinals and with an N.L. first-place tie – and a Series-delaying three-game playoff looming – Sox Manager Joe Cronin and General Manager Eddie Collins thought they needed something to keep their Heroes alert and awake while the N.L. decided which of its teams was going to be its sacrifice to the mighty Boston maw.

They scheduled three exhibition games for the Red Sox…versus American League All-Stars. It was a helluva plan – in theory. The Red Sox got such luminaries as Hank Greenberg and Luke Appling and Joe DiMaggio (hence that crazy picture) to travel to Fenway and put the Champs through their paces.

They also brought in Mickey Haefner.

Haefner had just completed a 14-and-11, 2.85 season for a Washington Senators squad that only the year before had finished a buck-and-a-half behind the A.L. Champion Tigers, so he belonged among the All-Stars doing their part for the greater glory of the American League. But there was only one problem with letting Haefner throw towards your hitters, even in an exhibition setting.

He was a knuckleballer.

On October 1st – which would’ve been the eve of Game 1 of the World Series, had the N.L. only made up its mind in 154 games – Haefner was pitching for the All-Stars against the Red Sox at Fenway. And one of his knucklers – and he threw it in the Niekro/Dickey range of hardness, not the Wakefield range – hit Ted Williams in the elbow.

Got him exactly right. There is no idea how hard the pitch was thrown but the pain was sufficiently excruciating to send Williams to the hospital for X-Rays. While those few who saw the injury held their breath (and presumably Collins and Cronin tried to figure out how they could each blame the other), the tests came back negative. That’s the way it was in those days: broken or not broken. Nothing about deep bone bruises or inflamed ligaments or anything else. It hurt? It ain’t broken. Put some ice on it and play.

Williams played. 5-for-25, .200. It would be decades before Ted acknowledged that the elbow pain never really subsided through the subsequent Series. The only post-season appearance of his career produced five measly singles. And when reporters concluded Williams had not risen to the occasion, or had been psyched out by what was even then a rare but not unique infield defensive shift, Williams let them blame him. Despite the apparent justification for such a claim, he never blamed his ’46 World Series nightmare on the Haefner Hit-By-Pitch.

That the Sox lost the Series was not the end of the story. The pall of that loss lingered for generations. Boston would slide into the second division, then the basement, and would not emerge until the year after Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame. That his performance in the 1946 Classic was the low point of Williams’ career goes without saying. He eventually admitted it was the low point of his life.

Talk about the Curse of the Bambino? Bolshoi! The Curse of Mickey Haefner, more like!

If you check history – especially internet history – you might see passing mention that Williams hurt his elbow when hit by a pitch “in an exhibition game just before the World Series.” But what you do not see is the disturbing truth that is of particular relevance tonight: Williams hurt his elbow when hit by a pitch in an exhibition game just before the World Series that had been arranged by his own bosses to try to keep the Red Sox sharp FOR THE WORLD SERIES.

Today, of course, Collins or Cronin would’ve been fired or at minimum vilified by history for their gross stupidity. Didn’t happen that way. Cronin succeeded Collins as General Manager, then became American League President in 1959. Both of them are in the Hall of Fame and Cronin has his retired number 4 right up there with Teddy Ballgame’s.

The Tigers are not asking any of their vanquished foes to help them fill the competition gap by playing these exhibitions (the term they used was “scrimmages”) on Sunday and Monday. They have flown up the minor league kids like pitchers Hudson Randall and Joe Rogers from the Florida Fall Instructional League  to fill the role played by the A.L. All-Stars in the last ill-fated attempt to keep the rust from growing while the National League tries to figure out its champion (Cards or somebody else).

Presumably the Tigers will take every precaution against the obvious things: sliding (no!), diving for fly balls (don’t!), line drives back at pitchers (use the Batting Practice screen!). But unless Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski are aware of the 1946 Red Sox disaster and the saga of Mickey Haefner, they cannot possibly be prepared for the inadvertent pitch that just…gets away.

What do they do if Miguel Cabrera gets hit in the elbow? Or the knee? Or the head? Or while at third base takes a one-hopper off his bean, as he did in Spring Training?

Hudson Randall and Joe Rogers, you say? Neither of them is a knuckleball pitcher, right?

Sources: Commissioner Selig Reviews Galarraga Game

Major League Baseball sources with direct knowledge of the meeting confirm that key members of baseball’s hierarchy were to convene this morning in New York to review the circumstances of Umpire Jim Joyce’s erroneous “safe” call at first base in Detroit, which last night denied the Tigers’ Armando Galarraga what would have been the 21st Perfect Game in baseball history and the third in just 25 days.

There was considerable doubt that Commissioner Bud Selig felt he could or should intervene in overturning the results of an umpire’s on-the-field ruling. The Detroit News reported that the Tigers might be contacting MLB in hopes of remedying what umpire Joyce later admitted, clearly and emotionally, was a wildly incorrect call. The News quoted Tigers’ General Manager Dave Dombrowski as saying “I wouldn’t get into telling you what I would do. That’s a private matter. He shouldn’t have missed it. It’s a shame for the kid…”
Baseball sources said that as of late morning, the Tigers’ opponents, the Cleveland Indians, had not contacted the Commissioner’s office. Their support of any change to last night’s call might be a key factor.
“This isn’t a call,” Joyce said afterwards, “this is a history call. And I kicked the **** out of it, and nobody feels worse than I do…I took a perfect game away from that kid.”
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and MLB Network tweeted that Commissioner Selig was “involved” and his office would have a statement at some point today.

Some in the Commissoner’s office were to urge Selig to declare that with Joyce’s admission, the 27th out of the game was recorded when Cleveland’s Jason Donald grounded out, first baseman Miguel Cabrera to pitcher Galarraga, covering first. The base hit credited to Donald, and the following at bat, by Cleveland’s Trevor Crowe, would be wiped off the books and thus Galarraga would be credited with a perfect game.
There is precedent for the Commissioner’s Office to decide what is, and isn’t, a perfect game. On September 4, 1991, a so-called “Statistical Accuracy Committee” ruled that the game would only official recognize as perfect games, ones in which pitchers retired 27 (or more) consecutive batters and completed the game without a batter reaching first base. The ruling wiped off the books the 1959 game in which Harvey Haddix of Pittsburgh pitched 12 perfect innings, only to lose the game to Milwaukee on a base hit. It also erased the 1917 game in which then-pitcher Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox had walked the lead off batter, then been ejected by the umpire for arguing the call. Reliever Ernie Shore entered the game with none out and that runner on first, who was promptly caught stealing. Shore then retired the 26 batters he faced, and had, at the time of the Commissioner’s Office ruling, been credited with a perfect game for more than 74 years. 48 more no-hit games were also erased by the re-definition of the rules.
There are also countless instances of umpires’ on-field decisions being reviewed and even overruled by the now dormant offices of the Presidents of the American and National League. One such review confirmed a controversial “out” ruling that ultimately decided the 1908 NL pennant. More recently, in 1983, after Kansas City’s George Brett had hit a two-out, 9th inning home run to bring his team from behind to ahead in a game in New York, umpire Tim McClelland determined that Brett had broken the rules by having the gripping substance “pine tar” further up his bat than rules permitted. McClelland nullified Brett’s home run and called him out for the final out of the game. Within days, American League President Lee MacPhail had overruled McClelland, declared the home run valid, and ordered the game replayed, more than a month later, from the point directly after Brett’s home run.

    2010 Forecasts: AL Central

    Having picked Tampa Bay to upend the Yankees in the East, we move to the AL Central.

    I’m less
    confident about assessing CHICAGO than I am about any other team in the majors.
    Here is a team with the terrific burgeoning talent of Gordon Beckham and Carlos
    Quentin – yet its success will depend much more on virtual castoffs like Andruw
    Jones, Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, and Mark Teahen. Here, if Jake Peavy rebounds,
    is a four-man rotation as good as any in the game, but a bullpen where only one
    guy (Matt Thornton)
    does not
    the season as a question mark (how could you possibly get as many ex-studs in
    one place as Kenny Williams has in Scott Linebrink, J.J. Putz, and
    Tony Pena?). The White Sox could
    easily win the division, but I would hesitate to bet on it.

    scratches their head at the quick demise in CLEVELAND – except I appear to be
    the only one who’s doing the scratching in surprise that everybody else is so
    confused. What do you suppose happens
    to a team that is just one game from going to the World
    Series, and then fire-sales Cy Young Award winners in consecutive season – and also
    gets rid of their
    catcher (who just happens to be the second-best offensive weapon at his
    position in the game)? While the Indians may see some pay-off from these deals
    this year (LaPorta at first, Masterson pitching, and, at least for the moment,
    Marson catching), there is no reason to assume that the Indians have simply
    corrected a temporary two-year blip. It is plausible that returns to form from
    Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, and Travis Hafner could propel this team to the
    flag, but it is just as plausible that the bullpen will again be its undoing.
    Remember, this is a team that has not had a reliable closer since Joe Borowski
    in ’07 (and this requires you to believe that Joe Borowski was a reliable
    closer). There is the one wildest of wild cards: the chance that the Kerry Wood
    injury is the ultimate blessing in disguise – that it shelves Wood and his
    not-so-awe-inspiring 20 saves of a year ago and forces Chris Perez to live up
    to his talent. Of course as Winston Churchill answered that clich 65 years ago,
    “if it is a blessing in disguise, it’s very effectively

    What if
    Dontrelle Willis really is back? What if Miguel Cabrera’s career flashed before
    his eyes over the winter? What if Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson are actual
    major leaguers? If Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski come up trumps with those
    four names, DETROIT should walk away with the division, because the rotation
    seems outstanding, and the Tigers may have created its best bullpen (mostly by
    default, and even though they’re about to find out what the Yankees did late
    last year: Phil Coke can’t really get good lefties out). There are reasons to
    suspect Johnny Damon will not be the kind of all-purpose threat he’d developed
    into in the Bronx; 17 of his 24 homers in 2009 were hit at Yankee Stadium. It’s
    possible Ryan Raburn or Wilkin Ramirez might have to be rushed into the
    line-up. Then again it’s possible Alex Avila may force himself into it, behind
    the plate.

    When the
    A’s still played there KANSAS CITY was the club on whom the Yankees palmed off
    the guys they didn’t want any more. Funny that this year’s Royals start Chris
    Getz and Scott Podsednik, and have Josh Fields on the
    bench and Brian Anderson in the convert-to-pitching Skinner Box. The excuse that the Royals are the quintessential victim of the small market/big
    market divide is nonsense: according to the Forbes figure filberts, the Royals
    profit about ten million a year, gain at least thirty million more from revenue
    sharing, and the franchise is worth three times what David Glass paid for it a
    decade ago. So the free agents brought in to surround the American League’s
    best starter, second or third best closer, fifth or sixth best first baseman,
    and third or fourth best DH – are Rick Ankiel and Jason Kendall? It’s pitiable:
    with a little investment from management the Royals could contend in this

    Ron Gardenhire of MINNESOTA knows 447 times more about baseball than I do. But
    there is one fact that has been irrefutable since Tony LaRussa began to use
    relievers on schedule, rather than when needed: Bullpen By Committee Does Not
    Work. Gardy steered out of the skid just in time last night, designating Jon Rauch as his closer after weeks of saying he’d try the committee route. 
    Do not be fooled by
    reminiscences of the “Nasty Boys” – the 1990 Reds had 50 saves, 31 by Randy
    Myers, 11 by Rob Dibble, 4 by Rick Mahler, 2 by Tim Layana, and 2 by Norm
    Charlton. The Reds would trade Myers within a year and Charlton within two.
    Minnesota’s committee could have been Jeff Reardon, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado, and
    Al Worthington, and it still wouldn’t have worked. There are reasons to fear this team might not be competitive –
    the tremendous home field advantage that was the Metrodome is gone (although
    depending on how the wind current works – see “Yankee Stadium, 2009” – it could
    turn Joe Mauer into a 50-homer man). The new double-play combo is also symbolic
    of some serious problems. It is made up of two very nice men named J.J. Hardy
    (who was run out of Milwaukee even before the ascent of Alcides Escobar), and
    Orlando Hudson (who has been run out of Arizona and Los Angeles and who somehow
    lost his job to Ronnie Belliard in the middle of the pennant race last
    It is also
    the direct result of what must be viewed as two disastrous trades (Jason
    Bartlett and Matt Garza to Tampa for Delmon Young, and Johan Santana to the
    Mets for Carlos Gomez – now swapped for Hardy – and nothing of even impending
    value). Nothing would please me more than to see the Team They Tried To
    Contract rear up and fulfill its potential. I don’t think they have the front
    office personnel to pull it off.

    I like Detroit to get more lemons out of the slot machine of chance that is
    this division, than I do Chicago. Thus, the Tigers, close, over the White Sox.
    Minnesota and Cleveland will spar for third place and whether the Twins get it
    will largely depend on how Target Field “plays” as a new home. Kansas City is
    last again, which offends me, because there is as little excuse for this
    perpetual state of suspended animation as there would be in Cincinnati or
    Milwaukee or maybe even Denver and Tampa.