Results tagged ‘ Ty Cobb ’

Good Luck Retirements?

So now that Gil Meche has quit, does that mean the Kansas City Royals are going to win the World Series this year?

Too laughable for words? How about Milwaukee, because Trevor Hoffman has hung ‘em up while still theoretically still with the Brewers?
If you haven’t clicked away by now, don’t think for a moment that I’m suggesting there’s a predictable correlation between any of these things, but there is a not insubstantial list of occasions in history in which a prominent player – or even star – has retired only to see his last team go on to win the World Series the following fall.
Three of the game’s All-Time greats managed this impossible and dubious trick. Stan Musial was a World Champ in three of his first four seasons in the majors (’42, ’44, ’46 – he spent 1945 in the service) and then slogged it out with some pretty bad Cardinals teams for the next 17 years before retiring after the ’63 campaign. He then watched from the distant front office as the Birds won it all in ’64.
The other two immortals managed to miss out together. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker had been forced out of their player-manager jobs in Detroit and Cleveland respectively after a gambling scandal hit the American League in the late ’20s, and concluded their careers as teammates with the 1928 Philadelphia A’s. They left (Cobb to true retirement, and Speaker to a pinch hitting/managing gig with Newark of the International League), and the Athletics won the 1929 Series. Speaker had won crowns in Boston and Cleveland, but though he was in the Series in his second, third, and fourth full seasons in the majors in Detroit, the Tigers lost all three of those Classics and for everything else he did, Cobb could never claim he won a Series.
The most touching example of this impeccably bad timing would obviously be Don Mattingly, who arrived just after the Yankees lost the 1981 World Series. Mattingly suffered through the worst of the Steinbrenner years at Yankee Stadium from 1982 to 1993 without once seeing the post-season. Mattingly’s ’94 Yanks, a pretty good team, were snuffed out by the strike, and in ’95, when he finally reached the playoffs after having announced his retirement, they blew a chance at what would’ve been his only Series appearance by coughing up the 2-0 lead to the Mariners. The Yankees, with Tino Martinez in Donnie Baseball’s stead at first base, went on to win the Series in 1996.
Amazingly there are at least two other Yankee first basemen who did the same thing, although neither had as much to complain about as did Mattingly. George McQuinn retired after the 1948 season, just before the Yanks went on their run of five straight Championships. But McQuinn had already gotten his ring with the ’47 Yankees.
McQuinn’s retirement opened up a path for Joe Collins to take over much of the work at first base in the Bronx. Collins was hardly cheated: he only played eight full seasons but was on six World’s Champs. When the Yanks decided to trade him to Philadelphia after they lost the 1957 Classic, Collins retired – and New York rebounded to win the 1958 crown.
Mathematically, with all those titles, it’s not surprising that there are at least four other Yankees on this strange list. They began asking “where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” in the winter of 1951 when he retired. With nine rings in just thirteen years on the field, the Yankee Clipper did not get shortchanged. Nevertheless, New York won two more in his first two years away from the game. The talented Jerry Coleman, still going strong in the Padres’ booth just 53 years later, quit the Yanks after the ’57 loss to Milwaukee and, like Collins, missed the ’58 crown. His fellow Yankee infield stalwart Gil McDougald retired after the ’60 loss to Pittsburgh and thus missed the ’61 win over Cincinnati and the ’62 victory over San Francisco. And of the most recent vintage, Mike Mussina’s triumphant climax to his great career, his first 20-win season in his swan song of 2008, also meant he missed out on what would’ve been his only ring in 2009.
This list is probably incomplete; I confess to having done it off the top of my head. But Pee Wee Reese is on it, retiring from the 1958 Dodgers and so on their ’59 Series winners only as a coach. If you want a manager, take Earl Weaver. He retired from the Orioles after 1982. They won it under Joe Altobelli in 1983. Making things worse, the Birds soured on Altobelli in ’85 and Weaver un-retired for two unhappy seasons. 
There are a couple of judgement calls, too. Tim McCarver called it quits from the Phillies at the end of 1979 and went into the broadcasting booth, only to be activated in September, 1980 when rosters expanded. But he was back in civvies for the World Series triumph, which would’ve been his first since St. Louis in 1964. There is also the iffy case of Harvey Haddix. The Baltimore Orioles traded the veteran pitcher to Milwaukee in August of 1965, but Haddix told the Braves he was intending to retire in a month and they shouldn’t waste money or players on obtaining him. In fact, his last major league game was on August 28, 1965, so I’ll leave it to you as to whether or not he qualifies on the bad timing roster considering the ’66 edition of the Orioles won the Series.
Lastly, the most frustrating case I can recall would have to be that of Mel Harder, the Cleveland Indians pitcher for whose Hall of Fame candidacy Ted Williams never stopped lobbying. Harder joined the Tribe in 1928, eight years after they’d taken the Series under player-manager Speaker. He won a tidy 223 games before finally giving up after his 20th season in Cleveland, in 1947. The Indians promptly won the 1948 World Series, in no small measure because of their rookie pitching coach – Harder himself. He stayed in that job through 1963 (and obviously the Indians never won the Series after his first year). To expand our terms a little bit, when the Indians let him go, Harder quickly hooked on as pitching coach of the Mets (five years before their Championship). He would move on to the Reds in ’66 and stay through 1968, exiting just before The Big Red Machine rose to prominence.
So if the Royals or Brewers surprise everybody this year, maybe you know why.

Why Am I Whatting The Who Now?

One of the Baseball Prospectus authors was doing one of the group’s astonishingly pervasive and well-coordinated publicity-generating interviews yesterday (they show up as guests everywhere but the Olympics and Entertainment Tonight) and was asked “why is Keith Olbermann killing your book?” 

I just re-read my entry (below) and I don’t see where anybody might get that impression. But just to be clear, to me “BP” is to the sum total of all forecasting knowledge and its statistical and actuarial bases are impeccable. Years ago, preparing a piece on Tony Gwynn for Sports Illustrated, I discovered by accident that there was a plateau – an exact range of at bats (7,500 to 9,000) at which really terrific .340-.375 lifetime hitters started to plummet back towards the .340-.350 range (Cobb was at .373 through 8,762 AB; Gwynn .340 through 8,187; Keeler .355 through 7,475; Jesse Burkett .350 through 7,273 AB, Lajoie .350 through 8,254. Among them, and Rogers Hornsby, Paul Waner, and Honus Wagner at similar peaks, these eight guys lost an average of eight points from their career averages). 
So I believe fervently in this decline-and-full stuff and BP (and the Jeter prediction, too).
Now if somebody thinks I killed “The First Fall Classic” by Mike Vaccaro… yeah, pretty much (see below).

Doctor S chickendantz? Seriously? UPDATED

The update on Dirk Hayhurst’s surgery appears positive — fraying labrum, repaired, out most of the season but possibly not all of it. All in all, probably couldn’t have been better.

Now I’m not criticizing anybody’s name (I have never completely mastered pronouncing mine, although I have not misspelled it since about 1963), but the surgeon was Dr. Mark Schickendantz? I mean, how could you not go into orthopedic surgery at least with a weak smile on your face contemplating the fact that your surgeon’s last name includes the words “chicken dantz”?

The fella who took out my appendix two and a half years ago was named Kimmelstiel, complete with the “steel” pronounciation. A guy allowed to use scalpels, named Kimmelstiel. Heckuva surgeon, by the way.

Dr. Schickendantz. 

UPDATE: The author-pitcher quickly regained typing ability (one-handed) and reports himself feeling pretty good, all things considered, but with control of the remote ceded to the Mrs., he says he did briefly consider trying to get a hold of the anesthesiologist for a booster.

FROM A RESEARCHER’S NOTEBOOK: Just stumbled across this in the Fall 2009 edition of   The Society for American Research Journal: a law student at the University of North Carolina named Trent McCotter busted his research hump to analyze the official scoresheets from all of Ty Cobb’s games, to generate his splits. It is startling to consider that Cobb, in 2,109 games in which he faced righthanded starters, batted .375 lifetime (.347 versus lefties). Perhaps more impressive, Cobb’s numbers in games started by the pitching legends he faced:

Cobb Versus:           Games              Average

Walter Johnson            92                    .380

Rube Waddell               21                    .354

Cy Young                     25                    .354

Babe  Ruth                    21                    .338

Eddie  Plank                 54                    .333

Remember, Cobb hit .367 lifetime. He did better than that against Johnson, whom he always claimed he could hit because he knew Johnson wouldn’t pitch him inside because he was mortified at the thought of hitting batters in the pre-helmet days – and killing one of them. He actually managed a .454 on base percentage against The Big Train.

The pitchers McCotter’s research shows were most successful (and again it’s rendered slightly imprecise because the scoresheets don’t pinpoint when relievers might have faced him) were Addie Joss (.264), Red Faber (.277), Waite Hoyt (.299), and, remarkably, Red Ruffing (.229, albeit in ten games). Ruffing became an underrated Hall of Famer with the Yankees. But when Cobb faced him in the first four years of Ruffing’s career (and the last five years of Cobb’s), Ruffing was one of the majors’ worst for the then-dead end Red Sox. His career record on the day of Cobb’s retirement was 30 wins… and 71 losses!


Babe Ruth Film: September 9, 1928

Honestly, they could’ve called first.

Major League Baseball Productions has unearthed a wonderful, almost archaeological find – 51 seconds of film, apparently home movies, of Babe Ruth in action at Yankee Stadium. Ruth is briefly shown playing right, then we watch him called out on strikes on a check swing, then we see a pan of the outfield, which stops tantalizingly maybe a second before we could’ve seen the scoreboard. MLBP’s call for detectives to help it pinpoint just when the footage is from and who else is shown in it, reached both NBC Nightly News and The New York Times.
Uh, fellas, I’m standin’ right here. The acknowledged ace amateur unidentifiable photo identifier, certified by the Hall of Fame for crying out loud!
There are several good conclusions drawn by the MLBP researchers: That the advertisements in the outfield are said to match still photographs known to have been taken in 1928 (which I assume they have carefully researched) – that Ruth (and Gehrig, on deck) are wearing uniforms without numbers (the Yankees first adopted them in 1931) and Gehrig is seen approaching the plate from the third base side (the Yankees called the third base dugout home until 1946).
But then come the suppositions – unclear if these belong to MLBP or The Times:

…the archivists believe that the clip dates to 1928. Perhaps it is the World Series, which might explain the full stands and long shadows.


Narration in an additional Times video clip adds in the possibility that the “full stands” owe to it being Opening Day or the 4th of July or, as mentioned, the Series.
So if it’s a big day like that – where’s the bunting?
Check any photo, or any of the film, of baseball in the ’20s, especially at Yankee Stadium. Opening Day, the major holidays, the Series, and they festooned the place to within an inch of its life. Film from any of those days in 1928 would show bunting designed to evoke the American flag on every available railing not in fair territory. There is no bunting.
Also, why the assumption that only Opening Day could produce “the full stands”? That’s one of the easiest things to check. The Yankees’ game-by-game log, with boxes for every game and attendance figures for most, is found in two seconds at the fabulous Retrosheet.Org. From it we learn the Yanks opened at home on April 20th, 1928, against the Philadelphia A’s, and drew just 30,000.
In point of fact, the big days for attendance in the house that the guy striking out in the film clip built were July 1 (65,000 for a doubleheader with the A’s), August 19 (65,000 versus Cleveland), and September 9 (85,265 for another doubleheader with the A’s). 
The jam-packed nature of those crowd shots sure suggests 85,265.
September 9 might also produce you those “long shadows” while still explaining the large amount of white in the crowd (for the most part, the gentlemen are not wearing jackets). And it also jibes with the only bit of information that the catcher in the image provides, until somebody puts the clip through computer enhancement. Clearly the top of his cap is light-colored. And per Marc Okkonen’s opus Baseball Uniforms Of The 20th Century the only American League teams to wear such caps in 1928 were the Browns, Red Sox, White Sox — and Athletics. Cleveland wore dark caps.
So we’re getting there.
Huge crowd? September 9 versus the Athletics (85,265) works. No bunting, no cold weather, not a holiday, not the World Series? September 9 versus the Athletics works. Catcher’s got a light-colored cap? September 9 versus the Athletics works.
So, what do we know about Ruth in those games? Again, per Retrosheet, we see he played in them both – and struck out in them both, twice in the opener, in which the only strikeouts by Philly pitchers were recorded by John Quinn and Eddie Rommel, and once in the nightcap, in which all the Philly strikeouts were by Rube Walberg.
Mickey Cochrane caught the first game for the A’s, and also got four at bats in the nightcap before  being replaced by Cy Perkins (probably late, after Walberg was lifted in the seventh). We never see the pitcher in the film, not even a hint as to whether he’s a lefty or righty. We do see the third baseman, the second baseman, and probably the rightfielder. Conveniently, the same three guys played both games for the A’s on September 9, 1928: third baseman Jimmy Dyk es, second baseman Max Bishop, and rightfielder Bing Miller.
So, given that everybody sees long shadows, the better bet here is the second game. Thus the informed guess here — assuming MLBP’s 1928 date is accurate — is:
Date: September 9, 1928
Game: Yankees versus Philadelphia Athletics, Second Game
Attendance: 85, 265
Pitcher: Rube Walberg
Catcher: Mickey Cochrane
Third Baseman: Jimmy Dyk es
Second Baseman: Max Bishop
Rightfielder: Bing Miller
Umpires Visible: Brick Owens (Home), Bill MacGowan (third)
Third Base Coach: Art Fletcher
There is a very small percentage chance that the images could be from the other Yanks-A’s doubleheader on July 1, but the crowd isn’t packed enough. Kind of too bad: the A’s rightfielder for both games that day, just barely visible at the end of the film, was Ty Cobb!
The Times’ headlines that day tell us all else we need to know:

CROWD OF 85,265, BASEBALL RECORD, SEES YANKS WIN TWO; 
Largest Gathering in Game’s History Overflows Stadium– Receipts Are $115,000. 
100,000 ARE TURNED AWAY 
Shirt-Sleeved Throng Cheers as New York Regains Lead From Athletics. 
FANS WAIT TWENTY HOURS 
Three Start Their Vigil Early on Saturday Evening–Mayor Walker Receives an Ovation. 
Yankee Stadium Too Small. Receipts Set a Record. Crowds on Apartment Houses. 
85,265 SEE YANKEES WIN AND TAKE LEAD 50,000 Linger Outside. Seventy in Line at Midnight.

Sorry about the delay on this, but you guys didn’t call, and I was in the hospital much of the evening, and I don’t carry my Okkonen with me.
Oh yeah, one other thing. I could’ve told you straight up that whatever it was or wasn’t, it certainly wasn’t Game One of the 1928 World Series. My friend, the venerable actor Norman Lloyd, stunned me one day by asking “Did I ever tell you about the first baseball game I saw in person? First Game of the World Series! How about that! The 1928 World Series! Babe Ruth slid into second base, ripped the seat of his pants. We howled! Normally the player runs to the bench for repairs. Not the Babe! Little man runs out to him with a sewing kit, patches him up right at second base! Tremendous! I was thirteen! I loved it.”
The video’s pretty clear. Babe Ruth’s pants have not been patched!
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,947 other followers