Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Hard is What Makes it Great

Business Insider Science posted a great video titled The Science of Hitting a Major League Fastball, you definitely need to check it out. The basic summary is it is very hard and should be physically impossible.
It reminds me of great scene from the movie A League of Their Own. Dottie Hinson explains she is quitting baseball because it just got too hard. Jimmy Dugan explains it is supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
I think this video by Business Insider Science sums up exactly what Jimmy Dugan was trying to say.

A Homer and a Suicide: The Life of a Gay Red Sox Outfielder?

Ted Williams homered in his last at bat off Jack Fisher of the Baltimore Orioles. Williams was supposedly the only player in the history of baseball to retire after sending one deep. The great John Thorn found that hard to believe and through research discovered others who homered in their final at-bat. You can read his piece on that right here.
Ted Williams was not the only player to do it and he wasn't even the only Red Sox outfielder to do it. Chick Stahl did it first on October 6, 1906 off of Tom Hughes of the New York Highlanders (Yankees). It was Chick Stahl's 36th and final home-run of his very successful career. He was just 33 years old and had played in his final game. Nobody knew it at the time.
Stahl hit .305 for his career, led the league in triples in 1904 and would be a key player in the Boston Americans (Red Sox) winning the 1903 World Series.
A month after his last game Stahl would get married but in March of the next year he would kill himself by drinking carbolic acid.
Why did he kill himself? Glenn Miller wrote this great piece for the Naples Herald where he goes over all the possible reasons.
“Boys, I just couldn’t help it,” Stahl supposedly said as he was dying. “It drove me to it.”
This happened in Indiana while with the team following Spring Training in 1907.
The first theory is he had impregnated a girl who was blackmailing him. Writer Al Stump wrote about this theory in 1959. Some felt Stump made this story up and Stump's credibility has taken a hit in recent years as there were many inaccuracies found in his famous book about Ty Cobb.
The second theory is a simple one. Chick was depressed for much of his life and the stress of managing a team and a new marriage got to him.
The third theory is a very interesting one. Was Chick Stahl gay? Chick was known to be like most ballplayers in that era and have a girl in every city. Of course people who try to hide that they are gay tend to be very public about their encounters with people of the opposite sex. Were these ladies just "beards"? Maybe not. In 1902, a woman reportedly was carrying a gun in her jacket with the intentions of shooting Chick Stahl. Cops found out about her plan early enough that they stopped her. Was she mad at Chick because of all the other women or all the other men? Nobody knows. Of course she could have just been a psycho like Harriet Byrd in The Natural. Does anyone know why she felt the need to shoot the great Roy Hobbs? Was it because he didn't like reading books or because he wanted to walk down the street and have people say "there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was"? I vote she was just crazy. Back to Chick Stahl.
The gay theory does have more juice though. David Murphy, a close friend of Chick, killed himself two days after Chick's suicide. Murphy left a note with directions that he wanted to be buried next to Chick. This sounds like more than just friends to me.
It is sad but fascinating story. The Red Sox outfielder/manager who homered in his last at-bat and then killed himself  for mysterious reasons. Check out Glenn Miller's piece for even more details on the life of Chick Stahl.

Two Heroes and Two Legends

The greatest website ever created is Baseball Reference. I can spend hours on that site just looking around. One of my favorite features is their collection of historic box scores. When I was growing up we didn't have cable. I had to find out scores of Red Sox games on the local news or the following morning from my father. We would get an afternoon newspaper and I would always get to it first and dive into the sports section and the box scores from the night before. Those were great days.
I started thinking about all the games I have been to in my life. So many great memories and even greater is the ability to access their box scores years later. This is the first installment of the Box Score Stories series. I figured it was only fitting that I chose Father's Day weekend to launch this new series since so many of my great childhood memories involve my father and baseball.
Weekend in New York
The very first installment will break the very first rule. This series is supposed to be stories and box scores from games I attended. I am making an exception this one time. Two of my heroes have always been and always will be my father and my late grandfather. My father grew up a die hard Willie Mays fan and I wrote about Willie and my father a few weeks ago here.My grandfather was a fan of Ted Williams. This is perfectly logical since my grandfather and Ted were the same age, both WWII veterans and both had similar personalities. They were members of the "greatest generation" and told you what was on their mind and didn't care if you liked it or not.
I never saw Ted Williams play. I have read countless books about him, watched documentaries and have stared at his page on baseballreference.com in amazement. If I had access to a time machine I would use it to go back and watch him hit from the box seats at Fenway Park.
My father saw Ted Williams play once. It was in Yankee Stadium and my grandfather took him. Ted hit a grand slam. My father would always tell me the story and explain how it was a pop fly homer. One of those cheap Yankee Stadium homers to right field. It is scary to think what Ted would have done if he played his whole career there.
The next day my grandfather and father went to Ebbets Field to watch a Dodger/Phillies game. I decided to look up this weekend and make it the first installment of Box Score Stories. It was 1957, late September. I wish I was there.
Saturday, September 21, 1957 Yankee Stadium
Attendance: 22,617, Time of Game: 3:13
W:Willard Nixon (12-12)
L:Bob Turley (12-6)
S:Ike Delock (11)
                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Red Sox         1  6  0   0  0  1   0  0  0    8  9  2
Yankees         0  0  1   0  1  0   0  0  1    3 10  1
A big day for Ted Williams. He only had one official at bat and in that at bat he hit a grand slam. The Yankees intentionally walked him once and unintentionally walked him two other times. With the bases loaded there was no place to put him and he took Turley deep.
Mickey Mantle was near the end of another MVP season but he left this game early. I wonder if he was injured or if he had a rough night out with the boys.
Yankees with 94 wins are cruising to another pennant while the Red Sox are looking very mediocre. This was the norm for much of Ted's career. The Red Sox of the 40's were great. Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr were long gone by 1957 and the Red Sox would never be a threat again during Ted's career.
Bobby Richardson was also part of this game. Richardson is the father of Gamecock baseball. He was the first ever manager for the University of South Carolina and set the foundation for a college baseball power. I had a chance to meet Bobby a few years ago. I shook his hand and explained to him that I was a die hard Red Sox fan but was also an alum of the University of South Carolina. He smiled and said "we are both Gamecocks and that's all that matters". It sure does Bobby.
I also noticed the game lasted over three hours. This was considered very long back in 1957. I guess some things never change, the Red Sox and Yankees involved in a long game.
Sunday, September 22, 1957 Ebbets Field 
Attendance: 6,662, Time of Game: 2:16
 WP: Don Drysdale (17-9)
  LP: Robin Roberts (10-22)

                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Phillies        0  2  0   0  0  0   0  0  1    3  8  2
Dodgers         0  1  1   1  2  0   2  0  X    7  9  1
The big story here is Duke Snider. Snider homered twice and the seventh inning blast would be his last home run ever at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers would move to Los Angeles for the 1958 season. This was a fact that my father had not realized. He was just 11 years old at the time. I am guessing my grandfather made this trip to see a Dodger game before they left Brooklyn. I figured out this was the game where Duke hit his last homer because of a painting that was done by Bill Purdom as part of the Bill Goff collection. Below is a picture of that painting which is titled Duke of Flatbush.
Witnessing that in person makes for a special day but there are so many other story lines for this game. Look at the pitching matchup, Robin Roberts against Don Drysdale.
Roberts was 30 years old and at the end of a season in which he would have a record of 10-22. The 22 losses would lead the league and while Roberts would eventually be a Hall of Famer, he had already seen his last 20 win season.
Drysdale was just 20 years old in 1957. It was his first full season in the majors. He threw 99 innings in 1956. Drysdale's 1957 season was his break out season going 17-9 with a 2.69 ERA. Drysdale would go on to win 209 games for his career and end up in Cooperstown.
Don Zimmer was also involved in this game. He was in the starting lineup which was rare for Zim. He played in just 84 games that season and batted .219. He was 21 years away from managing the 1978 Red Sox and 46 years away from being thrown to the ground by Pedro Martinez.
It was a great weekend in New York City. Legends Duke Snider and Ted Williams were on display. My two heroes were there to see it all in person. Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there but especially to mine. It is rare for me to have a baseball memory where my father is not in some way involved. I would not have it any other way. My grandfather has been gone now for almost two decades. I miss him more than ever. What I wouldn't give for a time machine programmed for September of 1957. Happy Father's Day.

Friday, December 9, 2016

How John Glenn Saved the Life of Ted Williams

John Glenn passed away yesterday after living one of the great lives in the history of our country. One aspect of his life was his connection with Ted Williams.

Ted was John's wingman in the Korean War and they remained close friends long after. There were not many people that Ted respected more than John Glenn. Glenn told a great story after one of his trips to space about Ted Williams:

"Told Ted Williams I saw one of his home runs in orbit.""How did he respond?""He paused for a second, and asked if it was still spinning"
Their relationship wasn't all just funny stories. Ted Williams credits John Glenn with saving his life. Here is an excerpt from a Boston Globe article by Hayden Bird:

In one especially difficult moment, Williams recalled how Glenn offered advice that helped Williams fly back to base safely. After getting hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, Williams’s F9F Panther jet was ablaze. Glenn flew next to his wing and pointed up. Flying higher into thinner air, the fire was extinguished, allowing Williams to fly back to base.
Rest in Peace John Glenn

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Big Papi is Still Clutch

David Ortiz is retired, maybe you heard. Red Sox fans are in full panic mode hoping Dave Dombrowski can find somebody who will be able to replace his bat in the middle of the lineup. It is times like these when you need to spend some time playing Out of the Park Baseball.

 My new laptop inspired me to start a new OOTP league and this time taking over the 2016 Red Sox. It didn't take long to remember what we will miss about the real Big Papi. Here is the generated write up by Out of the Park Baseball along with the boxscore.

 Before you look below and judge my managing strategy keep in mind that Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara were both unavailable thanks to a 13 inning game the night before where I lost. There was also a long rain delay in this game which forced Clay Buchholz out of the game early even though he was looking sharp. I had to adapt and improvise and I still picked up the win for the Sox.....with Papi's help of course.

Red Sox Need Extras to Top Indians
The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians completed their game despite the rain.

The Boston Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians, 5-3, at Progressive Field. The Red Sox got a fine performance from designated hitter David Ortiz, who captured player of the game honors. He went 2-3 with a home run, a double, and a walk. He drove in 4 runs and scored once. Junichi Tazawa picked up the win in relief, improving his record to 1-1. Bryan Shaw was tagged with the loss.

Ortiz had a game-changing home run in the top of the tenth. On a 0-1 slider from Bryan Shaw, he banged a 2-run home run to right-center, giving the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. It was the 1st home run of the year for Ortiz.

"We'll pop the top on a cold one and get back to work tomorrow," Ortiz said.

The loss lowers the Cleveland record to 1-1.

Boston Red Sox (1-1)20100000025100
Cleveland Indians (1-1)0000000300363

B. Holt 3B5130001.45500
D. Pedroia 2B5121013.36401
M. Betts RF5110015.36400
D. Ortiz DH3124102.33314
H. Ramirez 1B5000024.00000
J. Bradley Jr. CF5000023.00000
X. Bogaerts SS5000013.20001
C. Young LF4000003.11100
R. Hanigan C4120000.42902
Doubles: D. Ortiz (1, 3rd Inning off C. Carrasco, 2 on, 2 outs) B. Holt (1, 1st Inning off C. Carrasco, 0 on, 0 outs)
Home Runs: D. Ortiz (1, 10th Inning off B. Shaw, 1 on, 0 outs)
Total Bases: D. Ortiz 6 , M. Betts , B. Holt 4 , R. Hanigan 2 , D. Pedroia 2
2-out RBI: D. Ortiz
Runners left in scoring position, 2 outs: D. Ortiz , C. Young , H. Ramirez
Sac Fly: D. Ortiz
Team LOB: 8

SB: M. Betts (1)
R. Davis CF5110000.20011
J. Kipnis 2B4120100.37500
Y. Gomes C4000014.22200
C. Santana DH3012111.28603
M. Napoli 1B4000013.00000
F. Lindor SS4010012.55601
J. Uribe 3B3000011.16700
   a-T. Naquin PH1000000.00000
   b-M. Martinez 3B0000000.00000
J. Butler RF4000010.11101
J. Ramirez LF4110000.11100
a - T. Naquin pinch hit for J. Uribe in the 9th
b - M. Martinez substituted for T. Naquin in the 10th

Doubles: F. Lindor (1, 2nd Inning off C. Buchholz, 0 on, 2 outs)
Total Bases: J. Ramirez , F. Lindor 2 , J. Kipnis 2 , C. Santana , R. Davis
2-out RBI: C. Santana
Runners left in scoring position, 2 outs: J. Uribe , F. Lindor , C. Santana
Team LOB: 5

Errors: J. Ramirez (1) , R. Davis (1) , M. Martinez (1)
C. Buchholz4.020014043290.00
S. Wright H (1)3.132202038275.40
T. Layne0.0011100840.00
J. Tazawa W (1-1)BS (1)2.010000028172.70
R. Ross Jr. SV (1)0.2000000760.00
Game Score: C. Buchholz 61
Batters Faced: C. Buchholz 15, S. Wright 13, T. Layne 1, J. Tazawa 7, R. Ross Jr.2
Ground Outs - Fly Outs: C. Buchholz 3-5, S. Wright 4-4, T. Layne 0-0, J. Tazawa2-4, R. Ross Jr. 0-2
Pitches - Strikes: C. Buchholz 43-29, S. Wright 38-27, T. Layne 8-4, J. Tazawa 28-17, R. Ross Jr. 7-6
Inherited Runners - Scored: T. Layne 2-0 , J. Tazawa 3-3
WP: J. Tazawa 
C. Carrasco4.273202069473.86
J. Tomlin2.110001028190.00
D. Otero1.010012024160.00
B. Shaw L (0-1)2.012102125194.50
Game Score: C. Carrasco 42
Batters Faced: C. Carrasco 21, J. Tomlin 8, D. Otero 6, B. Shaw 8
Ground Outs - Fly Outs: C. Carrasco 4-8, J. Tomlin 1-5, D. Otero 0-1, B. Shaw 2-2
Pitches - Strikes: C. Carrasco 69-47, J. Tomlin 28-19, D. Otero 24-16, B. Shaw25-19
Inherited Runners - Scored: J. Tomlin 2-0 
Player of the Game: David Ortiz
Ballpark: Progressive Field
Weather: Rain (50 degrees), wind blowing in from right at 10 mph
Start Time: 6:10 pm EST
Time: 4:26
Attendance: 16775
Special Notes: Rain delay of 93 minutes in the 5th inning.

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