Monday, November 30, 2009

Henry Schmidt

Henry Schmidt. According to Bill James, he hated Brooklyn, didn't report to spring training in 1904 and never pitched in the majors again. Teams weren't looking for guys with attitude problems who were on the wrong side of 30 back then, I suppose. That 3.83 ERA looks OK until you remember that it was the deadball days. The league ERA was 3.26. That said, Schmidt was able to keep unearned runs down. Every NL team then averaged over 2 errors a game.

There's no major point in this entry. (Not sure that I make many as it is.) I just learned about Schmidt in some old Diamond Chronicles book that I picked up over the weekend. Also, I wanted to see if I would be able to make an entry just about every day for a month and I'm almost there. Shysterball was the one who inspired me to do this. Blogging is like quitting a bad habit, in my case. I've started a few over the years, but hope that this one gains Jon-mentum.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Greatest Current Name In Sports

Could it be Pawel Kielbasa? I dig how was born in and plays in Chicago.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I'm not really that into pro football this year. The concussions bother me some, but that's not really it. Football isn't the only big time sport that is problematic, if you really sit down and think about it, but I still follow them. Part of it may be the New York Giants coming back to earth after a hot start (but they're probably better than a .500 team), but a lot of it is likely because I didn't play fantasy football this year. I was occupied doing other stuff and the league I was in for years was starting to go the way of the Negro Leagues after Jackie Robinson. I think the last guy finally wrote a check for his 2008 dues last month. Plus, there used to be a lot of camaraderie in our league when we were in our 20s. We'd stumble out of bed, heads pounding, and make our way to the local bar and watch the games. I remember that one guy had a routine. Black coffee, followed by a Bloody Mary, then a Bud and some buffalo wings.

But then some guys got married, others moved away, and this Sunday tradition stopped. Too, more and more folks got dishes and didn't have to go to some gin mill to get their football jones. But I have fond memories of those days. As I once wrote elsewhere, "(F)ootball should be watched in bars; bars where there are bunch of instant refs (just add alcohol.) You know, the guys who think that they can interpret the rulebook better than the officials even though they are viewing the game through a haze of Marlboro Light smoke and light beer vapor. Also some folks who nervously step outside to get reception for their cellphones so they can communicate with their bookies add to the ambiance. I used to hang out at a place called Elmo’s before mobile communications became ubiquitous. There’d be a line at the payphone full of decrepit types waiting to call their guy looking to parlay their winnings of go double or nothing on the late game. They didn’t know Joey behind the bar. He’d book action on the frickin’ Hula Bowl."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Long Ball

About a month ago, I came across a story about a minor leaguer who hit a 733 foot home run 50 years ago. I was suspicious. There is a site out there called Hit Tracker Online that has been keeping track of major league home runs for the the last five years. The only one that topped 500 feet was by Adam Dunn on September 27, 2008. I'm assuming the fifty year old shot was measured like a golf shot and bounces and the roll counted.

FWIW, Dunn strikes out a lot, but when he connects, the ball carries. He might have the record over the past five years for blasts that cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet AND landed at least 50 feet past the fence. Rabbit Maranville All-Star? I think home runs started getting cheap over the past 15 years, but these may be worth watching.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tim Wakefield

Tim is sort of the anti-Manny. He's not flashy; doesn't stir up any controversy. Bill Plaschke and Mikey Adams probably like him. And he might secretly be paying the Red Sox to pitch. But his starts have become appointment television over the years for me. Why? He throws the knuckleball.

The knuckler is going the way of the polar bear, but it is one of my favorite pitches to watch. According to Fangraphs (just fool around with the site. You'll find the right section.), only 5 major league pitchers floated the pitch last year; Wakefield, Charlie Saeger, and R. A. Dickey used it as their bread and butter pitch. Josh Banks and Eddie Bonine also tossed it on occasion. Charlie Zink is presumably somewhere in the minors. These other guys get the ball moving in the 70s, but the average Wakefield pitch goes about the Interstate speed limit. Along with Ramirez and Lincecum, Wake is a potential selectee for my Rabbit Maranville All Stars.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Early Meeting Tommorrow

Don't expect any wisdom from me tommorrow morning when you settle in at work. I did check that Paper book out tonite.

Chuck Klostermann Likes This Book

Perfect by Lew Paper. It didn't strike me as his type of thing, but I liked Nine Innings and The Echoing Green. It sounds like a hybrid of these two books. Maybe I should check it out.

BTW, I heard "Love Shack" on the oldies station the other day. It's not right! That song is only twenty years old.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Connecticut 33 Notre Dame 30

They probably beat at least one better team last year, but this one was on national television.

The Best Baseball Blog Out There?

It might be, no it is, Cardboard Gods. Once I read the Gorman Thomas entry, I was hooked. This one cracked me up, too. I could tell you more about Josh, but Scott Simkus already had the definitive interview with him.

(Check out Scott's interview with Bill James, too.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tim Lincecum

Lincecum gets a sweetleaf cluster on his NL Cy Young award yesterday. Tim is one of these guys who I'd put in a class with Ramirez or Fidrych. He pitches in the NL West. That's almost like pitching for the Nippon Ham Fighters from where I see things, but not quite. I think I've seen a couple of his games this year. He has a great changeup, so that makes him distinctive on the field. That and his mane of hair.

But Tim's also colorful outside the lines. I hear that he likes to get small, his pregame meal was once a Choco Taco, and he appeared in a national ad for a video game. Feel free to jump in here, Giants fans.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Manny Ramirez

I'm a Red Sox fan. My father introduced me to baseball and the Red Sox during the 1975 season. Because I was a young lad of 7 at the time, I expected the Red Sox to play in the World Series every year. I've pretty much followed them religiously since then. There was a time when I was in the Army where I wasn't as devout. This was in the pre-Internet days, which were more difficult for fandom if you were part of a team's diaspora. But even then, I saw them play a game in Oakland.

For various reasons, I wasn't as into them this year. I've been busier at work, bought a condo, and went to a couple of weddings. This cut into my time. But lately, I've been thinking that part of the reason I wasn't as into them is that I miss Manny. I thought that Manny Ramirez made the Red Sox more interesting. Who else would hide in the Green Monster? Or inexplicably cutoff a throw from center? Or high-five a fan in Baltimore while doubling up a runner? For me, the highlight of the Boston season was a steal of home. Winning's great, but it is even better if it is done in an entertaining manner.

I called Satchel Paige Free Darko. Manny's got some of the same characteristics, but I'm not sure if Free Darko is the correct term. I may be misinterpreting their philosophy. The Germans probably have a word for the quality in players I'm talking about; great, or very good at the least, and someone you'd make the extra effort to go see.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Speaking Of Clusters

My brother reminded me today that an oak leaf cluster is placed on military awards to denote those who have received more than one award. In my world, Mike Scioscia got an oak leaf cluster on his MoY today.

Zack Greinke

I haven't said anything here yet about Awards Season. At one point, I thought that they should do them all in one big ceremony like the Oscars or Tonys, but I don't like shows like that, so I'm glad they don't. Zack Greinke won the AL Cy Young Award yesterday. While showering this morning I was thinking to myself "This says he was the best pitcher in the league this year. But that's only part of the story." He also played for the craptacular Kansas City Royals. If they ever start putting clusters on awards, Greinke shoud get the Steve Carlton Cluster on his CYA.

Klosterman Weeknite

To me, Chuck Klosterman sometimes exudes the vibe of one of those hipster/slackers who works at a bookstore and looks down on those of us who went into the white collar workforce. But I checked out his latest book Eating The Dinosaur from the local library (they seem to be really good at acquiring new books.) I was interested in what he had to say about sports after reading this excerpt. Klosterman is sort of an acquaintance of Bill Simmons and I wanted to get a feel for what he has to say. (Bill called him a sports atheist in his book, meaning that Chuck doesn't root for a particular team.) But this essay collection has only one other sports-related chapter on Ralph Sampson. I already have enough Sampson-related stuff here.

EDIT: I’ve been reading too much Smart Football. Eating The Dinosaur has a diagram for a read option play where all of the front seven guys are blocked. Isn’t the whole point of that play to leave the backside end unblocked, read where he goes, then go away from him? I wish I thought of this earlier when I made my morning entry.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Men Who Stare At Goats

I enjoyed this movie. Here's Roger Ebert's take on it. One of the things Roger says in the review is that "Cassady attempts to deal it (hostility) with using paranormal techniques. He explains his theory of Jedi Warriordom to Wilton, who has apparently never seen "Star Wars" episodes I, II and III. Little joke." I think it is even funnier because Wilton is played by Ewan McGregor; the same guy who played Obi-Wan Kenobi. Oh, MK-Ultra and Angela Lansbury are both referenced in the film. Was that an intentional nod to The Manchurian Candidate?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shades Of Leaving Pedro In?

Do New England fans think that Bill Belichick pulled a Grady Little by going for it on fourth down in last nite's game? Was this a moment akin to not putting Dave Stapleton in for defensive purposes, pinch hitting for Jim Willoughby, or starting Denny Galehouse in the 1948 playoff game? Brian Burke thinks not. I'm almost tempted to listen to WEEI on my commute today. Almost.

A Carl Erskine sighting

In Indianapolis, of all places. He played the National Anthem on the harmonica before the Celtics-Pacers game. What is it with 50s ballplayers and harmonicas? Stan the Man plays one, too.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sports and Ethnicity: The Underground Cult of Slugging

Buck Freeman. I recently reread Keith Olbermann's foreword to Deadball Stars of the American League. He wrote about Buck Freeman's 1899 season where he slugged 25 home runs. It was the second leading total of the 19th century after Ned Williamson slugged 27 in 1884. This got me interested in Freeman, so I looked him up. Though his surname sounds more Anglo-Saxon, Freeman's dad actually immigrated from Ireland to the coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania.

One thing that I am curious is how styles of play in sports fit into different cultures. I've been that way for 25 years ever since I read an essay by Jeff Greenfield about titled "The Black and White Truth About Basketball." And this interest was reawakened recently when I attended a conference in Cooperstown and also read some stuff about the Irish in early baseball. I had a theory that they introduced slugging (as opposed to place hitting) to the game, but for years this wasn't viewed as the right way to hit until Babe Ruth. Roger Connors and Dan Brouthers were among the heaviest hitters in the 19th Century and they were of Irish stock.

(FWIW, Ken Dryden muses about the difference between Canadian and Russian hockey in his book, The Game. Canadian hockey was more violent and it owes a debt to rugby and shinty. Russian hockey, OTOH, evolved from soccer and bandy.)

Rowdy ball was popular in the 90s. The team that introduced that style (particularly gaming the ump and opponents) was the Charlie Comiskey-led St Louis Browns. That's one aspect of the game that might be considered Irish. But Cap Anson, who was anything but Irish, was no shrinking violet on the field himself and he was one of the most influential forces in the game. Jerrold Casway wrote the Ed Delahanty book Baseball and The Emerald Age. He thinks that the Irish had an advantage when it came to hitting because they also played hurling and handball. Both of these sports require superior hand-eye coordination; just like batting does. I was looking into this further and read Montgomery Ward's instructional book Baseball: How To Become A Player. He said that most hitters didn't use their arms and instead pushed at the ball. But the exceptions he named (Connor, Brouthers, Tiernan, Wise, Fogarty, Whitney, Ryan, Denny, and Fred Carroll)were all Irish. Not all Irish players swung hard. He listed King Kelly as one of the pushers along with Dunlap and Anson.

Actually, it turns out that I was wrong. The Irish didn't invent slugging. According to Peter Morris, batsmen would "whale away and try to hit the ball out of sight" in the early days when baseball was predominantly a New York game. But Henry Chadwick, who was the Peter Gammons of his day, frowned on that type of approach, as did Cap Anson. So, the Celtic role was to be the keeper, not the igniter, of the slugging flame.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Satchel Paige? Definitely Free Darko

Bruce Markusen brings the heat.

Style Points

Reading The Book of Basketball has inspired me to reread The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac by those maniacs at Free Darko. It's sort of like a scouting profile of some NBA stars if the scouts were those kids that sat at the table of the cafe in high school that was the intersection of the geek set and the stoner set. Anyways, they have a manifesto, like all good revolutionaries do, and part of it is the theory of liberated fandom. Part of this theory is actually old-fashioned Grantland Rice stuff. Ya know, "It's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game." This got me thinking about two Massachusetts guys who were gate attractions based on more than their ability. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych and Rabbit Maranville. The Bird, would do stuff like talk to the ball, while Rabbit perfected a vest pocket catch and would often mimic umpires while they weren't watching; to the delight of the fans. I've seen old sports columns that said that he was the second biggest gate attraction after Ruth. Not sure if it was true, but some believed it. These two guys were Free Darko players. Do any current ones have animal nicknames?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Book of Basketball is... like the New Bill James Historical Abstract if Bill James was into basketball and pop culture and a little more Bones McCoy than Spock.

That was my take on it. Kevin Pelton goes into a little more depth.

One section that Simmons wrote was about a wine cellar list, where he picks certain vintage of players for a game where the earth's survival hinges on the outcome. I think it would be neat to spitball a similar baseball team. Who'd get picked first? '23 Ruth? '09 Honus Wagner? Or are has the game changed too much since then?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Martin, Herzog, Murtaugh and Mauch on Hall ballot


One of those names up there isn't like the others. I'd like to hear Chris Jaffe's take on the ballot. Execs and umps are also being considered.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Robinson to Russell to Brown

Big Baby Davis wants to join the NFL someday. He's not the first Celtic with pigskin dreams. I was reading Bill Simmons's The Book of Basketball over the weekend. In the part on John Havlicek, Simmons mentions that he was drafted as a receiver by the Cleveland Browns in '62 and was the last player cut before the regular season. Said that Havlicek was the only guy who was a teammate of Bill Russell and Jim Brown. Russell and Jackie Robinson also shared a teammate. In The Echoing Green, Josh Prager mentions that Bill Sharman was on the Dodger bench during their 1951 three game playoff with the Giants. Sharman, of course, went on to a HOF career with the Celtics. I live for stuff like this. Incidentally, Red Auerbach went on to steal another player from the Bavasis (Danny Ainge.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You know that you've been a SABR member for a while when...

...Pete Palmer makes a cameo in your dream.

I wonder if they get today off

Walter Johnson High

It might be a little different from a Tim Lincecum high. According to Baseball Reference, Tim Kurkjian attended there. (I can't believe that I spelled that correctly without looking it up.)

Most Likely To Suceed

It was inevitable. Now that there's a Democrat in the White House, the Yankees got another ring. I'm working on a project where I am looking at the biggest underdogs to win the World Series. The flip side of that question is also interesting. As far as I can tell, there were five World Series winners who had a 60% chance or better that went on to win the Fall Classic. (There are also two teams that had that chance but were upset.)

5. 1907 Chicago Cubs 60%
4. 1998 New York Yankees 60.8%
3. 1944 Saint Louis Cardinals 61% - They played the Browns, so the odds were in their favor
2. 1927 Yankees 61.5%
1. 1932 Yankees 61.8%

There. You have two teams (1927 and 1998) that are in the greatest teams ever debate, a Deadball Era dynasty, a wartime team and the 1932 Yankees? The NL was won that year by the Cubs who "only" won 90 games, so there was a 17 game differential between New York and Chicago. Also, unless I missed someone, that Yankee team had more Hall of Famers than any other champ. They had 9 (Combs, Dickey, Gehrig, Gomez, Lazzeri, Pennock, Ruffing, Ruth, and Sewell.) That era may be overrepresented in Cooperstown, but that's still an impressive array of talent.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It was just an exhibiton game

You figure that, as a UConn fan, I would have laughed at Syracuse losing to LeMoyne last night. I'm really not one to gloat to begin with and it was an exhibition, by Jove. Now this was an upset!

Who's older?

Pedro Martinez or Rey Ordonez?

What about Todd Marinovich or Brett Favre?

What does Vicente Padilla Have in Common with Hoss Radbourn?

Well, they're both pitchers. But now they are both victims of accidental gunshot wounds.

Gloveslap to Repoz.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009