Thursday, December 31, 2009


Rudy Larusso once appeared in Gilligan's Island with Bob Denver who was in Who's Minding the Mint? (1967) with Bryan O'Byrne who was in
Hero at Large (1980) with Kevin Bacon.

Oracle of Bacon

Had the Detroit trade gone through, LaRusso would have been teamed with Dave DeBusscherre. Dave DeBusschere played with Floyd Robinson for the 1962 Chicago White Sox. Robinson played with Tommy John for the 1966 Chicago White Sox. Tommy John played with Mike Morgan for the 1982 New York Yankees.

Oracle of Baseball

The Spirit of '76 Part I: Rudy LaRusso

(This is will be an ongoing look at the history of the NBA Players Association.)

Before there was Curt Flood, there was Rudy LaRusso. I mentioned him earlier this month in a piece that I found on my hard drive. Rudy was a tough forward; half-Italian, half-Jewish who hailed from Brooklyn and went to James Madison High. From there he went to Dartmouth before being drafted by the then Minneapolis Lakers. Red Auerbach had territorial rights to him, but passed. He was an All-Star, a Don Rickles fan (according to one news story), and must've been something of an enforcer. In my research on him, I found a number of boxscores that said "Fouled Out - LaRusso."

In January of 1967, LaRusso was part of a three way trade that would send him to Detroit. But he refused to go to the Pistons and retired. He had established himself in the Los Angeles area and had a day job as a stockbroker in Beverly Hills with McDonnell and Company. The league suspended him. LaRusso's attorney filed an anti-trust suit and sought compensation for the balance of his contract plus any future basketball income. But the forward and the NBA never went to trial.

1967 was also the year that the American Basketball Association started. One of the franchises would be the Oakland Oaks (Pat Boone would be a part owner.) They hired Bruce Hale as head coach. Hale's son-in-law was Rick Barry. Barry would jump across the Bay from from the San Francisco Warriors to the new team (more on that in a future edition of this series.) The NBA was also expanding that year and SF also lost Warrior-poet Tom Meschery. They needed a forward. So head coach Bill Sharman talked ownership into trying to see if LaRusso would be interested in going north. The 6-9 Ivy Leaguer said that he'd "rather pursue a career than a lawsuit" and SF purchased his rights from Detroit.

Leonard Koppett and David Halberstam have written about different events involving the NBAPA, but I didn't see anything by them about LaRusso. So I worry that I may be overstating the significance of him here. But two years later, there were a number of baseball players who were traded that balked at the deals; Donn Clendenon, Hawk Harrelson, and, ultimately, Curt Flood. Were they inspired by LaRusso?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blanda to Erdos - A Quicker Way

Hola. After reading Monday's post, reader Tybalt suggest offline that there's a quicker way to get from George Blanda to Paul Erdos. He suspect a link can be found through Mike Marshall or Dave Meggyesy. Both are athletes of that era who went into academe. Meggyesy (who's worthy of discussion here on his own someday) would probably be a much easier connection. He played football instead of baseball. Unfotunato, I couldn't find a link to Erdos for either. But I did find one five years ago for Frank Ryan. Enjoy.

Tommorrow, I'll recap the best of this blog for the decade. All two months worth. Actually, upcoming topics will hopefully include the fall and rise of the stolen base and the history of the NBA Players' Association (The history of the MLBPA is well documented, but this one really isn't and Bill Simmmons suggested that someone write it up. Why not me?)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Liberated Fandom

I'm still having trouble trying to liberate myself from rooting for particular laundry. If I don't have a rooting interest for a particular team in a game, I'm still not likely to watch it. But that John Wall kid is fun to watch when he's on.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The One Where The Sitter Loses His Cool

Urban Meyer chose to take only a leave of absence. He should heed his own words and put health and family first. That was a headline at Yahoo Sports on Sunday and it linked to this Dan Wetzel column. Only?

Apparently the Florida head coach announced his retirement, then reversed himself a couple days later. I hate the superquick news cycle. I didn’t even know he was resigning in the first place. Pardon me for celebrating Christmas instead of staying locked into the ####### news. The news is getting as hard to follow as Arrested Development. Miss an episode and you are lost. Am I wrong to get frustrated by things like this?

Meyer Retracts Resignation; Takes Leave Of Absence Instead

8 words. That would have worked. The thing is, 90% of the time I would have already heard about the resignation. But it was a holiday weekend and I was busy celebrating. I like Yahoo Sports for quick info. The page isn't as distractingly busy as ESPN's page. But I may switrch to NBC or CBS instead.

Is George Blanda the nexus of the football universe?

(This is something I wrote about 4 years ago. Enjoy.)

A few years ago, some Craig Fass and two of his buddies at Albright College in Pennsylvania invented a popular game about the actor Kevin Bacon. The object of the game was to start with an actor or actress and connect them with Bacon in the fewest links possible. People are linked if they appeared in the same movie. A “Bacon Number” was assigned to the actor based on the fewest links necessary to connect them with Kevin Bacon. For instance, Telly Savalas was in “Kelly’s Heroes” with Donald Sutherland. Sutherland appeared in “Animal House” (and “JFK”) with Bacon. Therefore Sutherland has a Bacon Number of 1 and Savalas has a Bacon Number of 2. In fact, the game has inspired the Oracle of Bacon website at the University of Virginia. The Oracle uses as a database for its actor and movie data.

This isn’t an entirely new concept. Since the 1960s, sociologists have suggested that every person is connected to every other person through an average of six acquaintances. Paul Erdos, a prolific Hungarian mathematician, invented the Erdos Number. Every academic who collaborated on a paper with Erdos was assigned an Erdos Number of 1. Every co-author of these collaborators has an Erdos Number of 2. And so on, and so on. The Erdos Number became the forerunner of the Bacon Number.

Four years ago, I wrote an article at Baseball Primer (now Baseball Think Factory), suggesting that Mike Morgan was the center of the baseball universe. It turns out that I was wrong. Since then, Sean Forman has added an Oracle of Baseball section to his website, and it has been shown that the most linkable baseball player is either Early Wynn or Bobo Newsom (any baseball player can be linked to Bobo in five links or less, while there are 87 that require 6 links to get to Wynn.) In any case, Bacon isn’t the best center of the Hollywood universe. Rod Steiger is. I think that I failed to account for the fact that Mike Morgan is a recent player. So, while he (or Rickey Henderson) may eventually become the center of the baseball universe, he ain’t there yet.

When it comes to football, I think that I have the center of the universe pegged and I think that I found a way to prove it. I’m sure that many folks would guess George Blanda off the top of their heads. The quarterback/placekicker had a 27-year career that neatly straddled the middle of pro football history. Ever since I wrote that Morgan article, I’ve thought that Blanda would be the perfect choice for the center of the football universe. But I couldn’t think of a way of proving it. Then, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the website. I don’t know much about the site (it may be a Justin Kubatko project, but I’m not sure), but it has listings for all players, not just skill players. It may be feasible to run a query of the database to determine who the most linkable and least linkable football players are. I’m no database expert, but I know that there may be some out there who are football fanatics and may try to tackle (no pun intended) this project.

Just fooling around with Blanda, it only takes three steps to get him to 2004 (Blanda played with punter Ray Guy, who played with Howie Long, who played with Tim Brown.) It only takes four steps to link Blanda with George Halas as a player (Blanda played with Sid Luckman who played with George Musso, who played with both Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski, who both played with George Halas.) So, the recently retired Brown has a Blanda Number of 3 while Papa Bear’s Blanda Number is 4.

Let’s play the “Blanda Game” with a couple of Hall of Famers. Jim Thorpe played with Mickey McDonnell on the 1928 Chicago Cardinals. McDonnell played on the AAFC Miami Seahawks in 1946 with Lamar Davis. Davis played on the 1949 Baltimore Colts with Y. A. Tittle. Tittle and Blanda were teammates the next year on the Colts. Thorpe’s Blanda Number is less than or equal to 4. (There may be a quicker link. I haven’t done exhaustive research on this.) Steve Young has a Blanda Number of 5. Young played on the 1985 Tampa Bay Bucs with Steve DeBerg. DeBerg was the QB in San Francisco when O. J. Simpson was a Niner in 1978. One of O. J.’s teammates on the Bills his rookie year was Tom Flores. Fred Biletnikoff chain-smoked for the 1966 Raiders when Flores played there and later was a longtime teammate of Blanda’s.

So, is George Blanda the nexus of the football universe? Crawling the Databasefootball data may determine whether or not he is. Blanda has around 450 teammates in 1100 teammate-seasons. The other candidate that comes to mind is Earl Morrall. Morrall played for 21 seasons with 6 different franchises. I’m not sure what the record for most franchises played for, but it may be held by Tillie Voss. Voss played for 11 teams in the 1920’s, but I’m not sure what the franchise continuity was in those days. Voss was too early in pro football history to make him that linkable, in any case. Morton Andersen, and Gary Anderson have both been kicking since I started high school, but they are two recent in football history to link quickly to the real old-timers. Kickers, punters, and quarterbacks seem to be prime candidates for connecting other players. There are a few linemen with lengthy careers. But a lot of them seem to stay in one place for their careers.


Kevin Bacon has a Blanda Number of 3. Kevin Bacon was in In the Cut (2003) with Julius LeFlore. Julius LeFlore was in Rocky III (1982) with Carl Weathers. Weathers was a linebacker for the Raiders in 1970 and 1971.

Paul Erdos, arguably, has a Blanda Number of 7. Erdos and Hank Aaron both received honorary degrees from Emory University the same year. Aaron played with Dennis Menke for the 1965 Milwaukee Braves . Denis Menke played with Hal McRae for the 1972 Cincinnati Reds. Hal McRae played with Bo Jackson for the 1986 Kansas City Royals. Jackson played with Howie Long on the Los Angeles Raiders. As mentioned above, Long was a teammate of Ray Guy who was Blanda’s teammate.

Larry Bird has a Blanda Number of 6. Bird played with Danny Ainge, who was a Toronto Blue Jay third baseman before joining the NBA. Ainge was a teammate of Dave Stieb, who later played with Bo Jackson. And so on and so forth.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Long Toss

I read this Posnanski-length piece a couple of weeks ago. It isn't buy Joe, though. It's by some guy named J. G. Preston. It traces the history of the record for the longest toss of a baseball. 445 feet 10 inches is the record and has been for half a century. It is held by Glen Gorbous. I just love that name; alliterative and full of Gorb. Check some of Preston's other stuff out if you get a chance. This guy puts a lot of work into his posts.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Dunno If This Is A record, But...

... if you love the double play, Bobby Doerr might be your man. In 1949 he led the league by grounding into 31 of them while helping turn 134. And he did this all in 139 games. The middle of the last century was the high watermark for double plays. There were about 6 1/2 singles a game, as well as 4 walks a game. A lot of guys on first base.


Football Maranvillians

A backfield of Jack Kemp, Dan Towler, and Gale Sayers may have been the most Free Darko football backfield ever. Tom over at Residual Prolixity tipped me off to a couple of posts over at the Pro-football Reference blog. Heh, it's almost fitting that none of these guys played after I was three years old or so and I have no memory of watching them.

I'm glad that Sayers is on the list. As a kid, I read I Am Third (which was the basis for Brian's Song.) I loved to read and I loved sports, so I gobbled it up. Bill Cosby wrote the introduction to that particular edition. I may be misremembering it, but The Cos commented on how exciting Sayers was to watch and even said that he saw one play were he split in two to avoid being tackled. Hyperbole, of course, but I still remember that description to this day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Ideas I've Had In The Past

Ever since I sent The Golfing Bear to some Army buddies of mine and one of them suggested that I send it to the New Yorker (I did, but alas, it was rejected.), I've wanted to become a published author. I suppose I have already done so, in a way. Several of my short bios of Red Sox players have appeared in collections. But I've dreamed of writing a whole book myself.

I've thought about expanding my bio of Billy Southworth into a book-length work, but didn’t feel that I could get it as long as a publisher would want without a bunch of empty filler. I talked to one and they suggested that I profile one of the teams he managed. I thought about the 1948 team. (I have more info on them than any of his St Louis World Series clubs.) The pennant race wasn’t exciting in the NL that year, but I was thinking of something along the lines of the rise and fall of that team. Then a lightning bolt hit me. I should adopt the format of Breaks Of The Game by David Halberstam and profile the 1951 squad. It would be an interesting take on that year’s NL race; from the perspective of a fourth place team with a HOF manager at the end of his rope.

I took notes from Halberstam’s book to figure out how he intertwined the various storylines in that book and have read some newspaper stories from the spring of ‘51. No one really talks about how the Korean War affected baseball; among other issues that were surfacing around then. Since then, I‘ve collected news stories on that year. I even started a website. But I'm not sure how much commercial appeal such a book would have.

Other book ideas have included a bio of Bowie Kuhn (Important, but not commercially viable or timely.), a book on unlikely home run heroes, and one on the 14 or 15 guys who hit 4 home runs in a game. New Years is coming up. This may be fodder for a resolution.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Weekend in the Toy Department of Life

This was something I started almost three years ago. It ends abruptly, so I don't think I ever finished it:

The owner of the concern that I work for during the day has a framed Baltimore Sun front page from the day he was born at the reception desk. While it was a neat gift from someone, it tells you what happened the day before he was born, not his birthday itself.

Over the holiday weekend in 2006, I decided to lookup the events from the day that I was born. It was a rainy Sunday, March 17th, 1968, in Hartford, Connecticut. I escaped the womb around 9 PM that evening, just as the Ed Sullivan Show was segueing into the Smothers Brothers (or Walt Disney was ending and Bonanza beginning, if you were watching NBC). “(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding was just named the number one hit in the land the day before. It toppled “L’Amour est Bleu” by Paul Mauriat. I’m sure that I’ve heard this easy listening hit at some point, but I doubt that I could identify it. Redding wasn’t around to enjoy being top of the pops. Redding and six others, including four of the six members of Redding's backup band, The Bar-Kays, were killed when the plane on which they were traveling crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin four months prior.

I was looking up stuff that happened the day and weekend I was born. The front page was a depressing. Vietnam was in full swing. The My Lai massacre took place the day before; although no one outside of the villagers or the boys in Charlie Company knew about it yet. The Gold Standard, established after World War II in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire was in trouble. And there was, ugh, a presidential campaign going on. But the sports page had some interesting stuff. Victor Neiderhoffer, who later became a lieutenant of George Soros, made a pile of money, wrote a book about how good he was, then lost the money, won the national squash championship with a partner. Bo Belinsky left the Astros training camp because they wouldn't let him stay out until 3 AM with Jo Collins; a former Playmate of the Year. They wound up suspending him, then shuffling him off to the White Sox. But Bo got the bunny and they lived happily... until 1975, when they divorced. Some Soviet apparatchik wanted the US out of the 68 Olympics because we were in Vietnam. Switzerland said that they'd go to Mexico City, whether or not South Africa did. There was a big hubbub about a new spitball rule. March Madness, while not as culturally significant as it would be later, was going on. And the NBA and NHL regular seasons were winding down. That's just a few of the things that were going on.

Probably a typical sports weekend for the era, but there were dozens of stories going on in what Red Smith called “the toy department of life.” These were just mere vignettes in the lives of the participants. These athletes were, obviously, much more than what happened the weekend of my birth. Some of them were famous, but others were less well known.

A 400 Mile Commute

SAN FRANCISCO, California - The Sporting News was still relevant in those days. This was in the days before the news cycle was compressed and a weekly publication could survive. That weekend, readers could have turned to page 35 and read a feature on NBA vet Rudy LaRusso. LaRusso was a 6’7” power forward from Brooklyn via Dartmouth College. He was drafted by the Lakers after he left college and was with them when they moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. While in LA, he made a guest appearance in the penultimate episode of “Gilligan’s Island” (#97 “Bang! Bang! Bang!). But the Lakers, without mentioning it to him, traded him to the Pistons in 1967. Because athletes didn't have many rights at that time, LaRusso made the decision to retire rather than leave Los Angles with his pregnant wife.

He didn't really want to retire, but returning to the Lakers wasn't much of an option. Then NBA President Walter Kennedy suspended him, calling him the property of the Pistons. A player good enough to average 13 points and eight rebounds for one of the League's elite teams was on the outside looking in. LaRusso filed a lawsuit, claiming that he was "in effect, blacklisted by all of the other teams ... a victim of a group boycott."

Two years later, baseball player Curt Flood would take a similar stand, one which would both end his career and the "reserve clause," allowing for free agency. But LaRusso's career was not over. Before the next season began, he dropped the lawsuit, saying, "I'd rather pursue a career than a lawsuit."

He joined the San Francisco Warriors, but maintained his home in the Los Angeles area, not far from the airport. He'd leave home at 9 am, fly to San Francisco at 9:15, get to the gym in San Bruno before the 11 am practice and be home by 3. (

LaRusso was also working for McDonnell and Company, a brokerage firm that probably got swallowed up by mergers in the ensuing years, in Beverly Hills and didn’t want to give up the lucrative side job. He lucked out in that Rick Barry had left the Warriors for the nascent ABA and there was an opening in the San Francisco frontcourt. Although he turned 30 early that season, it was one of his better seasons. He was named to the All-Star team for the fourth out of five times in his career. He was tenth in the league with 1726 points or 21.8 per game.

LaRusso played one more year for the Warriors (who weren’t named Golden State until 1971) before hanging up his Chuck Taylors. After his playing career, he embarked on a number of endeavors, including being GM of the NASL’s Los Angeles Aztecs in the late 70’s. After a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease he passed away in 2004.

Flog Scrambled, A Good Walk Spoiled

ORLANDO, Florida -While the bacchanalia known as Bike Week was going down in Daytona (more on that later), the traditional kickoff of the sports weekend is usually the golf tournament. Heading west on I-4, not for from where Walt Disney World was being built, you could see the PGA in action in Orlando in the Citrus Open. This was an event that was played at the Rio Pinar golf club on the east cide of that city until 1978. A team headed by Arnold Palmer won the Pro-Am and the first round was getting ready to start on Thursday. The purse, $115,000. 1968 was the first year that the PGA Tour was separate from the Professional Golfers Association, for what it’s worth. Miller Barber tied for the lead with Jack Nicklaus after the first round with a five-under 67. Five golfers were a stroke behind the two leaders.

On Friday, Nicklaus shot a 68 to pull away for sole possession of the lead. This was despite bouts of wildness with his drive. As for Arnie, he shot 76 for a two-day total of 147; bogeying five holes on the front nine. Palmer missed three putts of less than three feet. He missed the cut by two strokes. Gary Player was five back of Nicklaus at 140.

The final two rounds were televised nationally (on Saturday it was taped, but it was live Sunday followed by a repeat in the early evening). Rain hit central Florida that Saturday the 16th and left the course a quagmire. The leaderboard got rather tight with five golfers tied for the lead at 208(Nicklaus, Barber, Bob Charles, Bruce Devlin, and Dan Sikes) while eight duffers were just a stroke behind. According to PGA officials, never before had the last round started with five players tied for the lead. (Not sure if it’s happened since then.)

But Dan Sikes pulled away on Sunday with a 66 to pick up the $23,000 winner’s check. Who was Sikes? He was a native Floridian with a law degree from the University of Florida. He was one of the first golfers to use backers to finance his start on the tour. 50 Jacksonville businessmen formed a corporation known as “Dan’s Friends, Inc.”

Dan won the 1958 U.S. Amateur Public Links championship while in law school. He turned pro in 1960 and won six times on the PGA Tour. He played on the 1969 Ryder Cup team. He also won three times on the Senior PGA Tour. Sikes died in Jacksonville, Florida at the age of 58 back in 1987.

Fuck It Dude, Let’s Go Bowling

DEPREY, New York - The PBA Tour was getting underway in Buffalo. People may laugh today, but the PBA Tour was a winter Saturday staple for me as a kid, a prelude to the Wide World of Sports.

In The Hall of The Mountain King

OSLO, Norway - American John Bower won the 15 kilometer cross-country ski race on Thursday March, 14th, 1968 with a time of 50:22. This moved him into first place in the combined Nordic standings at the Holmenkollen Ski Games. Holmenkollen was big in Nordic circles and Bower was attempting to be the first American to win it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Where Have You Gone, Frank McCormick?

The answer to yesterday's trivia question was (you guessed it) Frank McCormick. At the time he was playing, it looks like he had a better rep with the writers than Johnny Mize (who was better), but he only received a handful of HOF votes over several years. He never struck out, but he never walked either. But I think the main reason no one remembers him is that his career didn't really start until he was 27. Had he had an earlier start, he might have put up more counting stats. I don't think that the lack of walks hurt him. The conventional wisdom of the time didn't really discount a batter that didn't walk that often. The thinking was that walks were the result of wild pitching and not patient hitting. (McCormick liked to swing at the first ptich.) One of my commenters made a point about Charlie Dressen jerking him around, but AFAICT, McCormick never even played pro ball until 23. His SABR bio has a six year gap between 17 and 23.

There haven't been many first basemen like him since then. The slick fielding contact hitting type hasn't really appeared since the days of Steve Garvey. I don't really have much more to add at the moment (work beckons), but I was trying to come up with a candidate for the best obscure player and he is one of them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Who is this man?

This baseball player won an MVP award. He led his league once in RBI. He was named to the all star team many years in a row and once appeared in over 600 consecutive games. Who is he? If you heard the name, odds are you don't know much more than I wrote here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What I've Been Reading

I have a tendency to start waaay more books than I finish. But I did manage to get through a few this fall. Here are some of them:

Against the machine : being human in the age of the electronic mob
/ Lee Siegel - This is about the dark side of Web 2.0. A little paranoid for my tastes, but I did get a lesson out of it. "Don't sound more like everyone else than anyone else is able to sound like everyone else. Write meaningful and original thoughts and write them well.

Oddballs / Bruce Shlain - I was looking for Danny Peary's book on cult baseball players, but it wasn't in the stacks. I picked this up a substitute. It wasn't memorable.

Perfect : Don Larsen's miraculous World Series game and the men who made it happen / Lew Paper - I picked this up on Chuck Klosterman's recommendation. I was expecting it to be more like Dan Okrent's Nine Innings. The book was about baseball of the early '80s viewed through the prism of a Brewers-Orioles game. Okrent would digress about such diverse topics such as the invention of the slider and look behind the scenes of the Brewer's marketing department. Paper's book was more structured. Essentially it was nineteen bios of the nineteen ballplayers who appeared in the boxscore interspersed with game action. But I learned just as much about midcentury baseball from this book as I learned about baseball of my youth from Okrent's book. For instance, I probably read or heard this before, but Duke Snider wasn't exactly known for hustling. I think that I sometimes overlook the more famous stories while I search for more obscure ones and it gets to the point where I think I know what I don't know.

Big bang : the origin of the universe / Simon Singh - My buddy Zac was reading some physics this fall to keep up with his daughter who is taking it in high school. So I was trying to get into the subject. After fits and starts with other books, I happened to pick this one up. It's about cosmology, but there's some physics (and quite a bit of astronomy) involved. Singh is one of the more accessible science writers I have come across. I've also read his books on cryptography and Fermat's theorem. Since college, one of my occasional interests is the history of ideas (we never had a history of economic thought course on our curriculum, but I read books on it on my own.) This book gives that to you; up until string theory. That's a book for another day.

The book of basketball : the NBA according to the sports guy / Bill Simmons - No need for me to add my voice to the cacophony of those already out there.

Everything bad is good for you : how today's popular culture is actually
making us smarter
/ Steven Johnson - Intriguing. I'm not sure if video games, reality shows, and long arc TV storylines are making us smarter. But they're making us think differently.

For next time, I am thinking about writing something on a ballplayer or two who was famous during his day, but who is long forgotten.

Least Likely To Succeed

Here something I wrote a couple of months ago. Enjoy

Least Likely To Succeed: The Ten Longest Shots That Became World Series Champs

It’s almost November, which means Halloween, Election Day and the World Series are coming up. It looks like Philadelphia will be facing either the Angels or the Yanks this year. This isn’t surprising. All of these teams have been good for the past few years. But what teams were surprise winners in the Fall Classic over the years? Allow me to offer a list often teams who overcame long odds. I looked at a number of factors, but the one thing most of these teams have in common is that they were able to take advantage when a dynasty had an off year or beat one of them mano a mano.

1906 Chicago White Sox:

They played their crosstown rivals, the Cubs and beat them in six games. They only had two Hall of Famers on the team; George Davis and Big Ed Walsh. Called the Hitless Wonders, they scored 3.7 runs a game. That was about average for those days, but they only allowed 3 runs a game. Only the Cubs were stingier. They won games at a 62% clip, but the Cubs only lost 36 times in the regular season for a .763 winning percentage. The odds against the White Sox beating them were 2:1. Those are long odds for a World Series team. Only one writer (Hugh Fullerton) picked them.

1914 Boston Braves:

The Tigris and Euphrates of fluke teams. For two and a half years, or ever since the changed their name from the Rustlers to the Braves, they had a record of 154-226 (and they were worse before this), then, from July 15th on, they went 61-16 to vault from the cellar and overtake all the rest of the teams. They left the Giants, the three time NL champs, in their dust before sweeping Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s in the World Series. By 1917, they returned to the second division, where they mostly remained until after World War II.

1924 Washington Senators:

The Yankees were looking to repeat as AL champs. But after two sub-.500 seasons, the Sens captured the flag from them on the last day of the season. Walter Johnson finally gets his ring in the most exciting World Series to date.

1940 Cincinnati Reds:

The prewar Yankees were probably the best baseball team of all time. 6 Hall of Famers played for them. In 1940, they fell into second place and the Tigers won the American League. Thus, the Reds faced Detroit and won in seven games when Buddy Myers’s fly to deep center scored Jimmy Ripple in the seventh inning and broke a 1-1 tie. Why are these Reds on this list? Mainly because they broke the Yankee’s championship streak, but partly because they did it with only one Hall of Famer in Ernie Lombardi. Well, make it two if you count manager Bill McKechnie. The early part of the century is well represented in Cooperstown. Only two champs had just one Hall of Famer on the team prior to WWII. Incidentally, the other one was the 1919 Reds team that beat the Black Sox.

1954 New York Giants:

This is another team that broke a long skein of Yankee success. They also came back after a 70 win season to break up Brooklyn’s hegemony over the Senior Circuit. Like the Reds, they did it in a year when New York fails to win the AL. Cleveland won 14 games more than the Giants, but the gap between the two teams may have been as big as that indicates. The NL was more competitive that year.

1969 New York Mets:

This was a perfect storm. The Mets won 100 games, but that only lifted their running three year winning percentage to .481. A Cubs collapse allowed them to win the new NL East division They swept the Braves in the League Championship Series, but then went on to face the Baltimore Orioles. Earl Weaver’s team would win 100 games three years in a row starting in 1969, but they succumbed to the Mets in five games. The only two Hall of Famers on the team were Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan and Ryan pitched less than 90 innings. They’d probably be less well-known if they played in a different place or a different time, but they are only one of four World Series champs to have a sub-.500 running the year winning percentage.

1985 Kansas City Royals:

They were a fluke. A few years earlier, the Royals were a great team. They battled the Yankees a number of times in the late 70s and finally overtook them in 1980 only be the first team to get beat by the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. They won the AL West the year before despite having a negative run differential and this squad wasn’t that much better. They won 91 games, but it was a soft 91. They should have probably won 86 or so, but Dan Quisenberry was awesome. And he was a rarity at the time, before submariners and sidewinders became more ubiquitous (I liked them more when they were more unique!) Anyways, they beat California by one game and went on to face Toronto in the ALCS. Dick Howser was able to outfox Bobby Cox and the Royal’s went on to the World Series. They almost lost in Game Six, but received a little help from Don Denkinger and one the game. Then they crushed Saint Louis in Game Seven. Sometimes, it’s your year. After the Mets, they were the second expansion team to win a World Series. Unfortunately, it may be a long time before they do so again.

1987 Minnesota Twins:

While the Royals were winning it all in 1985, the Twins were going 77-85. The next year they got worse and went 71-91. Ray Miller was fired in September and replaced by Tom Kelly. They got better in 1987, but they were outscored 786-806. Still, they won 85 games. They might’ve been the 9th or 10th best AL team that year, but they won a weak West division (Oakland was still a year away) and beat Detroit to go the World Series. The Cardinals were up and down with Whitey Herzog during the 80s, but they made three World Series. All of tem went the full seven games and they lost twice; once to the aforementioned Royals and then to the Twins. Minnesota had trouble scoring a t Busch Stadium, but they scored 33 runs in the four games at the Metrodome.

1988 Los Angeles Dodgers:

This team had to overcome two of the great teams of my early adulthood; the New York Mets and the Oakland Athletics. And they did it after losing 89 games two years in a row.

1990 Cincinnati Reds:

The Bash Brothers A’s teams had great success during the regular season, but take them out of the Bay Area in October, and they’d run into trouble.

Honorable Mention
1912 Red Sox
1926 Cardinals
1933 Giants
1959 Dodgers
1971 Pirates

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My BioProject Page

Some previous work of mine. I think that the Southworth piece was the best.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Liberated Baseball Fandom

My thinking was that liberated fandom meant looking beyond wins and losses and appreciating how players play as well as how good they play. But I had an e-mail exchange with Drew - LtB at Ghostrunner on First and he had another take. This sort of fandom means looking beyond the jersey. In this off and on look at Maranvillains (check the tag), I don't think I've mentioned any Yankees. I could mention the Soupy Sales of baseball, AJ Burnett. Or Nick Swisher, who seems like a character. But a better choice is probably Derek Jeter. He might not be the best defensive shortstop, but he's made plays like this and this over the years.

But Mariano Rivera is a better choice. As Derek wrote to me, "One pitch in his arsenal yet he's nearly unhittable. That he's a Yankee doesn't get in the way of my appreciation. "

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Blogs Are My Regular Reads

Crossposted from Primer:

Advanced NFL Stats - More of a look at the game theory of football than a Football Outsidersesque stat site.

Cardboard Gods - Josh Wilker's unique brand of nostalgia. Might be some existentialism involved as well (I was never good at philosophy.)

Driveline Mechanics - Batting and pitching mechanics

Evaluating Baseball Managers - Chris Jaffe's publicity site.

Fangraphs - The WSJ of the sabersphere. They're pretty good at getting transaction news out and other info out, but you'll either love or hate the editorials.

Free Darko
- An offbeat take on the NBA.

Joe Posnanski - This one needs no publicity.

Prolate Spheroid - college football history.

Residual Prolixity - Posts from a Tennessee Titans fan that don't fit his other venues. Only place I know that reviews old books about football.

Sabermetric Research
- Phil Birnbaum's frustration with academics who try to do econometric research about sports without understanding the sports they are researching.

Smart Football - Like Advanced NFL Stats only for the NCAA. Also shows a lot of charts and video of plays. Loves the spread offense.

The Book Blog - Tango and MGL's hangout.

Walk Like A Sabermetrician
- Occasional posts from Patriot; an Ohio based guy.

That's all the sports ones. I really don't follow the blogosphere for much else; except the funny pages.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jack Morris For The Hall Of Fame

Now that I have Repoz's attention:

There is a local (for me, anyways) vintage baseball league forming next year. They'll be playing at Colt Park in Hartford. I saw a few games last year and even gave a talk about Orator O'Rourke during one game, but I may get more involved this year.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ryan Zimmerman

Style points. There's something unquantifiable about them. No one keeps track of Fidryches Over Replacement Player or Normalized Excitement Average. However some things are measurable like long home runs. And ESPN has been keeping track of Web Gems this year. Ryan Zimmerman had 19 Web Gems in '09. That's 6 more than any other player. He also led with 61 Web Gem Points. I think they weight Web Gems giving more points for best one of the nite or something The crew at ESPN seem to like plays at the hot corner. Mark Reynolds, Brandon Inge, and David Wright show up on the list as well. Between Zimmerman and Adam Dunn, I wonder if the Nats are the most fun lousy team to watch.

Incidentally, Mark Reynolds scores high here. I know him more for striking out often. Are his strikeouts exciting? Does he swing so hard that he corkscrews into the ground when he whiffs?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Who's Older?

Michael Irvin or Jeff Feagles?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Silver Ball of College Football

A couple of gentleman named David Dyte and Andrew Ross created the Silver Ball of College Football - beginning with the generally recognized first game between Rutgers and Princeton. (I'm not as big a college football historian as I could be, but that game sounded more like a rugby match than gridiron football.) This is a "champion ball" on the order of the championship belt in boxing. You have to beat the holder to win it. For the first 40 years, the Ivy League dominated. It wasn't called that at the time, but it was the same schools. Then it made it's journey around the country. There's some surprise schools on this list.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reading About Baseball With Bethlehem Shoals

Shoals is on of the guys from the Darko Liberation Front. In this interview, almost two years old, he extols the virtues of Ritter and Honig's The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. I've never read this book. Bill James pans it, but I should give it a shot. I've enjoyed other stuff by the two authors; especially The Glory of Their Times. Shoals goes on about the sections devoted to Pete Reiser and Herb Score. This might partially explain the Free Darko philosophy.