Friday, January 29, 2010

The Shortstop In The Rye

It all goes back to Rabbit Maranville. He liked to have the more-than-occasional pop. So he was in the rye (and the bourbon and the brandy). I've written here before that I've seen old sports columns that said that he was the second biggest gate attraction after Ruth. The columns in question were written by in 1951 an old Hartford Times sportswriter named Arthur McGinley. McGinley grew up in New London, Conn. with future playwright Eugene O'Neill. In fact, O'Neill based his only comedy "Ah, Wilderness" on the McGinley family.

Now O'Neill had a daughter named Oona. Oona would go on to marry Charlie Chaplin. But before that she dated director Orson Welles and author J. D. Salinger. What dioes Salinger have to do with baseball? He was a character in W. P. Kinsella's magic realism novel Shoeless Joe. This was later adapted onto film as Field Of Dreams and the character of Salinger was replaced. Another character in the book and movie was Moonlight Graham. Graham may be the most famous cup of coffee player ever, thanks to Kinsella.

Graham went on to become a small-town doctor, but not before making one appearance with the New York Giants in the summer of 1905. Art Devlin was on that team. Devlin was an alum of Georgetown University back when they were producing ballplayers who weren't basketball players. He was a third-sacker; a fast one who led the NL in steals in '05 with 59. Later on, the Giants sold him to Boston. They were just named the Braves that year because their owner was a bigwig in Tammany Hall. Tammany's symbol was a Native American. While in Boston, he shared the left side of the infield with ... Rabbit Maranville. It's all connected, folks.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Big Mac Attack

I haven't really had much to say about the whole Mark McGwire kerfuffle. I don't think he farts rainbows, nor do I think he is pure concentrated evil. I know it's not fun to be this way. But I see shades of gray and if you think that's wrong, then so be it. But one of the smarter guys in the sabersphere reminded me of something. In this thread at Baseball Think Factory, Ron Johnson (one of the smartest saberists I've ever met said:

McGwire in his St. Louis days was one of the few players I've ever found that had a tangible impact on attendance beyond the on-field contribution.

Shouldn't be a surprise to anybody. I mean his BP was an event.

I do recall being caught up in the hysteria. Even my grandmother, who was more of a hoops fan than a baseball fan got into it. I guess that McGwire qualifies as a Maranvillain as well as a villain (and if Dick Allen can make the team, so can he.)

The team so far:

P - Wakefield
P - Lincecum
P - Fidrych
P - Paige
C - vacant
1B - McGwire
2B - vacant
SS - Maranville
3B - Zimmerman
CI - Allen
OF - Edmonds
OF - Manny Ramirez
OF - Evans
DH - Dunn
PH - Johnstone

Keep in mind that I put this team to gether as scientifically as the Hall of Fame was put together in Cooperstown, so if I am misrating someone it is clearly an oversight.

Interesting Discussion on Pro vs College Hoops

It's on this page. Start at post #7626. I make an appearance under the pseudonym Gary Geiger Counter.

The Defenders Return

This time, in NYPL form.

Norwich, Conn. —

An announcement is expected today that the Oneonta (N.Y.) Tigers of the short-season, Single-A New York-Penn League will be the new tenants at Dodd Stadium beginning this summer.

City and league officials will introduce the team at 1 p.m. at a City Hall press conference.

This is good news for me. I've been spending some time in that part of Connecticut. But one man's meat, is another man's poison.

PS - Saturday is SABR Day this week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wild Bill

Wild Bill Donovan was a turn of the century fastballer who mainly pitched for the Tigers. He was also fast with his legs, not unlike teammate Ty Cobb. Over his career, he had 36 stolen bases. That's a record for any hurler who started his career after 1893. Why did I say 1893? That's when they moved the mound to the modern distance of 60'6".

After his career with Detroit wound down, Donovan managed the Yankees for three years. Like many managers of the day, he occasionally took to the field of combat. Among his charges and teammmates were a pitcher named Dazzy Vance and a shortstop named Roger Peckinpagh. Donovan later coached the Tigers for a season then managed the Phillies for part of 1921. He was set to manage Washington in 1924, when he was killed in one of the most famous train wrecks of the time.

Vance only played a handful of games for the Yanks. In fact, he wouldn't win his first big league game until seven years later. He was a late bloomer; the most Famous late bloomer in baseball history. Made his name with the Brooklyn Robins. In 1923, they had a young Ivy League shortstop who made his big league debut.

Roger Peckinpagh was traded by the Yankees right around when they started getting good, but he did get a World Series ring with the Senators in 1924 and also won the MVP award the following year. He wound up his career with the White Sox in 1927. A teammate that year was a weak-hitting utility player who donned the tools of ignorance for the first time that year. Ray Schalk and the other Chicago catchers were hurt, so they needed someone to fill in.

That player was the same Ivy League shortstop who played four Brooklyn a few years ago. He was a hanger-on in the majors, but he was probably best known as a multilingual polymath who dabbled in spycraft. I'm talking about, of course, Moe Berg. During World War II, Berg worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a precursor to the CIA. (Julia Child was a fellow agent.) The Director of the OSS? Wild Bill Donovan. A different one. The old hurler didn't work from beyond the grave.

Thanks to Bob Dernier Cri at BTF for inspiring this tale.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tuesday's Post- Today!

Tuesday's meeting day, so I wanted to provide some content for the silent deep that hang out here so when they get to work tommorrow they'll have something to take their mind off of work or Haiti or Brett Favre. I was thinking about the best baseball moment I have ever seen live when I did not have an emotional stake in the game; the very essence of a liberated fandom moment. It was probably at this game. I was sitting with the most triumphant Chris Jaffe all game. It was the top of the ninth inning and Jason Larue hit a bomb. 'Twas out of the park, but Jim Edmonds snatched it up. Check out the play by play. The normally cool, calm, and collected Retrosheet scorer got emotional. I was looking for a YouTube clip of this but didn't have any luck. But I know that FOX Sports has shown this catch on one of their shows. A still of the catch is probably in this clip:

The Funnies

As a kid, I loved to read the sports pages, but I also liked the funny pages.

But lately, I just skip them and let Josh Fruhlinger read them for me. I don't think he's ever snarked on Tank McNamara, but he'll occasionally tackle Tank's sister strip Cleats. He's also inspired a slew of single strip bloggers like Jason Beattie of This Week In Milford. Unfortunately, GT hasn't been as fun to read since the Clambake story (or did the Kaz PI one come after that?) That's better than Mary Worth, though. It's been a big letdown ever since Aldo Kelrast took his plunge.

Non-Sports Post

Here's a site that's of possible interest to my fellow Nutmeggers.

Monday Morning Shortstop

Comment of the week:

digamma on Doug Glanville:
Doug Glanville is the best baseball comedian of the last 20 years.

It's not Strat-O-Matic or DMB, but Roger Maris had a baseball game.

Speaking of old-timey stuff, Stan "What's" Opdyke looks at NYC baseball radio in 1953. Take it away, Stan.

Fangraphs looks at the Rob Deer Apathy Club.

Rich Lederer looked at two of the three true outcomes over the weekend.

And last but not least, NBC is looking to get back into the baseball broadcasting business. In line with their habit of providing coverage for programs that were once good but now irrelevant (like Jay Leno or Notre Dame), they will be carrying Pittsburgh Pirate games on Saturdays this year.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Meritorious and (Maran)Villianous, if not Famous

Someone mentioned Doug Glanville the other day, but I want to talk about another Phillie.

The list of players in the Hall of Merit but not in the Hall of Fame includes some stylish players. Two of them are listed at third. The hot corner seems to be a hot spot for entertaining players. I may think that Graig Nettles was a prick, but he did his best Brooks Robinson impression in the post-season a few years after Brooks himself grabbed the limelight. Then there's Dick Allen.

If you follow the sabersphere at all, you know about how controversial a figure Allen was; even if you are too young to remember him. I'm in my 40s and I barely recall his playing career. When he was good, he was great and could hit the ball a country mile. You may see references online about him hitting a 529 foot home run on May 29, 1965. I checked the Hartford Courant and New York Times for the next day and they say 510 feet. While I think that the home run has become cheap in recent years (due to various factors, of which 'roids are only one), the long long ball is mighty entertaining. Bill Jenkinson wrote a book that was unfortunately titled The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. Some folks think he was always biased towards Ruth, but growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania, he thought that Allen could hit the ball further than anyone. Whether Dick was a clubhouse cancer or not, and there are folks like Anthony Giacalone who disagree, the man could rake. I wish I could have seen him in BP.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I mentioned before that I like to watch Tim Wakefield. I like the knuckleball. Some say that the pitch was invented by Eddie Cicotte. Cicotte, of course, was one of the infamous Black Sox. You may have read or seen Eight Men Out. That was originally written by Eliot Asinof, a former minor league ballplayer.

John Sayles adapted the book into a movie and in it, he has a small part as Ring Lardner. Lardner was a Chicago sportswriter at the time. He also wrote stuff like You Know Me, Al and Alibi Ike. He had four sons, John, James, Ring Jr., and David. Incidentally, Hemingway was a fan and would use the pseudonym Ring Lardner Jr. when writing for his school's paper.

The real Ring Lardner Jr. wasn't a Black Sock, but he was part of the Hollywood Ten. We was a screenwriter for four decades and adapted the book M*A*S*H for the big screen. The film was a big breakthrough moment for director Robert Altman. It was also a highpoint of Eliott Gould's career.

Three years later, Gould and Altman teamed up again to film The Long Goodbye. Gould was the lead in this movie; playing Philip Marlowe. Marlowe had a close friend named Terry Lennox. Lennox was played by Jim Bouton. Bouton used the knuckleball when he tried to come back as a pitcher . This is one of the major plots of his book Ball Four. He also collaborated on a piece of fiction called Strike Zone with, you guessed it, Eliot Asinof. The circle is complete.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Joe Posnanski has the list. Scratch Dawson off of it.

Maranville Moment

Perhaps I should have used Bobby Grich instead of Dwight Evans. If you didn't read the Cistulli post linked in my previous post he said:

A member of the All-Joy Team will probably be:

1. An MLB player whose advanced metrics (i.e. EqA, wOBA, VORP, UZR – really anything that attempts to improve upon AVG, HR, and RBIs) suggest greater production than is commonly perceived.

2. An MLB player whose peripheral numbers (i.e. xFIP, PrOPS, tRA) suggest greater production in near future.

3. Either an MLB part-timer or older (27 and up) minor leaguer whose production suggests probable success in expanded MLB role.

4. A younger (under 27) minor leaguer, but not top prospect, whose minor league numbers suggest success at the MLB level.

5. A player who demonstrates vigorously what Americans, quoting French poorly, call je ne sais quoi.

A crude method of coming up with an all-time team like that would be to look at players who are in the Hall of Merit, but not Hall of Fame. I suppose J.D. Drew is a current player who is on that career track. These guys are an acquired taste. Maranvillains, OTOH, are players who- let's say you go to a game cold, without knowing who anyone was and they weren't wearing uniforms. Maranvillains are the guys you'd say "wow!" about without knowing any of their back story; how they may have started their career slowly, but learned plate discipline and improved their bastting skills under the tutelage of a Walt Hriniak.

Jay Johnstone: Maranvillain?

Someone mentioned Johnstone at BTF yesterday and I thought of him for the first time in a long time. They asked "Is it bad when your top comp is Jay Johnstone? I have to think it is." I said, "He had a decent career (No one who plays 20 years in the majors sucks), but it would help if the player was also a joker like him." Johnstone was born in the town where I now reside, but he moved when very young. He's definitely on the the Flintstone All-Star team along with folks like Flint Rhem. And I have some of his books like Temporary Insanity. He sort of reminds me of a more PG version of folks like Bill Lee. He was known for his antics, but I forget how many of them you could see if you were at the ballpark. I'll have to reread about him. I do remember that he dragged the infield with Jerry Reuss once and he used to pull pranks on Tommy Lasorda.

There is a theory that my friend Peter Handrinos has. He thinks that a sense of humor is the one intangible quality in baseball that matters. Helps keep your teammates loose over the long season. If that's true, Johnston may be better than his raw numbers suggest. The same would apply to someone like a Kevin Millar.

Carson Cistulli muses on fandom. I'm not sure if I agree with all of his requirements for the All-Joy team. It looks like someone like Dwight Evans would make it. I love Dewey, but I'm not sure if he qualifies as a Maranvillain. He DID have one huge Maranville moment on the national stage, though. I could go on about this, but work beckons.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Faith, an excellent tale"

I did not intend, when starting this blog, to scramble to fill a 10-post-a-day quota by finding the same zany links that show up again and again on other blogs and repost them. But I caught a virus. A fellow factoryite linked The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski last week and I just love it.

I'm a fan of the flick it parodies and got the The Big Lebowski DVD as a Christmas gift. I've probably watched it four times since. And I saw it in the theater and probably once a year after that. But there was one thing that I never noticed until Saturday nite. What happened to the Uzi? After tossing out the ringer for a ringer at the wooden bridge, Walter and the Dude go bowling. The Dudes car is stolen while they're inside. He's interesting in getting back the briefcase and the money, but no mention is made of the Uzi. Perhaps, Walter brought it back to his store, but we'll never know, will we?

Monday Morning Shortstop

Comment of the Week: Bill, responding to "This and That"

I just finished reading Billick's book. I found it quite interesting; especially his perspective on how the league has changed even over a relatively short time.
I've enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

It was the only comment of the week, but it did expand on the post.

Jonah Keri pines for the days of Roenicke and Lowenstein (and Ayala.) I'm not sure if platooning made the baseball of my teens more fun than the baseball of today. But trotting out faceless relievers inning after inning doesn't make baseball more interesting. Maybe it's because I had more time, but I used to be able to tell you pretty much who was on every roster when I was in high school. They added more teams, but what I think really diminished my ability to do that was that teams started devoting more roster spots to pitchers and pitchers break down more than position players. So there were more guys going on the DL and more guys getting called up from Iowa or Pawtucket to replace them. Made it more difficult to keep track of everyone. Guys were uni numbers in the 60s now. That's lineman territory.

Still working on the bio for Tom Lynch right now. I have a really rough draft, but I'm finding enough conflicting info that it may take me a bit to sort it all out.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Roadgeekery - 2 million-pound generator passing through (Montgomery) county

In addition to being interested in sports, I'm a bit of a roadgeek. When I first found, I spent hours reading and rereading all the pages. I even subscribe to a mailing list. That's how I found out about this story. It's only of interest to fellow roadgeeks and power generation enthusiasts, but I figured that I may as well pass it on.

Friday, January 15, 2010

This and That (Ctd)

To continue my thought from yesterday, I think that I enjoy sports more when they are not just a clash of two opponents, but a clash of competing philosophies. As my friend, the Sheriff, said four years ago, "Certainly, that’s something else the NCAA has over the NFL. The varied offenses provide a lot of entertainment. There’s so little difference in the pro game that a game between two random teams carries a lot less interest to me."

I guess that's why baseball during the 1980s might have been better than it has been through most of it's history; what with The Saint Louis Cardinals practicing Whiteyball versus Harvey's Wallbangers in the'82 World Series.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This and That

1. Some more thoughts on Wilt 1962:

It's the kind of book that I like; a microhistory of one particular event. I've read a couple of books like that on the Colts-Giants game (Gino Marchetti was there AND at this game, So were some other Colts, They played a warmup game against the Eagles before the main event.), Don Larsen's perfect game, and Dan Okrent's Nine Innings. The book reminded me that the game took place in Hershey, Penn.; not Philly or any other big city. It also had a lot of info about the games' other participants. It sort of game me a taste of what times were like 15 years before I started following sports. Today, there'd be a bunch of YouTube clips of the game. Then, there was one photographer and no media other than those that followed the Warriors. In any event, they moved to the West Coast the next year.

2. Bethlehem Shoals moved from TSN to Fanhouse (He still blogs at Free Darko) and recently wrote about stardom. How do you define it? I'd like to see someone tackle that for baseball. Maybe I will some day. But I still want to discuss the basketball labor struggles and haven't made much progress. BTW, Shoals alludes to those here.

3. I read a couple of chapters of the Brian Billick book. He shows an awareness of the football blogosphere. Too, the added variety in the NFL since my childhood is sets, not plays; at least according to that book. Some say that most teams run the same few plays. I didn't play fantasy football this year and the Giants didn't have a good season. Without those two incentives to watch, I thought college football was more interesting. This is the reverse of how I felt about the two popular forms of basketball a couple of years ago. (I have notes on this somewhere. I just can't find them at the moment.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tim Lemke On Sports Books

Greg Franklin mentioned this post over at Baseball Think Factory. (Discussion)

I just finished reading Wilt 1962 by Gary Pomerantz. (That website really complements the book.) Lemke would probably classify it as a Feinstein-esque Book. I'm a sucker for these microhistory books. Anyways, Pomerantz mentioned something in the acknowledgements that may or may not stick with me. I've been kind of down on oral history because it has been demonstrated that peoples' memory can be pretty hazy most of the time. However, he found it useful providing you use multiple sources. That wasn't especially profound, but it hadn't occurred to me recently.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Morning Shortstop

A lot of stuff in the baseball blogosphere happens over the weekend or on holidays. If you're a guy like me who mostly goes online at work you may miss some of the stuff, so I'll recap some for you. Actually, this past weekend was relatively quiet, but I found a couple of things that touched upon a couple of my idiosyncratic interests.

Steve Lombardi reviews the advance copy of the upcoming Cardboard Gods book. Lombardi used to run a forum called Netshrine that I'd occasionally hang out at. A Yankee fan friend gave me tickets to an April 2008 game against the Jays so I trained down from
Connecticut with a friend. I thought of him when they showed Steve Lombardi answering a trivia question on the Diamondvision, but wasn't sure how many Steve
Lombardis are out there. It turned out that it was him.

I'm not sure if I should like The Faster Times or hate it, but they had an article about Adrian Beltre last week. The author quotes (I think) his brother:

"Being able to enjoy watching the new Beltre/Cameron Red Sox will be a challenge. A lot of being a better defender is just getting to more balls, covering more space, being in the right place at the right time, in a way that could go unnoticed. We won’t notice all the flyballs Mike Cameron runs down that Jason Bay wouldn’t. We will notice when Cameron grounds out with 2 guys on in the 8th. So, new year’s resolution, growing a keener defensive eye, or this season won’t be that fun"

But then he contradicts himself by embedding a YouTube montage of exciting Adrian Beltre plays. To be honest, I think the Red Sox will be more fun to watch this year than they were in '09. But some of that is addition by subtraction (Jason Bay.)

Finally, and not baseball, but here's a MarketWatch piece on writing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jets beat Bengals 24-14 in NFL playoffs


I have to friends about my age whose dads were WWII vets. I think it's interesting that they were the dads who became Jet fans. Wasn't Joe Willie Namath supposed to be a counterculture icon? Richard Nixon may have thought so, but apparently he wasn't.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hats off to Andre Dawson

I feel like being topical for once. Instead of writing about Gavvy Cravath or Bob Petit (which will happen soon enough), I'll weigh in on the election of a man called Hawk. Congrats!

Everyone likely remembers Andre Dawson as an Expo or a Cub. But he also spent two years as a Red Sock during the benighted Butch Hobson era. It's interesting looking back at who was passing through in those days. A lot of the "I Can't Believe They Were With Boston At One Point" list. Among others, there were Dawson, Tony Pena, Billy Hatcher, Rob Deer, and Ivan Calderon.

BTW, yesterday I mentioned Rabbit Maranville as the patron saint of this blog. Perhaps it should really be Rod Allen. Appeared in 31 games in his career. 18 were at DH and 4 were in the field. The rest must've been as a pinhhitter or runner.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Belated Feast Day

56 years ago, the patron saint of this site passed away. Walter "Rabbit" Maranville died just before he was selected to baseball's Hall Of Fame. Apparently they moved up the elections at some point afterwards, because results of the BBWAA vote will be announced today. Some folks of the statistical bent will say that he isn't that deserving of the honor. However, as I've said before, I've seen old sports columns that said that he was the second biggest gate attraction after Ruth. Should that count for something?

A few years ago, SABR put out two books of biographies of players from the Deadball Era. Maranville's appeared in the NL one. Here's the link. Happy belated Rabbit Day.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wednesday Nite Football

Tuesday means early morning meeting, which means I have to provide content tonite for the legion of readers who glance at the Sitter over cereal and OJ. I have been meaning to get this off my chest for some time: There is a week of great bowl matchups in early January, but why is Troy facing Central Michigan Wednesday? Shouldn't that game have been played December 13th?

Monday Morning Shortstop

A lot of stuff in the baseball blogosphere happens over the weekend or on holidays. If you're a guy like me who usually goes online at work you may miss some of the stuff, so I'll recap some for you. I don't know if this will be a regular feature, though, so don't hold your breath.

Joe Sheehan is leaving Baseball Prospectus.

Another Joe (Posnanski) wrote a lengthy retrospective of the KC Royals in the naughts.

It's not a blog (but I heard about it at BTF), but Baseball America looks at the best baseball books of 2009.

A lot of Hall of Fame stuff. The election results will be announced Wednesday, but my friend Chris Jaffe is already calling the race. I wish that he'd invert his story and put the methodology at the end, but it's a good piece.