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THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT LANGUAGE OF BASEBALL

Over the recent Thanksgiving Holiday and the subsequent week, we have had a constant stream of relatives visiting and staying in our home. I don’t mean anything negative by that as we truly enjoy the company and are sorry to see them go, most of the time.

Extra people means extra consumption and extra consumption means more waste and items to dispose of. As a result, we found that between regular collection days, we had accumulated enough to require an extra visit to the City of Sanford Transfer Station. I packed everything up and headed off to do my duty.

While there, I ran into an acquaintance and we discussed, naturally, baseball in general and those amazing Red Sox in particular. On the way home from the Transfer Station, I got to thinking about the way our society has ‘softened’ our language. The place I had just visited was the ‘dump’ for the first fifty years of my life, then began to be called things like the ‘Refuse Recovery Area’ and now is the ‘Transfer Station’. (George Carlin would have had fun with that wouldn’t he?)

We don’t use Kleenex anymore, we use ’tissue’, the people that sell you this tissue are not clerks but ‘sales associates’ and the people in public buildings that dispose of the waste tissue are not janitors but ‘Maintenance Specialists’. I could go on and on, but the point of this article is to recognize the fact that baseball is an island in this sea called the ‘Gentrification of our Language’.

When it seems that every day a word has to be removed from our vocabulary because it might offend somebody or may have offended somebody years ago, the language of baseball has basically remained unchanged for the almost 200 years it has been played.

We still use words and terms like ‘stolen base’ even though that might be offensive to someone whose house was robbed or was the victim of another type theft. As far as I know, no one in, or from, Texas is offended by the fact that a Texas Leaguer is a kind of weak, often lucky, hit, that falls between fielders.

No one has started a movement to change ‘double play’ or worse yet ‘twin killing’ to a ‘multiple out event’ or some other more politically correct term. And, the only person I know who ever objected to the term ‘bunt’ or the act of bunting was the Yankees’ pitcher C. C. Sabathia when he felt it was being unfairly used against him because of his ‘limited mobility’. You couldn’t say he couldn’t move well because he was overweight or, fat because you might offend someone.

Even though the term foul has a negative connotation in everyday life, baseball still uses it to denote the area outside the baselines as ‘foul territory’ or a ball hit in that area as a ‘foul ball’. Even the most sensitive among the language cleaner uppers don’t consider those terms ‘foul language’.

Even though those helicopter little league parents still refuse to recognize that their darling has struck out and still call a strikeout a ‘nice try’ or ‘good job’, the rest of baseball still recognizes that a strike out is not a good outcome but a ‘grand slam’ is as good as it gets.

How about a ‘bean ball’ or ‘high hard one’? Obviously, the word changers would never acknowledge that someone might throw at another person on purpose so it would have to be changed to ‘an inadvertent near miss’.

And how about those nicknames. You couldn’t say ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson, for fear of stigmatizing poor Joe. George ‘Shotgun’ Shuba’s nickname would have been removed as too violent by the same people whose kids play those ‘shoot ’em up’ video games all day.

And poor Jim Grant, the fact that he was called ‘Mudcat’ because he was as ugly as a Mississippi Mudcat, would drive the language changers crazy.

Can you imagine the outrage if brothers, two of the best pitchers in baseball, were called Dizzy and Daffy? There would be Congressional Hearings and threats to shut down the game. Carlton Fisk or Ivan Rodriguez never objected to the nickname ‘Pudge’, but these people could see a whole class of citizens locking themselves in their rooms for weeks if they even heard the term.

Then there was ‘Wee Willy’ Keeler who would be the poster child these days for discrimination against vertically challenged people and Mordecai Brown’s nickname ‘Three Finger’ would be cause for rioting in the streets.

Of course, the term ‘homer’ is close enough to ‘Homey’ to be confused and could cause distress to any number of minorities or majorities depending upon your location and orientation.

They have attacked names like the Indians and the Braves as being offensive to Native Americans, surely the ‘Bronx Bombers’ must offend someone and be changed to ‘Long Hitters’ or some other euphemism.

How about the potential damage to a player’s psyche if he were called a ‘banjo hitter’ or a ‘Punch and Judy’ hitter, terms used regularly to denote a hitter with little power?

So far, despite the rules preventing collisions and the instant replay that eliminates those unseemly arguments with names being called and dirt kicked, baseball has avoided the gentrification movement. Wait until they decide that, in our kinder, gentler society, it’s unfair to make those weaker hitters’ bat at the bottom of the order and start to petition for better treatment for them.

Believe me, they’ll get to it yet and someday in the future a team as bad as this year’s Baltimore Orioles or Kansas City Royals will be awarded a Participation Trophy.

THE BEST FREE AGENT SIGNING EVER

This time of the year, the biggest news in baseball revolves around the Free Agents who are available and the teams that are chasing them. Teams continue to give big contracts to players that then fail to live up to their advance billing more often than not.

Examples of such signings are not hard to find. The Red Sox, for example, signed Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford to a long term contract in 2011, giving him $142. Million for 7 years. While at Tampa Bay, from 2002 through 2010, Crawford had averaged .296 a year. In his first year at Boston, 2011, he hit just .255 with 11 homers and 56 runs batted in while playing just 130 games. The Red Sox were fortunate to unload him and his contract, along with Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez, to Dodgers, in a blockbuster trade on August 25, 2012.

In five years with the Texas Rangers, Josh Hamilton averaged .305 a year and hit a total of 142 homers and drove in 506 runs, over 100 a year. On December 25, 2012, the Los Angeles Angels signed him as a Free Agent with a 5 year contract for $125 million. After two years, in which he hit just .255 with a total of 31 homers and 123 RBI, the Angels traded him back to the Rangers where he played just 50 games and hit .253 with 8 homers and 25 RBI in 2015. As part of the trade agreement, the Angels picked up $71. million of his salary over the first three years back in Texas. After his poor showing in 2015, he did not play at all in 2016 or 2017 and the Angels still had to pay his salary.
Jacoby Ellsbury played center field for seven years for the Red Sox and batted .297, stole 241 bases in that time and, in 2013, with the Sox winning the World Series hit .298 and led the league in steals with 52.

At the end of the 2013 season, Ellsbury signed a seven year contract with the Yankees for $148 million. In his first four years at New York, he batted just .264 and, in 2018 and 2019, he missed the entire season due to injury, but the Yankees still had to pay his $21. Million salary. The Yankees recently released him and are involved in a dispute over whether they should have to pay him his final year’s salary in the coming season.
Not all Free Agent signings are such failures. There have been many cases where teams have signed players to large Free Agent contracts and have gotten more than their money’s worth. One such example is the signing by the Arizona Diamondbacks of Randy Johnson in 1998.

 

After 10 years with the Seattle Mariners, during which he won 130 games and lost 74 and compiled a 3.42 earned run average, Randy Johnson was traded to the Houston Astros on July 31, 1998. Before being traded, Johnson had won 9 and lost 10 with a 4.33 ERA, and, at 34 and in his Free Agent Year, Seattle opted to trade him and get something for him rather than lose him to Free Agency.

In return for Johnson, Seattle got right handed pitcher Freddy Garcia, who won 17 and lost 8 in 1999, Carlos Guillen, a 22 year old infielder, who would hit .264 in six years with Seattle and John Halama, a 26 year old, left handed pitcher, who, in four years at Seattle wo

With Houston, Johnson went 10-1 in 11 starts, with four compete game shutouts, leading the Astros to the National League Western Division Championship. In the playoffs, the Astros lost to San Diego in three games to one. Jonson, despite giving up just three earned runs in fourteen innings, lost Games 1 and 4 of that series.

At season’s end, the Texas Rangers, Anaheim Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers, all of who had had winning seasons the previous year, were in a bidding war for Johnson. Instead, Johnson opted to sign with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks who had finished in last place with a 65 and 97 record in 1998, their first year in the league. On December 12, 1998, he signed a four year, $52. million dollar contract which, at the time, was the second largest ever. The agreement also included a fifth year option which would pay him $12 million, at age 40.

Many pundits speculated that, at 35 years of age, the Diamondbacks may have made a mistake with the four year contract.

On June 14th, Johnson had won 9 and lost 2, had an ERA of 2.96, had struck out 151 batters in 116 innings and the Diamondbacks were in first place by three games and went on to win the Division by 14 games in just their second year in existence. He ended the season with 17 wins and 9 losses and led the league in complete games, 12, strikeouts, 271, and innings pitched, 271 2/3. He was named the National League Cy Young Award winner, his second Cy Young Award. (He had won his first with Seattle in 1995 and, with the 1999 win, joined Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Gaylord Perry, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer as the only pitchers who have won the Award in both the American and National Leagues.

D’Backs lost to the Mets, three games to one, in the Division Series and Johnson started and lost Game 1. He went 8 1/3 innings and went into the ninth inning tied 4-4 but loaded the bases with one out and was relieved by Bobby Chouinard who gave up a grand slam to Edgardo Alfonzo and Diamondbacks lost the game 8-4.
In 2000, Johnson finished with a 19-7 record and a 2.64 ERA and led the league in complete games, 8, shutouts, 3, and strikeouts, 347. He won his second consecutive CY Young Award, easily outpolling the Atlanta Braves’ Tom Glavine. The Diamondbacks finished in third place with a record of 85-77, not a bad record for a team in just its third year of existence.

Johnson continued to produce for Arizona in 2001. He won 21 and lost just 6 while his teammate Curt Schilling won 22 and lost 6 and they led the Diamondbacks to a 92-70 season, winning the National League West. Johnson led the league in strikeouts again with 372 and won his third consecutive Cy Young Award.
They bested the St. Louis Cardinals in five games in the Division Series, took the Atlanta Braves in five games in the Championship Series and met the Yankees in one of the most exciting World Series of all time.

the Division Series, Schilling won Games one and five, pitching complete games in both outings and giving up just one earned run in 18 innings. Johnson started Game two and gave up three runs in eight innings as the Diamondbacks lost 4-1.
Johnson won Games one and five in the League Championship Series, with a complete game, three hit shutout of the Braves in Game one and gave up two runs on seven hits in seven innings of Game five to win 3-2. Schilling won Game three, pitching a complete game four hitter while giving up just one run in Arizona’s 5-1 win.
Schilling started Game one against the Yankees and gave up one run on three hits in seven innings as the D’Backs won 9-1. Johnson came right back in Game two with a three hit, complete game shutout as the Diamondbacks went up two games to one. The Yankees then won three in a row in New York, two of them in extra innings. Back in Arizona for Game six, down three games to two, Johnson went seven innings, giving up two runs as the D’Backs evened the series with a 15-2 victory.

In the finale, Schilling started and went 7 1/3 innings before leaving behind 2-1. After his relief, Miguel Batista, got the second out in the eighth, Johnson came out of the bullpen and got the third out and, after the Yankees’ Mariano Rivers set the D’Backs down in the eighth, Johnson got the Yankees in order in the top of the ninth. In the last of the ninth, aided by Rivera’s wild throw into centerfield trying to get a double play, Arizona got two for the walk off Series win. Luis Gonzalez singled to center with the bases loaded and the game tied at 2-2 to score Jay Bell with the winning run and the D’Backs had won the World Series in just their fourth year in existence.
Johnson got the win, his third in the Series and he and Schilling were named joint winners of the MVP Award.

the fourth year of his contract, the magic continued. He won 24 and lost just five, leading the league with a 2.32 ERA and also led in complete games, 8, innings pitched 260, strikeouts 334 and also won his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award to join Atlanta’s Greg Maddux as the only two pitchers ever to win four in a row.
He would pitch two more years for the Diamondbacks before being traded to the New York Yankees where he pitched until he was 45 and ended his career with 303 wins and 166 losses. Only Roger Clemens, with seven Cy Young Awards has more than Johnson’s five, the second most by any pitcher.

That performance gets my vote as the best Free Agent signing ever.

A BASEBALL TRIP

This July, I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame at the beginning of a baseball trip that took me to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit and Toronto for six ball games in seven days. There are eight teams in the area south and north of the Great Lakes and I have wanted to schedule a trip that would allow me to see as many as possible in one trip.
It is difficult to find a time when more than three or four of them are at home at the same time and in a configuration that will allow you to travel by car to those that are home. I planned my trip for the week of Independence Day. The Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee brewers were on the road the week I planned to go but the Cubs were in Pittsburgh and the Brewers were in Chicago allowing me to see seven of the eight teams from the area.
In those six games, we saw nine different teams play, four from the National League Central Division, two from the American League Central and three from the American League East, (Boston, Toronto and Baltimore). In six games we saw a total of 86 runs scored on 149 hits.
We saw Josh Bell, Pittsburgh’s slugging, All Star, first baseman, hit three home runs in one game against the Cubs and barely miss a fourth with a ball to the warning track. We saw Adam Frasier, the Pirates second baseman, tie an all-time Major-League record with four doubles in one game and he added a single to go five for five.
We saw the Red Sox Eduardo Nunez, playing second base, make two fantastic defensive plays in one inning. We watched, in awe, as the Detroit Tigers’ Matt Boyd struck out 13 White Sox batters in just 5 1/3 innings. We watched Milwaukee’s Christian Yellich flick his wrists and hit a low outside pitch into the left field seats. We saw a total of 23 home runs, almost four per game over the six games.
In all 56 innings of baseball, the most exciting play we saw and the one that excited the fans the most was a single. Jose Iglesias, the former Red Sox shortstop with the fastest hands I have ever seen, was at the plate for the Reds in the last of the eleventh inning with the score tied 4-4 with Yasiel Puig on first base and one out.
With the hit and run on and Puig breaking for second, Iglesias chopped a ball that bounced over Milwaukee first baseman Eric Thames’s head and down the right field line. Puig came all the way around from first to score the winning run, in a bang-bang play at the plate, aided by an errant throw from Yellich in right field.
I came home to find the controversy caused by Justin Verlander’s remarks about the ball being juiced and claiming that Major League baseball is making a joke of the game with its emphasis on home runs and its ‘juiced’ baseball.
Of course, Commissioner Manfred was quick to deny that anything has been done to change the ball. Major League Baseball owns the company that makes the balls, so Manfred’s remarks are hard to believe, particularly given the rate at which homers are being hit. To make it less believable, Vladimir Guerrero hit 90 homers in the home run derby the same week.
Manfred has been right up front about his feeling that baseball needs to get more offense into the game to attract fans. As usual, his efforts are misdirected. What baseball needs is not more offense, what it needs is more excitement.
The emphasis on home runs has taken plays like the hit and run, the bunt, the stolen base and hitting behind the runner out of the game and increased the strikeout totals. Strikeouts ordinarily do nothing to add to the excitement of the game. A home run lasts a few seconds and involves just the pitcher and batter from the fans’ perspective.
What excites the fans and what they come to see is the ball put in play. A ball put in play requires an action by the pitcher, the hitter and one or more fielders, all while every other player in the field and any base runners, including their base coaches, do their thing.
As the great announcer Ernie Harwell once said, ‘Baseball is a ballet without the music’. Balls put in play, fielders fielding, runners running the bases are what makes this ballet so special, not watching sluggers doing their bat flips and home run trots or heading back to the dugout after striking out. As Major League Baseball’s newest mantra says, “Let the Boys play”.
As far as the ‘juicing’ of the ball is concerned, I agree with Dennis Eckersley who said on a Red Sox broadcast this summer that the ball is tighter than ever making it travel further. Next time you are in a ballpark and a ball goes into the stands and hits the concrete floor, watch it bounce. It is not a scientific test, but I have been watching baseball for seventy years and have never seen anything like the actions of a ball when this happens. The ball is flying farther and faster than ever before and no one will ever convince me that the ball has not been altered.

SIGN STEALING

 

During September of the 2017 season, with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in a closely fought pennant race, the Yankees accused the Red Sox of stealing signs and using an Apple phone to transmit the information to their players. The Red Sox, in turn, filed a complaint that the Yankees had been using the Yankees Entertainment and Sports network, which they own, to help in stealing signs.

After the Commissioner’s Office investigated the complaints, they found that the Sox had used an electronic device, a cell phone, to transmit information on stolen signs. The Office also found, in the course of their investigation, that the Yankees had previously used a dugout phone to transmit similar information. Both teams were fined an undisclosed amount and the fines were donated to the hurricane relief fund.

In their announcement of the findings, the Commissioner’s Office made it clear that “… it is important to understand that the attempt to decode signs being used by an opposing catcher is not a violation of any Major League Baseball Rule or Regulation.” However, the report went on to say “ Major League Baseball Regulations do, however, prohibit the use of electronic equipment during games and state that no such equipment ‘may be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a Club an advantage.’ “
Stealing signs has been going on for as long as baseball players and coaches have been using signs as a method of transmitting information. The catcher signals the pitcher what pitch to throw and where to throw it, the Base Coach signals the batter whether to hit, bunt, hit and run, take or whatever and also signals the base runner to attempt a steal, and on and on. The mere fact that signs are used to transmit information indicates that there would be an advantage in knowing what the signs meant and, therefore, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that someone will try to steal them.

Alex Speier, in the Boston Globe of September 5th, 2017 said “Sign-stealing represents a baseball practice as old as the original act of giving signs, with information warfare serving as a baseball practice so standard that it’s reached the hallowed status of ‘ tradition.’ The effort by teams to decode information relayed from coaches to their players and from pitchers to catchers is a practice that spans baseball generations. “

There have been accusations of improper stealing of signs if there have been signs, which is almost as long as people have been playing baseball. After the Giants’ Bobby Thompson hit his famous ‘Shot Heard Round the World’ to beat the Dodgers in the deciding 1951 playoff game, rumors began that the Giants had stolen the pitch signal illegally. Some of the complaints are undoubtedly accurate and there are dozens of stories about the practice.

My favorite story is about an incident that occurred on September 17, 1900. The Cincinnati Reds were playing the Philadelphia Phillies in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl. The story goes that the Reds had long felt that the Phillies were stealing their signs when they would play them there. During the ball game that day, Pete Chiles, who was also known as ‘What’s the use Chiles ‘, a player who, when he wasn’t playing, enjoyed coaching third, was doing so that day. According to the story, as told by Joe Dittmar in the Baseball Research Journal, Chiles ‘ had an unusual twitch in his legs at times and often stood in one position, right in the middle of a perpetual wet spot, in the corner of the coaches’ box.’
Tommy Corcoran, the Reds’ shortstop, had been apparently been watching Chiles closely and, during the third inning of the game, went over to the coach’s box and began digging with his spikes in the dirt. He supposedly uncovered a wooden box with wires and a buzzer type device. One version of the story recalls, that Corcoran then traced the wires to the center field fence where a man named Murphy would steal the sign with a ‘spyglass’ and relay it to Chiles via a buzzer in the box. Other versions just speculate that the signs were being relayed electrically from a spotter in center field but Dittmar notes that, whatever you believe, Murphy was thereafter known as ‘ Thomas Edison Murphy ‘.

In a story about the practice and methods used to steal signs, Jeff Passan noted on Yahoo Sports on September 6, 2017, “The entire charade is patently absurd. Almost every team in baseball blurs the line of cheating daily, executives, coaches and assorted major league personnel told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. Devices like cell phones and Apple Watches are not allowed in dugouts … and iPads are, because MLB partnered with Apple to allow them as a replacement for managers’ information-stuffed binders. Meanwhile, teams position replay monitors mere feet outside of the dugout – legally – and can gain every bit the advantage Boston sought. “

The potential for abuse in this age of rapidly changing technology is always there. Baseball players and management are involved in pennant races where there are tens or hundreds of million dollars at stake and the temptation to cheat is increased by the ease of doing so

Obviously, signs have been stolen for years and there is no truly clear definition of what is acceptable thievery and what isn’t. Pitchers and catchers routinely have multiple sets of signals with which to call for pitches because of the possibility of them being stolen by runners on second. Many Major League baseball players will tell you that they don’t want someone signaling the incoming pitch to them because of the danger to them an error could create. If a runner on second signals a batter that a curve is coming and the pitcher throws a fast ball, the results could be catastrophic. At any rate, I don’t see the Yankee or Red Sox complaints changing the game.

MOST TEAMS PLAYED FOR IN ONE DAY. In the history of baseball, only three players have ever played for two different Major League teams on the same day. On May 30, 1922, the St Louis Cardinals were playing the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field in Chicago in a single admission double header, something many readers may never have seen or may never see in the future. Going into the doubleheader, the Cardinals were in third place 3½ games out of first in the National League and the Cubs were in sixth, seven games out. The pennant, in the eight team National League, would be won by the New York Giants that year and they would beat the American League Champion New York Yankees in the World Series, four games to none with one tie. The tie was one of only two World Series Games in history ever to end in a tie. The other tie was between the Cubs and Tigers in 1907. In the first game of the doubleheader, the Cubs beat the Cardinals 4-1 behind right hander George Stueland, who pitched a complete game four hitter for his first of nine career wins. The Great Rogers Hornsby got two of the four hits for the Cardinals, one a double. Max Flack played right field and batted fifth, and went 0-4, for the Cubs and Cliff Heathcote played center field for the Cardinals and batted seventh, going 0-3 in the first game of the double header. In the second game of the doubleheader, the Cubs won again, this time 3-1, as the Cubs’ Vic Aldridge pitched a complete game, giving up just seven hits and out dueled the Cardinals’ Bill Doak, who also went the route but gave up three runs on nine hits. Between games of the doubleheader, the Cubs had traded Max Flack to the Cardinals for Cliff Heathcote and the players changed dugouts for the second game. Flack, now a Cardinal and, on the losing team, batted lead-off and played right field and went 1-4 in Game 2. Heathcote, now a Cub and, on the winning team, batted fifth and played right field and went 2-4 in the game. It was the only time in the history of baseball, according to Baseball Almanac, when two teams had exchanged players between games of a double header and both players had played for each team in the doubleheader in the history of baseball. Flack played from 1914-1925, 12 seasons, all for the Cards or Cubs, had a .278 career batting average and appeared in one World Series. With the Cubs, in 1918, he went 5-19 against the Boston Red Sox as the Sox beat the Cubs in six games for the World Series Championship. Heathcote had a 15 year Major League career, playing for the Cubs, Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies. He had a .275 career batting average and played in one World Series in 1929, with the Cubs when they lost to the Philadelphia Athletics in five games. At the tail end of his career, he only batted once, as a pinch hitter, in Game 1 of the Series. On August 4, 1982, Joel Youngblood was playing for the New York Mets against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago in an afternoon game. He started in center field and batted third for the Mets. In the first inning, he struck out. In the third, with the bases loaded, against the Cubs’ Fergie Jenkins, he singled to drive in two runs and put the Mets up 3-1. He was replaced in the field at the start of the last of the fourth by Mookie Wilson. He was replaced because he had been traded to the Montreal Expos, who were playing a night game at Philadelphia against the Phillies. Somehow, he got to Philadelphia for that game and, in the last of the sixth inning, he replaced Jerry White in right field, batting second. In the top of the seventh, with two outs and no one on, batting against Steve Carlton, he got an infield single. The Mets, with whom he started the day, finished in last place in the National League East that year with a 65-97 record. The Expos, with whom he finished the season, finished in third in the National League East that year. There were two Divisions, each with six teams, in the League that year. Both Steve Carlton and Fergie Jenkins, the pitchers Youngblood got his hits against that day, were later elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Youngblood is the only player in Major League Baseball history to play for two different teams, in two different cities, on the same day. Not only that, he will probably always be the only player ever to get base hits against two former Hall of Fame pitchers, pitching for different teams, while playing for two different teams, in two different cities on the same day. Youngblood had a 14 year Major League career and a .265 batting average. He played for the Mets, Expos, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants in his career. Despite playing in 1,147 games, he never appeared in a Postseason game. Even with the way players move from team to team these days, chances are no one will ever play for two different teams in the same day again and Flack, Heathcote and Youngblood will always be remembered for having been the only ones.

This was excerpted from my book THE BASEBALL BUFF’S BATHROOM BOOK, VOLUME 3, which contains 50 essays about major events and/or players in baseball.  The other books in this series and my others, including THE BEST TEAM EVER? about the 2018 Red Sox, are available on Amazon, Kindle and at local independent bookstores in New England.

THE 1959 WORLD SERIES

The 1959 Word Series matched the Los Angeles Dodgers with the Chicago White Sox. The Dodgers, who had moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn the year before had won 88 and lost 66 and had trailed the Milwaukee Braves by one game on September 22nd before ending the season tied with them. The Dodgers beat the Braves two in a row in a Playoff to earn their shot at the Series.
The White Sox, who finished 94-60, had led the American League since July 29th and finished in first, five games ahead of the Cleveland Indians, to punch their ticket for the Series.
The Series opened in Chicago’s Comiskey Park, on October 1, with a crowd of 48,013 on hand. The White Sox, behind a seven inning, six hit shutout performance by 38 year old, veteran Early Wynn, won Game number one easily 11-0. Wynn would be named that Year’s Cy Young Award winner, with a 22-10 record. The Sox got to the Dodger’s Roger Craig for five runs in 2 1/3 innings and the game was over. The big hits for Chicago were two, two-run, homers by first baseman Ted Kluszewski in the third and fourth innings.
Kluszewski, 34 years old, was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to Chicago on August 25th and had hit only four homers in 91 games between the two in the regular season. Ironically, his two regular season homers for the Sox had also come in one game, on September 7th, against the Kansas City Athletics and were also two run shots.
After six innings of Game number two, the next day, the White Sox led the Dodgers and Johnny Podres 2-1. With two out in the top of the seventh, Chuck Essegian, batting for Podres, homered to left, off Sox starter Bob Shaw, to tie the score at 2 all. Shaw then walked Junior Gilliam and Charlie Neal homered deep over the center field fence and the Dodgers were up 4-2.
Larry Sherry replaced Podres on the mound for the Dodgers to start the last of the seventh. Sherry, a 23-year-old rookie, had started five games in July for the Dodgers and moved to the bullpen in August. From August 2nd until the end of the season, he went 6-0 and had three saves, with a 1.61 ERA.
He got the Sox in order in the seventh, getting Luis Aparicio on a pop out, Nellie Fox on a grounder to first and throwing out Jim Landis on a bunt attempt. Chicago’s Turk Lown got the Dodgers in order in the top of the eighth and the game went to the last of the eighth, still 4-2.
Kluszewski led off the inning with a single to center off Sherry and catcher Sherm Lollar beat out a grounder to put runners on first and second with no outs. Al Smith then doubled to deep left center, scoring Earl Torgeson, who had run for Kluszewski but the relay from left fielder Wally Moon to short stop Maury Wills to Johnny Roseboro cut down Lollar, with the tying run, at the plate. Sherry then struck out pinch hitter Billy Goodman and got Jim Rivera to foul out to keep the score at 4-3.
Lown held the Dodgers scoreless in the top of the ninth despite a single and stolen base by Gilliam and the game went to the last of the ninth, still 4-3.
Sherry got Norm Cash to ground out to Gil Hodges at first, Aparicio grounded out to Wills at short and Fox bounced to Charlie Neal at second and the Dodgers had tied the Series at one game apiece. Podres got the win, the third of his career, and Sherry got his first post season save.
The teams moved to Los Angeles for Game 3 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the temporary home of the Dodgers. A crowd of 92,394, the largest crowd ever to see a baseball game at the time was treated to a pitchers duel between the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale and the White Sox’ Dick Donovan.
After six innings, the score was still 0-0 and both starting pitchers were still in the game. Despite giving up two out singles to Aparicio and Fox, Drysdale held the Sox scoreless in the top of the seventh.
In the Dodgers’ half, Neal got a single to left with one out and went to second when Moon grounded to second. Donovan then walked Larker and first baseman Gil Hodges, loading the base with two out. Chicago Manager Al Lopez brought in Jerry Staley to replaced Donovan on the mound.
Dodger Manager Walter Alston countered, sending Carl Furillo up to hit for center fielder Don Demeter and he grounded a single up the middle, scoring Neal and Larker and putting the Dodgers up 2-0. Staley got Roseboro to line out for the third out, ending the inning.
Drysdale gave up singles to Kluszewski and Lollar to start the eighth and Sherry came in to relieve him. He hit Billy Goodman, the first batter he faced, with a pitch and the bases were loaded with no outs. Sherry then got Al Smith to ground into a 6-4-3 double play with Kluszewski scoring to make it 2-1 and then got Jim Rivera on a pop foul to Roseboro to end the rally with just the one run scoring.
The Dodgers added a run in their half of the eighth when Maury Wills hit a leadoff single to right and Sherry sacrificed him to second with a bunt. Wills scored on Neal’s double and the game went to the ninth with the Dodgers up 3-1.
Sherry struck out Cash and Aparicio but gave up a single to Nellie Fox to bring the potential tying run to the plate in the person of Jim Landis. Sherry struck him out, his third strikeout of the inning and the Dodgers had their second win and Sherry his second save.
For the second day in a row, the largest crowd in baseball history, 92,650, turned out to see Game 4. Wynn started, for Chicago, against Roger Craig for Los Angeles.
The Dodgers got to Wynn in the last of the fourth when, with two out, Moon, Larker, Hodges and Demeter singled in succession, scoring two runs. With Roseboro at the plate, Hodges scored the third run on a passed ball and Roseboro then singled to right, scoring Demeter and making it 4-0. Lown replaced Wynn and got out of the inning.
It stayed 4-0 until the top of the seventh. With one out, Craig, who had shut out the Sox on six hits to that point, gave up a single to Landis and Aparicio sacrificed him to second. Fox then beat out a roller to second with Landis moving to third. Kluszewski singled to right to score Landis and Lollar blasted a homer to left to tie the game at 4-4. Craig finally struck out Goodman to end the inning.
Staley got the Dodgers in order in the last of the seventh and, for the third game in a row, Sherry came on in relief to start the eighth. Despite walking the pitcher, Staley, he held the White Sox scoreless on three ground balls.
Hodges led off the Dodger eighth with a home run putting the Dodgers up 5-4 and Sherry got Aparicio, Fox and Kluszewski in order in the top of the ninth to give the Dodgers their third victory in four games and earn the win.
In three games, in four days, Sherry had pitched seven innings, giving up just one run on four hits and earned a win and two saves.
The next day, in front of the largest crowd ever, 92,706, Sandy Koufax started for the Dodgers against Chicago’s Bob Shaw. The only run of the game was scored in the Chicago fourth. Fox and Landis had led off the inning with back to back singles and Fox scored from third when Lollar hit into a double play. The 1-0 victory kept the Sox in the Series, trailing three games to two and the Series returned to Chicago.

The scene shifted back to Chicago with a crowd of 47,653 on hand for Game 6. Early Wynn started for the White Sox and Johnny Podres for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers got to Wynn in the third on a two-run homer by the great Duke Snyder, playing in his sixth and last World Series. In the Dodger fourth, Larker led off with a single and Demeter ran for him. Roseboro sacrificed him to second and Wills drove him in with a single to center. The pitcher, Podres, then doubled to center to score Wills and Donovan relieved Wynn for Chicago. He walked Gilliam and gave up a double to Neal scoring two more. Moon then homered to left center making it 8-0 before Lown came on for Chicago and got out of the inning.
With one out in the Chicago fourth, Podres hit Landis with a pitch and walked Lollar before giving up a long homer to right by Kluszewski. After he walked Al Smith, Sherry replaced him and gave up a single to Bubba Phillips and a walk to Torgeson before getting out of the inning with no further scoring and the score 8-3.
He held the White Sox scoreless on three more hits through the eighth and Chuck Essegian added another run for Los Angeles with a homer in the top of the ninth to make it 9-3.
In the last of the ninth, Sherry got Goodman, Cash and Aparicio in order and the Dodgers had won the Series in six games and Sherry had his second win to go with his two saves. The Series had drawn a total of420,784 fan to the ball parks, an average of 70,131 per game.
Larry Sherry, who had pitched in all four Dodger wins, in seven days, a total of 12 2/3 innings, giving up just one run on eight hits, saving two games and winning two games, was named Most Valuable Player of the Series.
Sherry won 53 and lost 44 games in an 11-year career with the Dodgers, Tigers, Astros and Angels. The 1959 World Series was the only time he pitched in the post season and he made the most of it.

RED SOX MANAGERIAL HISTORY AND THE FUTURE

In 1903, the Boston Americans, who would become the Boston Red Sox in 1908, won the first World Series ever played, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three. The first Series, unlike those to follow, was a best of nine Series. After a year with no Series in 1904, future Series would be in a best of seven format.

From 1904 until 1908, when they became the Red Sox, the team did not win a World Series. After becoming the Red Sox, in 1904, the Sox won the Series four times, in the next ten years, the last time in 1918.

As every Red Sox fan knows, the Sox did not win another Series until 2004. They then won four World Series, the last time in 2018, exactly one hundred years after winning their only other four in the period ending in 1918.

Of course, as we all know, the 2019 Red Sox were a huge disappointment and there were only two reasons they did not finish in last place in the American League East, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles were even worse.

Can it be that the Sox will have to wait another 100 years before winning another and then win four in the period from 2104 to 2108? Karl Marx once said that ‘History repeats itself’ and that appears to be true as far as The Red Sox and the World Series are concerned.

Why does a franchise have so much success in the first 18 years of the two centuries in its history and so much failure in the rest of those centuries? Will the Red Sox fans have to wait until the first 18 years of the twenty-second century before they see another World’s Championship?

Before you reject this possibility out of hand, consider this additional information. From 1912 to 1918, when the Sox won their first four World Championships, they had four different Managers. Three of the four, Bill Carrigan, who won two, Jake Stahl and Ed Barrow, who won one each, had World Championship teams. Jack Berry, the fourth, did not win a Series in his full one year at the helm, 1917.

Two of the three Managers who led their teams to a Series win, from 1912 to 1918, did so in their first year as Manager. In 1912, Stahl took over from Patsy Donovan, who had led the Sox to fourth and fifth place finishes in 1910 and 1911 and won the Series in his first year. In 1918 Ed Barrow took over from Berry, who finished second in his one year as Boss, and won the Series in his first year.

In between, when the Sox went 39-41 to start the 2013 season under Stahl, after winning the Series the year before, Carrigan took over from Stahl and led the Sox to fourth place and second place finishes in 1913 and 1914 before winning the Series in 1915 and 1916. The win in 1915 would make him the only Red Sox Manager in history ever to win a World Series without winning one in his first year.

Fast forward eighty-six years to 2004 when Terry Francona replaced Grady Little and took the Sox to their first World Series win in 86 years in his first year as Manager of the team. He would win again in 2007.

In 2012, after Francona was replaced by Bobby Valentine, who was merely a one-year fill-in, while the Sox waited for John Farrell to be available to take over in 2013, the Sox finished a sad last.

What did John Farrell do, in his first year as Manager? Naturally, he took his team to the World Series Championship, becoming the fourth Red Sox Manager of five who had won the Series to do so in his first year as Manager.

I am sure that I don’t have to remind you that Farrell’s successor, Alex Cora, who took over in 2018, took the Sox to the Championship in his first year as Manager, becoming the fifth Red Sox Manager of only six who have led the team to a Series win to do so in his first year as Skipper.

So, if history does repeat itself, as Marx said long ago, do the Red Sox have to wait until sometime after 2104 for a new Manager to come riding in on a white horse to give them another pennant? Or, on the other hand, should they replace Cora with a new Manager in hopes that history will repeat itself?

I have one bit of advice for the Sox ownership, if they are thinking of replacing Cora. Don’t replace him with a former star player.

While the Sox have been managed by such former greats as Joe Cronin, who hit .301 in his career, Cy Young, who won 511 games as a pitcher, Johnny Pesky a .307 career hitter and Lou Boudreau, who hit .295 in a 15 year career, none of them won the World Series. Looking back, none of the Red Sox Managers who have won pennants have been exactly Super Stars.

Stahl, the first winner in the 1900’s, was a first baseman/outfielder, who, in a nine year career hit .261 and Francona, the first winner in the 2000’s, coincidentally, was also a first baseman/outfielder who, in a ten year career, hit just .274.

Carrigan, the second winner in the 1900’s was a catcher who, in 10 years, hit just .257 and Farrell, the second winner in the 2000’s was a pitcher who won 36 and lost 46 in eight years. The last Manager to win the World Series for the Sox in the 1900’s, Ed Barrow, never played a game of professional baseball in his life and Cora, (perhaps the last Manager to win one for the Sox in the 2000’s?) was an infielder with a career batting average of just .243.

Does history repeat itself? It would appear that, for the Red Sox, it has for the past 100 years. Will it continue to repeat itself for the Sox?

If the new General Manager for Baseball Operations Chaim Boom, can hold this team’s nucleus together and bring in some pitching, they should be able to keep history from repeating itself and perhaps the year 2020 can end with their fifth World Series win of the century.

If so, when the 2021 season starts, Red Sox fans can take hope from something another famous philosopher, Joan Rivers, once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift. That is why we call it the present.”