Baseball postsMonday May 16, 2016
The Team with the Longest Postseason Drought
Apparently it doesn't pay to name your team the Browns. (Cf., football, Super Bowl)
It began with a simple thought: The baseball team with the longest, current postseason drought is my Seattle Mariners, who haven't been since 2001, when they won 116 games but got killed in the ALCS by the New York Yankees, 4 games to 1, including a 12-3 drubbing in the final game in the Bronx. Manager Lou Piniella had promised a Game 6 back in Seattle, and, as the outs dwindled down, the Yankee faithful taunted him, their former beloved skipper/right fielder, with “No Game 6! No Game 6!” Salt in the wound: Joe Torre used Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning with a 9-run lead—even though Mo had pitched an inning the day before and hardly needed the workout. Torre and Mo would get theirs a few weeks later in Arizona.
Anyway, the thought was this: What other teams have held this ignominious title: Team with Longest Postseason Drought (LPD)?
Last year, I knew it was the Blue Jays, the other '77 expansion team, which hadn't been to the post since 1993, when they won their second World Series in a row. Of course they then went in '15 (bat flip, etc.) but lost to the eventual World Champion Kansas City Royals ... which had been the team with the longest postseason drought before them.
But what about earlier? And which of the original 16 teams was the last to get to the postseason?
So I crunched the numbers.
Interesting tidbit: the 15th of the 16 teams to make it to the World Series was the St. Louis Cardinals, which didn't go until 1926, and which now has more championships than any NL team.
As for last? That was the other St. Louis team, the Browns, which didn't make it until 1944, then lost (to the crosstown Cards), and never went again until they moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. By the time '44 rolled around, it had been 41 years of famine for the Browns, and 18 years (since the start of the '27 season) with the LPD title.
Who took over the mantle in '45? The Boston Braves, which had been only once, back in '14. They held the title for four years until they made the Series in '48, when it passed onto the Phillies, pennantless since '15, who went two years later. So the ChiSox/BlackSox got it.
Here's a chart. Search for your favorite team:
|TEAM W/ LPSD||PERIOD||YEARS||YRS W/TITLE|
|St. Louis Browns||1903-1944||41||18|
|Chicago White Sox||1919-1959||40||9|
|Phil/ KC/ Oakland Athletics||1931-1971||40||11|
|Mon. Expos/Wash. Nationals||1981-2012||31||16|
|Kansas City Royals||1985-2014||29||2|
|Toronto Blue Jays||1993-2015||22||1|
* and counting
Trivia learned along the way:
- The last of the original 16 teams to make the postseason in the new, post-1969 playoff format? Cleveland Indians. In 1995. Ouch.
- The last team, original or expansion, to make the post-season? The Rays in 2008. The second-to-last was the D-backs in '99.
- Which team has made it to the post-season the fewest times? The Marlins. Just twice: 1997 and 2003. But they won the World Series both years. So: compensation.
- The original 16 team that's been to the postseason the fewest times? Not the Cubs. It's their crosstown rivals, the White Sox, which—even in the era of expanded playoffs—have only made the postseason nine times. Two expansion teams, the Astros and Angels, have been more often (10). Hell, the Cubs, pennant-less since 1945, still have more pennants (10) than the ChiSox have postseason appearances (9).
- Only one franchise from each expansion year has won a World Series title. Isn't that odd? In '61, we got the Senators/Rangers (visited Series twice, lost twice) and Angels (title: 2002). In '62, the Astros (went once, lost) and Mets ('69, '86). Among the four teams of '69, the Royals are far and away the most successful: four Series and two championships ('85, '15). No championships for the Padres (been twice), Brewers (once), Expos/Nationals (nonce). And so on. '77, it's Blue Jays (two titles) over Mariners (never been); in '93, Marlins over Rockies; '97, D-backs over Rays. Odd little phenomenon. Will end soon but it's interesting it's worked out this way so far.
This dive into the stats, by the way, did nothing to curb my hatred for the Yankees. The opposite. More on that later.
Baseball Trivia: The Original 16 Teams and the World Series
Some trivia questions that arose out of a side-project on the history of the World Series. Answers in the comments section.
- Which was the first MLB team to go to the World Series twice?
- Which was the first team to WIN the World Series twice?
- By the time the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth in 1919, they had been to the World Series five times. How many of those had they won?
- Which was the last of the original 16 teams to go to the World Series?
- Which was the last of the original 16 to WIN the World Series?
- Of the original 16, how many teams went to the World Series before the Yankees?
- Of the original 16, two teams are currently tied for the fewest pennants: Who and how many?
- Five teams, including expansions teams, won their first two World Series. Name them.
- Which was the first World Series that didn’t include at least one of the original 16 franchises?
- The NY/SF Giants have the second-most pennants in MLB history: 20. That amounts to 18% of all possible NL pennants that could be won. The Yankees, of course, are far ahead of that percentage. To lower itself to only 18%, how many pennant-less seasons would the Yankees need to have? What year would it be?
The Better Pee Wee Reese Story
The myth, as portrayed in “42.”
Some part of me thinks Ken Burns needed to see this “New Rules” bit from Bill Maher before he finished (or started) his Jackie Robinson documentary, which ran on PBS a few weeks ago. Maher goes off on liberals who dump on their own whiteness to make themselves feel better, and, based on the doc, I think Burns is suffering from some version of this. Maybe he feels guilty that, in his seminal “Baseball” doc 20 years ago, he bought into the Pee Wee Reese myth—that the Dodgers captain put his arm around Jackie Robinson at Crosley Field in Cincinnati to quiet his hometown racist crowd—so now he has to dump all over that narrative. Before, it happened. Now, it didn't. Unequivocally. Both times.
Here's Burns in Mother Jones:
Pee Wee is supposed to have walked across the diamond from shortstop to first base, which would've never happened, and put his arm around him. ... It didn't happen. There's no mention in Jackie's autobiography. There's no mention in the white press, and more importantly, there was no mention of it in the black press, which would've run 25 stories related to this.
It's the certainty that bugs me. It feels off. But who has time to double-check?
Joe Posnanski, it turns out, in a piece for NBC Sports called “The Embrace.” It's worth reading the whole thing.
Of the hand-on-shoulder story, Pos writes:
There is a compelling absence of evidence here. There isn't a single contemporary account of the embrace in any of the newspapers or magazines. This is enough for [author Jonathan] Eig, for Miller and particularly for Burns to conclude that the story, at least as popularly told, is a myth.
I would add that while primary sources are well and good, journalists, even good journalists, can often not only bury the lede but miss the story. Bill Madden talks this up in his book, “1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever.” The first time both World Series teams fielded African-American players (1954, Game 1), most sportswriters didn't even comment upon it. And a shortstop talking to, or putting his arm around, a first baseman prior to a game? I wouldn't be surprise that that didn't make the cut. What was the score? That's what fans wanted to know.
Posnanski then goes into the “why” of the myth. As in: Why do we need it? And from where did it spring?
The answer to the second question is interesting. A baseball historian, Craig R. Wright, of whom no less a figure than Bill James says, “I would trust Craig's opinion a great deal more than Ken Burns,” has researched the matter and believes that it did happen in some form. And he points Posnanski to a 10-part series that Jackie Robinson did with the Brooklyn Eagle's Ed Reid in 1949, where Jackie says the following:
I'll never forget the day when a few loud-mouthed guys on the other team began to take off on Pee Wee Reese. They were joshing him very viciously because he was playing on the team with me and was on the field nearby. Mind you, there were not yelling at me; I suppose they did not have the nerve to do that, but they were calling him some very vile names and every one bounced off of Pee Wee and hit me like a machine-gun bullet.
Pee Wee kind of sensed the hopeless, dead feeling in me and came over and stood beside me for a while. He didn't say a word but he looked over at the chaps who were yelling at me through him and just stared. He was standing by me, I could tell you that.
Slowly the jibes died down like when you kill a snake an inch at a time, and then there was nothing but quiet from them. It was wonderful the way this little guy did it. I will never forget it.
Not fans; not necessarily Crosley Field; not hand on shoulder; but otherwise, there it is.
It's actually a better story. It's less paternal and feels truer. It comes straight from Jackie within two years of breaking the color barrier. And Jackie's widow, Rachel, corroborates, according to Posnanski.
So why didn't Burns pivot to this, the more interesting story, in his doc? Why was he so insistent about denying Pee Wee Reese completely? How did he manage to get it wrong twice?
Moments of grace are rare in this world. Why not celebrate them?
Rod Carew Tries On My Glove, 1970
A few facts and vague memories:
- I'm the kid in the pink shirt in the center. It's my glove Rodney Cline is trying on.
- I think I was embarrassed by the pink shirt—not the color but the collar. Or I wanted to be wearing a T-shirt like my older brother (offering his glove for Carew to try on).
- I was slightly embarrassed by the glove. I hadn't worked it in properly, and I had small hands, so the pinkie finger for the glove was particularly closed off. I think Rod made some mention of that. I think he counseled me to work on breaking in the glove better.
- It was a Stan Bahnsen glove that was bought for me at Korner Plaza in Richfield, Minn. A bit of irony, given my current feelings about the Yankees.
- Can you believe they didn't have any Twins gloves at Korner Plaza? None. No Killebrew, Oliva, Tovar, Carew. I mean Stan Effin' Bahnsen? You kidding me?
- It was Camera Day, Met Stadium, Bloomington, Minn., circa 1970.
- We have no idea who these other kids in the photo are.
- Nothing like a baseball stadium.
Bryce Harper's Clown Cap, Bro
Here's the cap:
And here's his reasons for wearing the cap. It's basically an argument with baseball traditionalists:
“If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I'm going to go, 'Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.' That's what makes the game fun. You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days? Football, basketball. Look at those players — Steph Curry, LeBron James. It's exciting to see those players in those sports. Cam Newton — I love the way Cam goes about it. He smiles, he laughs. It's that flair. The dramatic.”
Now I'm a Minnesotan, so bound by law to be a fan of the nondescript. When I was growing up in the days of Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, the Bud Grant-led Minnesota Vikings didn't even spike the ball; they just dropped it in the end zone like it was their job. I always liked that. Plus Cam Newton? Ewww. I'm a Seattleite now, so pick a Seahawk if you want me on board. Richard Sherman. Michael Bennett. Marshawn Lynch.
Even so, I'm not averse to what Bryce is saying. But the cap? Let me count the ways it's a bad idea:
- Baseball is already fun. Isn't it?
- I mean, didn't you watch the 2014-2015 Kansas City Royals?
- Hey, how about that Eric Hosmer slide?
- Lorenzo Cain going first to home on a single? Twice? You try that sometime.
- Or the 7th inning of that Texas-Toronto ALDS?
- Or Joe Posnanski's write-up about it?
- Besides, that cap is waaaaaay too similar to Donald Trump's.
- Seriously, it's a clown cap, bro.
- More seriously: Why would you imply that your multimillion-dollar job playing a boy's game isn't fun? You do know what most people do for a living, right?
On the plus side? Since Harper wants to be demonstrative, and wear his hair crazy, and make baseball “fun again,” he's that much less likely to sign with the New York Yankees after the 2018 season.