Baseball postsSaturday January 23, 2016
To Every Year, a Baseball Book
Baseball books about 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1977. Wither '74?
Quick question for the Hot Stove League: Has a book been written about every baseball year since whenever? 1903? I like those types of books. Years have arcs that lives and careers tend not to.
I'm thinking books that take in the whole year rather than simply one team's journey through that year, but I'll accept the latter, too.
Here's a few I know. Others? Please weigh in.
- 2014: “Ninety Feet Away: The Story of the 2014 Kansas City Royals” by Kent Krause
- 2004: “Don't Let Us Win Tonight: An Oral History of the 2004 Boston Red Sox's Impossible Playoff Run” by Allan Wood and Bill Nowlin
- 1991: “Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time” by Tim Wendel
- 1990: “The Wire-to-Wire Reds: Sweet Lou, Nasty Boys, and the Wild Run to a World Championship” by John Erardi and Joel Luckhaupt
- 1986: “The Bad Guys Won: A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo Chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, the Kid, and the Rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team Ever to Put on a New York Uniform--and Maybe the Best,” by Jeff Pearlman; “One Pitch Away” by Mike Sowell
- 1981: “Split Season: 1981: Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball” by Jeff Katz
- 1979: Tales from the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates Dugout: Remembering “The Fam-A-Lee” (Tales from the Team), by John McCollister
- 1978: “October Men: Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin and the Yankees Miraculous Finish in 1978” by Roger Kahn; “The Bronx Zoo: The Astonishing Inside Story of the 1978 World Champion New York Yankees” by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock
- 1977: “The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City,” by Jonathan Mahler
- 1976: “Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76” by Dan Epstein
- 1975: “The Long Ball: The Summer of '75—Spaceman, Catfish, Charlie Hustle, and the Greatest World Series Ever Played” by Tom Adelman; “The Machine” by Joe Posnanski
- 1973: “Hammerin' Hank, George Almighty and the Say Hey Kid: The Year That Changed Baseball Forever” by John Rosengren
- 1971: “The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates,” by Bruce Markusen
- 1969: “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton; “Ernie Banks: Mr. Cub and the Summer of '69” by Phil Rogers
- 1968: “Summer of '68: The Season That Changed Baseball--and America--Forever” by Tim Wendel; “The Tigers of '68: Baseball's Last Real Champions” by George Cantor
- 1967: “1967 Red Sox: The Impossible Dream Season (Images of Baseball)” by Raymond Sinibaldi and Billy Rohr
- 1964: “October 1964” by David Halbertstam; “The Year of Blue Snow: The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies” by Mel Marmer; “Fred Hutchinson and the 1964 Cincinnati Reds” by Doug Wilson
- 1962: “Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?: The Improbable Saga of the New York Mets' First Year” by Jimmy Breslin
- 1960: “Sweet '60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates (SABR Digital Library Book 10)” by Dick Rosen and C. Paul Rogers
- 1954: “1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever” by Bill Madden
- 1951: “Strangers in the Bronx: DiMaggio, Mantle, and the Changing of the Yankee Guard by Andrew O'Toole
- 1949: ”Summer of '49“ by David Halberstam
- 1947: ”Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season“ by Jonathan Eig; ”1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball“ by Red Barber
- 1941: ”56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number“ by Kostya Kennedy
- 1923: ”The House that Ruth Built: A New Stadium, the First Yankees Championship, and the Redemption of 1923,“ by Robert Weintraub
- 1920: ”The Pitch That Killed“ by Mike Sowell
- 1919: ”Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series,“ by Eliot Asinof; ”Red Legs and Black Sox: Edd Roush and the Untold Story of the 1919 World Series“ by Susan Dellinger, Ph.D.
- 1908: ”Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History“ by Cait N. Murphy
And if you could, what year would you like to read about? Me, I'd love more on the '69 season, which is when: 1) MLB went to a division format; 2) Jim Bouton was writing ”Ball Four," which would forever change our perception of baseball and its players; 3) Curt Flood was traded to the Phillies but refused to report and sued MLB, setting in motion what would eventually become free agency, which would change baseball forever; 4) Reggie Jackson threatened Maris' HR record midseason but lost the crown, and the MVP, to my man Harmon Killebrew; 5) the Cubs collapsed (again); 6) the Baltimore Orioles were the best team in baseball but somehow lost the World Series to the Miracle Mets; and most importantly, certainly to me, 7) at age 6, I began to follow baseball regularly.
Dave Henderson (1958-2015)
One for the ages.
Little-known fact: It was his only hit of the series.
How light on his feet he was, almost like a dancer. He even does a mid-air pirouette down the first base line when he sees, finally sees, that the ball is out of the park, and the Boston Red Sox, down 3 games to 1 in the 1986 American League Championship Series vs. the California Angels, and behind 5-4 in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5, with two outs, two strikes, and a man on, were back in it. “Unbelievable!” broadcaster Al Michaels shouts. “You’re looking at one for the ages here!”
Truly, though, Hendu’s homerun would’ve been all-but-forgotten if the Angels had just had a little timely hitting of their own. In the bottom of the 9th, they tied it up and loaded the bases with one out. But DeCinces flyball to right wasn’t deep enough; and Grich lined out to the pitcher, sending it into extras, where, in the top of the 11th, Hendu came up again, this time with the bases loaded, and did what DeCinces didn’t: he hit the sac fly. That won it. The series took two more games, and Hendu started these instead of Tony Armas, who had started games 1-5, but he never managed another hit. It was, statistically, his worst post-season performance: 1 for 9; a .111 batting average. But he hit the one for the ages.
One strike away was such a theme in the ’86 postseason that it became the title of a book about the ’86 postseason, and about how those pitches to Henderson, and before him Don Baylor, wrecked Angels’ reliever Donnie Moore, who became abusive toward his wife, and then took his own life three years later, July 18, 1989, aged 35. The Red Sox, who only got to the World Series because of Hendu, were themselves one strike away from winning it all in Game 6, after Hendu led off the top of the 10th with a homer. Imagine if Schiraldi, or Stanley, had gotten that one strike, how much of a hero Hendu would’ve been forever after in Boston. Instead, he became a kind of postive, gap-toothed, lighter-than-air reminder of the agony of defeat. There was a through line from him to Bill Buckner—just as, for some Seattle fans, Marshawn Lynch is a reminder of the one time we didn’t hand off to him.
For the next few years, Hendu kept making it back to the World Series, and performing well. His regular-season career line is average: .258/.320/.436. His World Series line is exemplary: 324/.410/.606, with 4 homers and 10 RBIs in 20 games. He helped the A’s beat Boston in the ’88 ALCS, then watched from centerfield, as, again, one strike away, the Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson hit an even more famous homerun in Game 1 of the World Series that turned it all around. Hendu got his ring a year later in the earthquake series, but played his last game in July 1994 with the Kansas City Royals.
He died Sunday of a heart attack at the age of 57—way too early for such a happy warrior.
Longtime Mariners broadcast partner Rick Rizzs has a nice remembrance here:
He had that big body to hold that big heart, and it gave out way too early. ... Hendu was one of the nicest, most compassionate people you'd ever want to meet. He was a tremendous athlete and incredible baseball player, but he was 100 times more than that as a person because he was so giving. He cared about everybody.
No Rights in the Matter: Basking in the Kansas City Royals’ World Series Victory
I’m basking. I’ve been basking since last night at approximately 9:30 Pacific Time. In some ways I have no right to bask, since the 2015 Kansas City Royals aren’t my team. Cf., Theodore Roethke’s great poem, “Elegy for Jane (My Student, Thrown by a Horse),” which ends with a profession of love and then this:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover
That’s me with the Royals. I didn’t suffer with this team for games and seasons and decades. I was always aware of them but in an offhand way. My team kept swapping Raul Ibanez with them. He’d do good over there and I’d think, “Well, that’s a waste. We could use him.” Because we had a chance in hell back then, and everyone knew the Royals didn’t have a chance in hell. They were the most chanceless team in baseball. I’d see a guy with a Royals cap and think, “Now there’s a fan, poor bastard.”
It’s an odd thing, choosing a team in the postseason when your team doesn’t make it, and most years mine doesn’t so I’ve had practice. Sometimes you know going in, sometimes your rooting interests develop during a game. Most of the time I root for underdogs or teams that have long been denied. Like most people do.
This year in the American League I wanted Royals over Astros, Blue Jays over Rangers, then Royals over Blue Jays in the ALCS. I got all of that. In the NL, I wanted Cubs over St. Louis and was mixed on Mets/Dodgers. The underdog impulse should’ve had me rooting for the Mets, but I knew the Dodgers, for all its money, were in some ways more hapless than the Mets, who had at least been to the World Series in the last 25 years. So I found myself rooting for the Dodgers, who lost, then I found myself rooting for the Cubs over the Mets, and lost that one, too. And that set up this World Series.
I have to say, even if it had been Royals vs. Cubs, the most long-denied team of all, I still would’ve rooted for the Royals. Part of it is they should’ve won last year. Last October, the Royals were the story, and the San Francisco Giants got in the way of that story, and I wanted a better ending. I hoped to get that this year.
The other part is that I liked them; they were an easy team to like. I liked the way they played: speed, defense, putting the ball in play, not striking out. I liked the players themselves: the calm of Gordon, the fieriness of Hosmer, the smile and joy and “climb on my shoulders” leadership of Perez; the moosiness of Moustakas and the beautiful all-aroundness of Lorenzo Cain. Oh, and in the bullpen, the implacable Wade Davis. The one constant in life is change, but Wade Davis was a bulwark against change. He made sure the score stayed the same. For all the fans who could never root for Mariano Rivera because he represented the team that represented everything wrong with baseball, we now had Wade Davis. Late innings were volatile for a lot of teams but not the Royals. The Royals cured volatility with Wade Davis.
I followed them out of the corner of my eye all year. They were 90 feet from winning it all last year yet hardly anyone picked them to repeat this year. Most pundits didn’t even pick them as a wild card. Last year was seen as a fluke. They thought my Mariners were the team to beat.
By the end of May, the M’s seemed done, and when I checked the box scores I’d do this:
- Did the M’s win? No, crap.
- Did the Yankees win? Shit, yes.
- Are any other AL East teams threatening them? C’mon, losers.
- Oh, and how did the Royals do?
They turned out to be better than everyone thought. Then the playoffs began and they seemed worse than everyone thought. To the Houston Astros, they lost once, twice, and were losing a third game in a best of five series.
Then they seemed amazing.
On Monday, Oct. 12, three weeks ago, I was beginning to reconcile myself with the idea of rooting for the Astros the rest of the way. Or maybe the Blue Jays if they could come back against the Rangers. We wouldn’t get an all-Texas ALCS, would we? Uck.
I was working but had ESPN.com’s gamecast up and kept looking over. Oh, the Royals have a baserunner? Huh, another? Wait, are the bases loaded? Wait, do they have a shot at this?
Here are five postseason games the Royals won this year:
- ALDS Game 4: Down 6-2 in the 8th inning.
- ALCS Game 2: Down 3-0 in the 7th inning.
- World Series Game 1: Down 4-3 in the 9th inning.
- World Series Game 4: Down 3-2 in the 8th inning.
- World Series Game 5: Down 2-0 in the 9th inning.
How often did they do this? This often: I actually began to laugh during last night’s comeback because it was so absurd that it was happening again. But it was. And this is all it took to tie it:
- A walk
- A double
- An infield groundout
- An infield groundout
Oh, and this too:
- One of the ballsiest baserunning moves in World Series history
That’s my general image of the 2015 Royals: sprawled all over homeplate in a ballsy baserunning move. I remember as a kid reading about Enos “Country” Slaughter scoring from first on a single in the 1946 World Series and wondering, “How is that even possible? You can’t do that.” Well, Lorenzo Cain did it twice this postseason, the second time to score the go-ahead run in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the ALCS and put the Royals in the World Series. Pundits, or at least Joe Buck, keep saying that Jose Bautista threw to the wrong bag, second, rather than home to prevent Cain from scoring, but he didn’t. If he’d thrown home, Cain wouldn’t have gone and Hosmer would’ve wound up on second, and when Morales singled to center both would’ve scored. It was lose-lose for Bautista, and he chose the right lose. It wasn’t his fault Royals were on the basepaths.
Was that the game I was watching at Six Arms with the dude from Kansas City? No, that was ALCS Game 4. He bought me a shot in the 7th for good luck because that’s what he and his friends would do in the 7th, and you have to keep traditions alive even when you’re on a business trip in Seattle. It seemed to work. His team, our team, scored 4 that inning, 3 in the next, 2 in the 9th. We fist-bumped. After the game, I wished him luck.
Joe Posnanski has a great post-World Series piece on luck and the Kansas City Royals. He writes about James Bond’s luck in the movies and says the Kansas City Royals are James Bond. He leaves out “After years of being Don Knotts,” but that’s implied. That’s known. We all knew that. That’s part of the charm of this Royals team: everything they’ve overcome. Yeah, sure, that history didn’t belong to these players to overcome but it still did. When you get drafted/signed by the Kansas City Royals/Seattle Mariners it means something different than getting drafted/signed by the New York Yankees. It’s like moving into a crumbling apartment building with a low ceiling and no light rather than some upper west side penthouse with great views. It’s gonna effect you.
But somehow it all worked out. And now it’s mid-day of Day 1 of the Hot Stove League and I’m still basking even though I have no rights in the matter. I just like this team. What can I say? For any team that was never my team, this is one helluva team.
- Joe Posnanski, “Long May They Reign: After three decades, the Royals are the champions of baseball”
- Andy McCullough, “Royals are World Series Champs”
- Roger Angell, “Hard Times”
- Reeves Wiedeman, “Royal Family”
- Sam Miller, Baseball Prospectus, “One Inning, Two Decisions, One Champion”
- Bob Sullivan, “Did the Royals Just Kill Moneyball and Help You Get a Raise?”
Quote of the Day
“We wanted to acquire players that we loved watch play.”
-- Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore, in Joe Posnanski's post-World Series post, “Long May They Reign: After three decades, the Royals are the champions of baseball.”
Eric Hosmer scores the tying run in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.
Years Without a Title
|WS #||TEAM||W||L||REC W||REC APP||BORN||YRS WO TTL|
|4||Kansas City Royals||2||2||2015||2015||1969||0|
|20||San Francisco Giants||8||12||2014||2014||1883||1|
|12||Boston Red Sox||8||4||2013||2013||1901||2|
|19||St. Louis Cardinals||11||8||2011||2013||1882||4|
|40||New York Yankees||27||13||2009||2009||1903||6|
|5||Chicago White Sox||3||2||2005||2005||1901||10|
|1||Los Angeles Angels||1||0||2002||2002||1961||13|
|1||Tampa Bay Rays*||0||1||n/a||2008||1998||17|
|2||Toronto Blue Jays||2||0||1993||1993||1977||22|
|18||Los Angeles Dodgers||6||12||1988||1988||1884||27|
|5||New York Mets||2||3||1986||2015||1962||29|
|2||San Diego Padres*||0||2||n/a||1998||1969||46|
* Have never won a title.