erik lundegaard

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Friday April 03, 2020

‘Hank’ Gowdy, Super-Hero, Cont.

After posting this piece on Boston Braves first baseman Hank Gowdy being called a “super-hero” for his incredible 1914 World Series performance—one of the earliest mentions of the term I‘ve come across—I got the following email from my father:

Hank Gowdy also figured prominently in the 1924 World Series, but not so heroically. In the 12th inning of game 7 at Griffith Park, Senators leadoff hitter, Muddy Ruel hit a foul popup near home plate, but Gowdy tripped over his catchers mask and didn’t catch it. Ruel then doubled and scored the winning run, rewarding Walter Johnson, in relief, with  the win.

It was the first time a Game 7 went into extra innings. The next time? 1991.

That last stat is pretty interesting—particularly since it involved the Twins—the original Senators franchise that moved to Minnesota in 1961. So the first two times a deciding Game 7 went into extras, it involved that franchise; and they won both. Not bad.

Also interesting? Though it hadn't happened in nearly 70 years when the Twins beat the Braves in 10, it happened again just six years later, in 1997, when Jose Mesa blew it for the Indians and the Marlins went on to win in 11. Then it happened again in 2016, when the Cubs and Indians took a rain-delayed Game 7 into the 10th. Right, the Indians lost both of those. So Senators/Twins win the first two Game 7 extras, Indians lose the next two Game 7 extras. Symmetetry. Sorry, Cleveland. 

Despite my father's memory, Gowdy wasn't hounded into eternity for the ‘24 mishap, the way that Merkle, Snodgrass and Buckner were for theirs. In fact, tripping over the catcher’s mask isn't mentioned at all in Gowdy's 1966 New York Times obit. The subhed immediately goes to his '14 exploits, then mentions a truer kind of heroism: The fact that Gowdy was the first Major League Baseball player to enlist and serve in World War I.

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Posted at 07:49 AM on Friday April 03, 2020 in category Baseball   |   Permalink  

Thursday April 02, 2020

Joe's Top 100: 11-20

A-Rod Day in the Bronx as the Yankees cut short his career. It rained. 

Poor Joe. After two starts and stops—one about seven years ago, the other last year or the year before—he was finally, finally going to give us his complete list of the Top 100 Players in Baseball History. He had teamed with the website The Athletic to count them down during this year's hot-stove league, one day at a time, until he finished, at No. 1, on Opening Day. 

Perfect.

And then it wasn‘t. 

When Opening Day was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe and the Athletic tried to delay the countdown just a bit. Instead of a player a day, including weekends, they’d just go with the weekdays. And instead of counting down the Top 100 every weekday, they'd add “favorite players” (Steve Dalkowski, Bo Jackson, Tony Oliva) every other day, Tuesdays and Thursdays. I guess. To me, though, it's delaying the inevitable—the list will still finish weeks or months ahead of Opening Day. That said, why the hell not. Plus I get to read about Tony Oliva.

And now, as the man used to say, on with the countdown. 

I pretty much nailed 11-20. I figured either Frank Robinson or Mike Schmidt for #20 (their numbers), and it was both. Joe did two #20s and no #19. I figured A-Rod for No. 13 (his Yankees number), rather thann No. 3 (his M‘s/Rangers number), but Joe added the two: A-Rod was No. 16. Last time on the list, I wrote this:

In the next 10, we‘ll also see Mickey, Rogers, Tris. Maybe Josh Gibson? ... Also not sure how much bWAR cred Joe gives to the steroid junkies Barry and Roger. I hope they’re not top 10 but Joe often disappoints on the subject. 

We saw Mickey (#11), Rogers (#17), Tris (#18), Josh (#15), and, yes, Roger (#13). The ones I didn’t guess? Who I thought might be Top 10? Gehrig (#14) and Wagner (#12).

Here's 11-20:

No.  PLAYER bWAR ALL-TIME bWAR POS TEAM
20 Frank Robinson 107.3 24 OF Orioles/Reds
20 Mike Schmidt 106.8 26 3B  Phillies
18 Tris Speaker 134 9 OF Red Sox/Indians
17 Rogers Hornsby 127 12 2B Cardinals 
16 Alex Rodriguez 117.8 16 SS/3B Yanks/Ms/Rangers
15 Josh Gibson n/a n/a C Negro Leagues
14 Lou Gehrig 112.4 18 1B Yankees
13 Roger Clemens 139.2 8 P Red Sox/Yankees
12 Honus Wagner 130.8 10 SS Pirates
11 Mickey Manle 110.3 20 OF Yankees

Who winds up No. 1? Joe has already given us 6-10 so I know the top 5. Three of the 5 are who you'd expect: Babe, Willie, Hank. There's also Barry, whom I discount more than Joe does, and Oscar Charleston, whom I don't know enough about. I assume No. 1 has to be Babe or Willie. Me, I'd go Willie. Say hey.

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Posted at 04:05 PM on Thursday April 02, 2020 in category Baseball   |   Permalink  

Tuesday March 31, 2020

First Super-Hero: ‘Hank’ Gowdy?

This is one of the first references I‘ve seen to a superhero—or, I suppose, super-hero. It’s from a 1915 newspaper, under a “standing of the clubs,” and in reference to Boston Braves catcher and first baseman Hank Gowdy:

A few things worth mentioning beyond “super-hero”:

  • Gowdy was definitely super in the 1914 World Series against the Philadelphia A‘s. In four games and 16 plate appearances, this was his slash line: .545/.688/1.273. That’s eons ahead of his career line, .270/.351/.358, and the Boston Braves won in four. Then Connie Mack sold off all his best players. Above, they‘re tied for last in the AL. 
  • “The Kissel Kar sign” was apparently an advert for this car company, which started in 1906, ended in 1942, and was headquartered in Wisconsin.
  • The Fenway park. Wonder when they dropped the definite article. Also, the Braves used Fenway? For a time, according to Wiki: “...the Boston Braves used Fenway Park for the 1914 World Series and the 1915 season until Braves Field was completed.”
  • Those quote marks around “Hank.” Love that. 
  • “... perfectly legitimate income.” Because some didn’t think so? I guess we‘re never able to forgive athletes for being good enough to get paid to do what we do for fun.
  • The 1915 World Series would be betweeen the second-place teams in the above standings, and feature the exact same cities but completely different teams: Instead of Boston Braves (NL) vs. Philadelphia A’s (AL) it was Boston Red Sox (AL) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (NL). Has that ever happened before? Red Sox won in five. The Phillies would be the last of the original 16 to finally win the World Series—65 years later in 1980. You gotta believe.

If anyone knows any earlier references to super-heroes, let me know. 

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Posted at 07:51 AM on Tuesday March 31, 2020 in category Baseball   |   Permalink  

Friday March 06, 2020

Joe's Top 100: 21-30

Hey, not bad! I tweeted this after Joe posted Greg Maddux (#31) as his 31st greatest player of all time:

Nailed Trout; nailed Rickey; guessed 7 of the 10 correctly. But instead of Tris Speaker, Turkey Stearnes and Frank Robinson, we got Johnny Bench, Pop Lloyd and Joe Morgan. 

The Turkey Stearnes sub is interesting. For a few weeks now, I‘ve assumed Eddie Murray would be the highest-ranking player from Joe’s previous list (#64) who wouldn't make this one, but now it seems it's Stearnes (#58). I'm curious what Joe learned in the intervening 7-8 years to make him change his mind that way. You can't go by the stats, obviously, like with bWAR with Eddie Murray, so what was it? And did he plan on having Pop Lloyd in his top 30 last go-round? If so, no wonder he stopped; he was running out of room. 

If he's still thinking about including Turkey Stearnes, then he's definitely running out of room. He‘ll either have to give up one of the Big Three of the Negro Leagues (Satchel, Josh, Oscar) or a top 100 bWAR player (Babe, Walter, Ty, Willie, Hank, Barry, Roger, Rogers, Tris, Honus, Stan, Ted, Alex, Lou, Mickey, Frank, Mike). Those are your 20 remaining. I assume. I mean, gotta be, right? I can see leaving off Cap Anson, for fuzzy 19th-century numbers and for doing everything to keep African Americans out of Major League Baseball, but none of the others are like this. The least legendary is probably Tris Speaker, but he was still a 20th-century player (1907-28), and by bWAR he’s the ninth-greatest of all time. You can't leave him off. 

Anyway, here's Joe's latest 10:

No.  PLAYER CHANGE * bWAR ALL-TIME POS
30 Johnny Bench X ** 75.2 77 C
29 Eddie Collins 11 124 13 2B
28 Randy Johnson X 101.1 29 P
27 Mike Trout NEW *** 72.5 87 OF
26 Grover Cleveland Alexander 6 118.9 15 P
25 Pop Lloyd NEW/X n/a n/a SS
24 Rickey Henderson X 111.2 19 OF
23 Albert Pujols 24 100.3 31 1B
22 Lefty Grove X 107 25 P
21 Joe Morgan  100.6 30 2B

* I.e. change from the previous list. So Eddie Collins moved up 6 spots, Albert Pujols 24 spots. 

** I used the X designation if they weren't on the previous list, which ended at No. 32, but I assumed they would have been if he'd continued.

*** I used the NEW designation for someone who probably wouldn't have been on the previous list. Mike Trout is the highest ranking NEW player. Unless it's Pop Lloyd. 

We have two active players in this portion: Trout and Pujols. Both Angels. The previous highest-ranked active player was Justin Verlander at No. 75. Overall, there are only six actives: Scherzer, Kershaw and Miggy are the others. 

I was an idiot for guessing Frank Robinson for his #20 since this portion doesn't go to 20. That's tomorrow. I assume him over Schmidt, also #20. One of the two anyway. I also think A-Rod will come in at #13. In the next 10, we‘ll also see Mickey, Rogers, Tris. Maybe Josh Gibson? Not sure where the Negro League legends will fall. Also not sure how much bWAR cred Joe gives to the steroid junkies Barry and Roger. I hope they’re not top 10 but Joe often disappoints on the subject. 

Twenty days to Opening Day. 

“Who's pitching? Randy? Let's go.” In the mid-90s, Tim, Mike and I regularly got to watch one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

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Posted at 07:58 AM on Friday March 06, 2020 in category Baseball   |   Permalink  

Thursday February 27, 2020

Joe's Top 100: 31-40

Denton True “Cyclone” Young

We pretty much know the final 30 now, don't we? If we know bWAR and Joe. Which we kinda do. 

First, here's the latest 10, a helluva group:

No.  PLAYER CHANGE bWAR bWAR ALL-TIME POSITION
40 Roberto Clemente -3 94.5 39 OF
39 Nap Lajoie 10 107.4 23 2B
38 Carl Yastrzemski -2 96.4 35 OF
37 Pedro Martinez 7 83.9 55 P
36 Christy Mathewson X 103.9 28 P
35 George Brett -2 88.7 48 3B
34 Cy Young X 163.6 3 P
33 Jimmie Foxx X 96.6 33 1B
32 Mel Ott 2 107.8 22 OF
31 Greg Maddux X 106.6 27 P

You look at that and wonder, “Can there be a better 10?” And the answer is: Sure, the next 10. And the 10 after. And then the final 10. Joe has mixed it up, certainly, putting George Brett, as one example, ahead of guys with higher WAR ratings, but the overall is one of improvement. This is the first group to average a WAR greater than 100, for example. Cy helps. 

How about that, by the way. To me, that didn't get enough chatter on Twitter and the like—putting the third greatest player by bWAR back at 34. But Joe let us know early on he favored more recent players over the oldsters—and Cy is a fairly old oldster, playing half his career before there was a 20th century or an American League. 

So: the remaning 30. The 30 greatest baseball players of all time.

I assume it‘ll be the 100+ bWAR guys that haven’t been mentioned yet:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Walter Johnson
  3. Barry Bonds
  4. Willie Mays
  5. Ty Cobb
  6. Hank Aaron
  7. Roger Clemens
  8. Tris Speaker
  9. Honus Wagner
  10. Stan Musial
  11. Rogers Hornsby
  12. Eddie Collins
  13. Ted Williams
  14. Grover Cleveland Alexander
  15. Alex Rodriguez
  16. Lou Gehrig
  17. Rickey Henderson
  18. Mickey Mantle
  19. Frank Robinson
  20. Lefty Grove
  21. Mike Schmidt
  22. Randy Johnson
  23. Joe Morgan
  24. Albert Pujols

We also get the superlative players with lower WARs because they‘re either still playing or they were catchers—and WAR is notoriously unfair to catchers:

  1. Johnny Bench
  2. Mike Trout

Finally, for the final four slots, I assume it’ll be these great Negro League players:

  1. Turkey Stearnes
  2. Oscar Charleston
  3. Josh Gibson
  4. Satchel Paige

What does this leave off? Cap Anson for one, the first player to get 3,000 hits, but Joe, who has written extensively of him, thinks some of his 19th-century numbers are a bit suspect, and anyway he was responsible for maintaining the color line is baseball for so long. So: so long. 

You know who else will be missing from Joe's 100 greatest players list? Twelve first-ballot Hall of Famers. These legendary names: Lou Brock, Willie Stargell, Jim Palmer, Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, Dennis Eckersley, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome, and Roy Halladay. This is not a knock, just an indication how difficult it is to narrow the list down to 100. But I think I would've found room for Palmer and I-Rod and maybe Glavine.

Not to mention Harmon Killebrew.

28 days to Opening Day. 

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Posted at 08:10 AM on Thursday February 27, 2020 in category Baseball   |   Permalink  
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