erik lundegaard

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Wednesday October 03, 2018

Boxscores: August 1, 1970

Pirates 20, Braves 10: August 1, 1970

I saw this game on NBC's “Game of the Week” when we were visiting my grandmother in Finksburg, Maryland when I was 7. I still remember it. I remember being thrilled by it.

It was partially the score. I mean, 20-10? That's a football score. Not that I knew football at the time. That would take a few more years.

It was partially the great players involved: Hank Aaron, Rico Carty, Willie Stargell, Orlando Cepeda—all of whom I mostly knew from baseball cards and those annual “Baseball Stars of...” books. I don't think I saw them much. I grew up in Minneapolis, an American League city, and I think even on TV we mostly saw AL games. So this was new. 

Plus I thought the uniforms were cool; they were darker than what I was used to.

So were the players.

Start with the Pirates. Their leadoff hitter, Johnny Jeter, was black. So was Dave Cash, Al Oliver and Manny Sanguillen. Bob Robertson, batting fifth, was white, but Willie Stargell and Jose Pagan were not. Shortstop Gene Alley was white, as was pitcher Bruce Dal Canton. So six of nine were players of color. 

The Braves did that one better: seven of the starting nine were players of color. 

In comparison, on this day in 1970, my Twins started just three non-white players: Cesar Tovar, Tony Oliva, Leo Cardenas. (Rod Carew was injured.) Their opposition, the Detroit Tigers, did the same: Ike Brown, Elliott Maddox, César Gutiérrez. (Willie Horton, ditto.) It had been 23 years since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier for the NL Brooklyn Dodgers, but the American League was still whiter. Noticeably so. At least I noticed. 

Anyway, for whatever reason—the score, the unis, the players—I‘ve never forgotten that game. Sitting in my grandmother’s house on Cedarhurst Rd., in Finksburg, Md., it just stuck. 

BTW: If you‘re wondering where Roberto Clemente was, he must’ve been injured. He didn't play between July 26 and August 7—except, oddly, as a pinch-runner in the July 31 game. 

A year later, on Sept. 1, 1971, this Pirates team would field the first all-black and Latino team in Major League history

For the 1970 season, the Pirates won the NL West, while the Braves—the NL East champs in ‘69—finished second-to-last in their division. Rico Carty led the league in hitting with a .366 mark, and Manny Sanguillen finished third with .325. Hank Aaron hit 38 homers to bring his career total to 592—third all-time. Two years later, he would pass Willie Mays for second all-time. In early ’74, of course, he would break the most sacrosanct record in the game. Clemente hit .352 in '70, but without enough plate appearances to quality for the batting title. But his 145 hits raised his career total to 2,704. Two years later, he would reach 3,000 on the dot, only the 11th man in baseball history to do that. Three months after that, he would die in a plane crash flying relief supplies to earthquake victims in Managua, Nicaragua.

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Posted at 08:42 AM on Oct 03, 2018 in category Baseball
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Monday October 01, 2018

Who's Due? Anybody but the Yankees

This isn't exactly shocking, but of the five remaining teams vying to win the AL pennant this season, the Yankees have won more World Series titles than the other four combined: 27-20. This despite the fact that the AL teams with the second- and third-most titles (A's and BoSox, respectively) are still in the mix. 

TEAM World Series Titles How Often Pennants How Often Last Went Last Won
Yankees 27 4.1 40 2.8 2009 2009
Athletics 9 12.5 14 8.1 1990 1989
Red Sox 8 14.1 12 9.4 2013 2013
Indians 2 56.5 6 18.8 2016 1948
Astros 1 55.0 2 27.5 2017 2017

(For those who could guess that the A's had the second-most titles in the AL, take a bow. That's actually a good trivia question. Feel free to use it.)

(And for those who care, the Tigers are the fourth-most successful AL team in this regard—with four titles. Then it goes: Orioles, Twins and White Sox with three each; Indians, Royals and Blue Jays with two each; Angels and Astros with one. Bringing up the rear, with bupkis, is the Rangers, Rays, and our Seattle Mariners.)

Anyway, looking at the above, you could make an argument that the Yankees are in fact due. Throughout their history, they‘ve averaged a pennant every 2.8 years and a title every 4.1 years, and they haven’t gotten either in eight whole years. Poor Bronx. Poor fans. They‘re used to crushing and they haven’t crushed in so, so long they‘ve almost forgotten what it’s like. But, of course, no, they‘re the last team I’d root for. If they went through 50 years of bottom-dwelling pain they'd still be the last team I'd root for. Riffing off Joe E. Lewis, rooting for the New York Yankees is like rooting for white people. They don't need help.

BoSox? They were the best team in baseball during the regular season, and I kinda like seeing such teams make it to the World Series. Plus a BoSox victory would sting Yankee fans the most. Astros won just last year but they‘re fun, and they’ve only won once in 55 years, and no non-Yankee team has gone back-to-back since the ‘92-’93 Jays. Indians? Look at that painful history. They‘re so, so due. A’s, meanwhile, have the lowest payroll in baseball. How can you not root for that? 

As for the NL? The historically most victorious team there, the St. Louis Cardinals, with 11 rings, were eliminated last week. This is our lineup:

TEAM World Series Titles How Often Pennants How Often Last Went Last Won
Dodgers 6 18.83 20 5.65 2017 1988
Cubs 3 37.67 11 10.27 2016 2016
Braves 3 37.67 9 12.56 1999 1995
Rockies 0 n/a 1 19 2007 n/a
Brewers 0 n/a 1 48 1982 n/a

In a way, all those teams are due. Not a lot of winning in that group. But few teams are due like the Brewers are due. Call it the Curse of the Pilots. Or the Curse of Bud Selig. Shouldn't have moved the team, Bud! Shouldn't have moved the team.

You often don't know who to root for until you start watching, and, as of now, I still have nine possibilities. But I am partial to teams with Lorenzo Cain on them

Here's to October baseball. 

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Posted at 11:06 AM on Oct 01, 2018 in category Baseball
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Saturday September 22, 2018

Alas

ESPN's David Schoenfield has a nice piece on the top 10 stories in baseball this year, beginning with Shohei Ohtani (couldn't agree more), continuing through the remarkable rookie years of Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto (fun), and the second-half surges of the A's and Rays (yep), and ending, sadly, with this:

July 3
The Mariners were 55-31, a half-game out of first place and eight games ahead of the A's for the second wild card. The team with the longest playoff drought—that's 2001 for you non-Mariners fans—was playing over its head, but certainly appeared headed for a postseason trip. Alas, there was more season to play. To my fellow Mariners fans: Next year, my friends.

Indeed, there are only four teams who haven't made the postseason this decade:

  • White Sox: last went 2008
  • Padres: 2006
  • Marlins: 2003
  • Mariners: 2001

The M's have had the title since the Blue Jays made it back to the postseason in 2015. We‘re now part of a long tradition of ineptitude. 

TEAM W/ LONGEST POSTSEASON DROUGHT   PERIOD   YRS
St. Louis Browns 1903-1944 41
Boston Braves 1914-1948 34
Philadelphia Phillies 1915-1950 35
Chicago White Sox 1919-1959 40
Pittsburgh Pirates 1928-1960 32
Phil/KC/Oak Athletics 1931-1971 40
Chicago Cubs 1945-1984 39
Cleveland Indians 1954-1995 41
Texas Rangers 1961-1996 35
Mon. Expos/Wash. Nats 1981-2012 31
Kansas City Royals 1985-2014 29
Toronto Blue Jays 1993-2015 22
Seattle Mariners 2001-? 17

What’s the phrase? Wait till next year. 

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Posted at 05:21 AM on Sep 22, 2018 in category Baseball
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Wednesday August 15, 2018

‘One of the Best Things We’ll See All Year'

“In baseball's odd parlance, we say that Laureano has a hose on him. In less euphemistic terms, we dub that a cannon. Either way, it's an absurd throw—321 feet on the fly, perfectly on target, dumbfounding everyone involved. It's not just the best thing you or I or anyone else saw this week; it's one of the best things we‘ll see all year. It makes you want to rush home and tell your friends.”

SI’s Jon Tayler on rookie Ramon Laureano's throw from center field that doubled up Eric Young Saturday night. I like the little cap tip Young gives him afterward. I assumed Laureano had been up all year and I just hadn't heard of him but it's only his fifth game in the Majors. No matter. We'll be talking about it for years. 

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Posted at 02:27 AM on Aug 15, 2018 in category Baseball
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Tuesday May 15, 2018

Frank Quilici (1939-2018)

Frank Quilici, Met Stadium, 1970

Frank Quilici and my brother Chris on Camera Day, 1970.

When I was a kid, and time went slowly, second baseman Frank Quilici seemed a mainstay on the Minnesota Twins. If you'd asked me last week how long he'd played for them, I would‘ve guessed seven years. Something like ’67 to ‘73. Maybe longer. 

Nope. He was a semi-regular for only three seasons: ’68-‘70. His last game was the third game of the 1970 ALCS—a few months after the above photo was taken. The Orioles, who had swept the Twins in the ALCS the previous year, were already up two games to none, and were beating my boys soundly 5-1 in the top of the sixth when Rich Reese drew a two-out walk against starter Jim Palmer. Twins manager Bill Rigney, hoping to get something going, subbed in former star Bob Allison for light-hitting second baseman Danny Thompson. Allison popped to short. Now Rigney needed a new second baseman, so Quilici came in. (Why not Rod Carew? He had been injured halfway through the ’70 season and was used only twice in the ALCS—both times as a pinch-hitter.) Later, when it was Quilici's turn at bat, in the top of the ninth with one out and Rich Reese again on first, Rigney brought in Danny Alyea as a pinch-hitter. He struck out. Then another pinch-hitter, Rick Renick, grounded out and there went the season.

That was Quilici's last appearance as a player on a Major League field: as a defensive sub who was subbed for a pinch-hitter. 

I also assumed Quilici was fairly solid but his career numbers are as follows: .214/.281/.287 hitter. That's why he only lasted parts of three seasons. But I have fond memories. The above photo was taken on Camera Day, 1970, at Met Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota. The kid with him is my older brother, Chris, who was wearing a Camp Kichi Yapi t-shirt. Apparently Quilici's son went there? That's in my head anyway. They spoke, and it led to this great photo.

Two years later, in the summer of ‘72, I was at a different camp, Cathedral of the Pines, when I heard Quilici was replacing Bill Rigney as the Twins manager. That made me happy. Rigney was grumpy-looking and at the helm when the Twins began their downhill slide, so I blamed him. I thought Quilici would turn things around. He didn’t. In 3+ years, the Twins went 280-287 under his leadership. That's actually not bad, considering the core of our team was dropping like flies: Killebrew old, Tony-O injured, Tovar traded. Only Rodney Cline kept coming through. 

After Quilici was replaced by Gene Mauch, he became a broadcaster for a time. Here's his obit in the Star-Tribune. Strib sportswriter Patrick Reusse has a good remembrance, too

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Posted at 01:55 PM on May 15, 2018 in category Baseball
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