Saturday, September 28, 2013

Disappointing October: The Top 25 Post Season Disappointments Part 2

Last week we started reviewing my choices for the most disappointing post season appearances.  Most likely you said "He's crazy.  How can he say this team's only number whatever on this list?"  Or even more likely you read it and then said "meh, who cares?"  Either way I'm 100% positive you have all been waiting on the edge of your seat all week to find out who finishes out my top 25.  It probably effected you at work.  You were trying to do calculations and you thought, why the hell were the 1962 Giants not in the top 10?"  You found yourself at church in the middle of prayer and suddenly the thought popped into your head "If the 1994 Montreal Expos made the list when they never even played in October does this idiot even know what he's talking about?"  I know, I've been there.  Well you can stop wondering and find out below my choices for the Top 25 Post Season Disappointments.

12. 1980 Houston Astros
The Astros had a tough road to their first ever playoff appearance. During their time in the league they sat in the NL West during the dynasties of the Dodgers and Reds.  When they signed Nolan Ryan after the 1979 season they felt they finally had the missing piece to win the World Series. Along with J.R. Richard it appeared Houston had the perfect 1-2 pitching punch they needed.  They very nearly did. Richard, who had gone 18-13 and led the league in ERA in 1979, started off the season 10-4 with an ERA under 2.00 but on July 30 he suffered a stroke, ending a career with a promising future.  Still, Houston reached the NLCS for the first time and faced a Philadelphia Phillies team that had disappointed the Phanatics for the last 4 years in a row. The first game was a 3-1 Philadelphia win behind Steve Carlton. Game 2 is when the battle really started. Houston scored four in the top of the 10th to win Game Two. Game Three went 11 innings and when the Astros scored one in the bottom of the 11th they were one win away from a trip to the Fall Classic. Game Four saw the Astros jump out to a 2-0 lead before falling behind 3-2. They tied the game in the bottom of the 9th with one run but when the Phillies scored a run in the top of the 10th Philadelphia forced a Game 5 in the Astrodome. For the fourth game in a row the two teams needed extra innings to decide the game. For the first time all year, Houston lost a game pitched by Nolan Ryan when leading after 8. Tied at 2 in the 6th, Houston scored 3 in the bottom of the seventh to seemingly clinch the series but a 5 run Phillies 8th and a 2 run Astros 9th sent the game into the 10th. With two outs in the 10th Garry Maddox doubled to drive in Del Unser with the go ahead run. The Astros went down in order in the bottom of the 10th and the Phillies advanced to destiny. Houston lost two of the three games in extra innings and had a chance to win each of the games they lost.  The feeling in Houston was that things would have been different if Richards were healthy.  It would be six more years before the Astros reached another post season and ten years after that for their third appearance.

11. 2002 San Francisco Giants
The Giants had dominated the NL West since Barry Bonds joined the team in 1992, yet they had not advanced to the World Series until 2002. With the support of J.T. Snow, Jeff Kent, Kenny Lofton, David Bell, Benito Santiago and Reggie Sanders, Bonds was able to swing away anytime he wanted knowing the rest of the lineup could score runs even if Bonds didn't hit a Home Run. In the days before Lincecum, Cain, and Baumgarner, the Giants depended on the arms of Kirk Reuter, Jason Schmidt and Livan Hernandez. Facing off against the Giants were the underdog Anaheim Angels, known more nationally for the rally monkey than for the players on their team. Anaheim fans understood how good these players were and though they loved the rally monkey, Halo fans knew this team won because of talent.  The general consensus was that the Angels would need a miracle. In Game 1, in his his first World Series at bat, Bonds and the Giants seemed to confirm what everyone believed when he crushed a pitch for a Home Run. Cameras caught Angels' legend Tim Salmon in the dugout saying "That is the furthest I have ever seen a ball hit." The Giants took a 3-2 series lead with a 16-4 martyring of the Angels and seemed ready to end the year in Game 6 with a 5-0 lead in the 7th inning. Just 9 defensive outs away from a World Series, the rally monkey went into action, leading to a 6 run Angels miracle rally to force a Game 7. The Giants scored first in the second inning of Game 7 but the Angels seemed to be getting some miracle help from somewhere. Whether it was Disney Magic, the singing Cowboy helping out from above or just divine intervention, the Angels won Game 7 4-1 sending the Giants home shell shocked. Just like in the bible, the little guys slayed the Giants.

10. 1987 Detroit Tigers
The 1984 Tigers were one of the best teams in history but their follow up seasons in 1985 and 1986 were total disappointments. With one of the best lineups of the 1980's including unsung heroes Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon and Larry Herndon to go along with bona fide stars Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris, the 1987 Tigers somehow were disappointing through the first half. The Tigers changed their luck at the trade deadline with one of the most successful trade deadline deals ever. They traded a minor league Pitcher to the Atlanta Braves (you may have heard of that minor leaguer: John Smoltz) for Pitcher Doyle Alexander. Alexander was better than expected going 9-0 for Detroit. Even better, as Alexander and Jack Morris kept winning games, the Toronto Blue Jays, in first place, kept losing games. Down 3 1/2 games after a loss to Toronto on September 26, the Tigers won 6 of the last 8, including three head to head against the Blue Jays to end the season. With the great comeback and the momentum heading into October the Tigers were expected to roll through the inexperienced Twins. Sparky Anderson had his pitching rotation set the way he wanted with Alexander pitching in Game 1 and Jack Morris in Game 2. Instead the Twins beat Alexander with a late rally in Game 1. Morris pitched all of Game 2 but lost to Bert Blyleven with a save from former Tiger Juan Berenguer. Down 2 games to 1 the Tigers knocked out Les Straker (who one week later would pitch a strong game in his only World Series appearance) with five runs in the third but still needed a late rally for an 8-7 win. Viola and Blyleven were too much for the Tigers and the Twins advanced in five games. The Tigers would not reach the playoffs again until 2006.

9. 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates in the early 1990's were the little engine that could. Following the Willie Stargell era the team had to rebuild and they did it through smart trades and home grown talent. It was a collection of stars and role players. Some were brought from other organizations (Andy Van Slyke from St. Louis, Jay Bell from Cleveland, Doug Drabek and Don Slaught from the Yankees, Danny Jackson from the Reds) as well as some home grown talent (Jose Lind, Jeff King, John Wehner, Tim Wakefield, Denny Neagle and Orlando Merced). The Bucos made the playoffs in 1990 and 1991 losing both times. When they lost Bobby Bonilla to the Mets, Sid Bream to the Braves and John Smiley to the Twins most expected the Cardinals or the rebuilt Mets to retake the division. Instead the Pirates, knowing that Barry Bonds was a free agent at the end of the year, were able to win one more division title. After trailing the Braves 3 games to 1 in a rematch of the great seven game series from the year before, the Pirates fought back and tied the series at three games each. A sacrifice fly by Orlando Merced in the first inning and an RBI single by Van Slyke in the top of the 6th gave the Pirates a late two run lead in Game 7. Doug Drabek was spectacular through 8 innings but gave up consecutive hits to Pendleton, Justice and Bream to start the 9th before being replaced by Stan Belinda. Ron Gant cut the lead to 2 with a sacrifice fly and a walk to Damon Berryhill reloaded the bases. Brian Hunter popped out to Jay Bell.  That brought up Francisco Cabrera, a little used pinch hitter with two outs.  Cabrera singled to left field driving in David Justice.  Sid Bream, the former Pirate, was one of the slowest runners in the league because of knee injuries but he was limping as fast as he could rounding third as the throw was on the way to the plate.  Mike LaValliere, the Pirates Catcher, took the throw just to the right of home plate and dove to his left, trying to tag Bream before he reached the plate.  Sliding in just ahead of the throw, the Braves advanced to the World Series.  What looked like a miracle come back turned into a devastating defeat to end the Pirates run in October.  They would not have another serious playoff run until 2013.

8. 1982 Milwaukee Brewers (aka "Harvey's Wallbangers")
You would think Brewers fans would be satisfied with any sort of playoff berth but they were so close to having it all now. They had built their team from the ground up with Paul Molitor, Jim Gantner, Robin Yount and added some key veterans like Pete Vukovich, Cecil Cooper and Don Sutton. "Harvey's Wallbangers" knocked their way to a three games to two lead and needed just one win in the final two games for the first World Series title in franchise history. Game 6 was a bad experience for Don Sutton as the Cardinals won 13-1. Game 7 was a tight pitching duel for most of the game.  Joaquin Andujar squared off against the Brewers ace Pete Vuckovich.  It was a match of crazy, intense personalities which led to a near fight between Andujar and Jim Gantner.  The middle innings saw the Brewers take a 3-2 lead in the 6th only to have the Cardinals take the lead in the bottom of the inning and win 6-3 as Vuckovich tired after a long season. The Brewers would not see the postseason again until 2008.

7. 1969 Baltimore Orioles
In the early 1960's there were jokes about which would happen first: man would land on the moon or the Mets would reach first place. The joke was that there was no chance that the Mets would ever reach first place. On July 20,1969 the race officially ended as the US landed on the moon (for the sake of moving the article along, conspiracy theorists can just accept it for the time being) but it was closer than people thought. The Mets were only 5 games out of first in second place. Then on September 10 the Mets did the even more unthinkable, they actually reached first place. When they advanced through the first NLCS to reach the World Series their opponent was the heavily favored, talent stocked Baltimore Orioles. The Mets were the lovable underdog but the Orioles were the proven winners with players like Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell. The Mets may have had Koosman and Seaver but the Orioles countered with Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar. The O's won 109 games that year, one of the reasons they are so high on this list, and took game one of the 1969 Series with seeming ease. The mood in the Orioles clubhouse after Game 1 was relaxed and jovial. If the Orioles thought their Game 1 win impressed the Mets they were way off. In the other locker room the feeling was "we could have won that game." Game 2 was a great pitcher's duel between Dave McNally and Jerry Koosman and the Mets led 1-0 at the 7th inning stretch. Paul Blair singled to start the Orioles 7th, stole second and scored on a Frank Robinson, 2 out double and the Baltimore faithful got loud. They became eerily quiet when the Mets took the lead in the 9th and held on for a 2-1 win. The Mets won Game 3 5-0 and then took a commanding 3 games to 1 lead with a 2-1, 10 inning victory in Game 4 (a game that saw Earl Weaver become the first manager thrown out of a World Series game since 1935). It wasn't necessarily that the O's bats were silent.  They were hitting the ball well.  The problem was  that the Mets outfielders were catching everything they hit, most of them in almost unbelievable fashion.  Everytime a Mets outfielder made a spectacular catch, the announcers could barely finish comparing it to the other greatest catches in World Series history, before that catch was topped by the next one.  The Orioles were clearly stunned and what some still consider the greatest Orioles team ever went home for the winter to rest their broken wings.

6. 2011 Texas Rangers
The 2010 Rangers were considered a surprise World Series participant. The 2011 Rangers had unfinished business. When the Rangers faced the experienced Tampa Bay Rays in the first round, few expected the Rangers to advance. When they faced the loaded, red hot Detroit Tigers in the ALCS few felt Texas would keep going. When they faced the Wild Card Cardinals, who had upset the great pitching talent of the Phillies and the heavily favored Brewers (see #18 on this list), the Rangers finally had some support. Regardless of what was expected, the Rangers were on a mission to finish what they had started the year before. In one of the greatest World Series in history the Rangers appeared to have the thing won twice in Game 6 only to have the Cardinals fight back and force Game 7. Twice only one out away from a world championship, the Rangers went home with the same feeling they had in 2010.

5. 2001 Seattle Mariners
The 1995 Mariners saved baseball in Seattle. The 2001 team gave Mariners fans nearly as big a shock. Certainly it would take a miracle to approach the veneration shown to the 1995 magical season but the surprise of 2001 could come close. The 2001 team had limited playing time from Jay Buhner, no Ken Griffey, no Randy Johnson and no Alex Rodriguez. Heading into the 2001 season the Mariners were expected to be near the bottom of the suddenly competitive AL West. Led by Ichiro, only the second player to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season, Brett Boone, John Olerud, Edgar Martinez, Mike Cameron and the pitching combination of Jamie Moyer, Freddie Garcia and Aaron Sele, the M's started the season winning 11 of their first 15. They won their next 9 straight. They won another 8 straight in early May and didn't reach double digit losses until May 18. They would also have winning streaks of 15, 5, 7, 6 and another of 6. Meanwhile, the longest losing streak was four games. Other than the four game losing streak they never lost more than two consecutive games. They lost only 46 games all year. The focus of the world changed just before the 2001 post season, for obvious reasons, and the attention went to the resiliency of New York as opposed to the record 116 wins in Seattle. Three of the first four games were close, tense affairs each won by the Yankees. Only Game 3 was a blow out as the M's pounded Yankee pitching for 14 runs. But the emotions of the time and the talent of the Yankees were too much for the Mariners and they fell in a Game 4, 12-3 pounding. The 2001 World Series was one of the most exciting,emotional and dramatic World Series ever but it would have been fun to see what the Mariners could have done against Schilling and Johnson.

4. 1988 Oakland Athletics (aka "The Bash Brothers")
The team dubbed the Bash Brothers had everything. The first man ever to hit 40 Home Runs and steal 40 bases in the same season (Jose Canseco), a young power hitting first baseman and reigning Rookie of the Year who had hit 49 Home Runs as a scrawny rookie (Mark McGwire), the best pitcher in baseball (Dave Stewart), four players with significant prior playoff experience (Dave Henderson, Don Baylor, Dave Parker and Bob Welch), a defensive wizard at third base (Carney Lansford), the season's Rookie of the Year (Walt Weiss), young budding stars (Tony Phillips, Luis Polonia, Mike Gallego, Stan Javier and Terry Steinbach), the man considered (at the time) the greatest closer of all time (Dennis Eckersley) and the man some consider the greatest manager of all time (Tony LaRussa). There was absolutely no holes on this team and they rolled through a very strong Boston Red Sox team in the ALCS. Their opponents in the World Series struggled to win the NLCS over the heavily favored Mets and apart from Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson there was little to fear in the NL Champs, especially when it was revealed that Kirk Gibson, the league MVP wouldn't even play. The Dodgers consisted of players few wanted. Mike Davis and Alfredo Griffin had been cast off by the A's. John Tudor was given up on by the Cardinals. Mickey Hatcher was unwanted by the Twins. The Dodgers pitching staff was a huge question (Fernando Valenzuela was suffering through injuries and Don Sutton was used as a starter during the regular season but he was near the end of his Hall of Fame career. Neither was on the post season roster). Add to that a closer, Jay Howell, who was suspended during the NLCS for using pine tar on his glove and the match up appeared to be a joke. When Jose Canseco hit a grand slam in the first game and Dennis Eckersley faced off against a gimpy Gibson, the A's could smell desperation. Everything was going as planned.. Then Gibson made history in his only at at of the series. The already beat up Dodgers lineup took another hit when Mike Marshall left Game 2 with an injured back but the Dodgers won 6-0. The A's won Game 3 on a dramatic bottom of the 9th Home Run by Mark McGwire and seemingly the magic would return, especially with Dave Stewart pitching in game 4. Even worse for the Dodgers, they lost Mike Scioscia in Game 4 and now were playing without three powerful bats in their lineup. If ever a team came back from a 3 games to 1 deficit, this A's group would be the team. Unfortunately for the A's Stewart lost Game 4 and Hershiser dominated in a 5-2 Game 5 to close out the season. The A's would make improvements in the offseason (imagine having to improve a team this good) and win the 1989 World Series but a lot of the joy of that win was lost when the Series was interrupted by the 1989 bay area earthquake.

3. 1997 Baltimore Orioles
Going wire to wire is an accomplishment that can be claimed by very few teams. The 1984 Tigers won the World Series after doing so, as did the 1990 Reds. Very few others had. The 1998 Yankees didn't do it, nor did the 1927, 1936 or 1977 Yankees. The 1997 Orioles did. Every single day of the 1997 season was spent in first place in the American League East. Similar to the 2011 Rangers, this team had unfinished business and they were focused. They had lost to the Yankees in 1996 in the ALCS, a series seemingly turned around by a 12 year old boy and an outfielder who didn't jump for a ball. After a decade and a half of poor teams (including the embarrassing 1988 season) the Orioles had finally put a team around Cal Ripken and Mike Mussina. It was a team that featured superstars Brady Anderson, Harold Baines, Jimmy Key, Eric Davis, Raphael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar. It also had great role players B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick and Chris Hoiles. It had zero holes. Their bullpen was nearly perfect with Jesse Orosco, Armando Benitez and Randy Myers. They won 98 games and beat a strong Seattle team in the ALDS. When the Indians took out the Yankees there did not seem to be any way the Orioles would fail to advance and when the Marlins beat the Braves in the NL, the Orioles should have waltzed through the rest of the post season. The Orioles cruised through Game 1, 3-0 and that was with Scott Erickson on the mound. They still had Jimmy Key and Mike Mussina lined up. A 2 run Home Run by Cal Ripken tied up Game 2 and Mike Bordick put the O's ahead in the 6th with a 2 run single. With two on, two out and two strikes, Marquis Grissom checked his swing. The Orioles appealed the call but it was ruled he did not swing. The next pitch changed the series. If the umpires get the checked swing call right the Indians leave two stranded and the Orioles hold the lead. Instead Grissom gives the Indians a 5-4 lead on a three run Home Run and the Series is tied at 1. Game 3 became one of those classic October games that will be remembered for decades. Mike Mussina pitched 7 innings, struck out 15 Indians and allowed only one run. Orel Hershiser pitched 7 innings for the Indians, allowed only 4 hits and no runs. the Orioles tied the game in the top of the 9th and the game went on and on. The Orioles loaded the bases in the top of the 11th but couldn't score. The Indians did the same in the bottom of the 11th. The Orioles wasted a Geronimo Berroa double in the 12th and then came the controversy in the bottom of the 12th. With one out and runners on first and third, Omar Vizquel squared around for a suicide bunt. The ball came in and bounced off the glove of Lenny Webster.  It rolled less than five feet to the left of home. Grissom (yes, him again) came sprinting from 3rd. As Webster calmly picked up the ball Grissom ran right past him to score the wining run. The O's went nuts. They swore it was a foul ball but the ump said it was not touched. Webster can be seen on the replay asking the umpire "how could you miss that?" but it changed nothing. The O's forced a Game 6 thanks to an Eric Davis Home Run and it was a great Game 6 if you are a Cleveland fan. The 1-0, 11 inning thriller was ended by a Tony Fernandez Home Run and the Orioles became the first team in history to spend every day of the regular season in first place and not win the World Series.

2. 1954 Cleveland Indians
It is a little hard to decide which was more amazing for this Indians' team. Was it winning 111 games or was it beating the Yankees who had won five straight pennants (1949-1953) and would win another four straight (1955-1958)? Led by one of the greatest managers of all time, Al Lopez, the Indians started off 3-6 but went on a tear that few could have imagined. Led by a great starting rotation of Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and an aging Bob Feller the Indians staff also received help from Tigers' legend Hal Newhouser in his second to last season.  The Indians also received offensive power from Al Rosen (reigning MVP), Larry Doby, Vic Wertz and Dave Philley. The Indians appeared unstoppable but legend has it that Willie Mays single handedly stopped them. In Game 1 at the Polo Grounds, Vic Wertz drove a ball that looked like it was going to break the game wide open. Mays took off at the crack of the bat and ran straight towards center field with his back to the plate. He ran down the fly ball, stuck out his glove, known as "the place where triples go to die" (the guy was so good that even his glove had a nickname) and caught the ball in what has been forever after called "the catch". The legend is that this catch was the reason the Giants swung the momentum to their side and overcame the Indians. The truth is that there was another unsung hero for the Giants. Dusty Rhodes, not a name that resonates through history, had four hits in the series. The four hits were in just six at bats and two of them were Home Runs. Rhodes hit .667 for the Series and drove in seven runs. The Indians are still waiting for their next World Series win.

1. 1906 Chicago Cubs
Given that the past 30 years has seen an all bay area World Series (Giants-A's),an all New York World Series (2000), two all CA World Series (Angels-Giants and Dodgers-A's) an all Midwest World Series (Cardinals-Tigers) and even an all Missouri World Series (Royals-Cardinals) it is hard to believe that an all Chicago World Series has not been a reality for over a century. There is a better chance now of having a Baltimore-Washington beltway series than there is a Chi town World series. In 1906, the Cubs were clearly the greatest team that had ever been assembled and some have made a strong case that they still are. The Cubs, in a 154 game schedule, won 116 games. That is a winning percentage of .763, a percentage not in the same zip code of any other team. They were a team stacked with Hall of Fame players Three Finger Brown and of course the legendary, Tinker, Evers and Chance. But the rest of the team was equally impressive Johnny Kling was considered the best defensive Catcher of the era.  Along with the outfield of Jimmy Slagle, Jimmy Sheckard and Wildfire Schulte it all gelled to form one of the greatest teams ever.  Their competition in the 1906 World Series, just the third ever, were the crosstown White Sox, nicknamed this year as the "hitless wonders". They were led by a pitching staff of Nick Altrock, Frank Owen, Doc White and a young Ed Walsh. The hitless wonders were anything but hitless in the Series. Led by Frank Isbell's four doubles (all four in Game 5), four runs and four RBI, and George Rohe's seven hits, the hitless wonders overcame the greatest team of all time. Short term the loss was minimized by back to back World Series wins in 1907 and 1908. Long term, the Cubs are still searching for World Series win #3. The Cubs could have been the first team to win three straight World Series cementing themselves as one of the greatest dynasties of all time.

Think one of the top 25 teams are too high or too low on the list?  Think there is a team missing?  Email me your list or leave a comment.  Check back next week for the start of the two part, Top 20 Most Shocking Octobers.

The 1996 ALCS between the Yankees and Orioles was seemingly turned around by a 12 year old boy who reached over the fence and an Orioles' outfielder who failed to jump for the ball.  What were the names of the 12 year old boy and the Orioles' outfielder?

Congratulations to Hope and TJD for guessing the answer to last week's trivia question!
Photo of Eddie Gaedel in his only official plate appearance Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
The St.Louis Browns were not a very successful organization.  They had very few highlights and were known more for their ineptitude than for their success.  In the 1940's and 1950's the team was owned by Bill Veeck who was creative in finding ways to get fans into the stands.  One of his most famous promotions was signing 3 feet 7 inches tall Eddie Gaedel for one game.  On August 19, 1951 Eddie Gaedel had his only career plate appearance, a walk.  The uniform number issued to Gaedel was 1/8.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Disappointing October Part 1: The Top 25 Post Season Disappointments Part 1

Any time your team reaches the post season there is reason to celebrate.  Take this year's Wild Card crop in the American League.  With just about a week left in the season there are still six teams in the playoff race:  The Rangers, who would make the playoffs despite the loss of C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz over the last few years.  The Rays, who constantly seem to surprise people despite the loss of stars in the off season.  The Indians, who have not made the playoffs since their 2007 collapse against the Red Sox.  The Yankees who have stayed in contention without Mark Texeira, Derek Jeter, long stretches without Granderson, an ineffective and distracting A-Rod, a struggling Sabathia since July and a mortal Mariano Rivera.  The Orioles, who, identical to last year, seem to have a 15 man rotation.  The Royals, who have not reached the playoffs since 1985.

Fan bases for any of these teams would be satisfied with their teams making the post season knowing what they went through to get there.  There are, however, some teams that reach the post season with higher expectations and fail to finish strong for any number of reasons.  This week you will see numbers 25-13 of the Top 25 most disappointing post season results.

25. 1994 Montreal Expos:
It might seem odd to put a team that didn't even reach October on a list of teams that disappointed in the month but the Expos were undone by the strike of 1994. This team was loaded with talent that would go on to create October magic for other organizations:  Marquis Grissom, Kirk Reuter, Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou, Larry Walker, John Wetteland, Ken Hill and Pedro Martinez.  The team even featured some great talent that never had a chance at October: Randy Milligan and Jeff Fassero.  When the strike ended the season early the Expos were 74-40, best in the National League, and six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves.  This team is not on  the list because of what they didn't do in October but because of what they didn't have a chance to do in October.

24. 1933 Washington Senators (aka "The Wrecking Crew")
The Senators had experienced the highest of highs when they rode the Big Train's arm to a World Series victory over the Giants in 1924.  Since then they had struggled through some tough decisions.  Walter Johnson had taken over as manager and was originally thought to be too soft on the players, but when he toughened up it got under the skin of several players, including their star Goose Goslin.  Goslin was shipped to the Browns and the Senators fell farther away in 1932.  Johnson was fired after 1932 and was replaced by Joe Cronin, considered by many to be too young to manage.  With the return of Goslin for 1933, a strong pitching staff and a lineup filled with future Hall of Famers, the Senators surprised everyone by overtaking the powerful, Ruth and Gehrig led Yankees in the American League.  So when they lost to the Giants in the World Series, four games to one, Washington fans felt short changed.  No one knew it yet but they would not see playoffs in Washington again until 2012.

23. 1948 Boston Braves
The Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, Cubs and even the Reds had dominated the National League since the Braves had won their last NL pennant in 1914.  When the Braves surprised everyone by winning the NL and faced an even more surprising Cleveland Indians team, the Braves fans expected nothing less than a World Series Championship.  With veterans like Bob Elliot and Mike McCormick coupled with the young arms of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, the Braves looked like sure bets, especially when they beat Bob Feller 1-0 in game one.  Boston fans felt cheated when they lost 4-1, 2-0 and 2-1, all winnable games, in the next three.  They came back to win 11-5 in Game 5 but Cleveland won Game 6 to close out the series.  National League Boston fans would not see another postseason game.  The Braves moved to Milwaukee a few years later where they won the 1957 World Series.

22. 1981 Montreal Expos
What is it with Montreal and strike seasons?  The 1980 Expos battled the eventual World Series Champion Phillies right down to the last weekend of the season.  That led to big expectations for next year.  1981 was truly a bizarre year.  Midway through the season the league shut down for a strike.  Luckily the strike was settled in time to complete the year, but the break in between led to a first half and second half winner from each division meeting in the first ever Divisional Playoffs.  The Expos had some great stars who, like 1994, would go on to October glory with other teams:  Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Larry Parrish and Tim Raines, as well as some highly respected players in the league: Steve Rogers, Charlie Lea, Bill Gullickson, Scott Sanderson, Chris Speier and Tim Wallach.  It was the first time a team north of the border reached the post season so when they took out the defending champion Phillies in the NL East division series, it was assumed they would make it to the World Series as the Dodgers were not expected to put up much of a fight.  Instead, the Dodgers were led by Fernandomania to a 3-2 series victory, ending the only playoff run for the Expos.

21. 1982 California Angels:
Despite the current talent on the Angels' roster, the 1982 team is considered by some the most talented team in franchise history.  Don Baylor, Brian Downing, Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, Bob Boone and Fred Lynn were everyday players and once they picked up Tommy John from the Yankees in August, the Angels punched their ticket to the playoffs.  Led by Fred Lynn, Reggie Jackson and Tommy John the Angels jumped out to a two games to none lead and were a confident group heading into Game 3 in Milwaukee.  The Angels ran into another team on this list (check back next week to see where they ranked).  Led by Paul Molitor, Mark Brouhard and a surprising Charlie Moore,  the Brewers took the next three in Milwaukee and the Angels blew a 2 games to none lead.

20. 1950 Philadelphia Phillies (aka "The Whiz Kids"):
The Phillies had not been in the post season since 1915 and that appearance had been over almost before it began.  Since that appearance the Phillies hadn't finished a season near the top of the league. Phillies fans fully expected all year that this team would collapse and they were nearly right when the Phils dropped five of their last six.  They won the pennant on the last day of the season on a sensational play by Richie Ashburn and a three run, extra inning home run by Dick Sisler.  Phillies fans finally bought into the team but they were swept out by the Yankees in four close games, three of them decided by one run.  Philadelphia would have to wait 26 years before they got another shot at the post season and 30 years before they finally won a World Series.

19. 2012 Washington Nationals:
Washington baseball fans had suffered a lot since their last postseason appearance in 1933 (see #24 above).  They watched the Senators move to Minnesota where they reached three World Series (winning two).  They were given an expansion franchise that moved to Texas and reached two straight World Series.  Finally, they were stuck with the pathetic vagabond Expos.  When the Nationals finally reached the playoffs in 2012 they were short their top pitcher, Steven Strasburg, who was shut down after reaching his season's innings limit.  Regardless, they were able to take the defending World Champion Cardinals to a deciding fifth game thanks to Jayson Werth's walk off Home Run (on the 13th pitch of the at bat) in Game 4.  They even took a 2 run lead into the top of the 9th of Game 5.  Everything fell apart quicker than you can change the channel.  The Nats gave up four 9th inning runs to end the unexpected playoff run.  There was a strong feeling in the nation's capital that things would have been drastically different if Strasburg were available.

18. 2011 Milwaukee Brewers
Heading into the 2011 season the Brewers added Zack Greinke to an already strong pitching staff.  Knowing that Prince Fielder was a free agent at the end of the year and that the money he would demand would be past what Milwaukee could afford, there was a sense of now or never for this group.  The Phillies were the clear favorites heading into the playoffs with what some considered one of the greatest pitching rotations in history, so when the Cardinals knocked the Phillies out in the NLDS the Brewers appeared to have a clear shot at the World Series.  With the series tied at two, thanks to a surprise performance by Randy Wolf, the Cardinals took the next two games with little fight.  The bad news is we never got to see a Fielder-Braun tandem in the World Series.  The good news is we got one of the greatest World Series ever..

17. 1944 St. Louis Browns
The Browns do not have the best historical reputation as an organization.  Playing in a beat up old stadium, often the neglected stepbrother of the Cardinals, they are best known for a few things: 1.  They were terrible. 2.  They once helped Napoleon Lajoie win a batting title over Ty Cobb by purposely allowing Lajoie to get 6 bunt base hits. 3. They once sent a midget, Eddie Gaedel, to the plate.  When the leagues' stars (most of them anyways) like DiMaggio, Williams, Greenberg and Feller went off to war, the Browns did something they had never really come close to doing before:  they won the American League. Fortunately for the Browns every World Series game was technically a home game because their opponent was the crosstown rival Cardinals.  The Browns, surprisingly, took two of the first three games against a Cardinals team that was in their third straight World Series.  From there it went down hill and the Browns lost their only ever appearance in the fall classic.  Ten years later the team would move to Baltimore and become the Orioles where they had much more success.  While it was no doubt satisfying to finally see the Browns in the post season, there was disappointment over the fact that the team could have actually won the Series and that, historically, they are portrayed as winning only because everyone else was out of the country.

16. 1962 San Francisco Giants
The move from New York to San Francisco was not the smoothest of transitions.  The climate, the fan support, the stadium, the travel.  Everything seemed to cause problems.  Even worse, the Dodgers had already adjusted perfectly and won the 1959 World Series.  The Giants trailed the Dodgers well into the 1962 season but thanks to a Giants' late charge the National League saw a classic Dodgers-Giants battle for the first time on the West Coast. The Giants and Dodgers were tied on the last day of the season and needed a three game playoff to determine the NL Pennant.  After getting past the hated ones in a vicious three game series the Giants faced the Yankees of Mantle, Maris, Berra and Ford.  Amazingly they drove the Yankees to a seventh game.  The Yankees had a one run lead in the bottom of  the 9th when Willie Mays doubled with two out sending Matty Alou to third base.  The press was critical of Alou being held at third but a perfect relay throw from Roger Maris to Bobby Richardson to Elston Howard shows that Alou made the right choice.  Juan Marichal has said repeatedly that Alou would have been out.  Now Alou was on third and Mays on second.  A single would win it.  An out and the series was over.  Willie McCovey (the one forever memorialized by the Giants with McCovey Cove) stepped in and the Giants thought McCovey, with a right handed pitcher on the mound and Orlando Cepeda on deck, would be walked.  This is where the poor weather of the bay area destroyed the Giants.  When Alou was at the plate he had tried to bunt.  Alou has said that the wind was so strong that it blew his bunt attempt foul.  Now McCovey drove a ball with Home Run distance toward the right field line.  It looked like it was gone and the Giants fans stood in anticipation until, wind effected or not, it curved foul.  Back at the plate McCovey lined a ball as hard as anyone can hit a ball that looked like it would get through for a single.  Instead, Bobby Richardson, the Yankees' second baseman, reached just far enough to snag the third out of the inning and the last out of the Series. What looked like a team of destiny turned out to be the last team to lose to the Yankees in a World Series until 1977.

15. 1979 California Angels
The Royals and A's had dominated the AL West division since the start of the decade and few felt that California had a chance to dethrone the Royals.  The Angels rode the Nolan Ryan Express to their first ever playoff appearance in 1979 knowing that Ryan was a free agent at the end of the year.  Powering the lineup down the tracks was Don Baylor, the unquestioned MVP of the AL, Rod Carew, Bert Campaneris and Carney Lansford.  Ryan left with a tie game in the 8th but the bullpen let Game 1 get away.  Game 2 was a slugfest with the Angels 9th inning rally coming up short in a 9-8 loss.  The Angels won Game 3, the first ever playoff game at the Big A, with a bottom of the 9th rally.  Game 4 was the biggest disappointment as the Orioles crushed the halos 8-0 and moved on.  The Angels had finally made the playoffs but two close losses and a blow out were not the way Angels fans imagined this ending.

14. 1993 Philadelphia Phillies
Trading Lance Parrish, Shane Rawley, Kevin Gross, Phil Bradley, Milt Thompson (not to worry, he'd be back by 1993), Chris James, Steve Bedrosian and Juan Samuel the same year that Mike Schmidt retired while the Phillies were trying to rebuild were not popular decisions in Philadelphia.  The words of the fan in the movie "Major League" who asks "Who are these f***ing guys?" was likely used repeatedly in the city of brotherly love.  Most of the trades didn't work out.  They brought in players like Jeff Parrett, Dennis Cook, Floyd Youmans, Tom Herr, Curt Ford and Tom Nieto.  Not terrible players but not impact players that will turn your organization around.  Some of those unpopular trades were viewed differently a few years later as John Kruk, Terry Mulholland and Lenny Dykstra developed into Phillies stars and the realization that the Lance Parrish trade allowed Darren Daulton to take over full time at Catcher.  After years of disappointment, injuries and less than classy play, these players, along with guys named Wild Thing and Psycho helped lead the Phillies to their first playoff appearance in 10 years.  They faced off against one of the greatest collections of talent in history and shockingly came within an inning of forcing a Game 7.  Standing in the way was Joe Carter.  It didn't end well.

13. 1967 Boston Red Sox (aka "The Impossible Dream Team")
Boston fans had learned to expect disappointment by 1967, usually in the form of just missing the post season.  When the Red Sox went into the final weekend of the season with Minnesota, Detroit and even Chicago holding a chance to advance to the World Series, Red Sox nation expected Minnesota to come out ahead.  Surprisingly the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox beat out Minnesota and Detroit by 1 game and Chicago by three, mostly due to Carl Yastrzemski's triple crown and other worldly final week of the season.  Going into the World Series they faced the Cardinals and they did so without one of the biggest bats in their lineup.  Tony Conigliaro was still recovering from a vicious beaning and was not available for the World Series.  The Red Sox nearly pulled off another Impossible Dream by forcing a Game 7 in Boston after trailing 3 games to 1. Bob Gibson was too much for the Sox.  He pitched 9 innings, gave up only three hits, struck out 10 and even hit a home run to support his own effort.  The Sox came up short in a 7-2 final game.

Think a team is missing from this list?  Think someone is ranked too low or too high? Check back next week for the top 12 Disappointing Octobers and compare my list with yours. 

The 1944 Browns section in today's article mentioned that the Browns sent a midget named Eddie Gaedel to the plate in an official plate appearance.  What uniform number was issued to Gaedel?

When the peace agreement, later known as "the national agreement", was announced following the 1903 peace conference, it was clear the American League had come out ahead.  With George Davis, Ed Delahanty, Sam Crawford, Willie Keeler, Bill Donovan, Kid Elberfield and Doc White remaining in the American League as well as the recognition by the NL that they were essentially equal leagues, the press made it clear that the NL had won a pyrrhic victory.  The press came up with the saying that the NL had "won peace and Leach", referring to the Pirates' Tommy Leach.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

War and Peace: The Bumpy Road to Creating a World Series

Reporters were not allowed in the room.  They stood outside the door, ears pressed to walls. Straining to make out something that might give them the scoop over the man standing next to them.  They didn't have to press too hard against the wall.  The egos filling the room they were trying to listen in on were so large that the room was probably bursting at the seams.

They could hear shouting.  Indistinct curses rebounded off the wood paneling forming seemingly random words.  It was like listening to Ralphie's father try to fix the furnace in A Christmas Story.  There was shouting, cursing, banging and grunting coming from the room.  For all the reporters standing outside knew, the men inside may have decided to settle this with wrestling.

There were a total of eight men in the room and there was enough hot air being expelled to create a sauna effect.  It was pure hatred. Fire breathing, dagger staring, if looks could kill, hatred. The National League had called the "peace" meeting to give an outward sense of holding the upper hand but really they were waving the white flag.

Following the 1899 season  the National League contracted four teams. The Louisville Colonels, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators and Cleveland Spiders were removed from the league roster.  It was as though they never existed.  They were just wiped from the slate.  It was not taken well by many people.  How could owners just cancel teams?  If they had power enough to drop the league from twelve to eight teams, what was to stop them from cutting it to six or four?  Every team dissolved was one less job opportunity for the players.  It was one less job for groundskeepers, peanut and cracker jack vendors and umpires.

Two men had decided to do something about it.  Ban Johnson and Charles Comiskey got together to buy the minor league Western League for 1899 and formulated a plan to take down the National League.  The Western League consisted of franchises in Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Washington, Buffalo, Minneapolis and Indianapolis.  If Johnson and Comiskey were going to compete they were going to have to take the fight straight to the National League by moving these organizations to major cities.  They prepared for a head to head battle and they fired the first shot.

Still as a minor league, the two men prepared for the 1900 season by shuffling teams and invading NL territory.  The Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Stockings (under the ownership of Comiskey), Cleveland Blues, Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Senators remained where they were for the 1901 season. The Buffalo Bisons became the Boston Red Stockings, landing in direct competition with the NL's Beaneaters (later named the Braves).  The Indianapolis Indians became the Philadelphia Athletics in direct competition with the Phillies. The Minneapolis Millers became the Baltimore Orioles, a replacement for the storied franchise that was discarded by the National League in contraction.  The new cities had been chosen carefully.  Cleveland, Baltimore and Washington were three of the four cities that had lost a team in contraction and Boston was a city that already had a weak NL team (the Braves had finished first in the NL in 1897 and 1898 but were in clear decline).

Comiskey and Johnson did things big.  They signed John McGraw to run the Baltimore franchise.  McGraw was under contract to the St.Louis Cardinals but he jumped at the chance to return to Baltimore where he had been part of the winning days of the Orioles.  Connie Mack and Ben Shibe were installed in Philadelphia.  These were big names, respected names.  Then the announcement came.  Comiskey and Johnson announced they were a Major League on equal footing with the NL.  Still the NL wasn't worried.  What did they care if a minor league had respected owners?  What did they care if they had minor league teams in the same cities?  Realistically, does just announcing yourself as a major league really make you a major league?

Then came the shot(s) across the bow.  The National League Philadelphia Phillies had a strong team led by Napoleon LaJoie and Ed Delahanty.  As far as the league knew they were both paid the same amount of money because there was a limit to salaries.  As far as LaJoie knew he was paid slightly more than Delahanty based on a secret bonus he got every year.  In reality, Delahanty got significantly more based on a secret bonus bigger than LaJoie's.  Somehow LaJoie found out and he was not happy.  Knowing that the AL was offering bigger money with no salary limit LaJoie decided he would play for them and, what was worse for the Phillies, he signed with Connie Mack's Philadelphia franchise.  He would be playing in the same city for the same fans who loved him but in a different stadium.  Delahanty, knowing he could also make more money, signed with Washington.  The American League was actively, aggressively poaching stars.  Clark Griffith, Davvy Jones, George Davis, Jimmy Collins, Cy Young and Sam Crawford all followed suit.  In total the American League stole 45 players from the NL.  The one player they wanted but could not steal was Honus Wagner but that story is too funny to sum up here.  I think that will be a post of its own.

The poaching crossed the line for the NL, probably because it was actually a threat now.  The Phillies sued to keep LaJoie from playing in Philadelphia and won.  LaJoie was legally unable to play in Philadelphia unless it was for the Phillies.  Instead of sending him back to the NL Phillies, Connie Mack traded him to Cleveland.  Take that NL!  If Cleveland had to face the Athletics in Philly, LaJoie was given an Atlantic City vacation and met the team when they moved on.  Now the American League was legitimate and now the NL was worried.

They had good reason to be worried.  Johnson sold the American League to the public on the pitch of good, clean, family fun. There would be no umpire baiting.  There would be no brawling, spitting, arguing.  No beer guzzling galoots.  This was family entertainment and Johnson would levy fines for any arguments with umpires, any swearing and any thing he deemed inappropriate.  The NL failed to adjust and continued to allow the players to do mostly as they wished.  The AL won at the box office.  They won big.  The 1902 season was even bigger.  The Milwaukee Millers moved to St.Louis and set up shop as the Browns across town from the Cardinals and the AL now had direct competition for the NL in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis and Boston.

Then the NL struck back.  As the 1902 season wound down, the Baltimore Orioles were in last place.  Dead last.  Imagine the anger John McGraw showed when his Giants teams lost, even when they were in first place.  Now multiply that by infinity as McGraw's Orioles lost 88 times that year.  McGraw's frustration was visible and verbal and Johnson didn't like it.  Fines, suspensions, meetings, lectures.  Nothing worked and finally McGraw said enough.  He walked out on the league and he went back to the National League.  They welcomed him back with open wallets and with McGraw went several players.  Dan McGann, Roger Bresnahan, Cy Seymour, Joe McGinnity.  Basically, almost all of the future 1905 World Champion Giants, followed the little Napoleon to New York.  McGraw didn't stop there.  He grabbed George Davis and Ed Delahanty from other AL teams.

Johnson didn't sit idly by.  With this many players gone from Baltimore they couldn't field a team and Johnson had no choice.  The team had to be forfeited and replaced.  Now where to put a team?  Well, a Major League had to have teams in major cities and the AL seemed to be missing just one city: New York.  And, oh, by the way, isn't that where McGraw went?  And oh yeah, the NL New York team was owned by a guy who had once owned the Reds and banned Ban Johnson from the Reds property when Johnson was a journalist covering the Reds.  Well, it was just a coincidence I'm sure.

The Giants had political connections. big Tamany Hall connections, and they fought to keep the AL out of New York, or at least make their stadium location so far out of town in an unrealistic location that no one would want to go.  As the Giants fought Ban Johnson and players continued to jump contracts on both sides, the owners of the NL continued to lose at the gates.  Enough was enough.  The Cardinals owner, Frank Robison, suggested the NL ask for a truce.  The Phillies, Cubs and Reds quickly agreed.  Instead of fitting 16 egos into one room, a group of four delegates from each side attended the conference in Cincinnati on January 9, 1903. 

In what would be played out in countless league vs. player union disagreements decades later, the sides were so distant on their view points that it was unlikely it would come to anything.  Of course, in any process, compromise is a must so the minor issues were discussed first, almost as an appetizer.  The NL compromised by relenting to the team in New York and the AL relinquished any chance to ever place a team in Pittsburgh. 

They agreed to end the player raids.  From now on a contract was a contract and you couldn't take players from another team without compensation. 

The final minor item, the one that was almost off handedly accomplished, would hurt the players for the next 75  years and lead to the forming of the players' union decades later.  The reserve clause became standard in both league contracts. 

Now the anger began.  What do the teams do about the players who had two contracts?  There were 15 players in question who had jumped and jumped again, taking money from both sides.  Giving up the right to raid other team's players was fine but actually losing players was not quite the same easy topic. 

It came up when Henry Killiea, owner of the Red Sox, launched a tirade against McGraw for stealing Davis and Delahanty.  An AL owner questioning the ethics of raiding teams did not go over lightly and the counter claims flew.  It was kind of like the argument of two children caught fighting by an adult and they both use the excuse "he started it."  Regardless,  in a few moments the process was derailed.  The delegates decided to take a break for the evening instead of calling it quits and resumed the next morning.

The question remained and the distance between agreement remained unchanged.  As the second day opened Ban Johnson made a suggestion.  Ed Delahanty had taken money from the Senators and the Giants and refused to return the money to either team.  Worse, he insisted on playing for the Senators in the AL, which would mean he was jumping a third (or was it a fourth) time.  Johnson's solution:  He should never play for anyone ever again.  And while they were on the subject, hadn't George Davis done the same?  He should be banished too.

Garry Herrmann, the Reds owner made the first step towards bridging the gap.  No one wanted to lose players and the NL had hoped that they would actually gain some back.  Herrmann told Johnson and the delegation that although they still claimed Sam Crawford under contract, the Reds would drop their claim.  The Tigers could have him.  The move by Herrmann opened up the flood gates of generosity (or at least acquiescence).  Suddenly the leagues were falling over themselves to prove they were the more generous league.

In the end there were 15 players in question.  8 ended up in the American League.  7 ended up in the National League.  The box score looked like this:
American League:
Ed Delahanty:
One of several brothers to play in the majors.  Delahanty was sent back to the Senators and part way through the season jumped the team. He was killed when he fell from a moving train crossing Niagara Falls.  His body was found a few days later.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Veteran's Committee.
George Davis: 
Davis played for the White Sox until 1909.  He was part of the 1906 "Hitless Wonders" team that won the World Series.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1998.
Sam Crawford
Crawford teamed with Davvy Jones and Ty Cobb to form the most successful Outfield trio in the first decade of the American League.  Crawford and Cobb were the Gehrig and Ruth before Gehrig and Ruth, not in terms of power but in terms of success.  The two couldn't stand each other and wouldn't speak a single word to each other if they could avoid it but they communicated on the diamond like few teammates ever have.  Crawford was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1957.
Willie Keeler: 
Keeler was known for his saying "hit it where they ain't" and played with the New York AL franchise from 1903-1910.   He ended his career with 2932 hits, just short of the 3000 hit mark, and was elected to the Hall of Fame by regular ballot in 1939.
Kid Elberfeld:
Elberfeld did not make the Hall of Fame like the first few in this list but he made major contributions to the league.  He had jumped from the Reds in 1901 and played for the Tigers until being traded to New York in mid 1903.  He stayed in the AL with the Highlanders (later the Yankees) and Senators until moving on to Brooklyn for 30 games in 1914.
Wild Bill Donovan: 
Donovan stayed in the AL the rest of his career retiring in 1918.  He spent the best part of his career with the Tigers as the ace pitcher on the Tigers staff as they reached the World Series three straight years from 1907-1909 (he was 25-4 in 1907). 
Wid Conroy:
Although not a star the level of the others on this list, Conroy had a strong career.  He played through 1911 with the Highlanders and Senators and retired with 1257 career hits and 452 RBI.
Doc White: 
White played with George Davis on the "Hitless Wonders" White Sox team that won the World Series.  He made a major contribution to that team's upset of the heavily favored cross town Cubs.

National League
Christy Mathewson:
Although Mathewson's contract was disputed he had never actually jumped to the AL.  Mathewson is still considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time.  He was elected into the Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 1936.
Tommy Leach: 
Like Mathewson, Leach had signed an AL contract but had never actually moved to the AL.  Leach played for the Pirates through 1910, reaching the World Series with the team in 1903 and 1909.  He retired in 1918.  Although not elected to the Hall of Fame he was considered one of the best third basemen of his generation.
Vic Willis: 
Willis played his entire career in the NL winning 249 games.  He pitched most of his career for Boston but late in his career he helped the Pirates win the 1909 World Series.  He won 20 games or more in eight separate seasons and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1995
Harry Smith: 
Smith spent six years in Pittsburgh as their Catcher.  He played behind the plate for the Pirates in the first World Series and was a decent catcher.  He finished his career in 1910 with the Braves.
Frank Bowerman:
Bowerman played mostly at Catcher and spent a total of 15 years in the Majors.  His numbers were not spectacular.  He hit .250 for his career and had only 102 doubles in 15 years, but he served McGraw well as a back up for Roger Bresnahan.
Jack Warner: 
Warner played 14 years in the league, eight years of that prior to the 1903 peace conference.  After the 1903 season he went on to play for the Cardinals, Tigers and Senators.  Like Bowerman he was a solid backup but seldom played more than 75-80 games a year.
Rudy Hulswitt: 
Hulswitt was the least of the 15 players awarded in the peace conference.  Hulswitt played for the Phillies in 1903 and 1904 but disappeared from 1905-1907 reappearing with the Reds in 1908 and the Cardinals for 1909 and 1910.

The American League did decide to adopt the foul strike rule which caused foul balls with less than two strikes to count as strikes. This rule was adopted by the NL in 1902 and changed the rule that said a foul ball did not count towards the count on the batter.  American League umpires, players and managers argued against this loudly but eventually gave in to the wishes of the committee.

Now that the fireworks were over, where did this leave the leagues?  Were they on equal footing?  Would they combine into one league?  If they were one league, 16 teams were a bit much to come out with one champion.  Should some of the lesser teams be contracted or "combined"?  Hostilities were briefly reopened at the mention of contraction.  The AL delegates flat out refused to give up any teams.

The final verdict on the separation/combination question was that they were two separate leagues.  The American League and National League would each keep their own commissioners, their own teams and their own rules.  This would lead to separate leagues under what has been called "the National Agreement".  The separation allowed the American League to grow to 14 teams by 1977 while the NL stayed at 12 until 1993.  It also allowed the AL to adopt the DH while the NL has rejected the idea and allowed Major League Baseball to keep inter league play out of baseball until the 1990's.

The final decision of the peace conference gave birth to the most identifiable moment of every MLB season since.  Although the American League teams would name a champion of the AL and the National League would name a champion of the NL that was now not enough to claim bragging rights.  Starting in 1903 the winner of the American League would face the winner of the National League in a post season series.  It would be known as the World's Series to decide the World Champion of baseball.  The series would grow in fits and starts with major issues for the first two years but beginning in 1903 there would be a World Series every year (except 1904 and 1994) through the present season.

The delegates emerged from the room and although John Brush, owner of the Giants, and his crony McGraw were furious and publicly refused to go along with this, the differences were settled.  Gary Herrman's brief compromise on Sam Crawford opened the flood gates to the Major League Baseball structure we have today.

Although the National League got what they wanted, a way to save face and avoid the constant fear of losing to the AL in a war at the box office, the press came up with a derogatory saying to explain what the NL had "won".  What was the saying?

Congratulations to TJD for answering last week's question correctly.
The Yankees needed a replacement for Wally Pipp for the 1923 World Series so they tried to use a Firstbaseman, an end of the year call up from the Newark farm team.  John McGraw blocked the move so Lou Gehrig had to settle for watching from the sidelines.  Pipp played despite the injuries and hit .250 (5 hits but 0 extra base hits) walked four times and drove in 1 run.  It was not the first time McGraw got in the way of Gehrig's career.  A few years before Gehrig had a try out for McGraw at the Polo Grounds.  Gehrig was impressive at the plate but made an error in the fielding tryout.  Things might have been different if McGraw's team wasn't in a slump at the time.  Instead McGraw said "I've already got a bunch of guys who can't field.  I don't need another one."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Saga of Carl Mays Part 3: The World Series

Fred Lieb had been writing about baseball for twelve years now.  He loved this game.  It was his passion.  His obsession.  The last thing he wanted was for something to ruin the game, especially after the fight everyone had gone through to save the game after the Black Sox.

As he heard what he was being told by someone he trusted he turned pale.  He felt a knot in his stomach.  He wanted to vomit.  This could ruin the league.  But was it true?

The Yankees led the best of 9 1921 World Series 2 games to 1 and had a chance to take a commanding 3 games to 1 lead over the hated Giants.  Carl Mays had pitched a brilliant 3-0, five hit, complete game shutout in Game 1.  Now in game 4 he was masterful again.  As he took the mound for the 8th inning he had allowed only three base runners, all of which were quickly erased.  In the 3rd, Frank Snyder had reached base because of an Aaron Ward error (you can only imagine the berating he took from Mays for that one).  In the 6th, Ross Youngs singled to center but was left there.  In the 7th George Burns singled to center but was erased by a double play.  Meanwhile, the Yankees had taken a 1-0 lead on, what else, a Babe Ruth Home Run.

As Mays finished his warm up tosses to start the next inning he shot a quick glance at his wife.  She was returning to her seat and as she sat down, she made eye contact with her husband, took out a white handkerchief, dabbed some sweat from her forehead and returned the handkerchief to her hand bag.

Mays came to the set position on the mound and prepared to face Irish Meusel, brother of Yankee outfielder Bob Meusel.  Mays had been nearly unhittable to this point but Irish changed that quickly.  He drove a triple to left-center field.  Johnny Rawlings followed with a single, bringing Meusel home to tie the game, and Frank Snyder attempted to sacrifice bunt but ended up with a single.  Phil Douglas, the pitcher, succeeded in sacrificing for the first out and moving Rawlings and Snyder up on the base paths.  George Burns followed with a two run double and suddenly the Yankees were down 3-1.  Mays got out of the inning but in the 9th he allowed another run on a double to "High Pockets" Kelly and a single to Irish Meusel.  The Yankees lost 4-1. 

Mays would pitch again in the series, in Game 7 (this was a best of nine series format) and would lose 2-1.  He would again be nearly unhittable with the exception of two innings that allowed one run each.  The Yankees would lose Ruth for the last few games of the series due to a severe elbow injury and would lose the series in 8 games.  It was the first appearance by the Yankees in the World Series and it ended in disappointment.  Some questioned, with the Indians, Senators and Browns building strong teams, whether the Yankees would ever make it back.

After the Game 4 loss Lieb was told a different tale than what he had seen on the mound.  A Broadway actor known to Lieb (and apparently very well known nation wide but never identified) told Lieb that he had some inside information.  He revealed that Mays was being paid to lose any close game he could in the Series.  Unlike most of the Black Sox players who had counted on the honesty of the gamblers to pay them after they lost the games, Mays wanted assurance that the money was his before he lost anything.  According to the actor, the money was given to Mays's wife during the game.  If Mays saw his wife wipe her forehead with a white handkerchief, he could be sure they had been given the money. 

Lieb brought the actor to meet with Commissioner Landis and Landis had a private detective trailing Mays throughout the rest of the series but no concrete evidence was found.  Mays's involvement in a thrown game is purely speculation at this point as no concrete evidence has ever been made public but several people directly involved in the 1921 World Series felt certain that Mays was crooked.

The Yankees returned to the World Series in 1922 but Mays struggled in the 1922 season and was placed on waivers after the season.  You would think that a pitcher of Mays's success (and also considering the way teams fell over themselves a few years earlier to get Mays) would get a lot of attention but only one team put in a claim on Mays and the Yankees pulled him back from the waiver wire.  Miller Huggins, the Yankees manager, who had grown to despise Mays, was stuck with him on the roster but that didn't mean he had to use him.  Mays complained to anyone who would listen that Huggins wouldn't pitch him.  Once, as Mays complained to reporters that he wasn't being used Huggins was walking through the clubhouse.  Mays used this as his opportunity to find out why he wasn't being used.  Huggins had an answer.  "Why Carl, are you still with the club?"  Of course Huggins did have one situation when he had to use Mays in a desperate stretch of back to back double headers when he had to give the other pitchers a rest.  Mays gave up twenty hits, five walks, hit a batter and allowed 13 runs.  When someone asked why he was allowed to pitch so long after sitting on the bench for so long Huggins said "He kept telling me he needed a lot of work so I gave it to him."

The hatred from Huggins centered around his belief that Mays had thrown the games in the 1921 World Series.  In each of the innings that later came into question Mays was ignoring calls from Huggins for breaking balls and threw nothing but middle of the plate fast balls.  Along with Mays, Bullet Joe Bush was suspected of being involved in a potential fix.  "Any ball players that played for me on either the Cardinals or the Yankees could come to me if he were in need,and I would give him a helping hand...I made only two exceptions- Carl Mays and Joe Bush.  If they were in the gutter I'd kick them."

Mays was able to get himself traded,again, and had a few good years for the Cincinnati Reds.  In six years with the Reds he had one season with 20 wins and another with 19 wins.  Mays ended his career with 209 wins in 15 years (that's an average of 13 wins per season).  Many have made an argument that his 209 wins and 2.92 ERA make him a Hall of Fame candidate.  These individuals usually point to the suspicion of his involvement in a fix during the Word Series and his fatal pitch to Chapman as the reason he is not in the Hall of Fame.  His numbers do put him with some of the Hall of Fame legends.  His wins put him just behind Chief Bender (212), Jesse Haines (210) and Don Drysdale (209).  He is ahead of Hall of Famers Bob Lemon (207), Hal Newhouser (207), Rube Marquard (201), Jack Chesboro (198), and many others.

Wally Pipp, playing first base for the Yankees, was injured late in the 1923 season.  Based on the rules of the time period, they could make a roster change if the other team approved of the move.  John McGraw refused the roster change and the Yankees were stuck using an injured Pipp for the series.  What player did the Yankees want use to take Pipp's spot on the roster?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
When Chapman was killed by Mays's pitch Harry Lunte was pressed into action.  He was not known as a spectacular fielder but he was filling in adequately.  Then on September 6, just a few weeks after Chapman's death, Lunte pulled a hamstring running out a grounder.  The Indians were still in a pennant race, fighting for every game so they reached out to a scout for a fill in at Shortstop.  They found a Shortstop at the University of Alabama and signed him off the campus.  Joe Sewell filled in for the final few weeks of the 1920 season and the World Series.  We already know that the All Star Game didn't start until 1933 so Sewell, who retired in 1934, was never an All Star.  Sewell, however, did receive votes for MVP's in seven different seasons, finishing as high as third in the voting in 1925.  Sewell was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans' Committee in 1977.  Not bad for a last minute, desperation fill in. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Saga of Carl Mays Part 2: The Death Pitch

1920 would become one of the ten most important seasons (some have argued the most important) in baseball history.  This season would be the start of the pride of the Yankees.  This season would introduce an overall Baseball Commissioner to oversee all operations of both the National League and the American League.  This season would lead to the crusade to get rid of crooked players, managers and owners.  It would see the end of the dead ball era.  The season would see the outlawing of the use of spitballs and outlawed cutting, scuffing, mashing, scratching or otherwise defacing the ball.  It would see the one change that has most set the era of the dead ball apart from every other era in history.  These rules would come into effect because of two reasons:  the Chicago White Sox and Carl Mays.

If Carl Mays thought he could start fresh with the Yankees it was a thought that quickly faded.  The press had ripped him to shreds. His Red Sox teammates were still furious.  He had walked out on the team.  He had completely disrupted the entire league and had brought unwanted focus on the instability of the leadership which took focus away from the onfield performance.  That instability would reassert itself a few months later when the Black Sox fix unfolded.

His teammates had always hated him, the press loved him because he sold papers but the league owners, especially Comiskey and Dunn, wanted him out of the league.  He received a warm greeting from his teammates in New York but it would be short lived.  He was not a changed man in the new surroundings.  The public beratings and shaming of his fielders who made errors continuted. 

There were some familiar faces in that Yankees locker room as well.  Pitchers Dutch Leonard and Ernie Shore as well as outfielder Duffy Lewis had been traded to the Yankees before the 1919 season and at the end of the 1919 season Babe Ruth would join the Yankees.  Unfortunately for Mays, most of these players were the ones he had issues with in Boston.  The transfer of the Red Sox to the Yankees would continue throughout Mays's time there.  Harry Harper,Waite Hoyt, Wally Schang and Mike McNally followed before the 1921 season.  Just a year later, before the 1922 season, Shortstop Everett Scott and Pitchers Bullet Joe Bush and Sad Sam Jones would land with the Yankees.  Nearly everyone Mays hated, and who hated Mays (except Jack Barry), would end up as his team mate in New York.

No matter.  Mays kept pitching and kept winning and as the 1920 season unfolded a three way pennant race developed between the defending AL Champion  White Sox, the up and coming Cleveland Indians and the surprising New York Yankees.  The Yankees' history was not one of success.  It was not one of pride.  It was not even one of near misses.  It was a history of disappointment, under achieving, mismanagement and scandal.  They were just starting to build something special which would unfold over the next few years.

As the season played out,  the Indians, White Sox and Yankees jockeyed for position through the first four months and as the game began on August 16 Mays carried a record of 18-8.  The Yankees came into the game with a record of 8-6 so far in the month.  They had dropped to third place and were a game and a half off the pace.  They faced the Indians today and this head to head meeting with their competition was a must win for both teams.

The game moved to the top of the fifth inning and Ray Chapman, Cleveland's Shortstop, started the inning.  It was one of the greater contrasts in personality.  Chapman was the lovable, affable, team cheerleader.  The spirit of the Indians team.  The one who always kept things positive.  He was facing off against the morose, sullen, hated Mays.  Chapman was still young but was planning to retire in a few months to a nice, easy city funded job set up by his father in law.  His wife was expecting their first child and he wanted to be there for every precious moment of the child's life.  He just wanted to see if he could be part of an Indian's World Series before he hung up the spikes for the last time.

If you read last week's article of Carl Mays's time in Boston, you will remember that he had a side arm delivery,  It was called the submariner delivery because Mays's arm position was almost underhanded.  Mays also had a reputation for cutting the ball to get some extra movement on the ball.

The first pitch of the inning came in high and tight.  Mays heard the crack and there was a soft ground ball right back to Mays.  He fielded it, threw to Wally Pipp at first base and waited to get the ball back from Pipp.  He was already thinking of how to pitch to Tris Speaker.  He waited for the ball to come back to him but Pipp was frozen, staring toward home plate with his mouth open, bewildered.

What Pipp saw horrified him.  There was a gasp from the crowd followed by an audible hush as there was seemingly people moving in all directions while others were frozen in disbelief.  The crack that Mays had heard was not from the ball hitting the bat.  The crack was the sound of the ball crushing Chapman's temple.  Chapman froze for a second, then slowly fell to his knees, then lay prostrate in the dirt. 

The Indians' bench emptied. Not to fight Mays.  Not yet anyways, but out of concern for Chapman.  Someone yelled out for a doctor and two doctor's from opposite parts of the stadium raced each other (literally) to home plate. Chapman was conscious.  He couldn't speak but he was awake.  He made an effort to get up and go after Mays but those around him convinced him to stay down and take it easy.  The stands were silent. Watching.  Praying. Staring.  Some crying from the concern.  A few women fainted from the tension.

While the drama unfolded at home plate Mays was concerned.  After all, he had made the pitch and fielded the ball. There was one out, right?  Hadn't the ball hit the bat?  Hadn't he thrown it to Pipp for an out?  He made his case to the umpire.  When the seriousness of the moment seized him Mays pled his case in a different way.  It wasn't his fault Chapman got hurt.  After all, Chapman was hanging right over the plate.  There had also been a scuff on the ball.  He was just using the ball he had been given but yes there had been a mark on the ball.  He couldn't be blamed for that.  He took the ball.  Showed the umpire.  Look.  See this scuff mark right here?  That's what caused him to get hit.  Pipp came to the mound and talked to Mays and got him to shut up.

Chapman was geting to his feet.  His head was cloudy, pounding, throbbing.  His speech was soft, almost non existent, and difficult to make out but he was insistent he could walk to the visitors club house in Centerfield of the Polo Grounds. The same club house that Fred Merkle had sought out to avoid the swarming New York fans.  Jack Graney, one of Chapman's best friends told the other boys he would go with Chapman to the club house.  Chapman was shaky, unsteady, but the crowd was relieved when they saw Chapman moving and seemingly alert.  A cheer came up but it was quieted as Chapman reached  the grass just past the infield.  His legs wobbled, like Bambi trying to walk on ice, and he collapsed again.  Enough of this macho bull shit.  Graney and another team mate picked Chapman up and got him into the locker room as quickly as possible.

He was rushed to the hospital with a team of doctors on alert that he was on the way.  X-rays revealed the worst possible scenario.  The impact had caused a fracture in two directions and had jarred the brain against the other side of the skull.  There was severe damage to both the right and left sides of the brain.  The skull was hit so hard that it was now pressing directly on the brain causing severe clotting.  Emergency surgery was performed but Chapman had no chance.  On August 17, 1920 at 4:40 in the morning, 29 year old Raymond Johnson Chapman was officially pronounced dead.


The news of the likable Chapman's death broke the next day and players around the league were angry.  They had hated Mays.  Everyone knew he was throwing at batters' heads.  It was only a matter of time before something like this happened.  The league was again thrown into chaos because of Carl Mays.  A year ago Mays had nearly caused a revolution at the highest level.  Now the other players in the league took a step that would not be considered again until the St. Louis Cardinals threatened to boycott Jackie Robinson's entry into the league.  Players on the Tigers, Senators, Browns and White Sox threatened not to play another game until Mays was banned from the league.

"If the news had come over the wire that a ball player had been killed by a pitched ball, without naming who had pitched the ball, the Browns to a man would have guessed who did the pitching."  That was the report of the St. Louis dispatch. 

Calm eventually won out.  The season went on.   The Indians were able to pull themselves together as a team and, with the help of Chicago having eight players suspended in the last week of the season, went on to win the American League pennant and the 1920 World Series.  It was a remarkable World Series featuring the first World Series grand slam by Elmer Smith, the first World Series home run by a pitcher by  Jim Bagby and the only unassisted triple play in World Series history by Bill Wambsganns. The Indians would not win another World Series until 1948 and haven't won another since then.

The White Sox lost the American League pennant, lost eight of their best players forever and would not reach another World Series until 1959 when they lost to the Dodgers, who won their first World Series in Los Angeles.  The White Sox would not win another World Series until 2005.

The Yankees would fall short of the 1920 pennant but something special was growing in New York.  Using most of the pieces of Boston's late dynasty as well as home grown talent like Wally Pipp, Bob Meusel and Aaron Ward, the Yankees created an American League dynasty that was beyond anyone's imagination.

Mays continued to pitch for the Yankees and continued to be despised.  Despised by his teammates, by the league, by the owners and by the public.  You would think that after so much controversy the excitement of Mays's career was over but there is one more chapter in the saga of Carl Mays.  Check back next week for the finale.

Trivia Question:
For most of the season Harry Lunte was the backup shortstop to Ray Chapman and it was hoped would be the replacement for Chapman for the rest of the season.  Shortly after taking over for Chapman, Lunte pulled a hamstring and was out for the season.  Who replaced Lunte and played through the regular season and World Series?
Answer to last week's trivia question:
Babe Ruth appeared in ten World Series during his career.  Carl Mays was his teammate with the 1915, 1916 and 1918 Red Sox as well as the 1921, 1922 and 1923 Yankees.  Although he was used sparingly during the 1923 season he was a member of the first Yankees World Series team.  Mays was sold to the Cincinnati Reds following the 1923 season.