Saturday, November 30, 2013

Rivalries: Jackie vs. Leo

Don't forget to check out the other articles in our rivalry series:  Christy Mathewson vs Three Finger BrownTy Cobb vs Babe Ruth, and Joe DiMaggio vs Ted Williams.

"Listen up!"  The words were angry, vicious and worst of all at this time of the morning, loud.

It was late.  Half of those present were pulled out of bed.  Some of them may have just snuck into bed.  None of them had experienced anything like this spring training.  First of all, it was in Havana.  What the hell were a bunch of white guys, many of them southerners, doing in Cuba? Then of course there was Jackie Robinson.  What the hell was an African American from California  doing in Cuba with all these white southerners?

"Listen up!"  He said it again but the first one was probably enough.  When the Lip told you to listen you listened.  "I hear some of you guys got a problem with Robinson."  Leo knew exactly who the players were who had the problem.  "I don't care if the guy is yellow, or black or has stripes like a f***ing zebra.  I'm the manager of this team and I say he plays."

The problem became this: when the 1947 season opened and Jackie Robinson jogged out to first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Leo Durocher was sitting at home, suspended by the commissioner for his involvement with less than savory characters and his association with a married woman.  So in the end, he had no say over who played for 1947. 

While Leo sat out for the season, Burt Shotton and Jackie Robinson took the Dodgers to their first pennant since 1941, Durocher's third year as manager.  He had been through a lot since then.  The Dodgers had fought with the Cardinals for first place.  The Cardinals were Leo's former team, Branch Rickey's former team and Pete Reiser's former team.  Durocher had seen Pete Reiser, the natural, the leader, the one man that had more talent (it was whispered) than even DiMaggio.  Reiser ran himself into a wall, literally, and fractured his skull.  The doctors told him to stay out or risk his life.  Durocher needed him in uniform for moral support but promised not to use him.  He couldn't keep the promise and Reiser's health was forever ruined.  Durocher saw many of his stars, Reiser, Reese and more, shipped off to war and miss the prime of their careers.

Durocher saw the same talent, or more, in Jack.  He couldn't wait to see what he could do.  He saw what Jackie could do, lead the team like few had done before, but Jack did it for Shotton and the Dodgers reached the World Series.  Durocher would need to wait for 1948 to get the advantages out of Jack's talent.  But if the Dodgers front office thought Jack's success the year before would mean immediate acceptance they were wrong.

The Dodgers bus pulled up to a Florida stadium in Spring Training 1948, overflowing with a record crowd to see the Dodgers.  Dodger Pitcher Rex Barney told the story of a big security officer stopping Jack at the entrance and questioning Jack's intelligence and literacy.  Durocher immediately spoke up.  "He can't go in there?  He can't go in that entrance?  Then we are not going in there.  Do you know what that means?"  In Barney's story the security guard relented knowing the overflow crowd would likely riot.  It was a rare moment of camaraderie between Jackie and Leo.

Like most award winning players, especially one as spectacular as Robinson, everyone wanted a piece of him.  Four off season months and lots of rubber chicken dinner speaking engagements later, Jack appeared at Spring Training twenty pounds above his 1947 playing weight.  Durocher was appalled.  Robinson wasn't the only over weight star.  Pete Reiser and Jack were forced to run for hours in rubber sweat suits to work off the excess fat.  While they were running laps in tropical heat Durocher was yelling at them "C'mon fatso!  Get moving."  It was humiliating for the players and Jackie resented it.

The difference between Shotton and Durocher was night and day.  Shotton had told the Dodgers that he would stay out of their way and that they could win despite him.  Durocher drove them relentlessly and let them know who was boss.  The pressure on Shotton was non existent.  If he had lost it would have been what everyone expected.  For Durocher the pressure was ever-present.  He was terrified that if the Dodgers struggled he would be blamed and fired.  The season was a disaster.  The team struggled.  Robinson struggled.  As the pressure mounted Durocher took it personally.

On Sunday, June 11, the Dodgers lost 3-2 to the Giants and fell to 35-37.  It was Durocher's last game as a Dodger manager.  On July 15, the Giants split a double header, bringing their record to 37-38.  Their manager, Giant legend Mel Ott, was fired and replaced with none other than Leo.  If the Dodger's Giants rivalry had been dormant for a few years it was about to erupt.

Durocher's style of managing caused quite a bit of resentment to the remaining Dodgers.  Two players in particular, Jackie and Carl Furillo, hated Leo.  Leo was from the old school.  The school that thought if you can distract your opponent they won't focus on the job.  Durocher would stand in the coaching box and mimic a person with a swollen head and point to Jack. 

After a tight pitch from Sal the barber, Jackie bunted the next pitch foul down the first base line and ran straight through Maglie.  Durocher yelled to Jackie.  "That's bush league Robinson."  Jack yelled back "You should know.  You taught me to do it."

Durocher was a master taunter but Jackie could give it right back.  Russ Meyer, a former Giant who was traded to the Dodgers said "He (Jackie) hated Durocher with a goddamn passion.  He used to taunt him." According to Meyer Robinson yelled taunts like "Hey Leo, who you gonna marry next?  Is Laraine taking good care of you?"

The funny thing about rivalries is that once the years go by the anger usually fades.  At the end of their careers both had won World Series.  Both ended in the Hall of Fame and both were remembered as successful.

Jackie himself reflected on the rivalry with clarity.  He remembered the spring training from hell in his auto biography.  "To get me in shape, Leo put me through some furious physical paces.  They were humiliating because rookies, reporters and teammates were all onlookers.  Leo also kept after me verbally, and as the world knows, he is a magnificent tongue lasher.  At the time I thought he was being too excessive, but later I realized he was only doing what was necessary, and even though his comments hurt, I could not forget that Durocher had done all he could the previous year to help ease my way into the majors...I think that Leo felt I had not given him my best effort and was working harder for Shotton.  That wasn't true but on the playing field Leo and I got into a number of hassles that were picked up by the press.  Leo and I were alike in so many ways, and that could have been part of our problem.  But no matter how many verbal insults were exchanged, I believe we never lost the respect we had for each other's abilities."

Current Dodger Manager Don Mattingly has asked for a three year contract as a reward for his success.  It has been a long time Dodger organization policy to only give Dodgers' managers a one year contract (this dates back to long before the move from Brooklyn).  In fact, legendary Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda never had a contract longer than one year.  Mattingly's demand for a three year contract is eerily similar to the demand of Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen back in 1953.  Dressen had led the Dodgers to a three game playoff against the Giants in 1951, followed by back to back National League Championships in 1952 and 1953.  Dressen wrote a letter to Walter O'Malley demanding a three year contract.  O'Malley did not deal well with demands from others so he replaced Dressen.  Who replaced Dressen as Dodgers manager?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
In games 1 & 2 of the 1951 World Series the Yankees started a young outfielder in his first full year in the Major Leagues.  The right fielder went 0-3, with 2 walks in Game 1.  In Game 2 the young player went 1-2 with a run and strikeout.  He only played part of the second game.  In the top of the 5th inning, Willie Mays led off the Giants' 5th inning with a fly ball to right-center field.  Joe DiMaggio moved over to track down the fly ball, invading the right field territory.  The young right fielder had started to track the ball himself but when he saw DiMaggio tracking it he attempted to move into a back up position.  When he changed his course Mickey Mantle caught his spike on an exposed drain pipe and severely damaged his knee causing pain for the rest of his life.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rivalries: Williams vs. DiMaggio

Don't forget to check the first two articles in the Rialries series: Christy Mathewson vs Three Finger Brown and Ty Cobb vs Babe Ruth.

"I can't do it."  The voice was disappointed but still yearning for a positive result.  "I just can't.  The people here, the fans, would just kill me.  They think Ted's a better ball player.  Now, if you want to throw in that funny looking outfielder in the deal I might be able to sell this thing here in Boston."

The voice belonged to Tom Yawkey, owner of the Boston Red Sox.  Sitting on the other end of the phone, just as disappointed, was Larry MacPhail, General Manager of the New York Yankees.  The trade, discussed in the late spring of 1947 but never completed, could have changed baseball history up to the current time. 

What had been proposed was this:  the Red Sox would send Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, the most identifiable person to wear Red Sox across his chest, to the New York Yankees.  In return the Red Sox would receive two players:  Joltin' Joe, the Yankees captain, and the funny looking outfielder who would go on to become a multiple MVP winner and one of the greatest Catchers in history, named Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra.

The trade, which might have brought a World Series to Boston decades before the 2004 "Reverse the Curse" team, was never made.  DiMaggio would continue to patrol the Yankee Stadium center field until 1951. Williams would continue to destroy AL pitching in Fenway for much longer.  The proposed trade, which was discussed (in varying states of inebriation, depending on the version you read) was just one of the many moments that intertwined the two legends in a decades long rivalry.

Joe DiMaggio, an immigrant's son known to his teammates and opponents as "the Dago", came to the major leagues in 1936 with the acclaim of having hit in 61 straight games while playing for the San Francisco Seals.  He arrived in Yankees camp and was issued uniform #9.  Wearing Joe's future #5 was Frankie Crosetti.  (Crosetti would move to #1 for 1937 giving Joe his famous #5).  DiMaggio first played for the San Francisco Seals at the end of the 1932 season.  He had 2 hits in 9 at bats (a double and a triple).  In the next three seasons in the minors Joe played in 460 games, had 657 hits and a .351 average.  The stats were enough to have every team asking for him.  That is until the knee injury and all of a sudden the Yankees were "taking a chance" on Joe.

Ted Williams grew up in San Diego but anyone who claimed he was a privileged white kid didn't know Teddy.  When the Red Sox scout came to his house Ted refused to stand up to shake his hand.  It had nothing to do with lack of manners or social skills.  It had to do with the fact that his parents didn't have enough money to replace the furniture so he was terrified the scout might see the hole in the upholstery of the chair Ted was sitting in. 

The rivalry had so many facets.  Both were poor kids from California.  Both had the fast track to the majors with high expectations.  It was Northern California vs. Southern California.  Yankees vs. Red Sox.  Team captain vs. team captain.  The classy Joe DiMaggio vs the working class Williams. 

The player rivalry lacked one thing:  an actual player rivalry.  "So much was made of my rivalry with Ted and yet I never felt it was there.  There was rivalry with the Red Sox and frankly that was what it was about." That was DiMaggio's view.

If winning was what it was about then, hands down, DiMaggio won the rivalry.  Williams and the Red Sox reached the World Series in 1946 and pushed the Cardinals to a seventh game but ultimately lost.  Williams hit .200.  The Red Sox reached a one game playoff to decide the American League in 1948.  Williams went 1-4 and scored a run but the Indians came out on top.  That was the extent of Ted's post season experience.

Joe played in the post season ten times.  In Joe's first post season, 1936, he had nine hits. That's three more postseason hits than Ted would have in his career.  In total Joe would play in 10 World Series and win 9.  By the time Ted started his rookie year Joe already had two more World Series titles than Ted would have at the end of his 19 year career.

Still, although Joe and Ted may not have had a rivalry like Cobb and Ruth or like Munson and Fisk (check back in a few weeks) situations often create rivalries that the players unwittingly participate in.  The Red Sox had not been good since, well, since the sale of Ruth, Mays, and most of the Red Sox to the Yankees. Now the transplanted Red Sox were gone. The owners of that Red Sox group was gone and a new attitude in Boston felt they could compete with the big bad Yankees.  And they did.

Year after year, as DiMaggio and Williams fought each other for the batting title the Yankees and Red Sox fought each other to reach the World Series.  Seemingly every year Williams would win the batting title (he won six, including two triple crowns) and DiMaggio's Yankees would win the American League.  In 1946 the Red Sox won the AL by 12 games over the second place Tigers and the Yankees were 22 behind.  In 1947 the Yankees beat the Tigers by 12 and the Red Sox were 16 behind.  In 1948 the Red Sox tied for first with the Indians but the Yankees had their revenge. 

With the 1948 pennant on the line in the last day of the regular season  (and the Yankees out of the running) Joe McCarthy was concerned that DiMaggio would effect the Red Sox chances.  He tried to anticipate DiMaggio, sitting on the bench because of an injury, pinch hitting.  Three separate times in the final game McCarthy had his pitching ace up and throwing in the bull pen, ready for Joe.  DiMaggio stayed on the bench.  The problem was that because he had thrown so many warm up pitches in anticipation of an at bat that never happened, Boston's ace was not available for the playoff game against the Indians.  Instead, McCarthy played a hunch and used Denny Galehouse in the playoff game.  The Indians won.

1949 was the height of the rivalry.  The teams entered the final two games, head to head with the Red Sox needing to take one of two to clinch the AL Pennant.  They led in the first game until Birdie Tebbetts, the Red Sox Catcher, told Yogi (remember that funny looking outfielder) he was looking forward to sipping champagne in a few hours and taking tomorrow off.  Yogi went back to the bench and told the Yankees what he heard and the Yankees went to work.  They won that first game of the series, forcing a final day show down of the two teams.  The Yankees won that final game and moved to the World Series.

If the personal rivalry was not the focus of the two players and winning was the ultimate goal, the numbers of the two legends tell the story of their careers.  DiMaggio went 3-8 with a double and a triple in that final 1949 series.  Williams, however, went 1-5.

Unlike the other rivalries we have reviewed in Ruth and Cobb or the ones you will see in the future of this series this was a mostly press driven rivalry but it continued well after they both had retired.  Williams was known as the greatest hitter who ever lived.  DiMaggio insisted on always being called "the greatest living ballplayer".  The press and fan driven rivalry lasted even after their deaths.  In 2012 the United States Postal Service released a series of stamps known as "All Stars Forever".  Included in the series were Larry Doby, Willie Stargell, Joe and Ted.  The post office tracked orders of each stamp to see which was more popular and decades after each had retired the rivalry was back on.
In Joe DiMaggio's final World Series appearance of 1951 who was playing Right Field for the Yankees in Games 1 and 2?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Claire Merritt was born in Athens, Georgia, not far from the hometown of Ty Cobb.  Cobb and Merritt met and dated seriously as Cobb was on his way up to the Major Leagues.  The seriousness of the relationship varies based on who is telling the story.  It has been described simply as a friendship all the way up to near engagement.  Many years later Claire Merritt (now known as Claire Hodgson.  Her husband Frank Hodgson had died.) was introduced to Babe Ruth.  On April 17, 1929 Claire Merritt Hodgson became Claire Merritt Hodgson Ruth.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Rivalries: Ty Cobb vs Babe Ruth

If you missed it, don't forget to check out the first article in the Rivalries Series:  Christy Mathewson vs. Three Finger Brown

To Ty Cobb, baseball was war.  It was to be taken seriously.  Like religion.  It was a life and death struggle.  It was dirt sprawling, fists flying, spikes slashing battle and anyone who didn't take it seriously would have to face Cobb's wrath. 

To Babe Ruth baseball was a game.  It was to be taken lightly and taken advantage of to the utmost.  It was free swinging, ball launching, slow trotting, clowning and anyone who thought differently didn't matter because Ruth didn't notice anyways. 

Ty Cobb was born into a well respected Georgia family and was brought up in luxury.  His father was a school teacher and landowner.  His relatives had fought in the Civil War, for the south of course, and led Cobb's Legion cavalry in General Lee's army.  The Cobb's legion was legendary in the "Lost Cause" lexicon.  They fought under General McLaw's Division of Longstreet's Corps.  They fought at most of the major battles of the Army of Northern Virginia including Sharpsburg (Antietam), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  The legion remained famous after the war and was the unit joined by Ashley Wilkes in "Gone With The Wind".  The Cobb family has a county named after it.  Cobb's father tried everything to get him to be a doctor, lawyer, soldier or anything but a ballplayer.  Cobb left home against his father's wishes and promised him he would not drink alcohol, one of the major evils of the world.

Babe Ruth was born to a bar owner in Baltimore.  There was little money for the family.  Ruth skipped school, stole from the family cash register, got into fights.  He did everything wrong and after one too many fights with his father he was declared incorrigible.  Ruth was sent away to a reform school.

Ty Cobb came along at the perfect time for the game.  At the turn of the century the National League was looking for someone to replace the aging stars, those first generation players, while the American League was looking for its identity.  Cobb slashed his way into Detroit from the minor leagues, ready to fight the world, including the entire Tigers team.  He drove his team to three straight World Series appearances in 1907, 1908 and 1909, the first AL team to do so.  In 1909 his Tigers played in the first ever deciding Game 7 and lost.  Cobb would never make it back to the Series.  As great as he was, possibly still the best player in the history of the sport, he would fight forever and never get a World Series title.

Ruth joined the Red Sox at the perfect time for Babe Ruth.  The Red Sox were set for a run of three World Series appearances in the next four years, winning all three.  Ruth moved on to the Yankees and won another five World Series.  His teams appeared in an additional three.  Ruth made the World Series seemingly effortlessly.

Cobb did everything better than anyone ever.  He hit better than anyone for more base hits and a higher average.  He scored runs better than anyone.  He stole home better than anyone.  He could also hate better than anyone.  He hated everyone. He was overflowing with that emotion.  He withheld a certain type of hate for pitchers.  They were the enemy.  He would stare them down as he walked toward the plate. Glare at them.  Scowl.  He would tell himself "this poor son of a bitch has to face the great Ty Cobb."  Then he would do what he wanted.

Ruth entered the league in 1914 as a pitcher, the worst of all people by Cobb's standards, and won two of the four games he appeared in.  He had a near full season in 1915 and won 18 games and a World Series title.  Not bad for a rookie.  He followed that with a 23 win season and a second World Series win, including pitching all 14 innings of a 2-1 win in game 2.  He would give up a first inning run and then throw 13 shutout innings.  He pitched again in the 1918 World Series and threw a 9 inning shutout in Game 1.  He pitched again in Game 4 and held the Cubs scoreless until the 8th.  With one out the Cubs scored a run, ending Ruth's record of consecutive scoreless innings in the post season at  29.  That would stand until the 1960's.

Cobb had no friends.  The people that he called friends were usually more business associates than friends.  They really didn't like him.  He had few reasons to smile and he could care less.

Ruth was every one's friend.  He had so many "friends" that he just stopped learning peoples names.  He would play with Catcher Benny Bengough for 8 years in New York yet still referred to him as "that googles guy."  He would give everyone he met a big "Hiya Kid!"  regardless of age, social standing or how long he had known them.

Cobb was vilified by the press.  Everything he did had some sinister purpose by the view of the press.  When he held out for more money, Tigers owner Frank Navin made him out to be a troublemaker. A greedy, ungrateful ruffian trying to bankrupt an honest business man.  Cobb had to fight to get $5000 a year.

Ruth was adored.  He could seemingly do no wrong.  Cameras and crowds followed him everywhere.  Ruth earned $52,000 a year with the Yankees in the middle of the depression era.  Someone asked him if he felt it was right that he earned more than the President.  Ruth said it was fine with him "I had a better year than he did, didn't I?"  The president was Hoover so no one questioned that Ruth's year was better.

With the two complete opposites it shouldn't be hard to imagine that a rivalry would evolve and yet none of these reasons above sparked the rivalry (although with Cobb's insane drive to be the best, you can see where he would be angry).  The rivalry came from the competing theories of baseball.

Cobb was from the "inside" theory of the game.  Cobb's view of the game was to play for one run.  Fight your way on base anyway you can.  If that means getting hit by a pitch then you took one for the team.  Once you got there nothing would stand in your way.  Cobb would work with Sam Crawford to master the hit and run and the double steal.  They would sacrifice themselves to advance a runner and score the one run then hold the other team.  It was a strategic game to Cobb, won on the base paths by outwitting your opponent.

Ruth was from no real theory of the game.  He walked to the plate, dug in his heels and swung.  Although, we have a picture of the free swinging hitter as missing more than they connect (thanks to the Mighty Casey at the Bat) Ruth was a tremendous hitter, much more than just a Home run hitter.  Ruth would end his career with a .342 average and would even hit .393 one season (and didn't win the batting title.  Harry Heilman of Detroit hit .403).

Ruth's approach revolutionized the game.  It took the attention from the station to station, hard slashing approach of Cobb, Speaker, Hornsby and Frisch and opened the door for the hard swinging, long ball launching bats of Gehrig, Foxx and Greenberg that would translate decades later into Aaron, Bonds, McGwire and Sosa.  In the mind of Cobb, Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest player in the history of the game and probably the player that most revolutionized the game, ruined the national past time.

Who was Claire Hodgson and what part did she play in the lives of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth?

Answer to last week's question:
When Mathewson took over as the manager of the Reds, Hal Chase was his first baseman.  Chase was long regarded as the best first baseman in the league and would likely have been considered Hall of Fame caliber, except for one major defect.  Chase was also considered the most crooked baseball player in the league.  Mathewson, long considered the most honest player in the league (his nickname was "the Christian Gentleman"), knew Chase was throwing games. Mathewson filed a complaint with the National League offices (this was several years before the Black Sox scandal).  By the time the league's investigation started, Mathewson was overseas, serving in World War I, and obviously unavailable to provide testimony.  Unable to prove the charges, the Reds released Chase, who was immediately picked up by John McGraw and the Giants.  When Mathewson returned from the war, his managers job with the Reds was already filled so he became a coach for McGraw's Giants.  Just a few months after Mathewson's return Chase was implicated in the investigation that led to the exposure of the Black Sox scandal.  Chase was banned for life along with the eight Chicago players. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rivalries: Matthewson vs Brown

It was 1916 and both of these men were old and tired by baseball standards.  The children at the game would have a hard time understanding the big deal, while their fathers were excited beyond all measure to see this, even if it was a watered down version of what they had read about for years. 

On September 4, 1916, in the second game of a double header, Peter Centennial Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown faced off against Christy Mathewson for the final time.  Mathewson, now with the Reds', was managing Cincinnati and had not pitched in weeks  As a way to revive the good old times Christy decided to face off against Brown in Three Finger's last career game.

The two men were forever linked.  The two best pitchers on the two best teams of the last decade.  Their match ups were what made baseball the national past time.  Mathewson was the leader, the shining beacon of what a ball player should be, the symbol of the New York Giants since the turn of the century.  Brown was the quiet, reserved, unquestioned ace of the Cubs' dynasty.

Between 1903 (the start of World Series play) and 1916 (their last season as active pitchers) Brown and Mathewson had been the top two pitchers in the game.  Their teams were the two best teams in the game.  The Giants had won the National League five times (1904, 1905, 1911, 1912 and 1913) and finished second five other times.  The Cubs had won the National League four times (1906, 1907, 1908 and 1910) and finished second three other times.  Clearly these two teams were constantly battling for the top spot.

The Cubs hated the Giants and the feeling was mutual. You didn't need to look any further than the Fred Merkle debacle to find the raw nerve that was exposed. It was a wound that started as a minor scratch when McGraw took over the Giants and immediately brought a swagger to a team that had talent.  At about the same time out west Frank Chance was taking over as manager of the Chicago Cubs and building a winner.  The rise of the Giants to a powerhouse and the rise of the Cubs to a rival led to the inevitable collisions that created a heated rivalry.

The two pitchers would face each other a total of 25 times.  Only once did the game end with neither getting a decision.  The games were usually close, tense affairs and in 13 of those 25 games Mathewson came out on top.  In the other 11 Brown came out on top.  In one legendary game in 1905 Mathewson no hit the Cubs and won 1-0.  His opponent, Brown, allowed only one hit, the game winning hit that scored the only run of the game.

This was a bitter rivalry but it was a rivalry with respect.  These two would leave the yelling to Chance, McGraw and Evers.  Both men were quiet men.  Both men were humble men.  Both pitched right handed. Both dominated the league but their upbringings were polar opposites.

Brown grew up in poverty.  He once said he thought he was fortunate to "have a shoe on one foot and a rubber boot on the other" while he was growing up.  He permanently damaged his hand in a thresher accident as a child, losing the tip of one finger.  In a later accident he broke another finger giving him a deformed finger.  Brown was forever known as "Three Finger" Brown but his team mates called him "Miner".  Brown worked in the mines spending long hours in atrocious conditions with little hope of ever finding a better job.  Brown was plain looking, a simple man.

Mathewson was born into a prominent family in Factoryville, PA near the Pennsylvania-New York border.  His mother wanted him to be a preacher.  He decided on going to college at Bucknell instead.  A recognized athlete in both football and baseball, Mathewson excelled in every facet of life.  His grades were good.  He was known as the handsome man on campus.  He attracted the most lovely ladies and he pitched for the Giants as a summer job in college.

The teams behind them on September 4, 1916 were not the ones that fans of the rivalry were used to seeing.  Mathewson was now wearing a uniform that read "Reds" on the left side, not the usual interlocked "NY" fans were used to.  Mathewson had been traded to the Reds in July.  It was done by John McGraw with the understanding that Mathewson would be given the opportunity to manage the Reds, a favor for Mathewson from McGraw for all the years of loyal service.

The defense behind both pitchers was different.  Instead of Fred Snodgrass, Fred Merkle, Art Fletcher and Roger Bresnahan, Mathewson had Hal Chase, Baldy Louden, Ivey Wingo and Emil Huhn.  Instead of Tinker, Evers, Chance and Johnny Kling behind him, Brown had Vic Saier, Larry Doyle, Chuck Wortman and Art Wilson. 

The pitches were not as sharp as the old days.  Mathewson's famous fadeaway ball didn't fade quite as much as it used to and the ball that Brown used to break off didn't break quite as hard.  This would not be a repeat of the combined one hitter from 1905.  The two men were shells of their former glory.  Both pitched all nine innings Mathewson allowed 15 hits, Brown allowed 19.  Mathewson allowed eight runs, Brown allowed ten.  Mathewson got the win, Brown got the loss.  The crowd got the right to tell their children and grandchildren that they saw Matty vs Three Finger Brown for the last time.

Starting at First base for the Reds behind Christy Matthewson was Hal Chase.  What was significant about the relationship between Mathewson and Chase?

The famous showdown between Grover Cleveland Alexander and Tony Lazzeri is often believed to be the way the 1926 World Series ended.  But Alexander's strikeout of the rookie sensation was only the final out of the 7th inning.  The Yankees still had six offensive outs to get back in the game.  The score was still at 3-2 when Lazzeri struck out and the Cardinals left two men on base to finish the top of the 8th.  The Yankees went in order in the bottom of the 8th and the Cardinals did  the same for the top of the 9th.  The Yankees had three outs left and they had the big bats coming up:  Combs, Koenig, Ruth and Meusel.  Combs and Koenig both grounded to third for the first two outs of the inning.  Babe Ruth followed that with a walk to bring up the clean up hitter Meusel with the tying run on first.  Ruth was deceptively fast for his body type and he knew that he had a better chance to score from second than he did from first if Meusel hit a ball in the gap.  He also counted on the fact that no one expected him to steal.  So on the first pitch to Meusel, Ruth took off for second.  What Ruth didn't count on was the throwing arm of Bob O'Farrell, the Cardinals Catcher and NL MVP of 1926.  Ruth was caught stealing and the World Series was over. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Book Recommendations to Get You Through the Offseason

We are heading into the off season for baseball and the time in between the end of the post season and the start of free agency for next season.  Until about five years ago I wouldn't have worried about the long winter because I could at least get excited about football.  I'll be honest, the NFL season just doesn't have the same excitement for me it did before the strike a few years ago.

Don't worry, there is still plenty of ways to keep you (and me) focused on the great game of baseball even during the winter months.  I was asked last winter where I get most of my information and a very good friend suggested that I do a post about the books or resources that I use for the blog.  I have honestly read over 100 books and have used close to 100 different DVD, game film and websites to gather my information so the list that follows is not comprehensive, it is just some of my favorite.

To give you some recommendations for reading material, holiday gift ideas or just plain better understanding of the history of the game I have broken them into two categories.  First is the Biographies/Autobiographies.  Please keep in mind that many times "autobiographies" are ghost written so the material may or may not be coming directly from the player/manager, etc.  I have chosen my favorite Biographies/Autobiographies where the personalities of the figures shine through their words, whether written by them or not.

Second, I have chosen a list of Team/Season studies.  As much fun as it is to read about an individual player's memories of a season or event, don't forget this is a team game so it is just as interesting to see how the team works together (or doesn't) and achieves (or falls short of) the ultimate goal. 

Some of these books may be a surprise to you and some may be obvious choices (like the first book on the Autobiography/Biography list).  Regardless, here are some book recommendations to help you through the cold off season winter:

Author: Hank Greenberg and Ira Berkow
Did you really think I'd go more than a few weeks without a Hank Greenberg reference?  Greenberg was working with Ira Berkow on his autobiography when he passed away from cancer.  Berkow had sent Greenberg a list of questions about events, seasons, teams, opponents, etc and had Greenberg tape record his answers.  When Greenberg felt well enough between cancer treatments he would answer the questions and sometimes he would just give information outside of Berkow's requests.  Regardless, it was great information.  Berkow used Greenberg's recorded memoirs to fill out the book and complete the project.  What comes out in the pages is the life story of a humble man who enjoyed his time in baseball as a player and executive and loved his children.

Author: Hank Aaron
Aaron's autobiography touches on the struggles he had coming up through the South Atlantic League in the 1950's, the winning days of the Milwaukee Braves and the trials and pressures of chasing Ruth's record. Aaron is one of the most likable people in baseball history and his personality comes across clearly in his story, making it even more difficult to accept the hatred he dealt with for doing nothing more than being successful.

Ya Gotta Believe: My Rollercoaster Life as a Screwball Pitcher and Part-Time Father and My Hope-Filled Fight Against Brain Cancer
Author: Tug McGraw
During his playing days, Tug McGraw was a household name in the Philadelphia and New York area due to his involvement in magical teams like the 1973 Mets and the 1980 Phillies.  After his playing days he has become known more as the father of Tim McGraw.  In his life story, McGraw discusses his career and personal life including his days with the Mets and the 1973 World Series, his days in Philadelphia, his struggle to form a relationship with his son Tim and his struggle with Brain Cancer.  McGraw is humorous, likable and positive despite his health scare and provides great detail about the Phillies' first ever World Series Championship.

The Only Way I Know
Author: Cal Ripken Jr
Junior has always been open and honest about his influences, his motivation and his love of the game.  This book is no different.  This book discusses growing up with a father managing in the minor leagues, coaching in the majors and the excitement of playing for his father and with his brother in the majors as well as the disappointment of seeing his father fired and his brother leaving the team.  Also discussed are the struggles of his rookie season, the transition from Third base to Shortstop and back, the playoffs and World Series of 1983 as well as the devastating losses of 1996 and 1997.  Cal also discusses the 1994 players strike and the frustration of the cancelled season.  Of course there is plenty of discussion of the streak.  Ripken never claims it himself but in the age of steroids he was the reason to believe in the good of baseball.

Author: Henry Thomas
Written by his grandson who was too young to know his grandfather when he died, this is the definitive Walter Johnson biography.  It traces the life of Johnson from his childhood in Kansas to the family's move to Santa Ana, CA, Johnson's travels through the minor leagues and his ultimate success as the "King of the Pitchers".  Johnson spent years with the horrible Washington Senators yet still won more games than any pitcher in history, except Cy Young.  Thomas provides great details of Johnson's personal and professional life and the chapters on the two World Series appearances of the Senators are particularly spectacular.  No detail is left out and no detail seems to be "fluff" material.  

Author: Ty Cobb and Al Stump
Parts of the book are about the strategy of baseball.  Parts are descriptions of Cobb's approach to the game.  Part is bitter.  Part is hopeful.  And part is a defense of his poor reputation.  Cobb is definitely honest for better or worse in his life story.  The book was written mostly by Al Stump who spent several years personally discussing the project with an elderly Cobb.  Anyone who wants to make their own judgement of the legend that is Ty Cobb needs to read this.  Stump wrote the version of the book that Cobb wanted (it was proofed and approved by Cobb himself) so we have no doubt that this is Cobb's mind.  For an alternate perspective you can also check out Stump's biography of Cobb written about his experiences with Cobb during the project.  Stump's biography was later used as the basis for the movie "Cobb".

Author: Don Larsen, Mark Shaw and Yogi Berra
For a pitcher known as "googly bird" and someone who was never really considered an ace of any staff, Don Larsen has become famous far beyond the records of his career.  This is the book of his life as well as his experience of pitching the only World Series perfect game.  Larsen discusses his approach to the Dodgers, the joy of pitching and how he became the most imperfect pitcher to pitch a World Series perfect game.  His discussion of technical mechanics of his pitching are intriguing but general enough for casual fans to understand.  For example, he discusses how just one start before the end of the regular season he decided to abandon his wind up and pitch only from the stretch position for better control and how that effected his results, his confidence and led to his perfect game.

Extra Innings
Author: Frank Robinson and Berry Stainbeck
Intended as a response to Al Campanis's appearance on Nightline where Campanis declared that there were no African Americans in the front offices of baseball because no African American wanted a job that high, the book answers Campanis and so much more.  From Robinson's troubles in Cincinnati, success in Baltimore (including the difficulty of being an African American star loved for playing baseball but still not being accepted in general society), Robinson is  honest about his struggles with Angels manager Dick Williams, the benefit of what he learned from Earl Weaver and the difficult job of replacing Cal Ripken Sr and turning around the Orioles organization.  Particularly interesting are his experiences with Jack Clark, whom Robinson managed in San Francisco.   Clark recently accused Albert Pujols of using PED's.  Reading Robinson's view of Clark from 25 years ago may give you a different perspective of Clark's comments on Pujols.

I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson
Author: Jackie Robinson
If you are looking for a book only about baseball this may not be your choice.  If you are looking for a book about the struggles of life, both professional and personal, and the strength that it takes to be successful regardless of continual road blocks, then this is it.  Robinson, of course, discusses breaking the color barrier and his career in baseball but he also discusses the struggle of being a father and husband while being on the road for the better part of the year, attempting to give his family a better life while dealing with the racism of the times and the pain of losing his son just as the son was turning his life around.  There is a reason that Jackie's number is the only one retired across the majors and it goes well beyond the diamond.  If you ever thought that Jackie was over rated as a player you need to read this and it will probably convince you that he is historically under rated.

The Duke of Flatbush
Author: Duke Snider, Carl Erskine and Bill Gilbert
This book may not be in print any longer so you may have trouble finding a copy.  I would suggest checking the library or used book stores.  Duke discusses not only his on the field play but the struggles of paying bills in the days before the million dollar salaries on the salary of a minor league manager.  He also discusses growing up as a fan of Jackie Robinson in Watts, CA,  the struggles of the Dodgers to finally win the World Series, his hatred of the Giants (and Halloween) and the tight friendships that made up the special days in Brooklyn.  Also discussed are Duke's final days in Los Angeles (with excellent details of the 1962 three game playoff between the Dodgers-Giants), his final days with the Mets and the odd feeling of ending his career as a Giant.

Seasons/Teams Studies
Author: Louis P. Mayer
This is a study of the formation of the American League, the war that resulted, the peace conference of 1903 and the first World Series.  Each game of the series has it's own chapter and is explained in detail.  The best of 9 series saw the American League's Boston franchise come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the first ever World Series.  It also includes details of a near player's strike, JFK's grandfather and the greed of the owners that would effect the game for decades.

Author: Cait Murphy
It is hard to pick a favorite book of all the ones I've read but this one is definitely in the top five.  The author does an amazing job of exploring the 1908 baseball season along with the political and social aspects of the US during the time.  The non-baseball sections include the corruption around Chicago and a female mass murderer in Chicago.  The baseball sections focus on the crazy baseball season which had a three team race in the NL that came down to Fred Merkle's "bonehead" mistake and a three team race in the AL which saw Ed Walsh of the White Sox win 40 games.

Author: Mike Vaccaro
A great telling of one of the greatest World Series of all time which ended with Fred Snodgrass's dropped fly ball and a Red Sox victory.  The author describes each game in detail as well as plenty of behind the scenes dealings and fights.  The story of the 1912 Red Sox includes the amazing season of Smokey Joe Wood, the corruption that nearly cost the Red Sox their World Series title and how the ownership's greed nearly alienated their most loyal fans. The Giants' 1912 season includes the stories of Rube Marquard's emergence as one of the best pitchers in the National League and the Giants' support of Snodgrass after the misplayed fly ball.  This was not only one of the most closely contested World Series, it is also one of the most controversial.  Anytime controversy was involved in the first 25 years of the World Series, you can bet John McGraw was involved somehow.

Author: Elliot Asinoff
This study of the 1919 season and the Black Sox scandal was the basis for the movie of the same name.  Asinoff explores the plot, the actual throwing of the games, the revelation of the scandal and the trial in one of the most important seasons in the history of the game.  Anyone who would like to truly understand the complex web of corruption that took place in this scandal should read this.
Author: Mike Sowell
This is more than a dual biography of Carl Mays and Ray Chapman, it explores the impact that the death of Chapman had on the Indians' team.  It also discusses the 1920 pennant race between the Yankees, White Sox and Indians.  1920 is one of the most important transitional seasons in the history of the game and this season saw Babe Ruth truly emerge as the new force while the White Sox team was torn apart.

Author: Paul E. Dotrich 
A great study of not just the baseball season of 1926 but many of the national events of the year including the death of Rudolph Valentino.  The author does a great job exploring the pennant race in the NL, including the mutiny and collapse of the defending World Champion Pirates and the first World Series title for the Cardinals.  Baseball fans may know that the 1926 World Series famously saw Grover Cleveland Alexander (alternately rumored to be drunk or hungover) enter the seventh game in relief and work out of a tension filled, bases loaded jam against the rookie sensation Tony Lazzeri.  If you have not heard of that famous at bat (or the bizarre way the series ended) this is a great place to learn more about it.

Author: John Heidenry
This book focuses mainly on the history of the St. Louis Cardinals, however, it is an interesting study of the Cardinals evolution from the perennial last place team to the most successful organization in the National League.  The book gives a great perspective on the importance of Branch Rickey before the Jackie Robinson signing and of course there are great Dizzy Dean stories.  The book also gives great description of the 1934 World Series with Joe Medwick's fight with Marv Owen of the Tigers and since this is the 1934 Tigers there is, of course, plenty of good Hank Greenberg information.

Author: Michael Shapiro
Anyone who has blamed Walter O'Malley for being a horrible, greedy, monster for uprooting the beloved Dodgers from the Brooklyn faithful and moving them to the West Coast must read this book.  Besides looking at the struggle of the team to defend their World Series title, Don Larsen's perfect game and the tight core group of the Brooklyn team, this book provides great detail of O'Malley's struggle to build a new stadium in Brooklyn and his desperation to avoid moving the team. 

October 1964
Author: David Halberstam
Anyone who has read a book by David Halberstam knows that you cannot go wrong reading a book by David Halberstam.  I nearly put another of his books (The Summer of '49) on this list as well, however, this one is my favorite of his work.  The 1964 season saw the Cardinals transitioning from the days of Stan Musial to the days of Bob Gibson.  It also saw the mighty Yankees becoming a tired, declining older franchise as Yogi Berra moved into a managerial position and Mantle struggled through knee injuries.  In a classic seven game series the state of baseball changed almost overnight.

Author: Tom Adelman
Similar to Halberstam, you can't go wrong reading a book by Tom Adelman.  Adelman does a great job of tying in the stories outside the game.  This is the story of the Dodgers team, led by Koufax and Drysdale, that appeared to be unbeatable as they faced off against the Baltimore Orioles team which was considered to be a middle of the league team.  Particular focus is paid to the impact of Frank Robinson in Baltimore as he gets traded from the Reds.  Focus is also given to Koufax and his struggle to come to terms with the damage he is doing to his arm and his desire to help his teammates win one last time.

The Long Ball: The Summer of '75- Spaceman, Catfish, Charlie Hustle and the Greatest World Series Ever Played
Author: Tom Adelman
Adelman's title says it all.  This is arguably the greatest World Series ever (although I still think 1991 beats it).  This book has everything.  The Big Red Machine.  The curse of Babe Ruth.  The birth of free agency.  The rebirth of the Yankees featuring Billy Martin, Thurman Munson and George Steinbrenner.  The decline of the Oakland dynasty of the 1970's.  Even cameos by M.C. Hammer and Willie Randolph.  It includes the heart warming story of Luis Tiant seeing his parents for the first time in decades.  It includes details of every edge of your seat game of the series.  And of course, it includes perfect details of the greatest World Series game ever played, the Carlton Fisk Home Run game. Even if you ignore every other piece of advice I give you  (and let's face it all of you will) listen to this one.  You must read this book.

The Bad Guys Won: A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo Chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, the Kid and the Rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team to Ever Put on a New York Uniform and Maybe the Best
Author:  Jeff Pearlman
This is one of the legendary teams of all time.  The team had so much potential that it is almost unbelievable they only won one World Series as a group.  Reading this will go a long way in telling you why they didn't win more.  The focus is not just on the 1986 team, but in the building of the team.  It includes great biographical information on many of the Mets including Strawberry, Gooden, Kevin Mitchell, Mookie Wilson and Sid Fernandez among others.  The book is entertaining and informative and does a great job of chronicling the legendary team.

The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, the Team and the Cost of Greatness
Author: Buster Olney
Olney is one of the most respected baseball writers of our time and he has done a great job of following the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990's-early 2000's.  Any Yankee fan (or just baseball fan) who wants to know more about the team that rejuvenated the nation's love of the game, this is your book.  In reading this book I gained a whole new perspective on many players including Paul O'Neill, David Cone and Bernie Williams.  I am not a Yankee fan by any stretch of the imagination but this book is one of the best I've ever read.  It discusses the transition form Buck Showalter to Joe Torre, from Don Mattingly to Derek Jeter and the eventual decline of the dynasty.  2001 was certainly one of the best and most emotional World Series ever and this will give you every detail.

In today's article, I mentioned that the 1926 World Series ended in a bizarre way.  How was the last out recorded?
Congratulations to Hope and TJD for answering last week's trivia question correctly.

Anyone who routinely listened to Phillies games between 1971 and 2008 can tell you how good Harry Kalas was in the broadcast booth.  He had a subtle humor that was remeniscent of Vin Scully and a professionalism that was remeniscent of Mel Allen.  He had a great exaggerated "Struck him out!" call and "That ball is outta here!" call that have to be heard to be appreciated.  Harry loved the Phillies (or the Fightin's as he often called them).  One of Harry's favorite players was Garry Maddox.  Maddox was often called the Secretary of Defense years before Reggie White became the Minister of Defense in Philadelphia.  Maddox's range in Centerfield was nothing short of amazing.  Maddox had to cover a lot of ground to make up for slower outfield partners like Greg Luzinski, Del Unser and Jay Johnstone.  In fact, Maddox covered so much ground that Kalas said "Two thirds of the earth is covered by water, the rest of it is covered by Garry Maddox."