Saturday, January 25, 2014

Disney Baseball Part 1

Baseball's off season is not the best time of the year.  It is cold.  Dark.  You can go days without seeing the sun.  You sometimes get that one, freak warm day that tricks you into thinking this winter will be different and it won't be so cold this year. Then the next day it goes right back to gray and cold.

Don't worry.  I do have hobbies other than baseball.  Normally I would get through the off season with the football season but since the Titans and Vikings were finished after week 4 that didn't help this year.  Then there's the basketball season.  As a Celtics fan that takes care of that.  Finally, I have the hockey season and as a Penguins fan it is a nice distraction.

The off season does give me one benefit.  I get to focus on some of my other interests and in this instance I get to combine two of my greatest interests into one.  Those of you who know me know that I have a passion for history.  This article combines two of my historical passions:  baseball history and Disney history. 

It will be broken up into two articles:
Part 1: Important dates in Disney history:  this will tell you what was happening in baseball during the important moments of Disney history,
Part 2:  Walt Disney's influence in baseball (focusing specifically on his impact on the Angels franchise).

I think even non baseball fans and non Disney fans will find something interesting in these articles, but for those of you choosing to opt out now, check back in two weeks for some more cool articles.

Important dates in Disney history:
The National League was in the middle of their seventh season and contained twelve teams.  The standings were deadlocked at the top with the Boston Beaneaters tied with the Philadelphia Phillies.  They were both one game ahead of the Brooklyn Grooms.  On June 24, the Boston Beaneaters, eventual National League Champions, won a game from the Baltimore Orioles, 4-2.  On that same day, Roy O. Disney was born in Chicago, IL.

December in 1901, as it is today, was dead center in  the baseball offseason.  Very little happened in those months.  There was no free agency or off season training programs.  There were no contract negotiations between owner and player but the American League was preparing for their second season.  Kip Selbach, eight year veteran outfielder and Giants star, decided on December 4th that he could get more money if he jumped to the Baltimore Orioles of the new American League.  The next day Walter Elias Disney was born.

The Disney's are most often associated with Marcelline, MO, however, they spent a great deal of time in Chicago.  There is no indication of Walt being a fan of either the Cubs or White Sox but both teams were excellent as Walt was becoming a young adult.  On 6/8/1917 the White Sox took on the lowly Washington Senators.  The Sox had gone 16-3-1 over their last 20 games but had lost the last two games.  On June 8th they started another winning streak, pounding the Senators 11-3.  The offense was led by a few names that would be notorious just a few years from now.  Buck Weaver was 3-5 and scored 3 times. Joe Jackson was 3-5 with a double and two runs. Happy Felsch was 3-5 with a run.  Chick Gandil was 2-4 with a run and Swede Risberg was 1-4 with a run.  On that day, as the White Sox were demolishing the Senators, Walt Disney graduated from High School. 

January 1920:
The month of January 1920 set in motion a major shift in two separate industries that were well beyond anything anyone could imagine.  At the time of each event no one could have predicted the ramifications each would continue to have even up to the present day.  In the world of baseball everything changed on January 3, 1920 and although it was a big deal at the time no one could have imagined the major shift in balance that started when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.  The Red Sox, the class of the American League for the first two decades, would not win another World Series for 86 years.  The Yankees, the underachieving, overpaid joke of the first two decades, would start off on the path to becoming the most successful sports franchise ever.  While the Yankees took an unknown step towards domination, Walt Disney had recently started working at a company called Pesman-Rubin Commercial Art Studios.  In January 1920 he met the man who would be as important in creating the Disney domination as anyone: a young artist named Ub Iwerks.  Ub and Walt would start "Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists".  The venture would only last a month but the friendship and partnership would last (on and off) for decades.

July 1923:
The growth of the Walt Disney legend and the Yankee legend follow eerily similar paths which I was not aware of until I started writing this article.  When Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees in 1920 he began an assault on the record books that brought him personal accolades but his Yankees were still seen as the losers.  They had fallen to third in a close race in  1920, lost the World Series to the Giants in 1921 and fell again to the Giants in the 1922 World Series.  While the Yankees were struggling to reach the top, Walt Disney was finding similar challenges.  He had formed "Laugh-O-Grams" with Ub Iwerks and although the content was good for the time, the public was not very accepting of animation as an industry.  Silent movies were still the big business but other than Felix the Cat, animation had not caught the public's attention.  While the Yankees went 23-8 in July and took control of the American League (they built a 14 game lead by July 30), Walt was struggling.  Unable to pay his bills (he couldn't even go to meet clients because he had taken his shoes in for repairs and couldn't afford to pay to get them back), in July of 1923 Walt made a decision that would ultimately lead to his success.  He just didn't know it yet.  Walt declared bankruptcy, hopped a train west and moved to Hollywood.  Walt's uncle lived in the area and his brother Roy was at a veteran's convalescent hospital in Westwood, CA.  Walt found ways to work his way onto the lots at Paramount and would walk back and forth in front of the Charlie Chaplin Studios (now Jim Henson Studios) hoping to get a glimpse of Chaplin.  All the while he still held dreams of succeeding in animation.

The papers in New York on October 16, 1923 carried the news of a the big eighth inning from the day before.  Ruth had hit a Home Run in the first to put the Yankees ahead 1-0 but the Giants had methodically taken a 4-1 lead, one run at a time.  The Giants held that lead into the top of the 8th.  Art Nehf had dominated the Yankees through seven innings and got Aaron Ward to pop out to first to start the 8th.  Back to back singles by Wally Schang and Everett Scott and a walk by pinch hitter Fred Hoffman loaded the bases with one out.  Bullet Joe Bush pinch hit for Whitey Witt and drew a walk to force in a run.  Art Nehf's day was over but the Yankees' day was just beginning.  Joe Dugan walked to force in a second run and keep the bases loaded and cut the lead to 4-3.  Stepping to the plate, ready to break the game wide open was Babe Ruth.  He struck out swinging for the second out.  The Giants' sigh of relief came one batter too early because Bob Meusel singled on the second pitch of the at bat.  The single should have only scored two but when Center Fielder Billy Cunningham threw wild, a third run scored giving the Yankees their 6-4 margin of victory and their first of 27 (so far) World Championships.

Walt and Roy Disney probably didn't take the time to read the headlines in the Los Angeles Times.  October 16 was a big day for them.  While trying to find a way to break into the business Walt and Roy had been trying to sell a project Walt had started before he left to come west.  The series is now known as "the Alice Comedies", a series of animation and live action combinations featuring a little girl named Alice who journeys to Wonderland, a cartoon world, with her cartoon cat, Julius. (Julius has been brought back into the Disney universe in the revamped Disney California Adventure.  You can find his name on the window of Julius Katz & Sons Appliances on Buena Vista Street.)    On October 16, 1923 Roy and Walt officially signed an agreement with Margaret J. Winkler to distribute their Alice cartoons.  Margaret Winkler would soon marry a man named Charles Mintz, from Pottstown, PA, who would play a large part in the Disney legend.

The 1927 Yankees are still considered by many as the greatest team of all time.  Known as Murderers Row the team relentlessly victimized American League pitching.  On Monday, September 5, 1927 the Yankees played a double header against the Red Sox. Everyone was there to see how many Home Runs Babe Ruth would hit.  In Game One Ruth went 1-7 with 2 walks, a double, a stolen base, got caught stealing once and struck out twice.  Lou Gehrig hit his 44th Home Run of the year, the Yankees scored 11 runs and lost in 18 innings.  That alone was news.  Having already played enough innings to make up the double header, they still had to actually play Game 2.  Fading daylight (this was before stadiums had lights installed for night baseball), they could only fit the minimum 5 innings to make the game official.  Ruth and Gehrig both went hitless but the Yankees won 5-0 giving Urban Shocker his 15th win of the year.

Walt and Roy again had little time to follow the antics of the Yankees.  They were likely nervous, waiting for critics reviews.  Premiering that day in theatres was the first "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" Cartoon, "Trolley Troubles".  The first produced Oswald short, "Poor Papa" did not meet the approval of either Charles Mintz or Universal Studios executives.  The "Poor Papa" short was shelved for nearly a year, by which point Oswald was a legitimate hit.

The offseason between 1928 and 1929 was relatively uneventful.  The biggest transaction taking place on November 7, 1928 saw the lowly Boston Braves trade future Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby to the Chicago Cubs for five Cubs players.  The Cubs had finished six games behind the  National League Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.  The trade was viewed as a hit or miss  proposition.  None of the five Cubs players who were sent to the Braves had much chance of impacting the struggling organization but the great "Rajah" could be an organization changer.  It had only been a few years since Hornsby had led the St. Louis Cardinals to their first ever World Series victory over the New York Yankees.  He had so angered the management in the process that they immediately traded their MVP to John McGraw and the Giants in exchange for the Giants' own unhappy star, Frankie Frisch.  Hornsby would spend one year in New York where he managed to infuriate McGraw more than he had infuriated the Cardinals' owners the year before.  He was sent to the Braves after one season as a Giant and won the 1928 batting title, his seventh and final.  1929 would see Hornsby and the Cubs become National League Champions, only to have the Philadelphia Athletics crush their hopes.  The trade helped change the landscape of the National League.  Just a week and a half later Walt Disney would do the same.

On November 18, as Hornsby was settling into the idea of being a Cub, Walt and Roy Disney were again nervous.  They knew that the product they had was something the public hadn't seen before but whether the public would accept it was a different question.  Just slightly over a year since Al Jolson had starred in the first feature length film, The Jazz Singer and had become a sensation,Walt Disney would create his own sensation. although he wasn't sure it would get that far yet.  When Charles Mintz originally took Oswald to Universal he did so with Walt's blessing, although he didn't need it.  The contract said that although the Disney Brothers Studios were producing the cartoons, Mintz actually owned the rights of the character.  Mintz didn't need to include Walt in the negotiations at all and what was worse, Mintz had gotten almost all of Walt's artists to go with Mintz to Universal.  Only one artist stayed faithful to Walt, Ub Iwerks.  While Walt was forced to produce Oswald cartoons to satisfy his contract with Universal and Mintz, he secretly had Iwerks developing a new character.  It was a character that looked amazingly like Oswald but it wasn't a rabbit.  It was a Mouse.  He created three short subject animated films.  The first was "Plane Crazy" followed by The "Gallopin' Gaucho".  Neither did particularly well.  Then on November  18 everything changed when Walt debuted "Steamboat Willie", the first synchronized sound cartoon in the United States.  It was an instant hit and launched the Disney dynasty.

At the time no one knew the Disney dynasty was being cemented.  Meanwhile, half way across the country in Louisville, KY, unbeknownst to anyone, a baseball dynasty that would last for another 80 years was born.  On November 18, 1928 David Russell "Gus" Bell was born.  Gus would play for 15 years in the major leagues for the Pirates, Reds, Mets and Milwaukee Braves.  Although he was not a Hall of Fame player, his legacy lived on when Gus's son Buddy Bell (five time All Star, six time Gold Glove winner) played 18 years in the major leagues for the Indians, Rangers, Reds and Astros.  Buddy's son Mike continued the legacy by playing for the Reds in the 2000 season.  Also continuing the legacy was Buddy's son, Mike's brother and Gus's grandson, David.  David played 12 years in the major leagues with the Indians, Cardinals, Mariners, Giants, Phillies and Brewers.  David played on the Giants' 2002 World Series team.  That team was beaten by the Disney owned Angels.

Joe DiMaggio made 1941 his own personal attack on the American League season.  On May 29 people had not started to pay strict attention to his exploits yet.  After all, he had gotten off to a "slow start".  Over the previous 13 games Joe had started to find his groove.  On May 29th the Yankees were scheduled to take on the Washington Senators but the weather was threatening to stop the game.  As the rains fell the Senators jumped out to a 1-0 lead.  Joe had flown out to center field to end the first but as he led off the fourth inning DiMaggio singled, making this the 14th consecutive game in which he got a hit, that is if they could reach the fifth inning to make it an official game.  The Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the fifth, only to have Washington tie the score in the bottom of the inning.  Then the skies really opened up.  As the Yankees poured on the offense in the sixth, the skies poured on the field and the umpires called the game.  The rains washed away five runs in the top of the 6th by the Yankees and the game was officially declared a tie.  The Yankees and Senators were sent home after an hour and three minute delay.

Literally while all this was taking place in the nation's capital (the capital was three hours ahead of Pacific Disney Time), Walt Disney was on his daily drive to the the studios.  It had not been a good month or two.  His artists were talking about forming a union and Walt was trying to convince them it was not in their (or his) best interest.  He had given an impassioned plea to his artists to not unionize and to work with him on good faith.  What he saw as he arrived at the Burbank Studios on Buena Vista shocked him.  Marching with picket signs and chanting angry slogans while hanging him in effigy were artists that Walt considered his close friends.  The strike by Disney artists had begun.

The offseason of 1954 was an odd time.  To start off with, the Indians had beaten the Yankees to end New York's 1949-1953 run of AL Championships.  The Indians' win showed that things were not going to stick to the status quo and that things were about to change.  The baseball industry, dominated by the Yankees, could not just continue as it was and neither could the entertainment industry.  On 10/27, Walt Disney stepped in front of the cameras to debut the Disneyland Television show.  He had been told by his movie contemporaries that he was crazy.  Movies and TV did not mix.   If someone could see movies on TV and find entertainment in the comfort of their own home they would stop going to the theatres.  His contemporaries begged him to not hit the airwaves.  Disney, sensing the opportunity to cross promote, debuted on TV just a few days before Halloween 1954.  The visionary as always, Walt used the TV show to sell his movies and his future theme park (already in progress).  It was a drastic step.  One that many in his industry found less than acceptable.

During that same offseason, on November 17 (on the eve of Mickey Mouse's 26th birthday), the Yankees embraced the feeling of change and made a move that many found less than acceptable.  The Yankees celebrated the dawn of 26 A.M. (the year of our mouse) by making a gigantic trade with the brand new Baltimore Orioles (the extinct St.Louis Browns).  It was the best of trades.  It was the worst of trades.  They received Don Larsen, Bob Turley, and Billy Hunter (along with players to be named later).  Two years later Larsen (nicknamed "Googly Bird") would provide the greatest of great World Series moment when he pitched a perfect game.  Bob Turley would be part of a great moment himself.  In fact, Turley would be part of the great moment that was created by one of the people he was traded for.  In exchange for Billy Hunter, Larsen, Turley and the players to be named later, the Orioles received Harry Byrd, Willy Miranda, Jim Miranda, Gene Woodling, Gus Triandos and a  minor league Catcher named Hal Smith.  Smith would play for the Orioles in 1955 and parts of 1956.  He would then be sent to the Kansas City Athletics for the end of 1956 through the 1959 season.  To start the 1960 season he was shipped to Pittsburgh.  As a journeyman, veteran Catcher, he was an afterthought in Pittsburgh.  That was until he stepped to the plate in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.  The Yankees had clobbered the Pirates so far in this series, almost embarrassed them, though the Pirates had embarrassed the Yankees already by still being alive in the series.  Starting Game 7 for the Yankees was Turley, sitting on the bench for Pittsburgh was Hal Smith.  Turley lasted only one inning and gave up two runs.  Entering the top of the 8th the Yankees led 7-4 and Smith replaced Smoky Burgess for defensive purposes.  It looked as though Turley and the Yankees would win.  As the bottom of the 8th started, the Yankees looked to have the game in hand.  Three straight singles, a bad hop that nearly killed Tony Kubek (literally), a sac bunt,  and a fly out left the bases loaded but two out.  A ground ball single by Roberto Clemente extended the inning and then Hal Smith got his revenge for being traded.  He ripped a three run Home Run that tied the game, setting up Bill Mazeroski's legendary home run.

On Sunday, July 17, 1955, ABC cameras were rolling in Anaheim, CA as Art Linkletter and Ronald Reagan hosted a very special event.  The heat was intense.  The asphalt, newly poured, had not quite solidified yet so women's heels were sinking into the ground.  The event had been planned for a specified amount of attendees but counterfeit tickets led to overflow crowds and shortages of water.  The live broadcast was a mess.  There were repeated false starts with missed cues.  Incorrect cuts to unprepared parts of the park showed Reagan or Linkletter staring off into space (or in Linkletter's case, kissing a dancer).  Tomorrowland was essentially still in the future and although it was introduced on the broadcast there was little there.  The reviews from the press were harsh.  For Disney it came to be known as Black Sunday.  It could have been a disastrous confirmation of what Roy and several friends had been telling Walt from day one:  this theme park was a bad idea.

On the other side of the country the Dodgers were finishing up a double header as Walt stepped to the microphone for his famous dedication of Disneyland.  The Dodgers had a rookie pitcher making his Major League debut on the pitchers mound for the first game.  Facing the Reds, the rookie pitcher started off pretty shaky.  He started by getting the lead off hitter to pop up a bunt for the first out.  That was quickly followed by a triple and a single back to the pitcher.  One run in and only one out.  The pitcher settled down and got the next two batters.  He got some support in the bottom of the first.  Duke Snider launched a Home Run and that was followed immediately by a Carl Furillo Home Run.  The Dodgers went on to win the game and the rookie pitcher, who pitched a complete game shut out, was on his way to a successful career long past his playing days.  Roger Craig would play for 12 years (including going 10-24 for the terrible 1962 Mets) but there was more to his career.  Roger Craig became a pitching genius.  Credited with teaching many of the great 1980's pitchers what he called the "split finger fast ball", previously known as a fork ball.  Roger Craig was the pitching coach for Sparky Anderson's Detroit Tigers from 1980-1984.  Later as manager of the San Francisco Giants, he led them to two division titles and the 1989 World Series.  Craig's career may be over but his legacy lives on every time someone throws a cut fastball.

On the afternoon of 10/3/1955, Whitey Ford faced off against Karl Spooner at Yankee Stadium in a game that had the potential to end the Yankee dynasty of the 1950's.  The Dodgers sent Jim Gilliam to the plate to lead off the game and he lined out to Elston Howard in left field.  Pee Wee Reese followed and struck out looking.  Duke Snider did the same.  Then the Yankees, fighting to keep their domination in tact, made sure they kept their season alive early.  In the bottom of the first the Yankees scored five runs before Spooner got two outs and was removed from the game.  The Yankees went on to win 5-1 and force Game 7.

Kids everywhere couldn't be happier that the game was decided early.  For weeks they had anticipated 10/3.  They had seen advertisements for a new show that was different from anything they'd seen before.  If this game had gone extra innings or ran long, who knew how much of their show they would miss.  When the game was over children around the country sat down in front of the big console T.V. and watched as the Mickey Mouse March played through the speakers and Doreen, Darlene, Bobby and Annette introduced themselves  for the very first time.  The Mickey Mouse Club debuted at 5:00 P.M.

The week of  9/24/1961 was a big week for Major League Baseball but it wouldn't become apparent,  in some cases, for two decades.  On September 22,  in Jacksonville, FL, Vince Coleman was born.  Coleman would play 13 years in the majors.  Coleman won the Rookie of the Year award in 1985.  He led the league in Stolen Bases six straight years and helped the Cardinals reach two World Series (1985 and 1987).  On the same day in San Diego, Bob Geren was born.  Geren would play parts of five years in the majors with the Yankees and the Padres.  Geren would go on to manage five years in Oakland.  Also on September 22 Donn Clendenon played his first Major League game for the Pirates.  Clendenon would come in second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1962 but his biggest moment came in the 1969 World Series when he helped the Miracle Mets win the World Series.  On September 26th, in Lancaster, CA, Steve Buechele was born.  Buechele would go on to play 1334 games over 11 years in the majors for the Rangers, Pirates and Cubs.  On the same day the Buechele family welcomed the birth of their son, Bill Freehan was making his Major League Baseball debut.  Freehan would play 15 years, all with the Tigers.  He was an 11 time All Star, a five time Gold Glove winner and a World Series Champion.  The same day that Freehan made his debut for the Tigers, Boog Powell first put on a uniform for the Baltimore Orioles.  Powell would play 17 years in the Major Leagues and would greatly contribute to the Orioles dynasty of the 1960's and 1970's

On September 24, as Major League Baseball's future was being formed, Walt Disney was making history.  Walt's Sunday night television show on ABC had dipped in ratings since it debuted in 1954.  When ABC made it clear that they were not concerned with dumping more money into a show that was sagging in the ratings, Walt made a switch to NBC.  NBC was willing to do something ABC was not.  It was obvious that Disney productions looked better in color.  NBC was willing to spend the money to produce a color show, while ABC was not.  On September 24, Walt Disney premiered his Wonderful World of Color on NBC.

The baseball world was quite confused on 12/15.  The Yankees had now gone two years without reaching the World Series and had gone four years since winning the World Series.  Yankee fans were definitely not used to this. The team had been bought by CBS and was heading into a tumultuous time.  The confusion had come from the decision to trade Roger Maris.  The trade had been made on 12/8 but the shock had yet to wear off.  Maris had not only been traded, he had been traded for a man who would end up with only 8 career Home Runs more than Maris had accumulated in the magical 1961 season.  Yankees fans had no idea how bad the coming era would get but it was only beginning.  Maris would play two years in St.Louis and would make big contributions to the 1967 and 1968 Cardinals World Series teams.

While the baseball world was continuing to process the shift in the baseball landscape, Walt Disney was lying in a hospital bed.  He had gone into the hospital in November for an operation to repair an old polo injury and during preparation a tumor had been found in his lung. He was told he had six months to live. Just a few weeks later he was back in the hospital.  As his brother visited him Walt was envisioning the new Florida based theme park and mapping it out in his head, envisioning  a map of the park on the ceiling tiles.  The workaholic was working right up to the end.  Apparently planning a future project he had written the name of one of his favorite young actors, Kurt Russell. It was the last thing written by Walt Disney who passed away at 9:30 A.M. in St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, California.  As the Yankee dynasty searched for new leadership and new direction, the Disney dynasty mourned the passing of their leader.

In this article I mentioned that Tony Kubek was literally almost killed by a ground ball during Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.  What happened on this ground ball?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Congratulations to Hope on Last Week's Trivia Question.

On June 4, 1986 Barry Bonds and the Pirates faced off against the Atlanta Braves.  Few, if any, gave much importance to the game.  It was still early in the season but neither team had much chance at the playoffs (fast forward five years and the teams would be meeting again with more at stake).  Bonds did well in the first few innings.  He struck out looking to lead off the game but in the second he hit a two run single.  In the top of the 4th Bonds had another RBI single.  Two batters later, Braves starter Joe Johnson was out of the game.  His replacement was Craig McMurtry.  With two out and the bases empty in the 5th Bonds stepped up to face McMurtry and launched his first career Home Run.

While few were interested in the game on June 4, 1986, everyone was watching every moment on August 7, 2007.  In the bottom of the second Bonds connected to deep right-center but the ball stayed in the park and Bonds ended up with a double.  He singled on an 0-1 pitch in his second at bat and scored when the next batter, Benji Molina, launched a Home Run.  The score was tied with one out in the fifth as Bonds stepped to the plate.  The first two pitches were out of the zone and Bonds watched the 0-2 pitch for a called strike.  He was used to watching the ball since pitchers were terrified to give him anything close to the plate.  He fouled of the fourth pitch then watched ball three to bring the count full.  The sixth pitch of the at bat came in and it was fouled back.  On the 7th pitch of the at bat, Mike Bacsik of the Washington Nationals delivered a pitch to the plate that quickly flew in the opposite direction to set the all time record. Home Run #756.

On September 5, 2007 the Giants were well out of the playoff race.  The Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies were the teams near the top of the division.  The Rockies were starting a magical run that would end with them in the World Series.  In the top of the first, with one out, Bonds stepped in to face Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies.  On the fifth pitch of the at bat, on a 1-2 count, Bonds launched a two run Home Run to left field in Colorado.  The Giants would win 5-3 and Bonds would never again launch a Home Run.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rivalries: Bonds vs Kent

"No big deal."  Jeff Kent told the reporters in the aftermath of the insanity that had just occurred.  "Add this to the half dozen other times we've done it before."

Kent was answering questions just moments after his team had lost 10-7 to the San Diego Padres.   The loss dropped them four and a half games behind the division leading Dodgers and three games behind the Diamondbacks.  If Kent were speaking about the fact that the Giants were behind but within striking distance you could understand the lack of importance that Kent gave to the game.  In reality, Kent wasn't talking about the game at all.  His comments continued.

"Bonds and I have played together for five years.  If there is any dislike I don't think we'd be playing together.  So much has been made between the relationship between Barry and me.  We have a good relationship that I think works well on the field.  I think we do a lot of good things together on the field for this team that benefits him and benefits me.  I think you guys try to create a dysfunctional relationship, that's a farce too, because that's not true."

It seems funny that Kent should say that the implied poor relationship was a farce because Kent had previously and publicly said that Bonds was a selfish player who played by his own rules.  Sounds much less than a happy friendship to me.

So why was this being addressed now and why was Kent saying it was no big deal?

The Padres had scored first in the bottom of the first.  Reggie Sanders led off the Giants half of the second with a single but was stranded there.  Then things got bad.  The Padres part of the second started with a Bubba Trammell fly ball.  1 out.  Wiki Gonzalez singled to right and there was a runner on first.  Then things got worse.  There was one out and a runner on first.  Julius Matos hit a routine ground ball to David Bell at third base.  Jeff Kent assumed the play would be at first but Bell wanted to erase the lead runner.  So Kent jogged past second base.  He was shocked when the ball came to him and he was not in position to force the runner.

 Instead of a second out and runner on first, the Padres were in business.  When the next hitter struck out it looked like they might get away with everything.  Instead things got worse.  A single, a walk and two more singles and the Padres now led 5-0.  Mercifully Ray Lankford struck out looking to end the inning but the fun was about to begin.  Things had already gotten bad.  Now they got ugly.

Before Bell reached the dugout he could hear Kent barking.  The exact words were never disclosed but the intent and the meaning were clear.  Kent blamed Bell for the poor inning.  Bell barked right back and the dogs  were unleashed.  Say what you want about Bonds but he was not going to let Bell, or any of his team mates, be bullied.  Bonds stepped in to defend Bell and all hell broke loose. 

Kent and Bonds were arguing (again, no one knows who said what) and then came the push heard around the Bay Area.  Bonds pushed Kent.  Kent pushed back and the dugout was in full movement to separate the two.  Dusty Baker grabbed Kent and trainer Stan Conte grabbed Bonds and moved them towards the opposite ends of the dugout.  Apparently Kent wasn't done.  He said something to the normally quiet Baker and all of a sudden Baker was yelling at Kent.

All this happened while the Giants were supposed to be batting and fighting for a playoff spot.  The Giants batted in the top of the third and with one out Bell doubled.  Ramon Martinez walked and Bonds launched a three run Home Run to right-center.  Kent followed with a ground out and the Giants went on to lose the game.

The Giants would go on to success in the season.  They passed the collapsing Dodgers.  They took out the Braves in the Division Series.  They beat the Cardinals in the NLCS and advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1989.  They were heavily favored in the World Series against the Anaheim Angels.

Bonds, being one of the greatest hitters of all time, did what you would expect.  In his only World Series appearance Bonds hit .471, launched 4 Home Runs, drove in six runs and walked an amazing 13 times.  Kent wasn't terrible but his numbers didn't approach what Bonds did.  Kent hit three home runs, drove in 7 but struck out 7 times and hit .276.  (Just to be clear I am not blaming Jeff Kent for the World Series loss).  In Game 7 Bonds had one hit, Kent had none and the Angels shocked the heavens.

Following the off season the feuding teammates would be separated permanently.  Bonds continued to pound National League pitching into McCovey Cove while Kent moved on to play in Houston.  After two years in Houston Kent moved on to Los Angeles.  As Bonds neared Aaron's record and was well on his way to becoming hated by everyone outside of San Francisco, Kent was becoming hated by just as many.

As the Dodgers struggled toward the close of the 2004 season tensions in the clubhouse grew high.  On August 25th, with Milton Bradley on base, Kent doubled.  As he pulled into second he was shocked to see Bradley standing on third and not touching home plate.  Whatever his motivation, Kent confronted Milton Bradley in the clubhouse and according to the Los Angeles Times there was "an ugly confrontation".  The following day Bradley popped a ball up in the infield.  Bradley sprinted down to first in an exaggerated display of hustle.  After the out was recorded Bradley immediately turned and pointed at someone in the dugout.  The battle was just beginning.

The war of words flew.  Manager Jim Tracy called both players into a meeting and told them both to shut up and play.  Bradley gave an interview saying Kent was a "clubhouse trouble maker".  Kent fired back to defend himself.  Bradley had apparently accused Kent of not being able to deal with African American players because Kent's response was that he had plenty of former African American teammates that were close friends.  If you didn't believe him you could ask his close friend Joe Carter.  To paraphrase Joe Carter's response "Uh, what?  How did I get dragged into this?"  The confrontation ended when Bradley had season ending knee surgery and went home.

Kent remained in Los Angeles and Bradley moved on.  Kent continued to play well and put up near All Star numbers.  As the 2008 season dragged on and the Dodgers appeared to be underachievers yet again, they made a last minute trade deadline move by picking up Manny Ramirez.  Manny immediately destroyed National League pitching and as pitchers tried to avoid giving Manny pitches to hit, Kent's average skyrocketed.  A lot of people noticed, including someone who has watched nearly every Dodgers game since the 1950's, Vin Scully.  Kent heard what Vin thought, that Manny's presence led to Kent seeing better pitches, and he had a strong response.  Shut up Vin.

2008 was Kent's 17th and final season.  He retired as one of the best hitting Second Basemen in history.  His former sparring partner, Bonds had retired the previous season with the most Home Runs for a career (and a season) and a pending criminal case for perjury.  In an era where the public had changed from adoring athletes and overlooking their flaws, they were now villainizing them whenever possible.  Bonds became the most hated.  Every flaw the man had was magnified like the Bat Signal, while every good deed he ever did was ignored.

Barry Bonds finished his career with 762 career Home Runs.  What three pitchers gave up a) Bonds' first career Home Run, b) Home Run 756 to pass Aaron and c) his final career Home run?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
The Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast to start the 1958 season.  The Dodgers faced the Yankees for the first time in the World Series as a West Coast team in 1963 with the Dodgers sweeping the series.  The Yankees faced the Dodgers in the World Series again in 1977, 1978 and 1981.  The Yankees won 1977 and 1978 but the Dodgers won 1981 making them even since the move.  The Giants faced the Yankees in the World Series once (1962) since leaving the East Coast.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rivalries:Mike Piazza vs Roger Clemens

When you have the first all New York World Series since 1956 the story kind of writes itself.  Dodgers-Yankees and Giants-Yankees was seemingly an every year tradition for nearly a decade but then the Dodgers and Giants up and left for the west coast and New York was given the pathetic Mets.  As the Mets started to improve, the Yankees collapsed until the Yankees dominated and the Mets rebuilt.  By the mid 1980's, as the Mets built a team around Strawberry, Gooden, Carter and Hernandez and the Yankees built around Mattingly, Winfield, Randolph and Rickey Henderson, experts dreamt of a Subway Series for the new generation.  It never came to be.  The Mets achieved some success but the Yankees underachieved every year.  Enter the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990's and the Mets resurgence around Mike Piazza.

As the 2000 World Series got under way the story for the professionals and the marketing geniuses was simple:  the first subway series since Robinson, Snider, Hodges and Reese took on Mantle, Ford, Berra and that guy named Larsen.  Instead, less than two minutes into the Game 2 broadcast as Roger Clemens warmed up, the story became clear.  This was a grudge match between two players.

The grudge had started a few months earlier.  In what was unheard of in the 1980's as the New York writers dreamt of a Subway World Series, the Mets and Yankees faced off in a regular season interleague series.  In the second game of a double header on July 8, Mike Piazza stepped to the plate in the second inning.  Facing off against Roger Clemens, Piazza took a called strike 1.  The second pitch caused everyone in the stadium to hold their breath.

"I truly believe that if I hadn't gotten my head down at the last instant, Clemens' two seamer would have struck me in the eye and possibly killed me."  Piazza said later.

As Piazza lay in the dirt, motionless, the fans at the stadium and viewers at home weren't sure yet that he wasn't dead.  It was a terrifying moment.  Piazza was removed from the game and taken to the hospital for examination.  Piazza survived the beaning but the war had started.

Piazza and the Mets held a press conference the next day, allowing the flood of interested reporters to ask all the questions they wanted.  "I don't want to say he intentionally hit me in the head, but I think he intentionally threw at my head.  There's no place for that in baseball."  After being told that Clemens had shown concern for Piazza, the response was clear.  "I have no respect  or appreciation for his comments.  Roger Clemens is a great Pitcher but I don't have respect for him now at all."

Clemens' response was even clearer.  "I don't care"

The anticipation built as the first inning of Game 2 got under way.  Piazza was in the lineup as the Catcher, batting third in the lineup.  As Clemens threw his warm up pitches the FOX broadcast crew ran a pregame interview with Clemens.

"I'm gonna go out there and battle and I expect the same from him.  It's my means of trying to get certain hitters out, to try and get in there.  It's not about intimidation or trying to hurt anyone in any shape or form.  I'm going to still be aggressive and try to pitch my game."

Clemens got Timo Perez swinging and got Edgardo Alfonso swinging at a ball in the dirt to start the first inning.  Alfonso was retired as Jorge Posada started chasing him down the line, then gave up on tagging him and just threw the ball to first base to end the brief chase.  Then it was the confrontation everyone was waiting for but realistically thought would be anticlimactic.

Camera flashes lit the stadium with every move either man made.  People wanted evidence of any history that was about to be made.

Piazza took the first pitch for a strike.

Piazza took the second pitch for a strike.

Piazza took the third pitch, low and outside, for a ball.

The 1-2 pitch came in and Piazza swung.  The pitch was in on Piazza's hands and jammed his powerful swing.  The bat shattered.  Piazza held the handle as he started running down to first.  One shard of the bat bounced in front of the plate and settled on the third base side of the field.  The barrel of the bat, the largest fragment, shot straight back to Clemens.  Clemens fielded the bat.  Set himself, pulled his arm back, and fired the jagged remains of the barrel of a baseball bat towards the same first base line that Piazza was running down.

As Piazza was running towards first he saw the motion of Clemens winding up.  He stopped.  The spear bounced about two feet in front of his two feet and rolled towards the first base dugout.  If the beaning was an accident, this one was clear.  Clemens just threw a weapon at Piazza.  Benches cleared.  People were pushed around but the only thing thrown at the enemy were curses.

Clemens found the umpire and explained his position.  "I thought it was the ball."  Amateur lip readers can clearly see it on the replay.  Clemens expected the umpire (and the world) to believe that he thought a two foot piece of jagged wood shot directly back to him was a horsehide ball with a diameter of 9 inches.  It is entirely possible, at the speed of the game, that as he saw something coming right back at him that his initial reaction was that the ball was coming back to him.  However, as soon as he fielded the bat it would be clear that this was a foul ball.  If he did in fact think it was the ball that he fielded, it is not clear why he would have fired it at the feet of the runner heading down to first and not turned to throw the ball to first base to retire the side.

Calm was restored, the at bat came to an end and the Yankees took their turn at bat.  As he left the field Clemens turned to the umpire and said clearly "my fault".  Clemens gave his version of the incident following the game.  "I came back into the dugout and I said 'I've got to get control of my emotions and calm down.  I told Charlie, the umpire, I didn't know Mike was coming out.  I guess it came close to him.  That was my emotions."

Piazza faced Clemens again in the fourth after Edgardo Alfonso was hit by a Clemens pitch.  On the sixth pitch of the at bat, Piazza popped out to first.  Piazza faced Clemens again in the 6th and lined out to left field on an 0-2 pitch.  Piazza was set to bat in the top of the 9th but Clemens was replaced by Jeff Nelson.  With a runner on first Piazza homered to left field cutting the Yankee lead to 6-2. 

Clemens would not appear in the 2000 World Series again, winning his only start as the Yankees won their third straight title.

Piazza may have gotten some minor payback, although it was only speculation on the part of some writers.  Clemens joined the Houston Astros in 2004 and was named the All Star Game starter for the National League as the Astros hosted the mid summer classic.  The National League lineup was strong:  Edgar Renteria (SS), Albert Pujols (1B). Barry Bonds (LF), Scott Rolen (3B), Sammy Sosa (RF), Mike Piazza (C), Lance Berkman (CF), Jeff Kent (2B).

The American League lineup was just as strong.  As Clemens prepared to face the AL stars, Piazza crouched behind the plate.  Leading off was Ichiro Suzuki who doubled to Left Field.  Batting second was Ivan Rodriguez who tripled to right field.  Vladimir Guerrero grounded back to Clemens for out number one but the next batter, Manny Ramirez, launched a two run Home Run.  It was 3-0 and the AL was just starting.  Alex Rodriguez struck out swinging but Jason Giambi reached on an error, Derek Jeter singled and Alfonso Soriano launched a three run Home Run.  Finally, Mark Mulder, the AL starting pitcher, struck out to end the inning but the American League had batted around and scored six runs.  The AL was well on their way to a 9-4 win.  It was only speculation but the question was, did the American League know what was coming?  Were they possibly getting tips from the Catcher who wanted to see the pitcher humiliated?

I mentioned in today's article that the all-New York Fall Classic was a nearly annual event in the 1950's.  Since the Dodgers and Giants left for the west coast, how many times has there been a Dodgers-Yankees or Giants-Yankees World Series?
Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Congratulations to Hope and TJD for their correct answer to last week's trivia Question.
The Detroit Tigers 1984 World Series Champion team featured some great players of the 1980's and some of the greatest players in the very successful history of the Tigers organization (at least one of which will be featured in an upcoming series of player profiles). The Tiger's everyday lineup included Lance Parrish (C), Darrell Evans (1B) who struggled in 1984, Lou Whitaker (2B), Alan Trammell (SS) who hit .450 in the World Series and win the series MVP, Kirk Gibson (RF), Chet Lemon (CF), Larry Herndon (LF).  On the bench was future star Howard Johnson.  In the rotation was Jack Morris, Walt Terrell and Milt Wilcox.  In the bullpen was Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez who would win both the Cy Young and MVP award in 1984.  Although Morris and Trammell are borderline Hall of Fame players (and some have made a case for Whitaker as well) the 1984 Tigers are the only World Series champions from the 1980's decade not to have a Hall of Fame representative.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Hall of Fame Controversy Part 3: What Makes a Hall of Fame Player?

Over the last two weeks I hope I have opened up for discussion some of the issues that exist in the Hall of Fame process.  Even if you don't agree with everything (or anything) I have said I hope it has at least made you reflect on your own views a little.  Whether it has made you think a little bit deeper or even if it has made you a little more firm in your original opinion I hope you have enjoyed the articles.  This week we will end our three part series by asking what is probably the most basic question of the Hall of Fame Controversy:  What does it take to become a Hall of Fame player?

There are specific guidelines provided to the voters.  The Baseball Writers Association of America says that consideration for the Hall of Fame is based on the following guidelines in Rule 3 of the voting procedure:

A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a        period beginning twenty (20) years before and ending five (5) years prior to election.

B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in A.

C. Player shall have ceased to be an active player in the Major Leagues at least five (5) calendar years preceding the election but may be otherwise connected with baseball.

D. In case of the death of an active player or a player who has been retired for less than five (5) full years, a candidate who is otherwise eligible shall be eligible in the next regular election held at least six (6) months after the date of death or after the end of the five (5) year period, whichever occurs first.

E. Any player on Baseball's ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate.

These instructions under Rule 3 are fairly straight forward.  Under Rule 5 there comes a bit of a gray area.  Rule 5 states:  "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

This is the extent of the information the voters have to go on for deciding who gets into the Hall of Fame.  There are certain milestones that "guarantee" (or used to anyways) a player will reach the Hall of Fame.  For a batter a .300 lifetime average, 3000 career hits or 500 career Home Runs usually get you into the Hall of Fame automatically.  For a pitcher 300 wins generally is considered the magic number.

So if the only guidelines are the ones set forth above how do we decide what actually makes someone a Hall of Fame player?  Supposedly the voting is based on "integrity, sportsmanship, character" as well as the actual performance.  The voters last year took a moral stand and wouldn't vote for anyone from the "steroid era" based only on them having played in the steroid era.  At the same time the same people seem to have no issues with having Ty Cobb (a racist, vicious, angry man who was hated by most of his era), Rogers Hornsby (a member of the KKK) or Phil Niekro (a notorious junk ball pitcher often suspected of doctoring the ball) as Hall of Fame members.

It would be interesting to see how these members would vote on players who did what they could to stand in the way of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.  Enos Slaughter, who notoriously spiked Jackie at first base in Jackie's first season is an example.  Enos is definitely not the only Hall of Fame member who reacted strongly against Jackie but his interaction with Jackie was the most notorious.  It would be interesting to see how voters who took a moral stand against the "cheaters" of the current era would have felt about voting for someone like Slaughter.

This all still doesn't answer what makes a Hall of Fame player.  Is it just numbers?  If a pitcher wins a certain number of games does it make them a Hall of Fame player?  If so why are Red Ruffing (273), Burleigh Grimes (270), Jim Palmer (268), Bob Feller (266) , Eppa Rixey (266) and Ted Lyons (260) Hall of Fame members but Jim Kaat (283) is not a member?

There are some extra criteria that are generally accepted (but not written into the rules) as reasons to place someone in the Hall of Fame.  If someone was considered dominant at their position for their era they are considered a Hall of Famer. If you cannot tell the story of the game without mentioning their name they are considered a Hall of Fame player.  If they played a considerable part in the success of a long  lasting playoff run (Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals dynasities are heavily represented) or they revolutionized the game in some way they are considered a Hall of Fame player.  If you have a single, defining moment that all fans instinctively pointed to when the player's name is mentioned it is considered a great credential.

Keep in mind as well that there are different levels of Hall of Fame caliber players.  Clearly players like Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Walter Johnson, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson are in the top 1% of players all time. Players like Richie Ashburn, Orlando Cepeda, Johnny Mize, Arky Vaughn and Rick Ferrell are great players in the history of the game and belong in the Hall of Fame but they are not on the same level as the top 1% of all time.

I have two examples for you that should draw attention to the question of what makes a Hall of Fame player.  Keep in mind that both examples are of players who have not made the Hall of Fame as of this posting.

Example 1:
If a player won more games than any other pitcher during the 1980s (at the same time that pitchers like Nolan Ryan, Bert Blyleven and Roger Clemens were pitching)  would you consider them a Hall of Fame pitcher?

If that same player ended their career with 254 victories (more wins than Carl Hubbell, Al Spalding, Bob Gibson, Vic Willis, Joe McGinity, Amos Rusie, Juan Marichal, Herb Pennock, Three Finger Brown, Clark Griffith, Waite Hoyt, Whitey Ford, Jim Bunning, Catfish Hunter, Stan Coveleski, Chief Bender, Jesse Haines, Don Drysdale, Bob Lemon, Hal Newhouser, Rube Marquard, Dazzy Vance, Ed Walsh, Rube Waddell, Lefty Gomez, Sandy Koufax, John Montgomery Ward, Candy Cummings and Hoyt Wilhelm) including a no-hitter, would that person be a Hall of Fame player?

That same player won 20 games or more three times in his career (including 21 at the age of 36).  This pitcher never won a Cy Young award but he finished in the top five in voting five times in his career.  Three of those years the winner was a future Hall of Fame member.  Would you consider that Hall of Fame credentials?

This player was the unquestioned ace on four playoff teams, including three World Series winners.    During his time in the playoffs he won a total of seven games (including two of the four wins in the 1984 World Series and two of the four World Series wins in the 1991 World Series).    Finally, if this pitcher, at the age of 36, pitched a 10 inning complete game shut out in the deciding game of the World Series would that be a Hall of Fame pitcher?

This resume belongs to Jack Morris.  Jack Morris is still not in the Hall of Fame mostly because people feel his 3.90 career ERA is too high and because he was not friendly to the media.  So despite all of his credentials Jack Morris is not a Hall of Famer because, despite winning more games (remember last week we all agreed that the point of the sport is to win games) than anyone in an entire decade, he gave up more runs (despite winning)  than the experts thought was acceptable.

Example 2:
Let's look at another player.  This player finished his career with 2111 hits (more than Arky Vaughn, Monte Ward, Gary Carter, Harmon Killebrew, Chuck Klein, Deacon White, George Kell, Bobby Doerr, Earl Averill, Bill Mazeroski, Johnny Mize, Dave Bancroft, Jimmy Collins, Sam Thompson, Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett, Tony Lazzeri, Home Run Baker, King Kelly, Ernie Lombari, Lou Boudreau, Travis Jackson, and Elmer Flick).

This player finished with 1266 RBI.  This puts this player only 10 behind Hank Greenberg and 7 behind Pie Traynor.  It also places him  ahead of Zack Wheat, Bobby Doerr, Frankie Frisch, Gary Carter, Bill Dickey, Jim O'Rourke, Chuck Klein, Heinie Manush, Tony Lazzeri, Gabby Hartnett, George Sisler, Earl Averill, Tony Gwynn, Roberto Alomar, Joe Morgan, Luke Appling, Rickey Henderson, Kirby Puckett, Bill Terry, Sam Rice, Bid McPhee, Kiki Cuyler, Ryne Sandberg, Hack Wilson, Joe Sewell, Rod Carew, Fred Clarke, Ralph Kiner, Wade Boggs,Ernie Lombardi, Deacon White, Home Run Baker, Jimmy Colliins, Edd Roush, Joe Gordon, Larry Doby and Barry Larkin.

This player finished with 1197 runs scored.  This places him ahead of Willie Stargell, Earle Combs, Pie Traynor, Jim Bottomley, Yogi Berra, Arky Vaughn, Chuck Klein, Billy Herman, Joe Sewell, Deacon White, Ron Santo, Orlando Cepeda, Bill Terry, Johnny Mize, Edd Roush, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Bench, Kirby Puckett, Tommy McCarthy, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Hank Greenberg, Dave Bancroft, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, John McGraw and Tony Lazzeri.

These stats by themselves are quite impressive, especially considering  that the player played in Atlanta when the Braves were the doormat of the league.  Contemporaries like Rickey Henderson played with Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson, Roberto Alomar and Paul Moltor and had pitching staffs including Dave Stewart, Bob Welch and Tommy John.  Gary Carter played with players like Andre Dawson, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson  and Doc Gooden.  Kirby Puckett played with Kent Hrbek and had pitchers like Frank Viola, Jack Morris and Rick Aguilera. The player in question played with players like Bob Horner, Chris Chambliss, Bruce Benedict and Rafael Ramirez.  With that lineup this player won two MVP's (1982 and 1983), made 7 All Star Games in 8 years (starting in five of them).  He also won five straight Gold Glove awards (1982-1986) as well as four straight Silver Slugger awards (1982-1985).

Add to that, this player was one of the most respected, highly thought of and overall considered one of the nicest guys to ever play the game.  Somehow, with all of these credentials Dale Murphy is not in the Hall of Fame.

So what is the point of all this? I know I just told you that numbers are not the only thing that matters and that we need to look more deeply at the performance than just at career numbers.  Then I immediately threw numbers for Morris and Murphy at you.  The point is this:  Look at what the numbers of Morris and Murphy tell you.

Morris won more games (never lose focus on the fact that the entire point of the game is for the team to win) than anyone else in the 1980's when several Hall of Fame pitchers were in their prime.  Morris was the ace pitcher on four playoff teams and when the team absolutely needed to have a win in the most pressure packed situation Morris threw 10 shutout innings to win the World Series.

Murphy won two MVP awards, started five All Star Games, won five Gold Glove awards and was ahead of many contemporary Hall of Famers.  He did all of this with very little support in the lineup at a time when Atlanta was not the best place to play baseball.

The point of all this is that we need to look at all of the player's career as a whole and not just the newly developed stats that are being focused on by the experts.  The funny thing about some experts is that they focus too much on certain statistics.  For example, several experts last year at the voting said they voted solely based on the WAR.  One expert later admitted that he didn't properly understand the statistic he used as his primary basis for his votes.

Bottom line, we need to dig deeper into the careers of the eligible players before using one or two statistics to rule someone out or induct them.

As I mentioned in the previous two weeks, I am sure that many of you readers disagree with me.  Please send me your views so we can continue to discuss the situation.

The 1984 Tigers featured some of the best players in the game including Jack Morris, Allen Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson and Darrell Evans.  How many Hall of Fame Players were on the 1984 Tigers?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Congratulations to Hope who partially answered the question last week.
The number 2632 may not be the most immediately recognizable number in sports but it is important.  The number more recognizable would likely be 2131.  When Cal Ripken played in his 2131 consecutive game he passed Lou Gehrig for the all time record.  He continued playing until he reached 2632.