Sunday, September 6, 2015

It Was 20 Years Ago Today: Cal Ripken's Magical Moment

I try to keep my perspective, opinions and comments as objective as possible on the Baseball Eras blog.  Although there are several teams I really strongly dislike, I try to make sure my comments don't give you a clue as to who those are.  I am a self proclaimed die hard fan of three teams (that's right three teams) but I try not to allow my comments to tip anyone off.  This week, however, will be a very personal article that will give you a clue as to who my favorite team is.

I have to admit that by the time the 1994 strike came around I sort of didn't care at the time.  I always loved the sport.  I can remember playing catch with my dad.  Going to games in Reading at Municipal Stadium with the family and friends.  Staying up late in the summer listening to Phillies and Orioles games in the living room.  We had (and I believe my parents still have) a large wood cased stereo about the size of an elephant.  It was a combination radio, record player and 8 track.  It was  a behemoth but the antenna was powerful and on a clear night we could pull in broadcasts from Detroit or sometimes even Chicago.  My father and I would play APBA in the dining room while Ernie Harwell would shout about a Jack Morris strikeout, an Alan Trammell-Lou Whitaker double play, a Cecil Fielder bomb or (as the years went on) a wild throw by Bobby Higginson.  I didn't really care who was playing.  During the summer I would stay up late for the West Coast game of ESPN's double header and fight to stay awake to watch McGwire-Canseco, Gwynn, Griffey Jr, Will Clark and the West Coast stars.

By the time 1994 rolled around I was in high school.  I had just gotten my license.  I had an after school job.  I was doing after school activities.  Of course, I was excited by my Orioles in those years.  I had never in my baseball life seen them in the post season and as late August approached Baltimore was in line to win the first ever Wild Card spot for the American League.  So of course when the season didn't finish I was somewhat disappointed but I didn't have the same outrage that many fans did.  To be honest, I was too busy with other things and too dumb to realize the impact of it.  I of course loved the sense of history of the game and hearing my dad tell me about the greats he saw and hearing others talk about the stories of the past but baseball at that time had become sort of background to me.

I have been an Orioles fan for years.  When they started 0-21 I was a fan.  When they came up just short of a miracle turn around in 1989 I was a fan.  When they traded Finley, Harnisch and Schilling.  for Glenn Davis (despite already having Randy Milligan, Sam Horn and David Segui on the roster) I was a fan.  When they came up short in 1992 and 1993 when they looked like they had a chance I was a fan.  At Memorial Stadium with the disgusting urine smell in the parking lot.  At Camden Yards with the Warehouse and learning that Boog was not just a guy with the Rib Joint.  I was a fan,

Pitching staffs with Flanagan, Boddicker, Mussina, McDonald, Moyer, Mesa, Mercker,  Milacki, Mills, Ballard, Sutcliffe, Key, Erickson, Guzman, Ponson, Olsen, Sherill, Rhoades, Williamson Thurmond, Frohwirth, Valenzuela, Sid, Myers, Orosco, Benitez, Haynes,Coppinger, Kamienicki, Drabeck, Timlin, Ryan, Hentgen, DuBose, Bedard, Byrdak, Penn, Loewen, Guthrie, Baez, Zambrano, Millwood, Uehara, Tillman, Matusz, Arrieta, Britton, Gregg, Gonzalez, Chen, Hunter, Hammel, Saunders, O'Day, Strop, Patton, Wolf, Feldman, Gausman, Brach, Jimenez and Norris.  I have loved every year.

Catchers like Dempsey, Kennedy, Tettleton, Melvin, Hoiles, Webster, Johnson, Fordyce, Gil, Lopez, Hernandez, Wieters and Joseph.

First Basemen Murray, Milligan, Horn, Segui, Davis,Palmeiro, Clark, Millar, Huff, Lee, Reynolds and Davis.

Second Basemen Ripken, Reynolds, McLemore, Alexander,Alomar, DeShields, Hairston, Roberts, Lugo, Andino, Flaherty, Schoop.

Third Basemen Knight, Gonzalez, Worthington, Gomez, Hulett, Manto Surhoff, Batista, Mora, Reynolds, Betemit and Machado.

Shortstops Bordick, Tejada, Izturis and Hardy.

Outfielders Sheets, Lynn, Lacy, Orsulak, Bradley, Devo, Dewey, Brady, Hammonds, Goodwin, Bass, Bonillia, Davis, Carter, Richard, Singleton, Gibbon, Bigbie, Conine, Reimold, Patterson, Markakis, Pie, McLouth, Snider, Cruz, Baines Guerrero, Scott, Sosa and Jones.

I have loved, hated, blessed and cursed each and every name on the rosters.  There are a select few that I never loved and reserved only curses for (those chosen evil doers do not appear in the above lists).

There is one other name that does not appear on that list and that is because I always held him above everyone else.  Above every other Oriole and every other player league wide.

As I said before, by 1994 baseball had become sort of background to me.  That is all except one name.





No matter what was going on in my life, he was on my radar.  I can remember being in Baltimore the day he passed Everett Scott on the All Time Consecutive Games Played list to move him into second place at 1308 consecutive games.  That left 823 games to catch Gehrig.  That left a little over 5 seasons for him to catch Gehrig, which I never doubted he would do.    No matter what happened in my life I followd Cal and his streak.  His successes were somehow my success.  His MVP award during a horrible year for the team was somehow my success too.  His snub for a Gold Glove was somehow a personal offense to me.  I was not a beach person but I loved our summer vacations to Ocean City Maryland because it meant I could get the Baltimore Sun every morning and read more about Ripken.  His at bats became an event for my family (which my brother and sister were not happy about).  I remember we were once leaving a restaurant that was showing an Orioles game.  As we were walking out at the end of the meal Cal was up.  We could not leave that restaurant until the at bat was over (which was a ground out but I saw that groundout).  There was even once when he was called out at second base during an All Star Game and I appalled my grandmother by suggesting that the umpire should be killed for daring to make such a call.

So when Cal broke that record, which I knew he would do, it was going to be my success as well.  I would often ask my dad when that day would be and he would figure it out for me and tell me a day but it always seemed so far away, like it would never get there.  It was like when you talked about an event so far distant it wasn't even really an event yet because so many things had to happen first.  Like talk of flying cars, hover boards, World War III.  It was something that could happen but was almost a myth.

When the strike hit Cal needed just 122 games to break the record.  That was less than a season away,  Still, when the strike came, the impact didn't hit me.  That was until the talk of replacement players began.  At first I didn't care until it became clear.  If replacement players played regular season games and Cal wasn't in them, the streak would end.

In December 1994 an article came out and I breathed a sigh of relief.  The Players Union said it had given Cal an exmption and if the league went into operation with replacement players, the Union would support Cal in continuing with the streak.  Cal,of course, refused.  Still, this was December and baseball didn't normally start until the summer anyways.  There was football, basketball, the Stanley Cup.  In my mind there was still a long way until baseball.

Then the stories grew.  The league would open spring training on time.  They would use replacement players. Cal would refuse to join them and if an agreement was not reached by opening day, the streak would be over.

My fear was relieved when an agreement was reached and Spring Training started with the Orioles regulars.  Now it was a matter of figuring out when.  The day.  It would be September 6th.  And it would be DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR?!  DURING FOOTBALL SEASON?! At least it wouldn't be a Sunday but so many things could take attention away from the event in the national spotlight.  For me this was everything.  It was when everyone, the entire world, would take notice of Cal.

As summer ended, the talk of Cal and his career grew.  Where had this kid come from?  How did he get to this point?  Why was he doing this?  Where did this place him in history?  What was the significance of the mark?  Who was Everett Scott?  Who was Lou Gehrig?  Could anyone else do this after Cal?  It was all summer and I loved it!

Stories started coming out about surprises planned for the big day.  ESPN announced both the tying game and record breaking game would be broadcast.  Cal was everywhere.  Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, Baseball Digest, TV Guide.

In April, when I finally figured out the date I requested the day off from work.  I had to be home to see this happen.  Now, it was just a matter of enjoying the coverage.  Then there was the All Star Game that made it all flash before my eyes.  As the 7th inning started Cal led off for te American League.  Nearing the end of the game the National League made a million changes.  Dante Bichette (Colorado) and Raul Mondesi (LA) moved into the outfield.  Mickey Morandini (Phils) and Mark Grace (Cubs) took over on the right side. Darren Daulton (Phils) was behind the plate.

"And on the mound is a guy you just have to see..." said Al Michaels in the broadcast booth.  It was Carlos Perez of the Montreal Expos.  He was wild.  He was energetic.  Some called him nuts.  "And if he strikes someone out you will see a show."  The first pitch was well outside and Cal didn't swing.  The second pitch was a changeup that Cal swung through as Perez did a little hop on the mound. Cal fouled the next one back and this was looking to be a routine at bat.  Then everything got real.  The fourth pitch of the at bat was inside.  WAY inside.  Too far inside and Cal had to be quick on his feet to get out of the way.  Just short of two months before the big day and that one pitch could have ended it all.  (Of course it is entirely possible that I overly exaggerated the importance of the pitch in my fear of something stopping the streak) but Cal calmed everything when he singled past third on the next pitch,

So the summer went on.  I kept working my high school job.  Kept doing dumb things high school kids do.  Dreaded the day school started again.  It was odd.  Day by day school got closer and it was an awful feeling.  At the same time, day by day the record got closer and it was amazing!

On Tuesday, September 5 I went to school.  After school I went to work and at work, when the damn customers didn't interrupt asking their dumb questions like "How much fat is in your non-fat yogurt?", I sat behind the counter of the Haagen-Dazs store listening to the Orioles game.  The mall closed at 9:30.  I was out of there by 10:00 and on the way home continued to listen.  It was amazing. When I got home I watched the stories on the news.  In those days SportsCenter replayed for hours at a time in the mornings and I watched it over and over before school the next morning.  The black and orange balloons.  The giant numbers on the warehouse.  The shy, gentle smile and hand wave of the man everyone was watching.

Then I had school.  That day dragged like crazy.  I knew I would have some home work (luckily it was still early in the year so I could probably half ass it and say it was done.)  The game started at 7:30 but by 5:30 I was parked in front of the TV.  Cal was everywhere on the news.  There were stories of what he had done after the game the night before.  He didn't go out carousing and celebrating.  He spent all night giving interviews and signing autographs for fans.  Then when he woke up (if he ever went to sleep) he took his son to pre-school and took his daughter to school.  There were stories of other people who had streaks of showing up for work.  There was a bus driver who had gone decades without a sick day.  A mailman who had actually worked through sun and rain and sleet and snow without calling in sick,

Around six I went out and got dinner. Wendy's.  Junior Bacon Cheeseburger (probably two), a small chili and fries and of course a frosty.  I came back in time for the ESPN pregame and sat in front of the TV with a VCR remote in my hand ready to record every little detail.

The Orioles were playing the Angels, who were fighting like hell to turn around a losing streak that threatened their first post season appearance since 1986.  On the mound for them was Shawn Boskie.  Cal led off the bottom of the 2nd.  Somehow it seemed like it took forever for him to get an at bat but here it was.  And he popped up.  Oh well.   You can't have everything.  Just the fact that this was the night was special enough you can't get a Home Run everynight.

He came up again in the bottom of the 4th.  My mom and sister had come into the room in between innings.  "We're going to Rita's for some Italian Ice.  Do you want to come?" What?  You gotta be kidding me?  Don't you two know what this is?  "No what is it?"  Cal's going to break the streak tonight.  He's going to pass Gehrig.  It's on right now.  Don't you want to watch this?  "Well then do you want us to bring one back for you?"

Bobby Bonillia led off the 4th with a solo Home Run putting the O's up 2-1.  Then it was Cal's turn at bat.  Camera flashes (you remember camera flashes?  Those things we had before our phones became cameras) were blinding on every pitch.  How a batter could pick a white ball out of the flashes was amazing but Cal did and he did it perfectly.  In the 4th inning he sent the ball screaming out of Camden Yards for a 3-1 Oriole lead.

Now all that remained was for the game to hit the official mark.  When the Angels went in order in the Top of the 5th that was it.  The music started.  The balloons went up.  The numbers came down.


The game was paused and the standing ovation started.  We had heard all summer about the lack of interest in the game.  Stories were everywhere that the players were out of touch with the fans.  That no one cared about the sport.  The players were too greedy.  The owners were too greedy.  The fans had moved on.  Yet the ovation grew.

Photo of Cal Ripken Courtesy of Baltimore

Cal came out and followed the baseball tradition of tipping his cap to the crowd and returned to the dugout.  The ovation lasted.  He came out again and tipped his cap.  He shook hands with one of the cops on the field for security. The ovation continued.

Cal sat in the dugout absorbing it.  Palmeiro and Bonillia and Brady Anderson told him to get out there and tip your cap again or the game would never finish.  So he came out again.  When he tried to sit down this time the Orioles blocked his path and forced him to stay out there.

So what did Cal do?  He took a lap around the stadium.  Unlike many players who  alienate the fans by screaming obscenities at their just beaten opponents or standing with his arms raised to draw attention to only his accomplishments he proved why the game of baseball survived the devastation of the strike.  He showed the fans that this was their game and that they shared it with the players.  He jogged the warning track, not the center of the field where  he would be on his own, the spectacle of the world.  Then, he did what was even more amazing.  He shook the hands of fans.  Individuals.  One on one.  As many as he could.  He stopped when possible and said thank you.

This guy just spent the last 13 years of his life to reach this point and he was thanking others.

The game eventually continued, the Orioles won.  There were ceremonies afterwards.  Cal's parents and family were there.  President Clinton was there.  Earl Weaver was there.  Even Joe DiMaggio was there.  My God!  You know this is a big event if Joe D is involved.  I sat there soaking up every second of it.

I had nothing to do with the streak.  I played 0 part in Cal Ripken's accomplishment but on that day I felt an enormous sense of pride.  My player.  My guy had not only broken the unbreakable record, with his humility, class and willingness to share his moment with the fans, Cal Ripken, Jr saved baseball from the death knell that had supposedly been sounded by the 1994 strike,

This will be a two part question:  Traditionally the managers of the All Star Game for each league is the manager of the World Series representative from each league the prior season.  So, for example, in 2014 the Giants and Royals played in the World Series so Ned Yost managed the AL All Stars of 2015 and Bruce Bochy managed the NL.

In 1994 there was no World Series so there were no World Series managers. Who managed the 1995 All Star Teams.

Part 2: Only one other time in history were the managers of each All Star team not chosen based on the previous season's World Series representatives.  What year was this and who were the managers?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
The 2010 Texas Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3 games to 2 in the ALDS and the Yankess 4 games to 2 in the ALCS before losing to the Giants in 5 games in the Fall Classic.

The Rangers returned to the post season in 2011 beating the Rays in the ALDS for the second time and beating the Tigers 4 games to 2 in the ALCS.  They fell to the Cardinals in the World Series in a 7 game classic.

Prior to the Rangers you have to go all the way back to the 1960s to find an Americanl League team who repeated the feat.  Before the days of the LCS the Yankees won the 1963 AL Pennant before being swept by Koufax and the Dodgers.  They returned to the World Series in 1964 but Ken Boyer, Bob Gibson and the Cardinals  won in a seven game classic.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

American League Home Stretch 2015

With just about a month and a half left in the season we can clearly separate teams that are legitimate contenders from the teams that are playing out the string. We can also start to see that some players we expected to be difference makers are having an average, below average or just horrible season. Here is a review of where we stand so far this year in the American League as well as a mid season report card on how my original predictions have helped prepare you for the season and how I have led you astray:

American League East:
Heading into this season it appeared that any team had a chance to win this division and that this was the closest division in baseball.  My final predictions from top to bottom were Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Rays, .  Here is where my predictions stand:

Blue Jays:
The Blue Jays have gotten power from where you would expect it (Donaldson,  Martin, Encarnacion and Bautista).  They were getting good speed on the base paths from Jose Reyes and they are getting pleasant surprises at the plate from Devon Travis, Justin Smoak and Chris Colabello.  Mark Buehrle is pitching well.  So is Drew Hutchinson.  Marco Estrada's two starts in late June, early July were a highlight of the first half.  What they need is a return to Cy Young season form from R.A. Dickey and consistency from the bullpen.  The offense seems to be solid and has been bolstered by the addition of Tulowitski.  What Toronto needed was a bullpen and one more starter.  They got bullpen help with the addition of LaTroy Hawkins and an ace when they got David Price.  They are red hot right now and look like the team to beat in the east..
First Half Grade: A

Red Sox:
Sandoval has not worked out too well so far.  Hanley Ramirez started slow and dealt with injuries.  Big Papi's age is always a question at this point.  Mike Napoli started the season in a massive funk.  Shane Victorino hit below .250, and Dustin Pedroia has spent significant time on the DL.  The rebuilt pitching staff has not impressed with Justin Masterson being specifically disappointing.  The Sox agot hot just before the All Star Break and looked to be making a run but fell again following the break.  The lone highlight this year has been Mookie Betts who leads the team in just about everything.  The team unloaded at the deadline sending Victorino to the Angels and Napoli to the Ranges. Three weeks ago I would have given them a C for the first half witha  chance to make a run.  Now they have completely failed.
First Half Grade: F

Baltimore has had every chance to run away with this division and they haven't done so.  Adam Jones slumped a bit in late June and early July due to injuries but he is back on track.  Matt Wieters started the season on the DL and in the minors but looked to be regaining his form until another recent injury. Manny Machado is nothing short of amazing at the plate and in the field.  Chris Davis is bashing Home Runs again.  The team surprise is Jimmy Paredes who was hitting over .300 into mid July but has cooled off since them.  The starting pitching is the team's downfall.  Chris Tillman has suffered through injuries.  Wei Yen Chen and Ubaldo Jimenez have been the highlights of the staff but their records are not impressive and they have been truly inconsistent.  Bud Norris has been a disaster and was sent down to the minors.  Kevin Gaussman has been limited by injury and the help of the young arms in the minors have also been slowed by injury. The Orioles are still within strking distance of the top but not showing signs of making a move.
First Half Grade:  C-

Just as the Orioles should be running away with this division, the Yankees should be near the bottom.  They lost their leader Derek Jeter.  Carlos Beltran has been injured off and on.  Stephen Drew was hitting below .200 as of mid July.  The club has had a public, ongoing argument with their star Third Baseman.  Their two aces (Tanaka and Sabathia) have been injured most of the season and not very good the rest.  They can't decide if Betances or Andrew Miller is their closer.  Still, Drew has 12 Home Runs despite the low average.  Mark Texieira has 22 despite being written off.  A-Rod is hitting very well despite the off the field distractions.  Jacoby Ellsbury has very small power numbers but he is getting on base and hitting well above .300.  Michael Pineida and Nathan Eovaldi are each picking up for the struggling aces.  And who cares which is the actual closer becuase both Betances and Miller are pitching beautifully.  It all adds up to a surprisingly competitive team in the Bronx.
First Half Grade: A+

Every year this team amazes me.  Since the 2008 climb to the top this team has found ways to remain competitive.  Evan Longoria is still there and having a strong season but not spectacular.  Stephen Souza came over from the Nationals in the winter and is having the best season of any Ray but it is still not being noticed nationwide.  The team has no power, no speed, average pitching and they lost the man who led them in the dugout for so many years.  So what?  The team spent most of the first half of the season in first place.  They have started to fall back but they are still right in the thick of things.
First Half Grade: A

American League Central
In the preseason preview I told you that the division would look this way at the end of the season:  Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Twins, Indians.  I also told you that the Royals would likely see a big drop off.  I said the Tigers would continue to win the Central mostly because of a lack of challenge from the others.  What can I tell you?  I'm an idiot. Here is where my predictions stand:

The season has been a bit of a mess.  The line up did not look half bad in April.  Cespedes, Cabrera, Martinez, Martinez, Kinsler.  There are some great bats there.  Cespedes had a decent first half at the plate (but was traded at the deadline) and J.D. Martinez has been a nice surprise.  Cabrera started in normal fashion but the extended loss of his bat and leadership will kill this team's chances.  David Price is having a Cy Young type season but if he wins the award it will be in Toronto and the drop off following Price is the difference between playoff contention and distant third place.  Justin Verlander has had a tough year.  He is no longer the power pitcher he used to be and is struggling to make the adjustment.  Unfortunately this team does not seem to have enough left for a post season run..
First Half  Grade:  F

White Sox: 
There was a lot of buzz around this team coming into the season.  This team under Robin Ventura seems to revel in doing the exact opposite of what you would expect.  In 2012 they were considered a last place team but led the division for most of the season yet missed the playoffs by a few games.  In 2013 they fell off drastically.  In 2014 they stayed competitive thanks to Chris Sale and Tony Abreu.  In the offseason they made some big moves that were expected to put them near the top.  Instead they are bringing up the rear.  Despite a pre-season injury scare Chris Sale is Chris Sale and Tony Abreu is still leading the offense.  The rest of the team is disappointing. Adam LaRoche and Adam Eaton are particularly disappointing in their lack of production and Jeff Samardzija has struggled.  This team does not look like it will be able to get their life back before the end of the year. Will they keep this group together for next year and will Ventura be around to see it?
First Half Grade: F

There's an old saying:  "Speed doesn't slump."  Apparently neither does a strong bullpen or strong defense.  I expected the loss of Billy Butler to be a big loss.  I realize his numbers were not always great but he was a face of this franchise stretching back to the beginning of this rebuilding process.  I also expected the loss of James Shields to play a big part in a fall.  Again, not always because of the number but because of the leadership he gave to younger pitchers.  I'm an idiot.  I laughed a little when the Royals signed Kendrys Morales.  It was an uncomfortable laugh because I like Morales but I thought his career had passed him.  Sadly his career was derailed by a freak injury.  This year it has been reborn.  On a team with little power, Morales is in double digit Home Runs and is on his way to a possible 100 RBI season.  The Royals have proven they are the best team in the AL through August.  Can they finish the season that way?
First Half Grade: A

Along with Houston, Toronto and Kansas City, the Twins are the story of the year in the AL.  Coming into the season we could see the Twins moving in the right direction but they looked to be a few years away.  I was sad when I saw that Torii Hunter had signed with the Twins.  Of course I loved that he was going back to where his career started and where he earned his reputation as a great Centerfielder and great person, but I really want to see Torii win a World Series before he retires and I didn't think this would give him a shot at the post season.  I am happy to say that the reason the Twins are in the playoff hunt is largely because Torii Hunter is there.  Along with Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Joe Mauer at First Base, the Twins have shocked a lot of people.  The pitching of Phil Hughes has been a big help but the rest of the staff is inconsistent.  Adding a strong starter to the mix for the playoff run would have been a big help but they failed to make much movement.  They may be able to make a Wild Card spot but they won't challenge Kansas City for the top.  Regardless, if only for the sake off Torii Hunter, I am rooting for this team.
First Half Grade:  A+

Terry Francona's first year in Cleveland produced a surprise playoff appearance.  The team dropped off last year and were sellers at the trade deadline. Some expected a big upsurge this year.  The first half was a disaster and there is little to suggest a miracle comeback in the second half.  Cy Young winner Corey Kluber has pitched inconsistently but better than his record.  Only Jason Kipnis is hitting.  It is going to be a long year in Cleveland and they were sellers again at the deadline.
First Half Grade: F

American League West
This division has had some major surprises and some major disappointments.  While the Mariners are hugely disappointing everyone, the Astros and Rangers have stunned everyone with their success.  Before the season I believed the division would look like this: Mariners, Angels, A's, Rangers, Astros.  Again, I'm an idiot.  Here's where we stand :

The off season additions of the Mariners combined with last years play was expected to give the Mariners a serious chance at contention.  I totally bought into the hype and when Nelson Cruz started off in powerful fashion I thought they would be on track for the playoffs.  King Felix is still king but Taiuan Walker is inconsistent and Iwakuma had disappeared for most of the season.  Iwakuma has had a tremendous month of August with two strong starts, including a no-hitter.  The bullpen, one of the keys to last year's success, has struggled and Fernando Rodney has an ERA above 5.00.  They started playing slightly better just before the All Star Break but are still not a playoff team.
First Half Grade: F

Mike Trout was a given.  You knew he was going to have an MVP type season.  Following that it was all up in the air.  How would Pujols do in the twilight of his career?  How would Josh Hamilton come back? Could Clayton Richards come back?  Could Houston Street still be effective?  Could Matt Schumacher duplicate the rookie success?  We seem to have our answers.  Richards is doing fine.  Pujols is playing like it's 2006.  Street can still close.  Josh Hamilton is gone (and so is the GM) and the Angels got hotter than hell in mid July.  The team is fighting Houston for the top of the division but a lack of pitching depth (and consistency) could be the death knell for October.
First Half Grade: B-

This team is almost unrecognizable when compared to last year's team that had the Bay so excited.  Sonny Gray is pitching well and Scott Kazmir is pitching better than his record but few others are succeding.  Stephen Vogt and Brett Lawrie are having decent seasons but the loss of Coco Crisp for an extended period has not helped.  This team does not have much of a post season chance.
First Half Grade: F

Last season was a nightmare for this team.  Anything that could go wrong did.  Darvish and Holland were hurt before the season started. Prince Fielder missed most of the season with a career threatening back surgery and Shin Soo Choo disappeared. All of that led to Ron Washington resigning.  This team has gotten great production from Mitch Moreland and Delino Deshields Jr.  Prince Fielder is playing like an MVP.  Adrian Beltre continues to be one of the best in the game (starting to put his name in serious consideration for the Hall of Fame) and Joey Gallo's first week in the Major Leagues was like a scene from the Natural.  Josh  Hamilton has returned to home and has been somewhat productive, although not nearly as good as his earlier seasons.  Just as great a story as Fielder's resurgence is that of Colby Lewis who is leading the team's staff.  Although this season is a big improvement over 2014 there is not a likelihood of reaching the post season.
First Half Grade:  B+

For about two years we have been hearing whispers of the young group Houston has in their system and how teams had better watch out when they reached the majors.  That appeared to be about two or three years away but guess what...They're Here!  This team has surprised a lot of people.  This is a strong lineup.  Strong defensively (No player has double digit errors).  Strong with power (Gattis, Carter, Valbuena and Correa are mashing).  Strong on the basepaths (Jose Altuve has more than 30 steals ).  Strong on the mound.  Dallas Kuechel is having a Cy Young year and is leading the pitching staff.  For most of the first half it seemed that Houston might challenge the Royals for the best team in the AL.  A slump in late June and early July coincided with a charge from the Angels leading to a surprising pennant race.  Adding Scott Kazmir at the trade deadline was not a bad deal and should help. A strong September could put this team in the post season for the first time as an AL team..
First Half Grade: A+

AL MVP:  Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
AL Cy Young:  Dallas Kuechel, Astros
AL Rookie of the Year: Stephen Souza, Rays

Updated postseason picks:
AL East:  Blue Jays
AL Central: Royals
AL West: Angels
Wild Cards: Astros, Yankees

Wild Card Round:  Astros over Yankees
ALDS: Royals over Red Sox
ALDS: Blue Jays over Angels
ALCS:  Royals over Blue Jays

World Series: Cardinals over Royals

If the predictions made today are correct, the Royals will be the first AL team since the 2010 and 2011 Rangers to win back to back AL Pennants but lose in the World Series both times.  Prior to the Rangers, what AL team was the last to do this?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Since 2002 the Giants and Cardinals have represented the National Leaugue 8 times in the Fall Classic.  
During that time only the Marlins (2003), Astros (2005), Rockies (2007) and Phillies (2008 and 2009) have broken the hold of those top two teams.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

National League Home Stretch 2015

With just under two months left in the season we can start to separate teams that are legitimate contenders from the teams that are playing out the string.  We can also start to see that some players we expected to be difference makers are having an average, below average or just horrible season.  Here is a review of where we stand so far this year in the National  League as well as a mid season report card on how my original predictions have helped prepare you for the season and how I have led you astray:

National League East:
This division has a bit of everything.  There is one team that has done about what we expected.  One team that has surprised us with their improvement.  One team lurking in the middle.  One team disappointing everyone and a final team hitting depths well beyond the worst fears of fans.

Max Scherzer has been all that was advertised.  At 9-7 his record is deceptive because he has had almost no-hit stuff several times.  Bryce Harper is the front runner for MVP and he is getting help from Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond.  The fear is the injury bug.  Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Craig Stammen and even Bryce Harper have suffered through injuries.  If this team gets healthy for the stretch run expect them to pull away.
First Half Grade: B

The Marlins came into the season believing they had made enough improvements to stay in this race. At the beginning of August they appear to have miscalculated.  Jose Fernandez has returned to the team and is showing signs of life but the rest of the staff, especially Mat Latos, had been disappointing before being dealt to the Dodgers. Stanton is again spectacular but injuries have been keeping him out of the lineup.  Dee Gordon is doing a great job of following up last year's break out season but there is little help for him.
First Half Grade: F

The Mets have been a very pleasant surprise.  The offense has very few break out stars.  Curtis Granderson was leading the team in Home Runs for a good part of the year (Lucas Duda has passed him) but his strikeouts are high and the average is low.  Lucas Duda is the same story.  David Wright is on the DL and so was Travis D'Arnaud who has been limited to just 24 games.  Still, the young pitching is showing signs of greatness.  Adding Cespedes to the lineup could be a big help. If they can get some power from Cespedes this team could make some noise in the post season.
First Half Grade: A

Coming into this year I had serious concerns about the Braves roster and when they further dumped players just before Opening Day I had more concerns.  Yet just like last year the Braves have found a way to hang around. The lineup is fairly balanced and they are getting great contributions from A.J. Pierszynski, Juan Uribe, Nick Markakis and especially Cameron Maybin.  Their pitching is not spectacular but it is consistent and winning.  The Braves entered the All Star Break just 5 games out of first but a slide out of the break has dropped them to 9 and a half out (11 out of the Wild Card).  The first half was a pleasant surprise.  The second half has started much less so.
First Half Grade:  C

The Phillies are terrible.  It pains me to say that.  Ben Revere was the only player with any offensive output but unfortunately he was having a quietly good season on a loudly terrible team and was dealt at the trade deadline.  The pitching is terrible.  The hitting is terrible.  The record is terrible.  The organization is still looking three years down the road and the trade deadline is designed to stay on that pace.  One of the few bright spots have been Maikel Franco, although some mental lapses have left him in the dog house with the fans.  Also giving hope for the future is Aaron Nola, the hope for the future ace.
First Half Grade:  F

National League Central
Amazingly, this division actually looks about like we predicted back in February.  Although realistically the Cardinals are much better than anyone expected and the Brewers are significantly worse than expected.  If the Cubs can get some help this division could potentially send three teams to the post season.
The Cardinals always seem to surprise me.  I did pick St. Louis to win this division but the way this team started the season is nothing short of spectacular.  Matt Holliday has been reborn, although his injury could cause some problems.  Jason Heyward is quietly having a great season, although his power numbers are not what they were in Atlanta.  The pitching of Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha has amazed.  The lurking, sneaking fear is the injury bug.  Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Matt Adams, Jordan Walden and Matt Holliday have been bitten already.  Little help was added at the be at the trade deadline to sure up the holes but this team is on course to be the stuff of legends if they keep their first half pace.
First Half Grade:  A+

Andrew McCutcheon got off to a slow start but has since come on strong like he was expected to do the entire year.  Starling Marte, Neil Walker and Francisco Cervelli are contributing.  If they can get Josh Harrison back healthy and Gregory Polanco can get his hitting straightened out, this everyday lineup can be scary.  The addition of a veteran presence in Aramis Ramirez could be a big boost as well.  Gerrit Cole is having a spectacular season and should get some attention for the Cy Young (although Zack Grienke and Max Scherzer seem to be running away with that category).  Some small help at the trade deadline could put this team in a position to charge.  If the Cardinals weren't so damn good this team would be the top contender.
First Half Grade: A

There is a lot of excitement over this team and with good reason.  There is a lot of young talent here and it is starting to show that they are ready to compete.  There was fear last season, when Samardzjia was shipped off,  that the team had given up, but Jake Arrietta has shown that he is the ace of the staff.  If John Lester and Jason Hammell can get some more wins (Hammell has pitched strong but his record does not reflect that) this team could impact October.  A World Series this year is not likely but a wild card birth is and the next few years look bright.
First Half Grade: B+

This is not a bad team.  Todd Frazier is having a spectacular season.  Joey Votto is showing signs of his old self.  Marlon Byrd is contributing.  Billy Hamilton is running wild (although his average is too low and his strikeouts too high for a lead off hitter).  Johnny Cueto pitched better than his record but not like his Cy Young contender form of last year.  Losing Homer Bailey and Tony Cingrani to injuries has not helped at all.  This team is suffering from being in the same division with the Cards, Bucs and Cubs.  They are not a playoff team but they certainly have nothing to be ashamed of this season.
First Half Grade: B-

A year ago we were talking about the Brewers as a surprise contender and wondering how far into October they might go.  This year we are looking at a team in disarray.  Jonathan Lucroy had a break out season last year.  This year is average.  The offense is disappointing, the pitching is terrible (it doesn't help to have Garza and Peralta on the DL) and the management fired Ron Roeneckie.  This team is lucky the Phillies and Marlins are as bad as they are.
First Half Grade:  F

National League West
This is a tough division to figure and looks little like I expected.  The Dodgers are honestly better than expected, as were the Diamondbacks for most of the season.  The Padres and Giants are worse than expected.  But just how good are the Dodgers really?:

If we pay attention to patterns we probably should have seen this coming but no one really did.  The real problem is injury.  Pence, Aoki, Cain, Lincecum, Affeldt and Tim Hudson have all been injured.  Losing the bat of Pablo Sandoval didn't help either.  Buster Posey is having another MVP type season and is getting a lot of help from Joe Panik and Brandon Belt.  The health of the pitching staff as the final months unfold will tell how this team finishes.
First Half Grade:  B-

I texted a good friend back in April, just around Opening Day and told him I had a wierd feeling about the Dodgers.  Like there was something just not right, something missing with the roster.  My friend is a very positive person and was surprisingly on the same page.  But the Dodgers kicked off the season in style with a Jimmy Rollins dramatic Home Run on opening day.  They are not running away with the division.  They are not a potentially great team like the Cardinals.  Although they are playing ahead of their immediate competition.  Joc Pederson is making it easier to accept the loss of Matt Kemp and Zack Grienke is having a Sandy Koufax like season.  Now they need Clayton Kershaw to start having a Kershaw like season (a post All Star scoreless inning streak was a great step in the right direction but last year he was dominant).  Brett Anderson is quietly having a strong year and if they can get Hyung Jin Riyu back this team can do some damage in the post season.  Mat Latos is a nice addition to the staff but Cole Hamels certainly would have been more intimidating after Kershaw and Greinke.
First Half Grade: B

People were excited for the Padres this year.  They made big big changes in the offseason adding both Uptons, Matt Kemp, Derrick Norris, Wil Middlebrooks, Wil Myers, Craig Kimbrel and James Shields.  But realistically the team already had a talented and crowded outfield with Max Venable, Seth Smith, Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin.  Add four more outfielders to a competition for three spots and you get the 2015 San Diego Padres.  Making things worse is a very poor season for Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy and an extended disabled list stay for Brandon Morrow.  This team is a huge disappointment.
First Half Grade:  F

Last year the Diamondbacks were the popular pick to surprise.  Two years ago they were predicted to flop but contended to the end.  This year they were expected to fall farther away.  For the third straight year this team is confusing everyone.  Paul Goldschmidt is proving that he is one of the best First Basemen and one of the best young hitters in the game.  The team is still  looking for a true ace and they may not have one on this roster but they are found ways to stay in the race into the second half despite low expectations.  Could this be one of those years that tricks a team into thinking they are closer than they are?  Apparently not.  Just hours before the publication of this article the D'Backs dealt Chad Pennington and Oliver Perez in separate waiver wire trades.
First Half Grade:  B

This team started the year with some great bats in their lineup.  Unfortunately some of them now look great in different uniforms after the trade deadline.  It seems that every year we expect Colorado to break the team up and every year they keep their players.  Tulowitzski is great but his injuries may have driven down the price the team could demand for a fair trade.  The pitching staff is flat out awful.  It is likely only Jorge De La Rosa would be kept on another team.
First Half Grade: F

Post Season Predictions updated for Second Half:
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards:  Pirates, Mets

Updated Playoff Predictions:
Wild Card: Pirates over Mets
NLDS: Pirates over Nationals
NLDS: Cardinals over Dodgers
NLCS: Cardinals over Pirates
(This could be a great NLCS.  As of this posting the teams have split their head to head meetings at 5 each.  The Pirates' loss of A.J. Burnett could be the difference maker as the Pirates have a definite lack of pitching depth).

NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Nationals
NL Rookie of the Year: Joc Pederson, Dodgers
NL Cy Young: Zack Grienke, Dodgers

Going back to 2002 the Giants and Cardinals have represented the National League 8 times in the World Series (2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014).  During that time period four other National League teams have reached the World Series.  Who are they?

Between 1915 and 2015 the Yankees won 27 World Series titles (1923, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009)

Second on that list is the St, Louis Cardinals with 11 (1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2011)

Following the Cardinals is the New York/San Francisco Giants with 7 despite a gap of over 50 years
 (1921,1922, 1933, 1954, 2010, 2012 and 2014)

Coming in 4th on the list is a three way tie between:
 Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics (1929, 1930, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1989),
Boston Red Sox despite a gap of 80 years (1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007 and 2013) and the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers (1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988)

Friday, July 31, 2015

100 Years of Baseball

At the risk of getting a bit too personal this week, my family is celebrating a milestone.  My grandfather is turning 100.  He is an amazing man.  He spent part of his life in Italy, spent time in an American orphanage, worked in a sock factory, spent time in the military during World War II, lived in Chicago, Cleveland and Reading, spent decades teaching high school and (of course I'm biased) he is the best grandfather anyone could ask for.

For decades he was an avid golfer, speaks five languages (possibly more but I know of five) and is a huge baseball fan.  His teams are the Phillies, White Sox and Indians and in his life time he has seen great ups and downs for all three teams.

So in preparing to celebrate this man's 100 years life my baseball obsessed mind of course turned to the game of baseball.  Or to more accurately give credit where credit is due, my brilliant wife did.  As she watched me working on a blog one day during the planning of our trip home, she said "What if you did an article about all the things he has seen in his lifetime?"  My original thought was I should do the top 50 things and was worried I would be stretching it a little.   Then I hit the 50 most amazing things and realized I hadn't even scratched the surface.  So I stretched it to 100 and I realized I still had a million things that were left out.  Needless to say I capped it at 100 and realize that there are many players, managers, teams, wins, events, changes, and personalities that have been left off.  For example, the evolution of the mascot, the evolution of fan baseball attire (suits to t-shirts to jerseys), bench jockeying and a million others.

So in honor of my Grandfather, born July 31, 1915, here are 100 great things that he has seen over the years:

1. Black Sox Scandal:  
At the ripe old age of 5 years, 1 month and 27 days, my grandfather saw Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, Fred McMullin, Happy Felsch, Lefty Williams and Eddie Cicotte play their last game.  Of course, at that age he had no idea who any of them were or what this meant  but as a White Sox fan he would some day learn.
2. Strikes/Lock Outs:  
Strikes by players were technically happening as far back as the 1880s.  The Boston Americans nearly went on strike before Game 1 of the 1903 World Series because their contracts were technically done the last day of the season and they were worried they would not get paid.  The 1912 Red Sox nearly went on strike before a World Series game over a dispute about distribution of payment for a tied game.  The Cubs-Red Sox nearly went on strike before the 1918 World Series and the 1947 Cardinals (allegedly) threatened a strike over Jackie Robinson's inclusion on the Dodgers. There have been 8 recognized work stoppages:  1972, 1973, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1990 and the ever present 1994-1995.
3. Mitchell Report:
In March 2006 it was impossible to ignore the growing presence of steroids in the game and Commissioner Selig appointed George Mitchell to investigate.  On December 13, 2007 the results were released in what has come to be known as the Mitchell Report.  It named names and gave evidence and changed the way some players were viewed.
4. Replacement Players:
As the 1995 season approached and little progress was made in the strike there were rumors that replacement players, non-union players, would take the place of the Major Leaguers.  The replacement players made it to spring training but the MLB Players Union objected, Sparky Anderson, the Tigers long time manager, said he would quit before managing the replacements and the MLB Players' Union discussed giving Cal Ripken Jr an exemption so that his quickly approaching date with Lou Gehrig's record would remain in tact.  In the end though the strike was settled before the regular season started.
5. Pete Rose Scandal:
Still a hot and divisive topic among baseball fans, Pete Rose was banned for betting on baseball.
6. On field Death (Ray Chapman):
Just 17 days after he turned 5 my grand father could have picked up a paper and found the story of Ray Chapman being killed on the field.  Of course, just as with the Black Sox scandal, it would have meant nothing at the time.  The Chapman scandal came with questions of whether the ball had been scuffed and possibly been thrown at Chapman on purpose.

Great Teams
7.  Yankees Dynasty 1921-1932
During the days of Ruth and Gehrig the Yankees won the AL in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1932.  They won the World Series in 1923, 1927, 1928 and 1932.
8.  Yankees Dynasty 1936-1951:
During the DiMaggio years the Yanks won the AL in 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1942, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950 and 1951.
9.  Yankees Dynasty 1952-1964:
During the Mantle years the Yankees won the AL in 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964.  They won the World Series in 1952, 153, 1956, 1958, 1961 and 1962
10  Yankees Dynasty 1976-1981:
In the Munson-Nettles-Reggie dynasty the Yankees won the AL in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1981 (they also won the AL East in 1980).  They won the 1977 and 1978 World Series
11. Yankees Dynasty 1995-2001:
During the Jeter-Posada-Rivera-Pettite era (and you could include Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neil in there as well) the Yankees reached the playoffs in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.  They won the World Series in 1996. 1998 1999 and 2000 and lost one of the greatest World Series in 2001.
12, Gashouse Gang:
A legendary team. although this particular group won only one World Series, had some of the biggest names of the 1930s:  Dizzy and Daffy (though he preferred Paul) Dean, Leo the Lip Durocher, Pepper Martin, Ripper Collins and Frankie "Fordham Flash" Frisch.
13. Big Red Machine:
Though they are best remembered for the 1975 and 1976 World Series Champs, Tony Perez says he felt the Machine went as far back as 1967 or 1968.  Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, Ken Griffey Sr, Don Gullet, Jack Billingham, Lee Maye, Alex Johnson.  The Machine reached the post season in 1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1979.  Although they won only the 1975 and 1976 series, they also reached the 1970 and 1972 World Series.
14. Braves Domination:
Almost overnight the Braves went from doormat to domination.  Shocking everyone with a 1991 World Series appearance, they followed up with 1992 World Series appearance.  With the exception of 1994 when there were no playoffs, the Braves reached the post season every year through 2005.  During that run they reached the World Series in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1998 but won only the 1995 series.
15. Miracle Mets:
Considered a joke of an organization the Miracle Mets shocked everyone. In just their 8th season the Mets upset the heavily favored Orioles.
16. Swingin' A's:
The Swingin' A's were some times swinging at the ball and sometimes at each other.  The colorful description applied to the players and the uniforms.  Reggie Jackson, Ray Fosse, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Catfish Hunter, Gene Tennace, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue reached the playoffs every year from 1971 through 1975 and won the World Series in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Changes in the Game
17.  Night Baseball:
On May 24, 1935, just months before my grandfather's twentieth birthday, the Cincinnati Reds hosted the Philadelphia Phillies in the first night game.  The Reds would play at least one night game against each National League team that year.  Eventually every stadium would host night games and baseball under the lights would become common place for "prime time" post season baseball.  The Cubs were the last to install lights when they hosted the first night game at Wrigley Field on August 8,  1988.
18,  Radio:
On August 5, 1921 Pittsburgh Radio Station KDKA broadcast the Pirates-Phillies game.  It was the first ever use of radio to broadcast the sport.  Although owners first feared the use of radio would kill the sport since people would not come out to the stadium, the smart teams used the broadcasts to promote the team and to draw larger crowds.  Today every game of every team has a radio feed.
19  Television:
According to the first ever televised game came on August 26, 1939.  The game between the Reds and Dodgers was televised but since there were only an estimated 400 televisions in existence who knows how many people saw the game.  In Game 1 the Reds' ace Bucky Walters would win his 21st game of the year.  Hugh Casey of the Dodgers won the second game of the double header thanks to some help from Cookie Lavagetto. It would take until the mid-1940s for teams to start regularly broadcasting.  The 1950s was when the phenomenon grew and today every game is available at any time (unless you're a Dodgers' fan living in the LA area).
20.  Franchise Shifts:
On July 31, 1915 there were three Major Leagues (technically): the American League, the National League and the Federal League.  The Federal League went belly up due to a never ending court battle with the two remaining leagues so we won't count that for the purposes of this section.  That puts 16 teams in play on the day my grandfather was born.  In that time he has seen:
the St. Louis Browns become the Baltimore Orioles,
the Washington Senators become the Minnesota Twins
the new Washington Senators become the Texas Rangers
the Philadelphia Athletics become the Kansas City Athletics and then the Oakland Athletics
the Seattle Pilots  become the Milwaukee Brewers
the Boston Braves become the Milwaukee Braves and then the Atlanta Braves
the Montreal Expos become the San Juan Expos then the Washington Nationals
the Brooklyn Dodgers become the Los Angeles Dodgers
the New York Giants become the San Francisco Giants
21. Expansion:
As mentioned in #20 the league was 16 teams on 7/31/1915 (8 American League and 8 National League).  Since then my grandfather has seen the creation of:
Los Angeles Angels (then the California Angels, then the Anaheim Angels and now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers)
New York Mets
Houston Colt .45's (now Houston Astros)
Seattle Pilots (now Milwaukee Brewers)
Kansas City Royals
Montreal Expos (Now Washington Nationals)
San Diego Padres
Toronto Blue Jays,
Seattle Mariners
Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins)
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Tampa Bay Rays)
22. Birth of Relief Pitcher
In 1915 a relief pitcher was either a regular starter who filled in because the actual starter got knocked around so badly the manager gave up on him or a pitcher that was not good enough to start and was on the roster for emergencies (only to be used in dire straits).  By the 1940s men like Joe Page were starting to be looked upon as valuable members (maybe) of the roster.  By the 1960s men like Moe Drabowsky and Phil Regan (nicknamed "the Vulture" by Sandy Koufax because he circled Koufax's kills then swooped in and picked up the win)  were gaining recognition.  Yet it was not truly until the 1970s that the sport recognized the relief pitcher as a truly vital piece of the team.  Sparky Anderson gained a reputation as Captain Hook because he was always ready to switch to the bullpen at a moment's notice.  It worked and his Reds won two World Series (he won a third with Detroit using the same method).  Pitchers like Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle strengthened the belief that a team needed a fresh, strong arm in the late innings.  By the 1980s everyone had a "closer" and pitchers like Lee Smith, Bobby Thigpen, Mitch Williams and Dennis Eckersley really solidified the bullpen.  Tony LaRussa, from his days with the A's, revolutionized the use of the pen.  He took it from just "long relief" and "short relief" to right handed/left handed specialist, 6th inning guy, 7th inning guy, set up man, closer.
23. Birth of Designated Hitter
When my grandfather was born there were just 9 positions.  Players were expected to play the whole game (although a pinch hitter or pinch runner might be acceptable depending on the situation).  In 1973 the league officially added a new position to the game: the Designated Hitter.  The brain child of Charlie O, Finley (although it had been suggested as far back as the 1890s) the Designated Hitter was adopted by the American League.  The National League refused to adopt the rule.  The addition of the position caused debate among the league and among fans.  To this day there are those who argue for or against the rule and there is still debate over whether it should be taken out of the AL or added to the NL.  Just this year, when Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright got injured there was varying opinions on whether the NL should adopt the rule.
24. Spitball Outlawed:
White Sox Hall of Fame pitcher Ed Walsh threw an amazing spitter.  One batter used to say that whatever he used seemed to make the pitch disintegrate on the way to the plate and reassemble itself in the catcher's mitt.  In 1915 anything a pitcher wanted to do was legal.  You could throw it overhand, side arm, 3/4 rotation, "sub marine".  You could scratch, scrape, spit, smear, smash, mash, stomp, poke or prod the ball to get it to the plate.  It was all legal.  That was until 1920 when the league outlawed "freak deliveries" focusing mostly on the spit ball.  Since there were a few pitchers who made their (very successful) livings on the pitch the league allowed 17 pitchers to be "grandfathered" into the spitball rule.  No other pitchers were allowed to use the method and once these 17 retired from the game, so would the pitch.  The 17 grandfathered players were:
Doc Ayers, Tigers
Ray Caldwell, Indians
Stan Coveleski, Indians
Red Faber, White Sox
Dutch Leonard, Tigers
Jack Quinn, Yankees
Allan Russell, Red Sox
Urban Shocker, Browns
Allan Sothoron, Browns
Bill Doak, Cardinals
Phil Douglas, Giants
Dana Fillingim, Braves
Ray Fisher, Reds
Marv Goodwin, Cardinals
Burleigh Grimes, Dodgers
Clarence Mitchell, Dodgers
Dick Rudolph, Braves
25. Catcher's Equipment:
A fan today traveling back in time to the 1880s to watch a game might not even recognize it.  The distance between home and the pitcher were shorter and the Catcher was well behind home plate.  It was entirely possible for a pitch to be called a strike even when the Catcher got it on a bounce.  The Catcher was so far behind the batter because they were so amazingly exposed. Although chest protectors (often hidden under the uniform) were used by the 1890s, it wasn't until Roger Bresnahan showed up in 1907 at the Polo Grounds that the shin guards were put in play.  These were cricketing shin guards and looked completely different from what we know today.  The Catcher's mask dates back as far as the 1870s.  They were often made of poor wiring and little padding that could cause severe gashes if a foul was taken right to the mask and a mouth guard that may have done more damage than good.  As the quality improved the Catcher moved closer and was able to squat directly behind the batter.  The mask developed as technology and sports science developed.  The mask has gone from a dangerous scar maker to a hockey goalie mask that can be customized and painted to reflect the team logo.  The shin guards, once bulky and inhibiting can now include pads on the back of the leg to reduce the impact on the knees.  I was actually able to see some of the earlier versions of the equipment last year when I visited an exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
26. Batting Helmets
The idea of a batting helmet was widely discussed in 1920, just after the spitball/freak delivery was outlawed.  During that season Carl Mays hit Ray Chapman, fracturing Chapman's skull and causing the only on field death in Major League history.  Still, nothing changed.  The 1941 Dodgers tried batting helmets when Joe Medwick and Pee Wee Reese both were hit in the head but that disappeared.  The conversation arose again when Tony Conigliaro was hit in 1967.  By 1971 it was mandatory for all but a handful of "grandfathered" players (including Norm Cash).  By 1982 the helmet needed ear flaps for extra protection.  Some players, like Dave Winfield, wore a more loose helmet that would fly off on the base paths.  Players who wanted further protection, such as Glenn Hubbard of the A's and Braves, added an extension that protected the cheek.  In recent years with players like Jayson Heyward and Giancarlo Stanton suffering gruesome hits to their face there is now talk that the cheek protection may become mandatory.
27. Solid Bats/Weak Bats
When my brother and I were kids we benefited from the fact that my grandfather was cleaning out some "old junk".  I don't know how old we were, probably 10 or so, but one day my grandfather showed up and added a bat to our baseball gear.  It was a massive piece of wood.  It was a Jimmie Foxx model bat.  Honestly, as a skinny, weak kid I could barely lift the damn thing and I couldn't imagine how someone could swing that behemoth with any control.  For a truly amazing, detailed and well researched study of the evolution of the bat you can check out this article by Jimmy Stamp of  The bats that were used by Foxx and Ruth in their days were like tree trunks while today's bats used by Stanton and Cabrera are closer to toothpicks by comparison.  The evolution was also clearly shown at the exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
28.  Messersmith/McNally
The early days of the league saw players jump from team to team on a whim.  The overly aggressive pursuit of other team's players even led to the creation of the Pirates' team name.  To combat the problem the owners added a "reserve clause" to every player contract.  Each and every player's services were reserved by their team for the following season, every year for eternity.  Essentially a player signed with his team for life (although the team had the option to change their mind on that at any moment).  That contract renewed at the end of every season automatically.  The player could sign a contract with that team and play for that season at the terms given or they could go home and work in coal mines and industrial factories.  In the late 1960s Curt Flood fought against this system when he was traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies.  He lost.  The next challenge came in 1975.  Cy Young winner Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers loved pitching in Los Angeles.  In fact he wanted to stay there so badly he insisted on a multi-year contract.  The Dodgers refused.  So Messersmith continued to play for the Dodgers in 1975.  He was paid for his time but he never signed his 1975 contract.  At the same time, the Orioles had traded star pitcher Dave McNally to Montreal.  Not necessarily wanting to pitch in Montreal, and refusing to sign the contract when he claimed the team failed to live up to their promises, McNally at first retired, then returned to the team without signing.  At the end of the season both pitchers claimed they were no longer bound by the reserve clause because they had not signed contracts.  Arbitrator Peter Seitz agreed.  What was more, Seitz found that the reserve clause was not equally beneficial to players and owners and the reserve clause was no longer permitted.
29. Birth of Free Agency
Free agency was not unheard of before the Messersmith and McNally decisions.  In the 1930s Tommy Henrich of the Cleveland Indians appealed to Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis that the Indians organization was keeping him in the minor leagues and not allowing him to properly advance to the Major Leagues, essentially they were "hiding" players.  Landis agreed with Henrich and released Henrich from his contract allowing him to sign with the Yankees where he was a key piece of # 8 of this article.  A few years later Judge Landis found that Branch Rickey and the Cardinals were illegally holding players in the minor league system and declared more than 20 Cardinals minor league prospects free agents. One of those was Pete Reiser, Rickey's favorite prospect.  Rickey made a quiet deal with a friend in Brooklyn to sign Reiser and keep him in the minors for a few years when they would then sell him back to St. Louis.  Essentially, doing the same thing that had led to his release, only with another organization.  The plan would have worked if Reiser wasn't so damn talented and Leo Durocher hadn't ignored ownerships' demands to keep him off the field.  Despite those events the Seitz decision on the Messersmith and McNally cases are usually seen as the birth of free agency.  However, in the winter of 1974-1975 there was a preview (a nightmare of the future for some owners) of what might happen if players could choose where they played.  Catfish Hunter of the three time World Champion A's (see # 16 above),  had an agreement with Charles Finley that a certain portion of his money be deferred.  Finley either misunderstood or refused (depending on the version) to follow the contract.  Either way, Finley failed to live up to his contract and the deal was voided making Catfish a free agent.  This led to teams climbing over each other to land Finley for their team.  While owners normally fought each other to see who could win while paying players the lowest possible amount, they were now throwing money at Hunter to try to land one of the best pitchers in baseball.  The A's, White Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees all offered unheard of sums and incentives to Hunter.  He would eventually land with the Yankees and help them to # 10 of this article.  This mad scramble was a harbinger of today's free agency where team's play with monopoly money and sign players for a decade worth of service.
30. Pitch Counts
Imagine Red Schoendienst or Solly Hemus walking out to the mound on a hot August St. Louis night.  It's about 105 degrees on the field in about the 6th inning of an afternoon game and Bob Gibson has two men on and one out.  First of all it would be a suicide mission to walk out to the mound to ask Gibson anything, but in this fictional meeting the manager tells Gibson: "Sorry Bob, you're at 100 pitches and you've got two guys on.  I have to pull you."  That manager would probably lose an arm trying to pull the ball from Gibson's hand.  Until about 30 years ago a pitch count was useless.  The starter was expected to start and finish.  Of course the pitch count came from the theory that a pitcher probably has about 100 good pitches in his arm a night and then will tire and risk injury.
31.  Interleague:
The American League and National League despised each other, yet, agreed to face off in the World Series every year.  Why?  Simple: self preservation.  It was a peace move, a compromise of sorts, to allow co-existence.  Yet those owners and League Presidents never intended to be equal or combined.  That would explain why the AL has the DH and the NL does not and why the NL had only 12 teams while the AL had 14 from 1977-1993.  The All Star Game and the World Series were the only chance each league had to prove superiority.  As the decades went on and free agency saw players jump from AL to NL and back and vice versa, the divide lessened.  In the late 1990s regular season inter league play was added as a novelty.  Today there is at least one interleague series every day.
32. Defensive Shifts:
Connie Mack was famous for standing at the top of the dugout adjusting his fielders pitch by pitch and batter by batter.  Johnny Evers used to read his own catcher's signs from Second Base then adjust his team mates in the field.  1946 saw the Cardinals use a dramatic shift against Ted Williams in the World Series to compensate for the fact that Ted usually hit to right field.  It worked.  Today the exaggerated shift has become a common place thing and is still sometimes referred to as the Williams Shift.
33. Baseball Cards:
Back in 1915 baseball cards were used to promote tobacco.  Cracker Jack also used to have a card series.  Of course kids were buying a pack of cards hoping for a superstar.  No one wanted an Olaf Henriksen of the Red Sox card in 1915.  It was only the stars that had cards.  In 1950 the Topps Chewing Gum Company released a series of trading cards featuring "Hop Along Cassidy".  The cards were a success so in 1951 the company designed a set of baseball cards for the 1952 season.  The cards sold well enough to release another set the following year but they did not sell out.  Legend has it that the overstock cards were put on a garbage barge and dumped in the Atlantic.  Today the production, selling and trading of sports cards is a business all to itself.

34.  Everett Scott/Lou Gehrig/Steve Garvey/Cal Ripken:
A big part of the game's history has been the fascination with the "consecutive games played" streaks.  Over the last 100 years that title went from Everett Scott to  Lou Gehrig to Cal Ripken, with a serious challenge from Steve Garvey in between,
35. Ty Cobb/Ted Williams/Pete Rose/ Tony Gwynn/Mike Trout:
There is also the fascination with who is the greatest hitter of all time.  Over the last 100 years that debate has included (along with some others):
Cobb (12 batting titles, 4189 hits),
Ted Williams (6 batting titles, 2654 hits, last man to hit .400)
Pete Rose (3 batting titles, 4256 hits)
Tony Gwynn (8 batting titles, 3141 hits, last player to seriously threaten hitting .400)
Miguel Cabrera (3 batting titles, triple crown winner 2223 career hits)
36. Babe Ruth/Henry Aaron/Barry Bonds
The sport has been fascinated with the Home Run since Babe Ruth came on the scene.  The fascination has grown through the years and has seen three major Home Run kings.
37. Uniform Trends:
In 1915 teams had a home uniform and an away uniform, mostly utilizing red, white or blue as the base color (though some did use black).  By the 1920s teams began using numbers on the back of the uniform.  By the 1930s teams started using more elaborate lettering. By the 1940s teams were using the player's names on the back of the uniform.  By the 1970s the uniforms were becoming more colorful with the A's Yellow/Green and the Padres Mustard Brown.  By the 1980s it seemed every team used a powder blue colored road uniform.  In the 1990s teams returned to the traditional.  In the 2000s teams had an almost endless parade of uniforms: Batting Practice Uniforms, Home and Away Uniform, Alternate Jersey, 4th of July special jersey, etc.
38. Era of the Pitcher:
The league has always tried to keep a balance of fairness between the hitters and pitchers.  In 1915 the game was dominated by pitchers.  That disappeared for awhile but returned in the 1930s with Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell.  It disappeared for a few decades but returned in the 1960s with Gibson, McLean, Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal, Spahn and Whitey Ford.
39. Ea of the Hitter
The balance throughout history usually tips toward the hitters.  In the 1920s Ruth dominated the game.  Although the numbers dropped slightly in the late 1920s (for everyone not named Ruth or Gehrig) they rebounded in the early 1930s.  They exploded again with the influx of talent from the Negro Leagues in the 1950s.  The true era of the hitter can probably be seen as beginning in the late 1980s when Canseco, Cecil Fielder, Mark McGwire, Ken Grifffey Jr and Barry Bonds exploded on the scene.
40. Stadiums
In 1915 many teams (the Phillies for example) were still playing in dilapidated, tiny, wooden stadiums that often suffered fires.  By the 1920s teams were building larger, concrete stadiums (the Athletics, Red Sox and Giants were ahead of the curve on these).  By the 1960s, with the birth of the Houston Astros indoor stadium, came Astroturf.  By the late 1960s, with the popularity boom of professional football, teams created multi-sport facilities like Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.  That gave way (thank God!) when the Orioles built their new "retro" ballpark at Camden Yards.  Thankfully it was perfection and most new stadiums have followed that trend.
41. Rogers Hornsby/Paul Waner/Lou Boudreau/Richie Ashburn/Roberto Clemente/Pete Rose/Robin Yount/Mark Grace/Ichiro Suzuki
What do these players have in common?  Each one led the Major Leagues in base hits spanning a decade.
42.  Burleigh Grimes/Lefty Grove/Hal Newhouser/Warren Spahn/Juan Marichal/Jim Palmer/Jack Morris/Greg Maddux/Andy Pettite
And what do these men have in common? Each has led the Major Leagues in Wins for a decade.  (And at the risk of getting off track with another rant:  Jack Morris is the only pitcher among them who is not in the Hall of Fame.  Pettite is not in the Hall of Fame yet but he will be).
43.  Length of Game
In 1915 there were no commercial breaks, few pitching changes and few substitutions.  A game could be finished in about 90 minutes.  Batters were not adjusting batting gloves or checking signs on every pitch.  A walk didn't involve the player standing at home to remove elbow guards, shin guards and batting gloves.  While a four hour game in 1915 meant they were probably headed into 20+ innings, today it just means a regular 9 inning game.
44. Endorsements:
As long as advertising existed, companies wanted someone famous to promote their product.  When Ruth became the biggest star on the planet the idea of baseball players as corporate shills exploded.  Ruth even had his own brand of under wear.  In the 1930s and 1940s the biggest deals for players usually came from the tobacco companies.  In 1950 with the explosion of suburbia and mass marketing, the opportunities grew.  By the 1980s players were making millions on the job off the  field.  Dwight Gooden's autobiography talks about his disbelief of looking up at a picture of himself throwing a fastball that took up the entire side of a building in New York.  Of course as the corporate image of sports evolved the promotion of alcohol or tobacco was forbidden but athletes can pretty much promote anything else you can think of.
45. Spring Training:
Spring Training started as a way for players to work off the fat of the winter and work themselves back into shape. Most players held off season jobs to supplement their pay, so winter training was not an option for many.  Teams would find a nice, quiet, secluded town (the smaller the town, the less opportunity the players had to get into trouble).  The Giants would train in Marlin, TX.  The Cubs had a spot on Catalina Island in California.  The Dodgers even went to Cuba one year. The teams would eventually leave camp and play games against colleges, minor league teams and semi-pro teams on their way north to their home city.  By the 1960s most teams were training in either Florida or Arizona and started scheduling games between major league competition.  Today Spring Training is a big business, almost a separate season from the regular season.
46. Minor League System:
In 1915 it was taboo for a team to admit they had a working agreement with a minor league team.  Of course there were always the nod and wink agreements of old friends working closely but technically it was against the rules.  In fact, as late as the late 1930s Commissioner Landis ordered the Cardinals to release 91 players from their minor league contracts, ruling that they had been unfairly kept in the minor leagues  by the team despite playing at a Major League level.  Among those players was Pete Reiser.  By the 1950s it was accepted that the minor league system was in place and teams were allowed to bring all of their players to spring training.  Today teams promote or demote players to the minor leagues on what seems like an hourly basis.
47.  All Star Game:
In 1915 there was no All Star Game.  That did not come around until 1933 in Chicago as part of the World's Fair exhibition.  The success of the first led to a second in 1934 in New York and has now become a seasonal tradition.  It has been played every year (except 1945 during World War II) and from 1959-1962 there were two All Star Games each year.  In 1957 the Cincinnati Reds "stuffed" the ballot box and elected 7 Reds to start.  That stunt got the fan voting portion taken away until 1970.  When the game started it was a bitter fight between leagues for bragging rights and most of the time the starters were expected to play the whole game.  By the 1980s, with free agency blending the leagues more and more, it became a showcase for the fun side of the sport.  By the mid 1980s managers tried to get every player in the game.  This led to the debacle in 2002 when teams ran out of players and a tie game.  This led to the decision to make the winner of the game decide home field advantage.
48.  Replay
The first motion picture was shot in 1889.  By 1915 Motion Pictures were becoming big business with The Birth of a Nation and movie stars like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.  As motion picture technology grew, so did the business of sports films.  In what was the very rudimentary version of ESPN, newsreels showed highlights of the World Series or All Star Games.  By the 1950s games were being televised live on television and baseball programming like Home Run Derby was seen on TV.  Yet it wasn't until the 1960s that television found a way to play back a previous play that had just happened.  By the 1970s "instant replay" was a regular feature.  By the 1980s, as the NFL was exploring replay as a device to review questionable plays, there was talk of using the same for baseball.  Today, replay is used on TV, in stadiums and by umpires.  100 years ago it was impossible to imagine watching a game with the chance to see it again in any format.  Today, it is impossible to watch a game without the ability to immediately review what you just saw.

Families:  (Of course there were more than just these families in baseball but in a failed attempt to limit the length of the article I kept it at 5)
49.  Boones: 
Ray Boone (Indians 1948-1953, Tigers 1953-1958, White Sox 1958-1959, Athletics 1959,  Twins 1959-1960, Red Sox 1960)
Bob Boone (Phillies 1972-1981, Angels 1982-1988, Royals 1989-1990)
Bret Boone (Mariners 1992-1993, Reds 1994-1998, Braves 1999, Padres 2000, Mariners 2001-2005, Twins 2005)
Aaron Boone (Reds 1997-2003, Yankees 2003, Indians 2005-2006, Marlins 2007, Nationals 2008, Astros 2009)
50.  Ripkens
Cal Ripken Sr (No major league experience but coached in Orioles organization)
Cal Ripken Jr (1982-2001 Orioles)
Billy Ripken (1987-1992 Orioles, 1993-1994 Rangers, 1995 Indians, 1996 Orioles, 1997 Rangers, 1998 Tigers)
51.  Griffeys
Ken Griffey Sr (Reds, 1973-1981, Yankees 1982-1986, Braves 1986-1988, Reds 1988-1990, Mariners 1990-1991)
Ken Griffey Jr( Mariners 1989-1999, Reds 2000-2008, White Sox 2008, Mariners 2009-2010)
52. Alomars
Sandy Alomar,Sr (Braves 1964-1967, Mets 1967, White Sox 1967-1969, Angels 1969-1974, Yankees 1974-1976, Rangers 1977-1978)
Sandy Alomar, Jr (Padres 1988-1989, Indians 1990-2000, White Sox 2001-2002, Rockies 2002, White Sox 2003-2004, Rangers 2005, Dodgers, 2006 , White Sox 2006, Mets 2007)
Roberto Alomar (Padres 1988-1990, Blue Jays 1991-1995, Orioles 1996-1998, Indians 1999-2001, Mets 2002-2003, White Sox 2003, Diamondbacks 2004, White Sox 2004)
53. Alous:
Jesus Alou: (Giants 1963-1968, Astros 1969-1973, A's 1973-1974, Mets 1975)
Matty Alou (Giants 1960-1965, Pirates 1966-1970, Cardinals 1971-1972, As 1972, Yankees 1973, Cardinals 1973, Padres 1974)
Felipe Alou (Giants 1958-1963, Braves 1964-1969, A's 1970-1971, Yankees 1971-1973, Expos 1973, Brewers 1974)
Moises Alou (Pirates 1990, Expos 1990-1996, Marlins 1997, Astros 1998-2001, Cubs 2002-2004, Giants 2005-2006, Mets 2007-2008)
Mel Rojas (Expos 1990-1996, Cubs 1997, Mets 1997-1998, Dodgers 1999, Tigers 1999, Expos 1999)
Jose Sosa (Astros 1975-1976)

Post Season Moments
54. World Series Droughts (droughts over 10 years since 1915):
Orioles (1915-1965 as Browns/Orioles, 1971-1982, 1984-Present),
Red Sox (1919-2003),
Yankees (1964-1976, 1979-1995),
Blue Jays (1977-1991, 1994-Present)
Rays (1998-Present),
Indians (1921-1947, 1949-Present),
Tigers (1915-1934, 1946-1967, 1969-1983, 1985-Present),
Twins (1925-1986 as Senators/Twins, 1992-Present)
Royals (1969-1984, 1986-Present),
White Sox (1917-2004),
Athletics (1915-1928, 1931-1971, 1975-1988, 1990-Present),
Angels (1961-2001, 2003-Present),
Rangers (1961-Present),
Astros (1962-Present),
Mariners (1977-Present),
Braves (1915-1956, 1958-1994, 1996-Present),
Mets (1970-1985, 1987-Present),
Nationals (1969-Present as Expos/Nationals),
Marlins (2004-Present),
Pirates (1926-1959, 1980-Present),
Brewers (1969-Present as Pilots/Brewers),
Reds (1920-1939, 1941-1974, 1977-1989, 1991-Present),
Cubs (1915-Present),
Cardinals (1915-1925, 1947-1963, 1968-1981, 1983-2005),
Diamondbacks (2002-Present),
Padres (1969-Present),
Rockies (1992-Present),
Giants (1934-1953, 1955-2009)
Dodgers (1915-1954, 1966-1980, 1989-Present)
55. 35 Game 7's:  And that only counts the World Series Game 7's not the LCS.  The best of the best were: The Senators winning thanks to a pebble (1924), Grover Alexander striking out Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded (1926), Enos Slaughter's mad dash (1946), Johnny Podres' masterpiece and Sandy Amoros' catch (1955), Smoltz vs Morris (1991), Luis Gonzales' base hit (2001), Royals leave the tying run on 3rd (2014).
56. Wild Cards:  Still controversial but you can't deny it has changed the game.  Since 1995 there have been 5 Wild Card teams that won it all: 1997 Marlins, 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox, 2011 Cardinals and 2014 Giants
57. LDS:  Introduced in 1995, some still fight it but the 1995 Yankees-Mariners LDS was reason enough to accept it. There are plenty of other great LDS series over the last 20 years:  Indians-Yankees (1997), Yankees-A's (2001), Cubs-Braves (2003), Brewers-Diamondbacks (2011),
58. LCS: Just like the 35 Game 7's there are too many great moments to list but here are just a few:
Chris Chambliss' Home Run (1976), Astros-Phillies (1980), Brewers come back (1982), Ozzie Smith makes St. Louis go crazy (1985), 12 Inning Marathon in Cleveland (1997), Aaron Boone (2003), Red Sox destiny (2004), Polanco's frigid frolic (2006), Nelson Cruz dominates (2011).
59. Shot Heard Round the World:  Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and "The Giants won the pennant".
60. Homer in the Gloamin: So it wasn't exactly post season but it certainly had the feel of a post season game.  Trailing the Pirates by 1/2 game in the standings and tied at 5 in the 9th with darkness descending and with the umpires threatening to end the game in a tie, Gabby Hartnett sent everyone home with a twilight Home Run that came to be known as the Homer in the Gloamin, which vaulted the Cubs into first place and eventually on to the 1938 World Series.
61 Buckner: " Little roller behind the bag..." and another 18 years of the Curse of the Bambino.
62.  The Catch:  Mays was so damn good that even his glove had a nickname.  The place where triples go to die.
63.  Babe Ruth's Called Shot:  Pre-curse of the Billy Goat and the Cubs were already 24 years into their drought when Ruth hit his legendary shot.
64.  Bill Mazeroski:  "A long fly ball going deep to left.  This may do it..." and boy did it ever do it.  Pandemonium at Forbes Field.
65.  Carlton Fisk:  "If it stays fair..." It did and the breeze from Fisk's flapping arms as he danced down the base paths may have kept it there.

Cultural Impact
66 Hank Greenberg: In an era when many team locker rooms were divided by Catholics and Protestants, Hank Greenberg was a completely different presence.  Playing in Detroit in the 1930s while Reverend Charles Coughlin was taking to local airwaves to spread a message of anti-semitism, Greenberg had the Tigers' fans cheering for the first Jewish star in baseball. (And of course I found a way to bring up Hank Greenberg again)
67 Jackie Robinson:  Baseball Eras has already spent a lot of time talking about the impact of Jackie so you know I could go on for ever about this one. We'll keep this short.  His number is retired across the entire Major Leagues.  Enough Said.
68 Italian Americans:  Being an Italian American, the presence of these players had a big impact on my Grandfather's love of the game.  DiMaggio, Furillo, Lazzeri, Crosetti, Colavito, Berra, Branca, Camilli, Cavaretta, Maglie, Garagiola, Lasorda, Righetti, Petrocelli and a million others.
69. Negro Leagues:  It ended in 1960 once the Majors had raided the talent of the league but the professional era of the Negro Leagues began in 1920.  Great talents went unnoticed by the white press so we will never know how Rube Foster would have done against Ty Cobb, how Josh Gibson would have done against Carl Hubbell, or how a young Paige would have done against Babe Ruth.
70. Bay Quake:  Just before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series Candlestick Park started shaking.  The first reaction from the fans was a cheer but as the reality of the situation set in the horror of the situation became real.  The Bay Bridge had collapsed and the entire Oakland/San Francisco area appeared to be on fire.
71. 9-11:  A normal Tuesday September morning with talk of the Red Sox-Yankees and pennant races turned into a world wide shift in priorities.  After a layoff to recover the Yankees' playoff run became the symbol of New York's strength.
72. Women in Baseball:  Mostly forgotten until the movie "A League of Their Own" the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was real.  It was started in 1943 by William Wrigley and ran through 1954.  The teams named in the movie were real: Rockford Peaches, Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets and South Bend Blue Sox.
73. Marvin Miller and the Players Union:  After decades of failed attempts at a Union, Marvin Miller was finally able to get the players organized.  It was one of the owners' greatest fears.  Miller's efforts led to free agency, appeals of fines and suspensions, limits on pay cuts and no trade clauses among other things.

Rivalries (Just as with the families there are many more rivalries that could be included like Tigers-White Sox, Phillies-Pirates, etc.  In the interest of length I chose just a few)
74. Giants -Yankees: This started as a clash between old and young.  McGraw's "inside baseball" vs Ruth's Home Runs.  The two teams faced each other in the 1921, 1922 and 1923 World Series and again in 1936, 1937, 1951 and 1962.
75. Red Sox-Yankees:  Technically this goes back to the start of the American League but it truly started when Boston fans saw their 1912-1918 dynasty sent to the Yankees piece by piece.  Since then the teams have battled for supremacy in often ferocious fashion.
76. Dodgers- Yankees:  This one kicked off officially in 1941 when Mickey Owen allowed a passed ball (or a wild pitch) to get past him.  It continued in 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956.  When the Dodgers went to the West Coast it continued in 1963, 1977, 1978 and 1981.
77. Dodgers-Giants East: This was one of the most vicious rivalries at one time.  The spark of the rivalry is given in varying stories but many feel the rivalry stemmed from the small town Brooklyn fighting to keep their identity against the big city neighbor.  It certainly grew with the constant pennant battles and led to ugly confrontations many times.
78. Dodgers-Giants West:
The rivalry continued when the teams moved west and featured many more ugly confrontations.  Never uglier than the John Roseboro-Juan Marichal incident but the Barry Bonds-Eric Gagne era got quite heated quite often.  This season could lead to another explosion.
79. Cubs-Cardinals:  This is a rivalry that is more of a regional rivalry.  It may not have the same cache' as the ones listed above but in the region the one certainly despises the other.
80. Royals-Yankees:  A sometimes forgotten rivalry, the Billy Martin/Thurman Munson/Reggie Jackson era Yankees from about 1976-1981 certainly clashed often with the George Brett/Paul Splitorff/Willie Wilson/Frank White era Royals.  It included a bench clearing brawl kicked off by Brett and Graig Nettles at Third Base in the 1977 ALCS and the Pine Tar incident among other nasty situations.
81. Braves-Mets: This was a vicious but short lived rivalry in the late 1990s to early 2000s.  The Piazza era Mets tried continuously to take out the Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz era Braves with several memorable playoff confrontations.
82. Astros-Cardinals: The LaRussa era Cardinals against the Killer B's era Astros was a great rivalry for a very short time.  The 2004 and 2005 NLCS were the pinnacle of the match up but the embers of the rivalry burned in the daily divisional battles.  Sadly when the Astros moved to the AL West the rivalry fires were extinguished for good.

Major Accomplishments
83. Worst to First:  The 1990 Braves and 1990 Twins both finished in last place. In 1991 they faced off in arguably the greatest World Series of all time.
84. Koufax's dominance:  Sandy Koufax left Brooklyn as a kid who could throw fast but didn't know where it would end up.  By the time he was done he was considered one of the greatest pitchers in history.  Yogi Berra summed it up best after the 1963 World Series when he said "How the hell did that guy lose 5 games?"
85. 213 No-hitters:On August 16, 1915 (just over 2 weeks after my grandfather's birthday) Alex Main of the Kansas City Packers (Federal League) threw a no-hitter.  Since then there have been 212 more.  Bob Feller has three of those.  Koufax has four (including a perfect game).  Nolan Ryan has 7.
86.  12 Batting Triple Crowns:  Rogers Hornsby (1922 and 1925), Jimmie Foxx (1933), Chuck Klein (1933), Lou Gehrig (1934), Joe Medwick (1937), Ted Williams (1942 and 1947), Mickey Mantle (1956), Frank Robinson (1966), Carl Yastrzemski (1967) and Miguel Cabrera (2012)
87. 27 Pitching Triple Crowns: Grover Cleveland Alexander (1915, 1916, 1920) Walter Johnson (1918 and 1924), Hippo Vaughn (1918), Dazzy Vance (1924), Lefty Grove (1930 and 1931), Lefty Gomez (1934 and 1937), Bucky Walters (1939) Bob Feller (1940), Hal Newhouser (1945). Sandy Koufax (1963, 1965 and 1966), Steve Carlton (1972), Dwight Gooden (1985), Roger Clemens (1997 and 1998), Pedro Martinez (1999), Randy Johnson (2002), Johan Santana (2006), Jake Peavy (2007), Clayton Kershaw (2011), Justin Verlander (2011)
88. 35-5 start:  The 1984 Tigers were legendary in my household.  Every year there is some team that jumps off to some unbelievable start.  The Braves did it in 2013.  The Cardinals are doing it this year.  Still none of them have come close to the 35-5 start of the 1984 Detroit Tigers
89. Collapses and comebacks:  1926 Pirates, 1929 Cubs, 1934 Giants, 1941 Yankees, 1951 Dodgers, 1964 Phillies, 1969 Cubs, 1978 Yankees, 1982 Angels, 1985 Cardinals, 1986 Mets, 1995 Mariners, 1997 Orioles, 2004 Red Sox, 2007 Rockies.  Every one of them either gave up or overcame an almost unbeatable lead.
90. Johnny Vander Meer:  On June 11, 1938 Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds no hit the Boston Bees.  Vander Meer's next turn in the rotation came up on June 15.  How did he follow up his no-hit performance?  He threw another no-hitter.  He is still the only pitcher to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts.
91. Hack Wilson  As records begin to fall from year to year the sacred numbers start to change.  At one time 61 was the sacred number along with 755.  Those have changed.  Since 1930 there is one number that few have even sniffed, let alone seriously threatened.  191.  In 1930 Hack Wilson of the Cubs drove in 191 runs.  Lou Gehrig reached 184 in 1931 and Hank Greenberg reached 183 in 1937.  Since 1940 no one has come within 25 RBI of old Hack.  Manny Ramirez (1999) reached 165.  To put this in perspective, in 2001 when Bonds hit 73 Home Runs, he only reached 137 RBI.
92.. 56:  This is one of those sacred numbers.  Joltin' Joe's sacred streak.  56 straight games with a hit.  Since 1941 this has been the golden number.  Only 4 players have come within 20 games of the feat since DiMaggio's streak ended: Pete Rose (44 in 1978), Paul Molitor (39 in 1987), Jimmy Rollins (38 from 2005 to 2006) and Tommy Holmes (37 in 1945).

Other miscellaneous
93. Sale of Babe Ruth:  Ruth was already a star pitcher for the Red Sox when he started to play the outfield and revolutionize hitting.  On December 26, 1919 Ruth was sold to the Red Sox for $100,000 dollars.  It was a player transaction that changed the landscape of the game in a way that is still felt today.
94. Oddball Owners:  Baseball owners have always been an odd group but some stand out over others.  There was Bill Veeck who came up with Disco Demolition night, Five Cent Beer Night, and signed Eddie Gaedel.  There was Charlie O' Finley who gave his players bonuses for growing odd mustache's, proposed the designated hitter and installed a mechanical rabbit named Harvey that popped up behind home plate to present the umpires with new baseballs.  There was Marge Schott who constantly had her faithful St. Bernard Schotzie next to her.  There was George Steinbrenner who was suspended by the commissioners twice before rebuilding the Yankees into the great team they had been in the Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle years.There was Larry MacPhail who would fire his managers in a drunken rage only to hire them back the next morning.  Just a few of the owners who kept the game interesting.
95. This Week in Baseball:  Starting in 1977 baseball had a weekly television show reviewing the events and news of the past week.  This Week in Baseball (often abbreviated as TWIB) was hosted by legendary Yankee announcer Mel Allen.  The show brought Allen's famous "How about that?" catchphrase into households nationwide.  Allen hosted until 1996.  The show continued (although with a few breaks) until 2011.
96. Mike Schmidt:  Living in the Philadelphia area there are few names that resonate more than that of Michael Jack Schmidt.  Obviously as this is in honor of my grandfather and he lives in the Philadelphia area, #96 is particularly significant to him.  There have been players with greater impact on the game than Schmidt but in the Philadelphia area I can't think of any.
97. Rocky Colavito:  Just as with #96, this is near and dear to my grandfather's heart.  Having spent quite a bit of time in the Cleveland area, my grandfather had a great love for the Indians.  No player was more beloved in the household than Rocky Colavito.  The legends of the family still paint the day that Colavito was traded to Detroit as one of the darkest days in history.
98. Phillies World Series: Spending so many years as a baseball fan, my grandfather has had some long stretches of losing ball.  With myself growing up as an Orioles and Phillies fans and living with Indians, Brewers and Tigers fans, it clearly was hereditary.  My grandfather not only got to see the Phillies win one, but two World Series.
99. Indians World Series: Living in Cleveland for a good stretch of time, my grandfather saw some dark times for the Indians.  He also saw one of the greatest moments: the 1948 World Series champions featuring legends like Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby and Ken Keltner.
100.  His Very own White Sox winning the World Series:
I can honestly still remember the revelation like it was yesterday. I was probably about 10 years old.  my brother and I were at the kitchen table in my grandparent's house listening to the great INXS album Kick and organizing our baseball cards.  My Grandmother is working on cooking her perfect spaghetti sauce that no one else will ever duplicate, In looking at a Jerry Hairston card with the red, white and blue uniform with SOX written across the chest, it suddenly dawned on me how stupid those uniforms were.  They were hideous.  The lame script of the SOX across the chest. the small amount of color across the chest surrounded by an awkward amount of white.  The numbers on the legs of the pants.  It looked like they were a softball team trying to fit in with the rest of the league.  I hated those uniforms so I looked at the White Sox logo with dumb little stick figure holding a bat and I thought that was lame too.  Then there were the uniforms they had where the hat just had a C on it but it was a cursive C with some weird twist on it and when you're a 12 year old, unartistic kid who decides he wants to draw the team logos that C would send you into fits trying to get it right.  So I made a decision right then and there and decided to tell my brother about it.  I thought it was an obvious statement that couldn't possibly offend anyone.  "I hate the White Sox".  The immediate response from my Grandmother was "Don't let your grandfather hear you say that?"  Wait. What?  Why would pop-pop care if I hate the White Sox?  He's a smart guy and he's been around longer than I have.  He must know more reasons to hate them than I do.  So I asked my grandmother, why?  "Because he's a White Sox fan."  What?  That can't be right.  So I immediately ran to my grandfather who confirmed the dark revelation that yes, he was in fact a White Sox fan.  It was then that I finally learned for the first time that my grandfather had lived in Chicago when he was much younger and how he loved the city.  He told me that he was not only a White Sox fan but also a Bears fan (which I still have not been able to accept).  So year after year my grandfather calmly, quietly, unexcitedly followed the White Sox in the standings and year after year he was quietly, inwardly disappointed.  He saw the Indians win the World Series and I'm sure that was nice for him.  He saw the Phillies win a World Series and that was slightly satisfying.  But in 2005 his White Sox did what no one expected out of them.  They won the World Series.  I spoke to him about it a few times when it happened.  He was happy of course.  I don't believe he shed any tears over it.  I know he didn't pop any champagne bottles but yes, he was very satisfied that his White Sox had won during his lifetime.

Between 1915 and 2015 the Yankees clearly have won the most World Series (27).  What teams round out the top 5 of most World Series titles between 1915 and 2015?

Tom Glavine pitched in the Post Season in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 with the Braves and 2006 with the Mets.  In 9 NLDS he was 4-3.  In 10 NLCS he was 6-10.  In 5 World Series he was 4-3 for a total post season record of 14-16.

Greg Maddux pitched in the post season in 1989 with the Cubs, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 with the Braves and 2006 and 2008 with the Dodgers.   In 11 NLDS he was 5-3.  In 9 NLCS he was 4-8 and in 3 World Series he was 2-3 for a total overall post season record of 11-14.

That gives the 2014 Hall of Fame class a record or 25-30.

John Smoltz pitched in the post season in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 with the Braves and 2009 with the Cardinals.  In 11 NLDS he was 7-0, In 9 NLCS he was 9-2 and in 5 World Series he was 2-2 for a total post season record of 15-4.

Randy Johnson pitched in the post season in 1995 and 1997 with the Mariners.  1998 with the Astros, 1999, 2001 and 2002 with the Diamondbacks and 2005 and 2006 with the Yankees. In 4 ALDS he was 2-3 and 4 NLDS he was 0-5.  In 1 ALCS he was 0-1 and in 1 NLCs he was 2-0.  In his only World Series he was 3-0.  His combined post season record was 7-9.

Pedro Martinez pitched in the post season with the Red Sox in 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2004 and with the Phillies in 2009.  In 4 ALDS he was 4-0.  In 3 ALCS he was 1-2 and in 1 NLCS he was 0-0.  In 2 World Seris he was 1-2.  Thus, his total post season record was 6-4.

That gives the 2015 Hall of Fame class a total record of 28-17.