Entering the 1916 season, the Red Sox were a budding dynasty They had won each of the three World Series they had played in—1903, 1912, and last year, 1915, even though they confined the role of kid pitcher Babe Ruth, an 18-game winner, to a single pinch-hit appearance. Ostensibly the reason for that was that the Phillies were loaded with righthanded batters, including slugger Gavvy Cravath. Anyway, Boston won in five games, as they would do again this year, but with Ruth making a remarkable pitching debut.
The 1916 Bosox were without star center fielder Tris Speaker, traded to Cleveland at the start of the season following a salary dispute. Joe Wood, hero of the 1912 season, sat out the year with a sore arm and never pitched effectively again. But it scarcely mattered, as Ruth won 23 while pitching 323 innings; this was his team now.
Boston’s opponents in the Fall Classic were the Brooklyn Dodgers, returning to championship play for the first time since winning the Chronicle-Telegraph Cup of 1900, when the first-place Dodgers (more commonly termed the Superbas at that time) defeated the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game series to which few paid any mind; the only major league in that year and next was the National, recently contracted from twelve teams to eight.
Returning to the postseason in 1916 after a dozen years in the second division, the rechristened Dodgers (also known as the Robins after manager Wilbert Robinson, who took over in 1914) slipped by the Phils, the Boston Braves, and the New York Giants—each of whom had been in the World Series in respectively, 1915, 1914, and 1913. New York somehow finished in fourth place despite a 17-game winning streak in May and an even more astonishing 26-game skein down the stretch.
Brooklyn with stars Zack Wheat and Casey Stengel, gave Boston a good fight before falling in five games, as the Phils had done the previous year. Ernie Shore won Games 1 and 5, and Brooklyn’s Jack Coombs won Game 3, the first championship game played in Ebbets Field, opened in 1913.
But all anybody has ever wanted to talk about that World Series in the century since was the debut of Babe Ruth in Game 2, played at Braves Field (like all three Red Sox home games) rather than Fenway Park because of its greater seating capacity. All Ruth did was pitch the greatest game in World Series history, before or since—including Don Larsen’s perfect game of 1956, Bob Gibson’s 17-strikeout game in 1968, and Jack Morris’s ten-inning shutout in Game 7 in 1991.
Who sez, you might ask. Game Score, a metric devised by Bill James and by now pretty widely known. To determine a starting pitcher’s game score:
- Start with 50 points.
- Add three points for every complete inning pitched.
- Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
- Add one point for each strikeout.
- Subtract two points for each hit.alowed.
- Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
- Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
- Subtract one point for each walk.
Got it? By this measure, the best nine-inning performance by a starting pitcher since 1900 has been Kerry Wood’s 105, reflecting a 20-strikeout, no-walk, one-hit shutout in 1998. Because extra innings earn extra credit, Babe Ruth’s 14-inning complete-game victory in Game 2 of the 1916 Series earned him 97 points, topping all others to this day. Moreover, Ruth drove in Boston’s first run while pitching scoreless ball through the last thirteen frames—he gave up a home run to Hy Myers in the first– commencing a scoreless streak of World Series that ran to 29-2/3 innings, a mark not surpassed until Whitey Ford in 1961.
Remarkably, losing pitcher Sherry Smith of Brooklyn also went the whole way, allowing seven hits while Ruth allowed six. In his 133 and 1/3 innings (Boston’s winning run scored with one out), he walked six to Ruth’s three. When combined with Ruth’s Game Score of 97, Smith’s 82 provided a total of 179, the highest in postseason history to this day. Interestingly, the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard in this year’s NL Wild Card play-in game combined for a total of 170, in the fourth game in postseason history in which both starters had a game score of 80 or better.
OK, so you want to know the two others? Bob Turley (80) and Clem Labine (81) in Game 6 of the 1956 World Series; and Mike Cuellar and Ken Holtzman in Game 4 of the 1973 American League Championship Series.
In December 1916 New York theatrical entrepreneurs Hugh Ward and Harry Frazee bought the Red Sox. For a while the future looked bright. After a second-place finish in 1917, Frazee hired minor-league executive Ed Barrow as manager, and when many of the team’s regulars left for military service in World War I, Frazee bought and traded for worthy replacements. In a season shortened by a month because of the war, the Red Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs for their fifth world championship in five tries, before setting out on a 76-year drought.
75 years ago: After a regular season marked by two monumental achievements—Ted Williams’s .406 batting average and Je DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak—the 1941 World Series marked a return of the Brooklyn Dodgers (they had lost their intervening appearance, in 1920). With the Dodgers one strike away from tying the Series at two games apiece, catcher Mickey Owen dropped a swinging third strike by the Yankees’ Tommy Henrich. The Yanks erupted for four runs and the Dodgers were cooked, losing in five games.
50 years ago: The Dodgers, now transplanted to Los Angeles, looked to repeat as champions (they had won in in 1959 and 1963 as well as in 1965), but ran into the buzzsaw of the Baby Birds—the young pitching stars of the Baltimore Orioles. With 30-year-old Sandy Koufax pitching for the final time in a Game Two defeat, the pitching rotation of Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Wally Bunker, and Jim Palmer starred, along with veteran reliever Moe Drabowsky. The Dodgers scored their last run of the Series in the third inning of Game One.
25 years ago: The aforementioned Jack Morris was the hero of this Fall Classic, with his ten-inning shutout. In a remarkable matchup of clubs that had finished last in their divisions in the prior season, the home team won each of the seven games. Five games were decided by a single run, four were decided in the final at-bat, and three went into extra innings.
In his comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, William Shakespeare famously suggested, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late,” yet, when it came to the sport of baseball, his fellow countrymen failed to agree. The first overseas excursion of baseball, in 1874, quite emphatically confirmed that America’s “national pastime” was not ready for an “inter” prefix, as the touring clubs were met with a polite but unambiguous collective shrug of British shoulders. Adrian Anson–in 1874 too young to be called Cap and nicknamed instead “Baby”–recalled in his memoir:
“The impression that base-ball made upon the lovers of sport in England can be best illustrated by the following quotations taken from the columns of the London Field, then, as now, one of the leading sporting papers of that country:
“’Base-ball is a scientific game, more difficult than many who are in the habit of judging hastily from the outward semblance can possibly imagine. It is in fact the cricket of the American continent, considerably altered since its first origin, as has been cricket, by the yearly recourse to the improvements necessitated by the experience of each season. In the cricket field there is at times a wearisome monotony that is entirely unknown to baseball. To watch it played is most interesting, as the attention is concentrated but for a short time and not allowed to succumb to undue pressure of prolonged suspense. The broad principles of base-ball are not by any means difficult of comprehension. The theory of the game is not unlike that of ‘Rounders,’ in that bases have to be run; but the details are in every way different.
“’To play base-ball requires judgment, courage, presence of mind and the possession of much the same qualities as at cricket. To see it played by experts will astonish those who only know it by written descriptions, for it is a fast game, full of change and excitement and not in the least degree wearisome. To see the best players field even is a sight that ought to do a cricketer’s heart good; the agility, dash and accuracy of tossing and catching possessed by the Americans being wonderful.’
“This, coming at that time from a paper of the Field’s high standing was praise, indeed, but the fact remains that the game itself, in spite of all the efforts made to introduce it, has never become popular in England, for the reason perhaps that it possesses too many elements of dash and danger and requires too much of an effort to play it. “
I made an accidental find of the clip below while researching the 1874 tour, in which the Boston Red Stockings and Philadelphia Athletics broke off from the pennant campaign for two months to tour England and Ireland. From the Utica Morning Herald and Gazette, August 19, 1874. Transcription of broken type was challenging, so errors may lurk.
ENGLAND’S DANGER.—Those young men who are over in England introducing base ball seem to have taken upon themselves a responsibility far more serious than was at first apparent. So long as Englishmen regarded the game as an American modification of “rounders,” long since condemned in England, and condescendingly explained that it was “not to be compared for a moment with cricket, you know,” the exhibitions of the American athletes did no harm. But the matter has assumed more dangerous features. Englishmen have actually caught the base ball fever. Clubs are organizing in North England, and American manufacturers are exporting base ball goods to Great Britain.
It is startling to conjecture the end of this lamentable business. Visions flit in confusing terror before us of DISRAELI’S nine sending GLADSTONE’S men to the bat on the fraudulent toss of a double-headed sovereign, of JOHN MITCHEL being ruled out of the Irish Patriot nine, of JOSEPH ARCH pitching for JOHN BRIGHT’S catching in the Labor Reform Club, of the Prince of Wales playing right field on the All England nine by virtue of his royalty rather than by virtue of his athletic skill, of the distraction of Parliament when Queen VICTORIA asks an additional hundred thousand to pay the expenses of the Prince Leopold Club on its tour through India, of a base ball novel from WILKIE COLLINS, with a plot like that of the “in field,” ninety feet square, and the climax at that point where the best nine try to “throw the game.” And, then, oh horrors! suppose the Laureate should take to base ball. Imagine the supreme excruciation of an effusion beginning
I tried to score in the wet,
When the muffers and butter fingers met.
[Showing off: the lines lamely parodied are Tennyson’s “I stood on a tower, in the wet, / When the old year and the new year met”–jt]
Fifty years of lotus eating would not repair the shattered nerves of John Bull after such torture. And there is another horrible thought. Suppose ROBERT BROWNING should feel it his duly to eulogize the American game. Shade of the Chinese author, who wrote a novel of one hundred and six volumes, defend us! Imagine the critic who has barely managed to got though “Red Cotton Night Cap Country” and live, trying to comprehend the mysteries of “Red Stocking Eye-Blacking Courtesy,” where every character is a “safe hitter” and is caught out only after the critic is dead. Just suppose that CARLYLE should get this fever in his old age and desire to report the “crack game” at the Derby tournament. Imagine the “world-wide” readers of the London Times trying to get at the rhythm of porcupine English and base ball jargon alternating.
In fact the whole social and political system of England may be revolutionized. The “Knights of the Garter” will go down before the more popular “Knights of the Vernal Diamond.” The old places of entertainment, with names hallowed by great tongues which in the past have uttered them during many a convivial bout, will give way to hostels with such names as “Short-Stop Inn,” “The Daisy-Cutters’ Retreat,” “Fly-Catchers’ Hotel,” and the like. Even the dust of the mighty dead in Westminster Abbey may be, from time to time, profaned by the body of some yeoman whose only claim to lordly burial is that, when a “liner” took him in the stomach, he held the ball and saved the game, though it killed him.
There are many other ruinous possibilities that suggest themselves in connection with the spread of this pernicious game in England, but we have given enough to convince all, we think, that the sooner the American base ball players are recalled from Great Britain the better it will be for that country.
Here’s a squib for the genealogical set. Alone among federal censuses, the 1880 edition is searchable by occupation. Thanks to Ancestry.com and other sites, many of the baseballists included herein are recognizable figures about whom such basics as spouse, children, parental birthplaces, etc., now become easily visible.
Searches for conceivable baseball occupations produced the following results:
Ballist yields 28 individuals.
Ball Player yields 90.
Player yields 228.
Professional player yields 7, including chess player Paul Morphy and baseball player Ed “The Only” Nolan.
Ball Manufacturer yields two billiard ball makers, but Ball Maker yields 29, including such familiar names as Ben Shibe.
Base Ball yields 48, including workers in baseball factories.
Baseball and base-ball yield the same 91 individuals.
Ball club yields 1 (Charles “Frank” Bancroft).
Bass-ball, like the two entries below an orthographic survivor of the previous century, yields 1 (Cal McVey).
Bass Ball yields 1 (Charles Foley).
Bass Baller yields 1 (Fred McNeill).
Ball Grounds yields 2.
Ball yields 221 of decidely mixed trades.
Gambler yields 1313 (not precisely baseball but in 1880 a kissing cousin).
Athlete yields 4.
Cricketer yields 1.
Cricket player yields 2.
Cricket yields 4.
Sporting Goods yields 37.
Sporting yields 379, most of these “sporting women.” For all the vaunted prudery of the Victorian period, prostitutes plied their trade far more openly than we might imagine.
Rummaging through old files, I came upon this, from the April 20, 1887 issue of The National Daily Baseball Gazette, O.P. Caylor’s short-lived (two weeks) and now exceedingly rare New York sporting paper: “Walter Colton Abbott, of Reading, Hillsdale county, Michigan, sends to THE GAZETTE a copy of what he believes to be the first verse of rhyme inspired by the national game. It was published in the New York News and Courier about the year 1838 [almost surely a misnomer for the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, formed in 1829] and is as follows:
“Then dress, then dress, brave gallants all,
Don uniforms amain;
Remember fame and honor call
Us to the field again.
No shrewish tears shall fill our eye
When the ball club’s in our hand,
If we do lose we wil not sigh,
Nor plead a butter* hand.
Let piping swain and craven jay
Thus weep and puling cry,
Our business is like men to play,
Or know the reason why.
“*Hence the term “butter-fingers,” which, twenty years ago, was applied to a man or a boy who didn’t hold a ball.”
Two days later a letter to the editor (from “S. H. R.”) stated that the verse was adapted from “Song of the Cavalier” by William Motherwell (1797-1835), once a famous ditty but long since buried in the sands of time. For academicians’ possible interest, I offer it, with the Scottish poet’s antiquarian orthography, below.
If this parody indeed appeared in 1838, it would beat all the other early verse (Knickerbocker banquet ditties of 1854 and 1858) by plenty. See: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/07/18/ball-days-a-song-of-1858/.)
SONG OF THE CAVALIER
A steed! a steed! of matchlesse speed!
A sword of metal keene!
All else to noble heartes is drosse,
All else on earth is meane.
The neighyinge of the war-horse prowde,
The rowlinge of the drum,
The clangor of the trumpet lowde,
Be soundes from heaven that come;
And oh! the thundering presse of knightes,
Whenas their war-cryes swell,
May tole from heaven an angel bright,
And rouse a fiend from hell.
Then mounte! then mounte, brave gallants all,
And don your helmes amaine;
Deathe’s couriers, fame and honor, call
Us to the field againe.
No shrewish teares shall fill our eye
When the sword-hilt’s in our hand–
Heart-whole we’ll part, and no whit sighe
For the fayrest of the land;
Let piping swaine, and craven wight,
Thus weepe and puling crye;
Our business is like men to fight,
And hero-like to die!
The Motherwell poem, first published in Glasgow in 1832, was printed in the New-York Mirror of June 2, 1838, under the heading “Original Retrospective Reviews.” I suspect this may have prompted the parodist, whose production I am unable to locate in the archives.
First, it’s not me thinking anything today except Wow … another great, memorable day/night of baseball. The ten things in today’s post are thought by Elliott Kalb, Senior Editorial Director of MLB Network, and the MLB Network Research Department. I received this research packet just moments ago, as I and a limited number of privileged recipients have done each morning throughout the season. These routinely brilliant packets are designed to be particularly useful to those of us thinking about the day ahead, making us appear especially brilliant. Today’s inbox delight is different, as the conclusion of the Cubs-Giants game (and NLDS) enters the realm of history. It is my privilege to share with a wider readership the sort of pleasure I get every day. Here’s Elliott:
10 Things I Think I Think for Wednesday, October 12, 2016
1) And then, there were five. There are five teams remaining. Those of us who root for teams that haven’t won (or won in decades) have to love this field: After losing the Giants and Red Sox the last two days, we’re down to this:
Nationals: have never won (franchise started in 1969 in Montreal)
Dodgers: have not won since 1988
Indians: have not won since 1948
Blue Jays: have not won since 1993
Cubs: have not won since 1908
And that’s winning the World Series. How about winning the league championship?
Nationals: have never been to a World Series
Dodgers: have not been to a World Series since 1988
Indians: have not been to a World Series since 1997
Blue Jays: have not been to a World Series since 1993
Cubs: have not been to a World Series since 1945
Of course, don’t feel too sorry for the sports fans in three of these five cities:
Chicago fans have had numerous parades in the last 20 years.
The Black Hawks won three Stanley Cups (2015, 2013, 2010). The Bulls won six NBA championships (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998). The White Sox won the World Series in 2005.
Los Angeles fans have had numerous parades in the past 20 years.
The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014 and 2012. The Lakers won the NBA championship in 2000 and 2001 and 2002 and 2009 and 2010. The Angels won the World Series in 2002.
Cleveland fans had their parade for the Cavaliers just a few short months ago.
2) The Giants lose the pennant. The Giants lose the pennant. The Giants lose the pennant.
Here’s why they won in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Here’s why they lost in 2016.
2010–Brian Wilson converted six of seven save opportunities. He pitched 11.2 innings in the postseason without allowing an earned run (one unearned run, which was responsible for his blown save).
2012–Sergio Romo converted all four of his save opportunities. He allowed just one earned run in 10.2 innings (0.84 ERA).
2014–Santiago Casilla converted all four of his save opportunites. He pitched 7.2 postseason innings, without allowing a run. And Madison saved Game 7 of the World Series with a brilliant relief stint.
Overall, during their three championships, Giants closers were 14-of-15 in save opportunities. They posted a 0.30 ERA (1 ER in 30 IP).
3) Drought: a prolonged absence
Much of our remaining storylines will deal with the droughts of these remaining teams. Which reminds me of a time—30 years ago today—when two teams with droughts were playing an emotional series. It turned into one of the greatest games ever played.
Wednesday is the 30th anniversary of Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS between the Red Sox and Angels.
The Angels—who had never won a title in their history—led 3 games to 1.
|1||October 7||California Angels – 8, Boston Red Sox – 1||Fenway Park|
|2||October 8||California Angels – 2, Boston Red Sox – 9||Fenway Park|
|3||October 10||Boston Red Sox – 3, California Angels – 5||Anaheim Stadium|
|4||October 11||Boston Red Sox – 3, California Angels – 4 (11 innings)||Anaheim Stadium|
That brings us to Game Five.
The Red Sox led, 2-1, in the bottom of the 6th inning. Doug DeCinces doubled and Bobby Grich hit a deep fly to center. The ball deflected off Dave Henderson’s glove and went over the fence for a home run that gave the Angels a 3-2 lead. The Angels added couple of runs in the 7th for a 5-2 lead.
Angels starter Mike Witt took the mound in the ninth, looking for a complete game. It would have been the first pennant in Angels history, as well as the first for manager Gene Mauch. Bill Buckner led off the inning with a single and, after Jim Rice struck out, Don Baylor’s home run made it a 5-4 game. Witt got Dwight Evans to pop up and the Angels were an out away from the pennant.
Mauch replaced Witt with lefty Gary Lucas. Lucas threw just one pitch, hitting Rich Gedman. So, Mauch replaced Lucas with Donnie Moore. On a 2-2 pitch, one strike away from elimination, Dave Henderson then homered, to give the Red Sox a 6-5 lead.
In the bottom of the 9th, Rob Wilfong’s RBI single tied the game. Then, in the top of the 11th, Henderson’s sacrifice fly scored Baylor to provide the winning run in the Red Sox 7-6 win.
Henderson was also almost the hero of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. That game was tied, 3-3, going to the top of the 10th. Henderson led off with a home run, off Rick Aguilera, to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead. Marty Barrett had a RBI single later in the inning to make it a 5-3 game. Then, the game unraveled in the bottom of the inning, with Bill Buckner’s error being the final straw.
Henderson would have been one of the most unlikely heroes in baseball history. He didn’t join the Red Sox until a trade on August 19. The Mariners wanted to get rid of him, since he was quoted as saying Dick Williams was the worst manager in baseball. Then, he only started six games after the trade: five of which were due to injuries and the other was a token start when the regulars sat out right after the division was clinched. Then, he wasn’t even supposed to play in this game. But, starting center field Tony Armas suffered a leg injury in the fifth inning. Since the rules of baseball required the Red Sox to field a complete team, someone had to replace Armas and Henderson got the call.
Donnie Moore was released by the Angels during the 1988 season and his career ended when the Royals released him in spring training of 1989. On July 18, 1989, Moore committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
The Angels finally won a World Series in 2002.
The Red Sox finally won a World Series in 2004.
Dave Henderson died of a heart attack at the age of 57 last December.
4) The Cubs comeback on Tuesday night was the biggest in postseason-series clinching history. They matched what the 1986 Mets did to clinch the 1986 NLCS against the Astros on October 15 of that year. The Mets came from three runs down in the ninth, winning in 16 innings.
1986 NLCS Game Six at Astrodome: Astros up 3-0, needing three outs to get to Game 7 (and Mike Scott). Trust me, Scott was even better than Johnny Cueto.
Len Dykstra tripled to lead off the ninth. Mookie Wilson singled him in. Kevin Mitchell grounded out. Keith Hernandez double in Mookie. Dave Smith came in and replaced starter Bob Knepper. Gary Carter walked. Strawberry walked to load the bases. Knight hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. The Astros got out of the inning eventually.
You talk about a great game. Both teams scored in the 14th inning (Billy Hatcher hit a homer in the bottom half to tie the game up). The Mets scored three in the 16th. The Astros came back with two before Orosco nailed down the game and series.
5) Joe Maddon continues to make moves that are considered “out-of-the-box.” In Game 3, he brought in his relief ace with a couple of runners on, in a high-leverage situation. In Game 4, he pinch-hit for Addison Russell.
You would think he did something really radical. Who cares if Addison Russell had 95 RBIs during the season? Joe didn’t like the matchup of Russell vs. Romo. So, with runners on second and third, Maddon sent Chris Coghlan to the on-deck circle, forcing Bochy to counter with left-hander Will Smith. Maddon then replaced Coghlan with Contreras, a right-handed hitter with some pop.
Not all the moves he makes will work (bringing Chapman into the game in the eighth on Monday did not work) but he’s not sitting on his hands, or playing by the “book.” He’s being pro-active. Love it.
6) Nationals imbalance. The top of their order is hitting, the bottom of the order is not.
Trea Turner: 6-17 AB
Jayson Werth: 7-15 AB, 1 HR
Daniel Murphy: 6-13 AB
Turner, Werth, and Murphy are a combined .422 (19-45 AB), with six walks. So the three at the top have gotten on-base 25 times in four games.
Danny Espinosa is 1-11 AB, with 8 strikeouts
Anthony Rendon is just 3-16 AB
Pedro Severino is just 1-9 AB
So, who’s the best guess to be a Game Five hero?
Ryan Zimmerman is 6-9 AB, with 2 HR and a walk in the regular season against Rich Hill. That’s a .667/.700/1.444 slash line. He faced Hill in two plate appearances in Game 2. He went 0-1 AB with a walk. So combined he is 6-10 AB (.600 BA) and has reached 8 of 12 PA (.667 OBP).
7) How steroids affected the Indians and Blue Jays rosters this postseason:
The Indians couldn’t put Abraham Almonte on the postseason roster because of his 80-game PED suspension. It is the reason they acquired Coco Crisp from Oakland on Aug. 31.
“When we didn’t have Abe that was a big hole,” said manager Terry Francona. “Coco has the experience and he showed it. He gets down in the count, gets a breaking ball he can handle and hits it out. Those were the huge runs and we had to make them hold up.”
Almonte was caught before the season started, and didn’t play until early July.
You may remember the Blue Jays nearly advancing to the World Series last year. One of their big bats in the middle of their order isn’t there anymore. Where in the world is Chris Colabello?
Colabello had played seven years in Independent ball, and was such an unlikely success story. Last year, he hit .321 and slugged .520 for Toronto. His homer in Game Five of the ALCS helped send that series back to Kansas City for a Game Six. This year, he got off to a very slow start (2 hits in 29 AB). He got suspended for failing a drug test. The Blue Jays didn’t seem very interested in him when he came back.
Of course, Colabello batted just .180 for the Buffalo Bisons when he did return.
Toronto Blue Jays
2015: .269 BA, .457 SLG, 891 runs scored
2016: .248 BA, .426 SLG, 759 runs scored
The loss of Colabello’s .321 bat this season was part of it. Justin Smoak batted .217, with 14 HR, 34 RBI this year.
8) Giants obit: Craig Nordquist and Matt Filippi join me on a busy Wednesday morning to wrap up the Giants season and look ahead to next year as they tried to answer my SAT-type question:
If the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014; when is the next time they win?
- a) 2017
- b) 2018
- c) Both of the above
- d) None of the above
The up-and-down season of the 2016 Giants has come to a close. San Francisco entered the All-Star break with an MLB-best 57-33 (.633) record and appeared poised to continue their “even year magic” with yet another title in an alternating season. Instead, they posted the fourth-worst record in the majors after the Midsummer Classic and squeaked into the playoffs on the final day. They came close to a winner-take-all game in the Division Series before falling short.
The Giants are set to lose at least part of the bullpen core of their three recent titles, as Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, and Javier Lopez are all free agents this offseason. That might not be a bad thing, as Lopez is 39 years old, Casilla lost his closer role down the stretch and is 36 years old, and Romo turns 34 years old in March. The Giants led the majors with 30 blown saves this year and lack the true shutdown closer that we’ve come to expect on a championship club. This also explains why the Giants led the majors with nine losses when leading after eight innings. And fittingly, this is how the season came to an end.
With big names like Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, and Kenley Jansen likely hitting the free agent market, you would have to think that the Giants will make a hard push to sign one of them.
San Francisco’s rotation appears sound for years to come. The Giants can move on from Jake Peavy (5-9, 5.54 ERA) this fall when he becomes a free agent. Their big three of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija is locked up together through at least 2019 (and longer if they can extend MadBum in the coming offseasons) while Matt Moore is under team control via club options through 2019. One has to figure that Matt Cain and some youngsters will vie for the final spot in next year’s rotation.
The offense remains a potential area for improvement though, as they ranked just ninth in the NL in runs scored this season while hitting the third-fewest homers in all of baseball. Outfielders Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco are both free agents this fall. Pagan played well when healthy this year, but he’s 35 years old and has always been an injury risk. Blanco is set to turn 33 years old in December and has been a league-average outfielder over his career.
However, this could be a place where the Giants can add some power. Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista, and Mark Trumbo could all be hitting the market, giving them some options. If they don’t like those, they can look to third base where Justin Turner could be available. The internal options at the hot corner are currently Eduardo Nunez and Conor Gillaspie, so Turner would potentially be a good fit.
It was a very weird end to the season for the Giants and one that leaves a lot more questions than answers. But at the end of the day, they have a strong top of the rotation with Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija and some nice offensive pieces as well (Posey, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt). If they can add a few extra pieces this winter, there will be reasons for optimism in San Francisco heading into 2017.
9) Clevelander Marc Matcham notices that the Indians get contributions up-and-down the lineup (unlike Washington, I might add).
Eight different players drove in at least one run in the sweep against Boston.
What’s interesting is that their top-2 RBI guys this season—Mike Napoli (101 RBI) and Carlos Santana (87 RBI)—are NOT among those eight players.
Instead, it’s been Chisenhall (4), Kipnis (3), Naquin (2), Crisp (2), Lindor (1), Perez (1), Davis (1), and Guyer (1) driving in runs, so far.
Napoli and Santana were responsible for 188 of the 733 RBIs (26%) for Cleveland during the regular season. 0% so far in the postseason.
Thanks, Marc. Now, can you tell me if anyone saw Jose Ramirez becoming such a force in this league? All he did was go 5-10 AB with a pair of walks in the Division Series against Boston.
10) Tweets we enjoyed from Tuesday:
Nate Silver @NateSilver538
A Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Indians World Series is now slightly more likely than a Trump presidency.
Tyler Kepner @TylerKepner
Joe Blanton in line for the win. Chase Utley with the go-ahead hit. I assume Brad Lidge will come in now to close this one out….
Andy McCullough @McCulloughTimes
Odd year, this even year.
Andy McCullough @McCulloughTimes
The 2016 Dodgers: A rally strung together by a guy who started the year in Rancho (Toles), a guy with a broken leg (Ethier) and the oldest guy on the roster (Utley).
Every team has 5 guys in pen who throw 95+. SF keeps trying to close out Cubs w guys throwing 85. Is this 1934? That’s somebody’s fault.
Jeff Passan @JeffPassan
If the Giants entered the ninth inning looking to encapsulate their season in 20 minutes, they did a pretty delightful job of executing.
One guy got 24 outs. Four guys got 1 out. Giants pitching staff is like most offices you’ve ever worked in.
Nick Friedell @NickFriedell
My 88 year old grandmother — who was at the last World Series game at Wrigley in ’45 — just called me screaming: “They’re not dead yet!”
Chris Hine @ChristopherHine
Taylor Swift doesn’t release an album in an even year and the Giants don’t win the World Series. Coincidence? I think not.
Stephanie Apstein @stephapstein
Via Fangraphs, this chart basically mirrors the EKG of a Giants fan over the last four hours.
(Now, I must tell you that I was uncertain whether to put the last tweet in, because most of you don’t know who Bob Newhart is. Newhart was one of television’s biggest starts in the 1970s. He starred in a bunch of shows, named either “Newhart,” “Bob,” and “The Bob Newhart Show.” (He would have had more shows, but apparently didn’t have a middle name). Apparently, he was a big stand-up comedian before that, and sold a lot of record albums of his low-key comedy. It must have been a Midwest thing. I never got his Midwest sensibilities, and never found him funny.) I didn’t even like him in Elf.
Like many of the posts at Our Game, this one is not about baseball yet inevitably wends it way toward it. I wrote this in 2004 for the Woodstock Times (NY), a weekly with a circulation of maybe 2500. Despite its wayward subject and unlikely host, the story was awarded an honorable mention in the Best American Essays anthology of the following year.
Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge University mathematician, is famous in this country for his best-selling if little-read Brief History of Time and for his role in an episode of The Simpsons. On July 21, 2004, in a paper to the 17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, he recanted his long-held theory that black holes destroy all the “information” they consume, reporting instead that these collapsed stars spit out matter and energy “in a mangled form.” With this tilt back to the mainstream of quantum physics he also settled a bet he had made in 1997 with Caltech astrophysicist John Preskill, who had insisted that matter consumed by black holes could not be destroyed. The loser was to provide the winner with the encyclopedia of the winner’s choice, a repository of either indestructible or migratory information.
At the conference Dr. Hawking presented Professor Preskill with the reference work he requested—Total Baseball, which I have edited through eight editions since 1989—after having it expressed to the Dublin conference from the U.S. “I had great difficulty in finding one over here,” Hawking told reporters, “so I offered him an encyclopedia of cricket as an alternative but John wouldn’t be persuaded of the superiority of cricket.”
A few days before the conference, appearing on the British Broadcasting Corp.’s Newsnight program, Hawking tiptoed around the major announcement he planned for Dublin. “A black hole only appears to form but later opens up and releases information about what fell inside,” he indicated. “So we can be sure of the past and predict the future.” This remark has set me to thinking.
Fleischmanns, New York, is an appealingly forlorn spot 30 minutes from Woodstock and 50 if not 100 years from the rest of America. Its old-fashioned Catskills summers—fresh air, cool mountain nights, porch sitting, ball playing, swimming, and dozing off in lawn chairs—have been swallowed up in this country’s black hole of visceral diversion, cheap transport, and festive biodomes in steamy locales uninhabitable before the advent of contrived cold air. In Fleischmanns the mangled evidence of its former glories has not yet become unrecognizable; on the contrary, the eerie remains of grand hotels and the burnt offerings of desperate arsons form the spur to memory. In this somewhat remote place, determined individuals and families who love the old ways are working to be sure of the past; the extent of their success will indeed predict the future of Fleischmanns and so many other communities whose histories, if properly understood and conveyed, are their principal assets.
John Duda is one such person. As a trustee of the Skene Memorial Library (a handsome 1902 building on Main Street) and the Greater Fleischmanns Museum of Memories, a granny’s-attic barn alongside the library, he proudly rummaged through some of the museum’s treasures. Billheads, photographs, postcards, scorecards, tools, menus—all attested to a vibrant Fleischmanns whose permanent population ca. 1940 reached 500 (today it is 351); but by the Fourth of July back then, it was said there would be 10,000 folks in town. While recent summers have brought no trainloads of tourists, Mr. Duda loves the Fleischmanns that was and, while he works toward the community that might be, it was plain that he loved the Fleischmanns that is.
And so do I. I loved it when I was 5, vacationing at a local bungalow colony with my extended family, and I loved it two decades later, when it was time for me to leave New York City with my wife and four-month-old son and look for a new home in the old Catskills. The swarms of tourists were gone, but I figured the mountains were still there, so was the air, and one could make out pretty well on a small purse. While I live there no longer, the place still tugs at me whenever I visit. For years the onset of spring—which in our household meant the chance to play, watch, and chatter about baseball—was not assured until my sons and I drove up to Fleischmanns—gloves, bat and ball in the trunk—to cavort on the field along Wagner Avenue where we knew Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and other major leaguers had once played (either as autumn hunting guests of the Fleischmann brothers or as ringers brought in for the semi-pro team they sponsored). Local legend had it that the elders of Fleischmanns named the Avenue for Honus Wagner, but that has since proven to be apocryphal.
Julius and Max Fleischmann came to this community to escape the heat of Cincinnati summers around 1883, when it was called Griffin Corners. (The newly incorporated village was renamed “Fleischmanns” in 1913, after the family’s donation of the ballfield.) Their father, Charles, who had founded the Fleischmanns distilling and yeast companies, had just bought land west of the village near the Ulster & Delaware railroad station. The Fleischmanns and their friends soon built summer homes that were the stuff of fantasy, with porches, turrets, and terraces and costly interior trappings; the Fleischmanns’ grounds included a deer park, a riding stable, a heated pool filled with spring water, and a trout pond. Jewish families—not welcome in many respectable hotels of the region, despite their wealth and stature in New York City—flocked to the new hotels that also sprang up in the region. Entertainment was provided by Broadway and operatic stars of the first rank, furloughed for part of the summer because of the city’s heat. Some, like Julia Marlowe and Amelita Galli Curci, built fine summer homes in the hills.
Julius joined his father’s firm out of prep school and by age 28 he was elected mayor of Cincinnati in 1900; his popularity won him a second term as well. He and older brother Max became principal owners of the Cincinnati Reds in 1902, and they even had, secretly, a piece of the Philadelphia Phillies, too, a breach of baseball law even in those lawless days. But the Fleischmann brothers, for all their success back in Cincinnati, were active sportsmen first and foremost—polo players, yachtsmen, hunters, and would-be baseball players. In the summer, away from their home town, they had no way to see or play their beloved game. So, anticipating the movie Field of Dreams, they built a fine ballgrounds (by 1903 it could accommodate 5,000 spectators) and started up a team; as if it were just another trout pond, they stocked the Mountain Athletic Club—also known as the Mountain Tourists—with the best players they could buy, generally professionals or high-caliber collegians willing to play under pseudonyms that would safeguard their amateur eligibility. Honus Wagner may not have given his name to the avenue beside the playing field, but he did play with the Fleischmanns club in 1895 along with Max Fleischmann, who did the best he could in the outfield. (Manager of that team was Harry M. Stevens of Niles, Ohio, who five years later would wrap a frankfurter in a bun and, after seeing cartoonist Tad Dorgan’s characterization of the wiener as a dachshund, call it a hot dog.) In the first years of the new century, the Fleischmanns club featured such future major leaguers as Miller Huggins (playing as “Proctor,”) Red Dooin, Doc White, Jiggs Donahue, Barney McFadden, George Rohe, and Kingston-born Pete Cregan.
The New York Sun of July 12, 1900, observed that the Mountain Athletic Club “diamond is at the base of the mountains and the field has been laid out with no sparing of expense. The grounds are inclosed [sic] with a wire-netting fence and there is a small grand stand, which is always devoted to the Messrs. Fleischmanns’ guests. Guarantees, as much as $150 a game, are paid to the clubs to play there, irrespective of the small gate receipts. The players are quartered at a first-class hotel, and are serenaded by a band once a week.”
On August 10, 1903, the Mountain A.C. played at home against the famous Cuban Giants, who featured Bill Galloway at 2B. He was the last African-American to play in an integrated professional league (for Woodstock of the Canadian League in 1899) until Jackie Robinson. The “Cubans” were held to one run by the Fleischmanns’ pitcher, “Goldburg.” Jews summered in Fleischmanns because they were excluded from other, tonier resorts; blacks had to play on teams of their own because they were excluded from both the major and minor leagues. This was an oddly emblematic contest.
Although the Catskills region may have exhibited more tolerance than other locales, its appetite for diversity was no greater. There were the Jewish Catskills (and among these, pockets devoted to specific national clientele: Rumanian, Hungarian, Austrian, German, etc.). There were Irish Catskills. There were Italian Catskills. Oh, there still are such designated areas, but the national pursuit of homogenization and standardization has robbed them of authentic flavor.
In any event, the era of the grand hotel—atop Highmount or tucked in the hills along the Delaware River—is forever gone at Fleischmanns, and hurtling along toward its exit in Sullivan County. An arson epidemic, not all of it inspired by insurance fraud, robbed the region of many fine buildings (remember the Catskill Mountain House?) that might have been reclaimed by later generations, more attuned to the economic and psychic value of preservation. The question must be asked: In the absence of tangible ruin, how can we “be sure of the past and predict the future,” in Stephen Hawking’s words?
A pilgrimage to the site of the Takanassee Hotel in Fleischmanns, scorched or torched in 1971, reveals a fantastic remnant. Two massive stone pillars along the roadside invite the pilgrim to a broad vista of parched earth, bulldozed up the hill to where the hotel once stood. Where the clearing efforts appear to have ceased, nature has begun to reclaim her ancient right of way. Walk a little into the overgrowth, past the incongruous concrete slab and there!—in the sacred wood—a vast reservoir, filled to the rim, with fat fish swimming lazily amid the wrecked lumber tossed in long ago. This was the hallmark of the Takanassee—the famously huge swimming pool, 275 feet long, nearly a football field, and 145 feet wide. Information mangled beyond recognition, yet with the aid of memory, revivified.
The coventional tale is that baseball spread via the Civil War, as returning veterans of both sides who had played the game in their camps or in those of the enemy, as prisoners, brought it back home with them. A pretty tale but not an accurate one, as baseball is documented in many parts of what would become the transcontinental United States well before the Civil War. Larry McCray, mastermind of the invaluable Protoball site, resolved to document the spread of the game via its earliest citations, state by state, territory by territory, and nation by nation (see: http://protoball.org/Pre-pro_Baseball). Even in some western regions, the first record of baseball is startlingly early.
Congregationalists of a missionary bent emanating from Connecticut to spread the faith while seeking their fortunes may well have spread that state’s favored game, wicket, not only to the Western Reserve (Michigan, Ohio) but even as far away as Hawaii. Ball games spread in part via the establishment of missionary settlements (filled with people who came for economic opportunity, not for the free practice of their faith, which had been unfettered back home). Missionaries and proselytizers of all stripes, including those whose aim was to convert Native Americans, established wilderness communities and the folks who settled in them brought their ballplaying ways with them. Thus we have the appearance, for example, of wicket in Michigan and Iowa and Hawaii. No sermon from the pulpit prompted anyone to play ball.
Hawaii presents a particularly interesting example of the spread of bat-and ball games, even if the claims for baseball play in the 1840s are suspect. Were Hawaiians playing bat and ball games in 1841 and earlier, particularly at the Punahou school? Almost certainly. Were these adapted from the Massachusetts Game of Baseball, at that time and for a hundred years previous, the ascendant model? I have my doubts.
“One game they all enjoyed was wicket, often watched by small Mary Burbank. Aipuni, the Hawaiians called it, or rounders, perhaps because the bat had a large rounder end. It was a forerunner of baseball, but the broad, heavy bat was held close to the ground.” [Source: Ethel M. Damon. Sanford Ballard Dole and His Hawaii, Pacific Books, Palo Alto, 1957, page 41.] This quotation is a recollection within Chapter III of the book, covering the years 1855-66, and is given context by two earlier passages:
“In 1855, when the Doles moved to Koloa to live, Dr. Wood’s partner and manager was his brother-in-law, Judge Samuel Burbank, still another Maine man, a young lawyer who by good fortune had been bred a farmer. All of these young New Englanders were men of character and integrity which set a high level in the new community.” [p. 36]
“One of the little girls of this Koloa school, Mary Burbank, daughter of the plantation manager, still recalled it seventy-five years later, if people asked her about it. Across the road from the Smiths’ was the big adobe Hawaiian church, built in Father Gulick’s time; just above that was the large Hawaiian school taught by a Hawaiian teacher. Below it, on the site occupied by the present public school, was a thatch-roofed house with clapboard sides. Here the new Dole school opened, in a thicket of indigo bushes, with a clearing to the road in front where the boys played a bat-and-ball game called wicket. The schoolhouse was a simple one without a ceiling, all the rafters in the interior exposed where not covered by blackboards around the sides.” [pp. 38-39]
The Doles built their school in 1855 and enlarged it at a new location in 1857. So it might be best to place this reference to wicket play as 1855-57. When I came upon this source some fifteen years ago I instantly thought, how did wicket, the game whose hotbed was Litchfield County, Connecticut, get to Hawaii?
This from Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography:
OBOOKIAH, Henry, missionary, born on the island of Hawaii about 1792; died in Cornwall, Connecticut, 17 February, 1818. He was brought to New Haven, Connecticut, in a merchant vessel in 1809. After he had obtained an excellent English education in the families of friends in Andover, Massachusetts, and Goshen and Cantata, Connecticut, the ministers of Litchfield county, Connecticut, formed the plan of a special school to prepare natives of heathen countries for missionary service. He was active in soliciting money for the proposed mission-school, which was established at Cornwall, Connecticut, in 1817. There were brought into it other Kanakas besides Obookiah, as well as pupils from Hindustan and some North American Indians. While there he was seized with a fatal fever, after nearly completing a Hawaiian dictionary, grammar, and spelling-book, besides translating the book of Genesis into his native language….
Obookiah’s “Memoirs” were published (The Office of the Religious Intelligencer, New Haven, 1818, 187 pp.) in the year of his death. The book was composed of four separately paginated pieces: The Memoirs, A Sermon Delivered at the Funeral of Henry Obookiah, A Sermon delivered at the inauguration of the Rev. Hermon Daggett, and An Inauguration Address delivered at the opening of the Foreign Mission School.
In New Haven Obookiah (né Opukahaia) met and befriended Samuel J. Mills, a student at Yale who would become one of the leaders of the foreign missions movement. After following Mills to Andover, Obookiah experienced an evangelical conversion in 1812, became a member of the Congregational church at Torringford, Connecticut, three years later, and the following year joined the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Though he died in Connecticut in 1818, he had already persuaded ministers to take up a mission to Hawaii. These Nutmeggers arrived at Kohala, Hawaii, March 31, 1820, according to “Hawaiian Oddities,” a booklet published ca. 1960 by Robert D. Seal of Seattle. The book’s author is Mike Jay, at the time a sportswriter for the News-Call Bulletin of San Francisco. The booklet bears no publication date and it is unpaginated.
Obookiah was not himself an Episcopalian but the more profound connection for our purposes may be to Litchfield County, home to a significant Episcopalian community and the game of wicket. While he could not have brought wicket to Hawaii he may well have played it in Litchfield.
And let’s not neglect the role of the military in spreading bat and ball games before the Civil War, notably in the Mexican fracas and the ensuing Gold Rush years.
The New York Volunteer Regiment reached California in April 1846 after the end of the Mexican War, and helped to occupy the province. They laid out a diamond, made a ball from gutta percha, and used a mesquite stick as a bat. “Largely because of the baseball games, the Spanish-speaking people of Santa Barbara came to look upon the New Yorkers as loudmouthed, uncouth hoodlums. . . . the hostilities between Californians and Americanos continued to fester for generations.” [Source: “Baseball Began Here in 1847,” It Happened in Old Santa Barbara (author unidentified), pages 77-78. Found in Giamatti Center “Origins” file, 2003.]
In 1847 Adolph Engelmann, an Illinois volunteer in the Mexican War, wrote in his diary on January 30, 1847: “During the past week we had much horse racing and the drill
ground was fairly often in use for ball games.” [Source: “The Second Illinois in the Mexican War: Mexican War Letters of Adolph Engelmann, 1846-1846,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 26, number 4 (January 1934), page 435.]
Angus Macfarlane has done groundbreaking work on the introduction of baseball to San Francisco by former members of New York’s Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, as early as 1851. See:
My researcher friends and I have gone around previously about the origins of the seventh inning stretch, so I’ll not revisit that today. However, I can recall as a boy learning that the seventh was a lucky inning for the home team. Apart from the magical properties assigned to the number 7, here may be the origin of that notion in baseball, from the Brooklyn Eagle of December 25, 1910, relying upon contemporaneous accounts from the New York Clipper. The subject is the Atlantics’ victory over the Excelsiors in 1860–a return match after having lost the opener at the Excelsior Grounds on Court Street. [The accompanying art at left is the first of Norman Rockwell’s baseball works printed in color, published when he had just turned twenty.]
Atlantics Start “Lucky Seventh”
At 3:35 the game commenced and for the first three innings the Atlantics failed to get a man across the home plate, so skillful was the work of the visiting players in the field. In the meantime the Excelsiors scored 8 runs by timely batting.
In the fourth inning the Atlantics made 2 runs by good hits on the part of Smith, McMahon and Peter O’Brien. The Excelsiors added 3 more runs to their credit, making the score at the end of the inning stand at 11 to 2. This certainly looked bad for the Atlantics, but they never gave up while there was a chance to win. In the next two innings they began to get warmed up to their work, for they added 4 runs to their score, while they held their opponents down to a single run.
Then something happened. For the first and only time in Creighton’s career, he was batted out of the pitcher’s position, and Edmund Russell took his place in the remaining two innings. That seventh inning, which was thereafter called “the lucky seventh,” was a memorable one in the annals of the Atlantics’ career, for a finer display of batting was never before seen in this vicinity.
Then, too, it was marked by one of the greatest instances of fielding ever witnessed up to that time in this country, Russell’s catch of a ball sent by Price to left field being one of the finest ever made. Price had sent the ball with terrific force over into left field, when Russell, while running at full speed, made a most remarkable catch—taking tho ball on the fly within a few inches of the ground, and eliciting a spontaneous burst of applause from the spectators that lasted until he took his place in the pitcher’s position, he succeeding Creighton. The result of this inning decided the game, the Atlantics making 9 runs and bringing their total up to 15. The Excelsiors just missed tieing the score, and that was all they could do, so brilliantly did the Atlantics play in the field. [Note below that the Atlantics, as the home club, elected to bat first.]
Atlantic 0 0 0 2 1 3 9 0 0–15
Excelsior 3 4 1 3 1 0 0 1 1–14
“Game Called” by Grantland Rice; first published in Base-Ball Ballads, 1910, later updated (1948), memorably, for the passing of Babe Ruth. Sadly apt once again, for José Fernández.
“Game called”—across the field of play
The dusk has come, the hour is late;
The fight is done and, lost or won,
The player files out through the gate;
The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,
The stands are bare, the park is still ;
But through the night there shines the light
Of Home beyond the silent hill.
“Game called”—where in the golden light
The bugle rolled the reveille,
The shadows creep where night falls deep
And taps has called the end of play;
The game is done, the score is in,
The final cheer and jeer have passed,
But in the night beyond the fight
The player finds his rest at last.
“Game called”-—upon the field of life
The darkness gathers, far and wide;
The dream is done, the score is spun
That stands forever in the guide;
Nor victory, nor yet defeat
Is chalked against the player’s name,
But down the roll the final scroll
Shows only “how he played the game.”
To an Athlete Dying Young, by A.E. Housman
THE time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.