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Friday, April 21, 2017

Knuckleball Pitcher Wilbur Wood

Wilbur Wood struggled early in his career with the Boston Red Sox, and Pittsburgh Pirates. After being traded to the Chicago White Sox, he took Hoyt Wilhem’s advice to rely on his knuckleball. It would launch his career. In 1968, he set a then major league record of 88 appearances.

In 1971, Wood was moved to the starting rotation, and delivered with four consecutive 20 game win seasons. He would lead the American League in wins in 1972-73, and was an American League all-star in 1971-1972, and 1974.  His career was derailed in 1976, when a line drive from the bat of Ron LeFlore shattered his left kneecap. After returning from his injury in 1977, he wasn’t as effective with his knuckleball, and retired after the 1978 season. He finished his career with a 164-156 won-loss record, and an ERA of 3.24.

Frank Howard: The Capital Punisher

Frank Howard broke in with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In his rookie season Howard hit 23 home runs with 77 RBI earning the National League Rookie of the Year award.

His best offensive seasons would come as a member of the Washington Senators uniform. He hit forty plus home runs in 68-70 seasons. In 1968 and 1970, he led the American League in home runs. He had the creative nicknames of “The Washington Monument”, “Hondo” and “The Captial Punisher.” Howard was a four time all-star. After his playing days, he managed the New York Mets and San Diego Padres. He also served as a coach for his several clubs.

He hit 382 home runs with 1,119 RBI with a hitting line of .273/.352/.499. 

Mel Allen Voice of the New York Yankees

Mel Allen began his sports broadcasting by calling Alabama Crimson Tide football games. Later while working for CBS, Allen was assigned to the 1938 World Series as a color commentator to begin his career in baseball.  He began doing games for the Yankees in June of 1939.

After serving in WW II, and beginning in 1947 through 1964, before his contract was not renewed in 1965. He would rejoin the Yankees in 1976, and in 1977 Mel Allen was the voice This Week In Baseball. He broadcast a game in 1990 for WPIX to make him the first seven decade broadcaster.

Allen also broadcast for the Milwaukee Braves in 1965, 1968 Cleveland Indians television. He broadcast 12 Rose Bowls, 2 Orange Bowls and 2 Sugar Bowls.

He was one of the first two to receive the Ford C. Frick award for broadcasters along with Red Barber.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chicago Cubs Great Hack Wilson

The video is of the seven greatest offensive seasons in baseball history. Hack Wilson is the first of the seven.

Hack Wilson was a hard drinking, hard hitting outfielder, quick with his fists,  that made for one the most colorful players of his day. At only 5-6, he would display power not seen in the National League at that time.  Wilson broke in the major leagues in 1923 with the New York Giants. In his official rookie season of 1924, the Giants would win the pennant, but Wilson struggled in the World Series hitting only .233. In May of 1925, Wilson was slumping so badly he lost his job in left field. His slump continued most of the season, and was sent to the minor league Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association.

The Chicago Cubs wallowing in last place would claim Hack Wilson that winter on waivers when the Giants failed to protect him. The Giants right-fielder Ross Youngs at the time offered the prophetic words "They let go the best outfielder I ever played beside, and they're going to regret."

Getting claimed on waivers by the Cubs Wilson would win the center field job, and is his first season on the north side of Chicago, he hit a league leading 21 home runs with 109 RBI. The Cubs went from last to fourth place finishing 10 games over .500.  Over the next three seasons he would hit 30 or more home runs including leading the league in 1927-1928.  The 39 home runs he hit in 1929 would help lead the Cubs to the National League pennant.  In 1930, Wilson would have an offensive season for the ages. He would hit 56 home runs, a first in the National League with a major league baseball record of 191 RBI. The RBI record is believed by many to be a record that will never be broken. He finished the season with a slash line  of .356/.454/.723. 

After the great season of 1930, Wilson's drinking became very heavy. He reported for spring training in 1931 twenty pounds overweight.  He went into a long slump during the season, and the last straw for the Cubs came when he got into a fight with reports on a train in Cincinnati. He was suspended by the Cubs for the rest of the season. He had hit only .261 with 13 home runs. In December the Cubs shipped the troubled outfielder to the St. Louis Cardinals. They in turn traded him the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

He bounced back in Brooklyn during the 1932 season hitting 23 home runs with 123 RBI. His career like his drinking was spiraling out of control. He would retire from baseball in 1935. Wilson died broke in 1948, National League President Ford Frick paid for the funeral when Wilson's wouldn't claim the body.  Wilson would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 by the veterans committee. 

In his final interview with CBS Radio Wilson left us with these words of advice: "Talent isn't enough. You need common sense and good advice. If anyone tries to tell you different, tell them the story of Hack Wilson. ... Kids in and out of baseball who think because they have talent they have the world by the tail. It isn't so. Kids, don't be too big to accept advice. Don't let what happened to me happen to you."

Chicago Cubs: Tinker to Evers to Chance

Between 1902 and 1912 the trio of Joe Tinker shortstop, Johnny Evers second base, and Frank Chance. The trio were elected by the veterans committee in 1946 to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  During their time with the Cubs, they won 1907-1908 World Series, and four National League pennants. The only two World Series championship in Chicago Cubs history mastering the Detroit Tigers in both series.

 Franklin Pierce Adams of the New York Evening Post made the trio famous by penning the poem "Baseball's Sad Lexicon." It was originally titled "That Double Play Again" when it was published on July 12, 1910. The poem launched the trio into baseball immortality
It is well documented that Evers and Tinker didn't speak to each other after September 14, 1905. Evers took a cab to the ballpark leaving Tinker in the hotel lobby, and they ended up having a fist fight on the field. 

Frank Chance managed the Cubs from 1905-1912, and afterwards managed both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. He was a lifetime .296 hitter and twice led the National League in stolen bases.  Tinker would be a player-manager for the Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. He only hit .262 in his career.  Johnny Evers would hit .270 over the course of his long career. In era of high batting averages, the trio were helped by the famous poem.

Gentleman Jim Hickman

Hickman is remembered for delivering the game winning hit in the 1970 All-Star game in which Pete Rose blew up Ray Fosse at home plate.

Hickman broke in to the big leagues with the New York Mets after being selected in the expansion draft from the St. Louis Cardinals, and played with them from 1962-66. While in New York, Hickman became the first Met to hit for the cycle, and it was Hickman that hit the last home run in the Polo Grounds. He played the 1967 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers  before being sent packing to the Chicago Cubs.

He enjoyed his most productive year in 1970 with the Cubs. Hickman blasted 32 home runs with 115 RBI, and finished with a .315 batting average. They were career highs in all three categories. He would provided the Cubs two more solid seasons before tapering off in 1973, and spent 1974 with the Cardinals.

As a young fan of the Cubs Jim Hickman was always one of my favorites among the non-star players. In my young mind, it seemed he was always delivering in the clutch.

Sweet Swinging Billy Williams

Sweet Swinging Billy Williams, he was tagged early in his career with the Chicago Cubs. Williams, who was the 1961 National League Rookie of the Year made his mark in baseball history with his durability, and bat.

Williams spent sixteen seasons in the major leagues fourteen of those with the Cubs, and his last two with the Oakland Athletics. Williams was an iron man his day playing 1,117 straight games from 1963-1970. His streak currently ranks sixth in major league history. He was a six-time National League All-Star, won the battling title in 1972. He was snubbed for the All-Star game in 1970 when had a 26 home runs and 80 RBI at the all-star break.

His best season was 1972, when he hit 37 home runs with 122 RBI, and hit .333. He finished second to Johnny Bench of the Reds in the MVP voting. His career numbers of 426 home runs, 1475 RBI, and a .290 batting average were enough to get him elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

Often over shadowed in recent years by fellow Hall Fame players Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo, and Ernie Banks, but Williams was a key member of the solid Chicago Cubs teams of the late 60's and eaarly 70's.

Kong: Dave Kingman

Dave Kingman was known for his ability to crush long towering home runs, a poor glove, and an abrasive personality. Kingman was drafted by the San Francisco Giants out of USC (University of Southern California) in 197. He made his Major League debut in 1971 with his first full season in 1972, a strike delayed season, he hit for the cycle on the second game of the season (April 16, 1972). Kingman would hit 29 home runs that season with 83 RBI, but he would finish with a sub par slash line of .225/.303/.478 which would become indicative of what was to come in his career.

His offensive numbers continued to dip over the next two seasons. The Giants gave up on Kingman as a third baseman after making 12 errors in only 59 chances in 1974. His run production had slipped from his rookie campaign. He hit only 18 home runs with 55 RBI, and a slash line  of .223/.302/.440. He would be traded to the New York Mets after the 1974 season. 

In New York, he was moved to the outfield where he put up career high in 1975 in home runs with 36 and RBI with 88. During the 1976 season on June 4th, he would hit three home runs in an 11-0 thumping of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would accomplish this feat five times in his career. He also set a new high in home runs during the season with 37. 
The 1977 was a poor season for Kingman, who was traded to the San Diego Padres, and after performing poorly was waived and claimed by the California Angels on September 6th. Only nine days later he was shipped to the New York Yankees. He is one of the few players in Major League history to play for four teams in the same season.

In 1978, he would sign as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs.  He would hit 28 home runs and drive in 79 runs in his first year on the north side of Chicago. He followed it up by having the best year of his career hitting 48 home runs driving in 115 with the best slash line of his career at .288/.343/.613.  He was named to the National League all-star team for the second time in his career. He was an all-star with the Mets in 1976, and would be named an all-star with the Mets again in 1982. The Cubs tiring of Kingman's personality traded the outfielder back to the New York Mets.

In his last six seasons he hit thirty or more home runs four times. Including the last three seasons with the Oakland A's. Despite hitting 35 home runs with 94 RBI , he wasn't offered a contract. Despite lofty home run totals Kingman was plagued by a poor slash his entire career finishing .236/.302/.478. He hit 442 home runs in his career with 1210 RBI. He became the first hitter with more than 400 home runs not to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He was entertainment on many mediocre teams in New York, Chicago, and Oakland.

1876 Chicago White Stockings

April 25, 1876, the Chicago White Stockings when their opening game in the inaugural season of the National League. They beat the Louisville Grays 4-0 in Louisville. The White Stockings would change their name first to the Colts, Orphans, and now known as the Chicago Cubs. They would win the National League championship in the first year of the the league.

The White Stockings would finish the season at 52-14, and would dominate the National League by winning six of the first eleven titles. They would be called the Cubs in 1902 by the Chicago Daily News, but the team name wasn't officially changed until 1907.

The 1876 Chicago White Stockings roster can be found at:

The 1876 Chicago White Stockings schedule with results:

2016 Anthony Rizzo Highlights

The best highlights of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was instrumental in leading the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908. He hit .292 with 32 home runs and 109 RBI.

Rizzo is a three time all-star (2014-2016) 2016 Gold Glove winner, and the 2016 platinum glove winner at first base. He is a survivor of limited state classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He established the Anthony Rizzo Foundation in 2012 to raise money for cancer research, and to assist families that are fighting cancer.

Friday, February 3, 2017

2017 Baseball Predictions

I have been asked over the last several weeks about my picks for the 2017 baseball season. My prediction for the two wildcard teams in the AL are Toronto and Houston.  A game in which the Astros will defeat the Blue Jays. The next round winners will be Boston and Cleveland with Boston capturing the American League title.

In the National League the Mets square off with the Giants in the wildcard with the Mets prevailing in that game. The Cubs and Dodgers win their respective series, and the Cubs beat the Dodgers for the National League title.

The Cubs win their first back-to-back titles in the 1907-1908, by beating the Red Sox in seven games. Now, you didn't really think I was going to go against the Cubs did you? Please feel free to leave comments, or twitter me at @jsph1959,  you can email them to me by going to my webpage.

AL East                                   AL Central                              AL West

Boston                                    Cleveland                                    Texas
Toronto                                   Detroit                                         Houston
New York                               Kansas City                                 Seattle        
Baltimore                               Chicago WS                                LA Angels
Tampa Bay                             Minnesota                                    Oakland

NL East                                   NL Central                              NL West

Washington                                 Chicago Cubs                          LA Dodgers
New York                                    St. Louis                                  SF Giants  
Miami                                          Pittsburgh                                Arizona
Philadelphia                                Milwaukee                                Colorado
Atlanta                                         Cincinnati                                 San Diego

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Little League Drama by J.R. Sweeney

J.R. Sweeney writes to have fun and researches his Irish and French genealogy back to early AD. He lives in New England with his Father and Brother but the true"apple of his eye" are his terrific Daughter and Grandson

I cringed at the sight of Noah in the on deck circle. There were whispers and sighs as Noah walked to the plate. The crowd was had my same thoughts, it is over. Noah’s team was down two runs with two outs in the bottom of the last inning. His under nine year old team’s chance is all but finished.

My grandson Noah hasn’t had a hit all season. I can almost swear he thinks the object is to strike out. My other grandson, Nathan “The Natural” has walked ahead of Noah, he stole second and third, but rests at third with a forlorn look of hopelessness as Noah takes two strikes.

Wow! Noah takes the next two pitches both out of the strike zone. The anxiety builds, and I can’t bear to watch. The next pitch sails up and out of the strike zone for ball three. Wtf! I mutter to myself, can’t his mom and dad throw him a few pitches to work on his swing? I’m disgusted, they are so close, but it will end with another strike out.

In my moment of despair, I hear the distinct sound of the ping of a baseball striking an aluminum bat. What is going on? Do my eyes deceive me? The ball has dropped into rightfield, and Noah is strolling into second base with RBI double. He had struck out over 30 consecutive teams that season, and has never made contact.

What magic is this? Now, our clutch hitter Matao steps up to the plate, and rips the ball deep into the gap. Noah races home with the run that tied the game, and Matao scores behind him with an inside-the-park home run. Certain defeat has turned into victory!

The game is over! Noah’s parents are hugging him, and their faces beam with pride. The kid that never had a hit all season was the hero. He had saved the best for last

 I feel foolish that I gave up on him, that eight-year old showed me can do anything he damn well wants.

The village of Jodicus by [Sweeney, J. R.]

Monday, January 16, 2017

Al Rosen and the Cleveland Indians

Don Drewniak was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts. In addition to having taught public school science and math for thirty years, he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He co-authored The Junk Picker (a Great Depression memoir) with his father, Jan F. Drewniak, and has since authored two additional books, Desert Assassin (science fiction) and When Baseball Was Baseball (history).

It was the summer of 1948. Maybe I saw Johnny Sain win one of the 24 games he won that year. Maybe I saw Warren Spahn win one of his 15 victories, and one of his 363 lifetime wins. And most likely I saw the five Braves' players who batted over .300 in '48 – Tommy Holmes, Alvin Dark, Eddie Stanky, Jeff Heath and Mike McCormick.

I was five-years old when my parents brought me to see the Boston Braves play a home game at storied Braves Field. I was too young to realize I was watching a baseball game. Surrounding me were more people than I had ever seen in one place. They alternately cheered and booed, while seemingly eating and drinking most of the time. When my father cheered, I cheered. When he booed, I booed. Best of all, I ate two hot dogs which seemed to me to be the best tasting food I had ever eaten.

Lost on me at the time was that the Braves went on to play the Cleveland Indians that year in the World Series. It was the first World Series for the Braves since 1914 and the first for the Indians since 1920. Cleveland won in six games. The Indians had defeated the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the American League championship, thus preventing an all-Boston World Series.
Three years later, baseball became the primary focus of my life. And, I was a fan of the Cleveland Indians. This despite the fact that I was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts. Located approximately fifty-miles south of Boston, the city with a population of approximately 100,000 at the time was, as to be expected, Boston Braves and Boston Red Sox territory.

I entered third grade in September 1951. Except for the memory of the hot dogs I consumed three years earlier at Braves Field, I doubt that I had given much thought to baseball during the intervening time. By the start of the 1952 MLB season, I had become a rabid fan of the Indians. Al Rosen, the team's third baseman, was my favorite player. How did an eight-year old in that environment come to be an Indians' fanatic?
Today's professional baseball in the United States is business – big business, with even major league bench warmers making more than a half-million dollars per year. In 1950, most players had to work in the “real world” during the off season, as their predecessors did going back to the beginnings of professional baseball. There were also those who were fortunate enough to barnstorm.
My parents took me to see a barnstorming game played in Fall River Stadium on October 14th, 1951. One of the teams was that organized by Birdie Tebbetts, Birdie Tebbetts All-Stars. I'm guessing that the opposition was comprised of some of the local area's better players. Tebbetts had just finished his first season with the Indians after having played with the Red Sox during the previous four years. Other Indians on the team were Al Rosen, Jim Hegan and Mike Garcia. The main attraction was Bobby Thompson who just four days earlier had hit the "Shot Heard 'Round the World." 

If memory serves me correctly, my parents and I were seated several rows in back of, and to the right of, the dugout used by Tebbetts' team. At some point in the game, a foul grounder was hit toward the area in which we were sitting. I raced toward the railing separating the playing field from the seats. My momentum carried me over the railing resulting in my dropping a short distance onto the field.

The baseball gods must have been watching. I was unhurt and before I could move, Al Rosen came out of the dugout, picked me up by the back of my shirt, grabbed the ball and brought me into the dugout. He proceeded to sign the ball and had several other players do so as well. After escorting me back to the “scene of the crime,” he lifted me over the railing and I scurried back to my seat.

As soon as I was told that Rosen played for the Cleveland Indians, I was forever “doomed” to be a fan of the team.

When Baseball Was Baseball by [Drewniak, Don]The Junk Picker by [Drewniak, Jan F., Drewniak, Don]Desert Assassin by [Drewniak,Don]