Monday, July 25, 2011
Seventy years since Lefty Grove’s 300thPosted by Chris Jaffe
NOW IT’S A MAGIC DOZEN WITH GROVE LATEST AND MAYBE LAST 300 GAME WINNER
Front-page banner headline on The Sporting News, July 31, 1941.
That’s what The Sporting News said after Grove made history with his 300th win, on July 25, 1941. In reality, a young Early Wynn was just getting started with the Senators. People always like saying someone’s the last 300-game winner because they can’t see someone in the immediate future who might do it.
The weird part: Grove won No. 300 in midseason and never won another one. Essentially, Grove was the pitching equivalent of a man drawing his last breath and last dollar at the same time. He was fine up to this point but ran out of gas entirely.
He was good the year before in 1940, ending the season with 293 wins. So he came back for more in 1941, and got off to a good start. He was far from his prime, and so he couldn’t pitch that often. But that was fine. Pitchers as a whole were used in a much more flexible manner back in those days, so it was no big deal to just use Grove on basically a weekly basis.
In his occasional starts, Grove won his sixth game of the year and 299th in his career on July 2, 1941. His seasonal record was 6-2, so he was still getting the job done.
He continued pitching well in the next two games but couldn’t get a win in either one due to lack of run support. He lost 2-0 in his first quest for 300. Next time around, he lost 4-3 in 10 innings in a game in which he only allowed two earned runs. He was now 6-4 on the year, but with a 3.76 ERA. Not bad for a southpaw in Fenway pitching in a league with a 4.15 ERA.
Oddly enough, the day Grove won his 300th was the beginning of his end. In win No. 300, Grove was more the pitcher of record than the actual winner, as the Red Sox bats bludgeoned the opposing team into submission, 10-6. Grove allowed six runs (five earned) on 12 hits in that complete-game victory.
That proved to be the first of four consecutive outings in which he allowed six runs. He allowed six earned runs in nine innings, then another half-dozen earned runs in seven innings. Finally, he allowed four earned runs (out of six overall) in just seven innings. He was lucky to come away with one loss and two no-decisions.
On Aug. 20 Grove took the hill on just three days' rest and showed how important the extra rest had been to him that year. He didn’t get out of the first inning, allowing five runs. Sure, none was earned, but that’s the case of a well-timed error erasing the pitcher’s mistakes. He’d allowed four hits and a walk while only getting two outs.
A week later he started again. After retiring the leadoff batter, Grove was done. Apparently injured, he didn’t pitch again for 32 more days.
When he did return, it was more of the same. He allowed three runs on four hits in one inning before getting pulled. That was it for the year. He’d pitched two innings total in his final three starts.
In all, including his 300th win, in his last seven games, 53 of the final 154 batters he faced rapped a hit off Grove for a .366 batting average. His ERA of 6.55 in that spell could easily have been higher as he’d allowed 32 runs in 33 innings. Lucky him, eight of them were unearned.
Not too surprisingly, Grove decided to retire at the end of the year. He made his announcement in early December. To be precise, on Dec. 7, 1941. I don’t think that was the big news story of the day.
Other events also celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (an event occur X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you feel like skimming:
4,000 days since Gary Sheffield has possibly his worst game, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. It’s his only four-K game. Two days earlier, he’d suffered through his worst game according to WPA.
10,000 days since that Richard Barbieri person, author of 195 articles at The Hardball Times, born.
15,000 days since Riverfront Stadium debuts.
15,000 days since second baseman Mark Grudzielanek born
1876 Cal McVey, who got six hits in a game three days ago, does it again. It was a very different game.
1883 Old Hoss Radbourn tosses a no-hitter, winning 8-0.
1885 Charles Ferguson, a young phenom who will die young, tosses a no-hitter
1889 Hall of Fame skipper Ned Hanlon manages his first game.
1894 George Decker of the Cubs hits a home run that reputedly travels 520 feet.
1896 Pirates trade future Hall of Famer Jake Beckley to the Giants for Harry Davis and $1,000. Davis will play for a long time, mostly with Connie Mack’s A’s team, and will briefly be the all-time AL home run leader.
1900 The Boston Braves score 13 runs in the first inning in an 18-5 win over the Cardinals.
1902 Cy Seymour of the Reds hits four sacrifice flies in one game versus the Cubs. Reds win, 6-1.
1908 In a semi-pro game in Falconer, New York, Hugh Bedient fans 42 batters in 23 innings.
1908 A new record crowd at the Polo Grounds of 25,000 sees Honus Wagner go 5-for-5 in a 7-2 Pirates victory over the Giants.
1910 Joe Jackson, unhappy with the A’s when his teammates ridicule him, is traded to Cleveland for Briscoe Lord.
1913 Walter Johnson fans 16 in 11 innings. It’s called a tie, 8-8, after 15 innings.
1917 The Pirates select George "High Pockets" Kelly, arguably the worst player inducted into Cooperstown, off waivers from New York Giants.
1918 A George Sisler triple in the first inning is the only hit Walter Johnson allows in a 15-inning, 1-0 win.
1921 The Phillies trade Irish Meusel to the Giants for Curt Walker, Butch Henlin, and $30,000.
1926 Whitey Lockman born. He was on base when Bobby Thomson hit his “The Giants win the pennant!” homer in 1951.
1929 The A’s destroy the Indians, 21-3. In it, Al Simmons steals two bases in one game for the only time in his career. Both come in triple steals (in the first and fourth innings). Lefty Grove, not normally a good hitter, has his best day at the plate ever: 3-for-4 with a double, a homer, two runs, and five RBIs.
1931 Joe Sewell, hard-to-fan Hall of Fame infielder, hits his only career walk-off home run. He crushes it off of Tommy Bridges in the bottom of the 11th inning.
1933 The Dodgers release Joe Judge.
1933 The Cardinals unconditionally release Rogers Hornsby, who is hitting .325 in 46 games.
1933 The Cardinals’ Frankie Frisch manages his first game.
1933 Heinie Manush plays his 50th straight game without a strikeout. In that stretch he’s 85-for-223 for a .381 batting average.
1936 The longest hitting streak by Hall of Famer Earl Averill maxes at 20 games. He was 42-for-89 for a .472/.510/.764 line.
1936 Frankie Hayes of the A’s hits four doubles in their 15-12 win over the Indians.
1937 Joe Medwick collects his 1,000th hit in his 717th game.
1937 Mel Almada scores nine times in a doubleheader: four runs in the first game and five in the second.
1939 The A’s and Indians combine for 14 runs in the ninth inning. It’s 3-3 going in, then 12-3 Cleveland in the middle of the frame, and 12-8 when it ends.
1939 The Dodgers pick up Dixie Walker from the Tigers at the waiver price.
1939 Jimmie Foxx, who homered twice in the second game of the doubleheader yesterday, homers twice in the second game of today’s doubleheader.
1939 Mel Ott gets on base for the 42nd consecutive game.
1939 Yankee pitcher Atley Donald ties the rookie record with 12 straight wins at the start of the season.
1942 The Giants purchase Van Mungo from Minneapolis of the American Association.
1948 Joe Medwick plays his last game.
1948 Carl Erskine debuts in the big leagues.
1949 Stan Musial legs out his 100th triple.
1953 Eddie Stanky plays his last game.
1954 Jack Harshamn fans 16 Red Sox in Chicago’s 5-2 win.
1956 Roberto Clemente hits the most awesome home run of all-time: An inside-the park walk-off grand slam. He hits it off Jim Brosnan for a 9-8 Pirates victory.
1958 Ken Boyer receives his only walk-off walk against Don Newcombe for a 5-4 St. Louis win over the Reds.
1958 Whitey Ford tosses his third straight complete-game shutout: 27 IP, 12 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 14 K.
1959 It’s the first of two times Hank Aaron plays a full game at third base. The second time is the first game of a doubleheader tomorrow.
1959 In a Yankee 9-8 win over the Tigers, Yogi Berra has his best WPA game and Al Kaline has his worst WPA game. Berra is 3-for-4 with a double, home run, two RBIs, two runs, a walk, and he reached on error for a 0.749 WPA. Alternately, Kaline was 0-for-5 with an intentional walk, and a GIDP for a –0.663 WPA.
1961 Roger Maris has his best day of his 61-home run season, blasting four homers in a doubleheader.
1962 Doug Drabek born.
1962 Vinegar Bend Mizell plays his last game in the majors.
1964 The Twins use nine pitchers in a 13-inning game, losing 6-5 to the White Sox.
1964 Alex Johnson, batting title winner, makes his major league debut.
1965 Brooks Robinson blasts his 100th career home run.
1965 After midnight, Casey Stengel breaks his hip, which will end his managerial career.
1965 Nellie Fox, Hall of Fame second baseman, plays his final game.
1965 Smokey Burgess collects his 108th pinch hit, a record (later broken).
1966 Casey Stengel and Ted Williams join Cooperstown. In his induction speech, Williams famously calls for Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige to be inducted.
1967 Orioles-Tigers game in Detroit postponed on account of riot.
1968 It’s the tenth game in a ten-start stretch for Bob Gibson in which he allows two runs. Not averaging two runs—allowing a total of two runs! His line in this time: 10-0, 90 IP, 51 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 12 BB, 75 K for a 0.20 ERA.
1969 Boston’s Tony Conigliaro suffers a wrenched back while homering in a 7-6 win over the Pilots.
1969 Bob Gibson has his best Game Score (100) and WPA in a complete game win over the Giants, 2-1 (13). His line: 13 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 K.
1970 Billy Williams ruins what is otherwise a perfect game for Phil Niekro. His two hits are all Niekro allows. Niekro's Game Score of 91 ties his career best.
1971 Billy Wagner born.
1971 Chief Meyers dies.
1972 Cubs announce Leo Durocher is no longer their manager.
1974 Carl Yastrzemski hits his 300th career home run.
1974 Mickey Lolich endures a career-worst Game Score of six. His line: 3 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 1 K.
1974 Tony Perez has his best WPA game: 0.954 WPA. He’s 2-for-6 with a home run, three runs, two RBIs, a strikeout and a reached on error. The Reds beat the Giants 14-13 in the first game of a doubleheader.
1975 In the bottom of the sixth inning, Bert Blyleven yields three straight singles to load the bases, then fans the next three batters to end the inning without allowing a run. It’s the only time he gets out of a bases-loaded jam without allowing a run with three straight Ks.
1977 Mike Schmidt plays the last four innings of a 12-inning game at second base. It’s the fourth and final time he plays there, and the only time after 1973.
1978 The Yankees name Bob Lemon as their manager, replacing Billy Martin. Under Lemon, the Yankees will stage a spectacular second-half surge to win the division, then the pennant and world title.
1978 Pete Rose collects a hit in his 38th straight game, setting a new modern NL record.
1979 Pete Rose bashes his 600th career double.
1979 Mike Schmidt’s longest career hitting streak maxes out at 17 games. He’s 29-for-62 with 12 homers, four doubles, and a triple for a .468/.528/1.145 line.
1980 Luis Tiant allows his only career inside-the-park home run. Future manager Clint Hurdle hits it.
1980 Mike Schmidt hits his 260th homer as a Phillie, passing Del Ennis as franchise leader. Then he receives a walk-off walk in the bottom of the 11th for a 5-4 Phillies win over the Braves. His overall WPA for the game is 0.821 WPA, his best ever: 4-for-4 with a double, two homers, two runs, four RBIs, a HBP, and the walk-off walk.
1982 Steve Carlton hurls his career’s 50th shutout.
1982 Lou Whitaker hits three triples in one game.
1982 Rickey Henderson does the impossible: He’s out going from first to third on a ground-rule double. He heads out to steal second and takes the base, but heads back to first when he fears the ball might be caught. Then, when it bounces over the fence, he jogs over the middle of the infield to third.
1983 Here’s a dumb one: The entire Indians team runs off the field with two outs in the bottom of the sixth versus the Royals. At least no one was on base at the time.
1984 Wade Boggs plays his 23rd straight game without striking out. He’s 31-for-94 with 13 walks.
1985 Wade Boggs’ best hitting streak peaks at 28 games. He’s 45-for-112 with a .402/.481/.527 line.
1986 Ted Lyons dies.
1989 Wade Boggs belts out four extra base hits in one game, three doubles and a triple.
1989 Kirby Puckett enjoys his best WPA game: 4-for-5 with a double, triple, run scored, and an RBI for a 0.989 WPA as the Twins edge the Blue Jays, 5-4.
1990 Rafael Palmeiro hits the first of seven career walk-off home runs.
1990 George Brett hits for the cycle for the second time in his career.
1990 The Mets beat the Phillies 10-9 despite a six-run bottom of the ninth by Philly.
1990 Roseanne infamously sings one of the worst renditions of The National Anthem prior to a Padres game.
1990 Veteran umpire Bob Engel resigns after pleading no contest to charges of shoplifting baseball cards.
1991 Jim Fregosi manages his 1,000th game (470-530).
1991 Atlanta beats the Pirates 1-0 despite having only one hit in the game, a David Justice homer. In the ninth inning, Otis Nixon robs Pittsburgh’s Andy Van Slyke of a two-run home run to preserve the win.
1995 The Blue Jays release Frank Viola, whom the Reds pick up that same day.
1996 Bobby Cox picks up his 1,000th loss as manager (1,178-1,000).
1996 Mark McGwire drills a 488-foot home run at Toronto’s Skydome, believed to be the longest one there. Two days later, Joe Carter unleashes a 483-foot shot.
1997 Gary Sheffield records his 1,000th career hit in 972 games.
1997 The Reds name Jack McKeon as their new manager.
1997 Jesse Ibarra of the Jacksonville Suns hits grand slams from both sides of the plate in a 12-9 win over the Memphis Chicks.
1997 Paul Molitor enjoys his 10th and final multi-home run game.
1998 El Presidente Dennis Martinez allows the only inside-the-park homer of his career, a pinch-hit shot by Turner Ward of the Pirates.
1998 Jim Bouton finally appears in Yankee Stadium for Old Timers' Day.
1998 Neifi Perez, of all people, hits for the cycle.
1999 Albert Belle launches three homers in a game for the third time.
1999 The Marlins trade Livan Hernandez to the Giants.
2001 The A’s, Rockies, and Royals make a three-way trade in which the A’s get Jermaine Dye and the Royals get Neifi Perez.
2001 The Mets leave 16 men on base but defeat the Marlins anyway, 5-2.
2003 Frank Thomas cranks out his 400th home run.
2006 Carl Everett plays his last game.
2010 Arizona trades Dan Haren to the Angels for various players.
2010 Chris Coughlan tears his meniscus in one of the dumbest ways possible—trying to slam a pie into the face of teammate Wes Helms after the game. Coughlan requires knee surgery.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.