May 22, 2013
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Monday, July 23, 2012
Fifty years ago today was one of the most famous Cooperstown induction days of them all. On July 13, 1962, the Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed through its doors two of the games biggest stars: Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson.
Their claims to fame were rather obvious. Feller was a star fireballer who made the big leagues as a teen and was a force by his early 20s. He threw multiple no-hitters and 12 one-hitters. He was so dominant that when he struck out 348 batters in 1946, only one other pitcher in the entire league notched half as many punchouts. He was kinda good.
As big a name as Feller was, Robinson’s is the brightest star. His raw numbers aren’t as stellar as Feller’s stats because Robinson only played 10 years. He was a great all-around player who could hit for average, steal bases, play quality defense at a key up-the-middle position, and had enough power in his bat to earn the respect of opposing pitchers.
But, of course, when you think Robinson, those aren't the things that first come to mind. He did all of the above while integrating major league baseball as its first black player of the 20th century.
Both men retired in 1956 and won election in 1962, and that’s also remarkable, for they had won election in their first year of eligibility, and no one had done that since the original class of five in 1936. Yes, for a quarter-century no one earned enshrinement in his first year, and now two had.
That fact had less to do with how well the BBWAA viewed Feller and Robinson—sure they appreciated them, but they’d also appreciated Joe DiMaggio and Lefty Grove—than a series of rule changes made over the years.
Those changes were summarized in a column, but to briefly recap here: at first, writers could vote for anyone, even active players. Thus, in 1936 all notable retired players and some good active players received votes, and that became their rookie ballot season. Then the BBWAA had to deal with the giant glut of former greats, and that slowed up the induction process.
Even more, there wasn’t a five-year waiting period. A guy became eligible after retiring for a year. But it turns out that writers didn’t like voting for a guy that soon, and they’d never get elected in write away. DiMaggio, for instance, played in 1951 and went into Cooperstown in 1955. By modern standards that’s even before he’d be eligible, but by the times he had to wait a bit.
In the 1950s, after DiMaggio had trouble getting in, Cooperstown finally reformed the voting process. A player had to be retired for five years, not just one. Also, a player who’d been retired for too long couldn’t be voted by the BBWAA; 20 years it was decided would be the longest duration, then they’d go to the Veterans Committee.
The first big names to reach the BBWAA ballot as first-timers after the reforms were Feller and Robinson, and that’s why they became the first newbie enshrines in 26 years.
Oh, and they weren’t the only ones going in that day, either. The Veterans Committee added in a pair of their own, centerfielder Edd Roush and manager Bill McKechnie. Rather nicely, all four were still alive to enjoy the honor.
And they got to enjoy it on July 23, 1962, 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim over things.
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Pardon me if I seem discombobulated, but I'm suffering from weekend movie whiplash. On Friday night I saw "The Dark Knight Rises." Yesterday I saw "Safety Not Guaranteed." If you can find me two movies out right now that are more dissimilar in terms of tone, themes, budget and every other single other relevant measure, I'd like to know what they are.
Verdicts: "Dark Knight Rises" was really good, though I have to say that it was not as good as "The Dark Knight" due to Heath Ledger deficit disorder, obviously, and because there just weren't any of those "OMFG BATMAN!" moments. You know what I'm talking about. Fine flick, but just not quite as satisfying as the last one, which is not a terrible surprise given how damn good the last one was.
As for "Safety Not Guaranteed": one of the cutest movies I've seen in a long time. And there was a minor, insignificant point in which a character talks about how she used to be married to a ballplayer who, after being traded to Marlins, began to cheat on her, leading to their divorce. The movie was set in a little town near Seattle. I'm going to assume that it was a Mariners player who was traded to Miami. Anyone with any ideas about who this dog was, please note it in the comments. If it helps, the female character is probably in her mid-to-late 30s, and the player would now be around that age, I reckon.
Anyway, two home runs here in my opinion. Which, given what went down yesterday in baseball, is quite appropriate:
Athletics 5, Yankees 4: New York travels to Oakland and gets swept, with all of the games being decided by one run. But this one has to hurt more than your normal one-run loss given that the Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
Diamondbacks 8, Astros 2: Jason Kubel hit three homers on Saturday night and hit another one here. Overall he's had six homers in five games. And boy howdy do the Astros stink. They're 1-9 since the break.
Orioles 4, Indians 3: Just when I started writing off the O's in every radio, TV and video outlet that would have me, they go and rip off five straight wins. The lesson, as always, is that I'm an idiot.
Tigers 6, White Sox 4: Just when I started talking up the Tigers as "a sleeping giant" in every radio, TV and video outlet that would have me, they go and rip off 13 of 15 and power their way into first place. The lesson, as always, is that I'm a genius. Oh, and let's start the day's theme here: Miguel Cabrera hit two homers to lead the Tigers past Chicago.
Twins 7, Royals 5: Ryan Doumit hit two homers to lead the Twins past Kansas City.
Nationals 9, Braves 2: Ryan Zimmerman hit two homers to lead the Nationals past Atlanta.
Phillies 4, Giants 3: John Mayberry Jr. hit two homers to lead the Phillies past San Francisco. Oh, and Nate Schierholtz hit two homers too, but they were not leadership quality, apparently, or else the Giants would have won, eh?
Thus endeth the two-homer hitters, by the way.
Cardinals 7, Cubs 0: A whuppin' to be sure. But the Cubs still decided to have fun after the game. Jon Jay went 4 for 4 and drove in two and Lance Lynn tossed six shutout innings to win his 12th.
Pirates 3, Marlins 0: I did not write the Pirates off nearly as definitively as I wrote the Orioles off -- I gave them a shot at least -- but they have now won five in a row too. Pedro Alvarez his hit four homers in his last six games. Pittsburgh has won 21 of 25 at home.
Padres 3, Rockies 2: Carlos Quentin signed a contract extension and went out and put up an 0 for 4. It happens.
Mariners 2, Rays 1: Blake Beavan outdueld Matt Moore, allowing one run over eight without walking a soul. Idea: they should make pitchers in pitching duels actually duel. Like, Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton-style.
Blue Jays 15, Red Sox 7: The Jays beat up Jon Lester for 11 runs on nine hits -- four of them homers -- in four innings. I was gonna make some Bane/Batman analogy here, but not all of you have seen the movie yet because you're just not real fans.
Reds 2, Brewers 1: The Pirates may be surging, but the Reds are holding them off just fine, winning eight of 10 on the home stand. Johnny Cueto struck out nine and allowed a run over seven innings, winning his 12th and lowering his ERA to 2.23.
Dodgers 8, Mets 3: Allowing, like, 3+ runs in a single extra inning is a special kind of demoralizing. Four wins in a row for LA, eight of nine dropped since the break for the Mets.
Angels 7, Rangers 4: Dan Haren came back and pitched the Angels to a series win. His return -- and the stabilization of the rotation -- will have an awful lot to do with the Angels' prospects down the stretch.