December 12, 2013
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012
As I am apt to do on a random afternoon, I was watching Mike Francesa’s show on the YES Network on Tuesday and heard him make an interesting historical reference to baseball. He mentioned a promotion that Charlie Finley once conducted for his slugging outfielder, Rocky Colavito, who was on the verge of hitting his 300th home run.
According to Francesa, Finley promised Colavito to deliver him $300 in silver dollars right at home plate if “The Rock” hit the milestone home run at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium, home of the Athletics.
As a fan of Finley and the A’s of this era, I pride myself as being somewhat of a Finley-o-phile, all-knowing when it comes to matters of the game’s most radical owner. I had never heard of this Colavito-Finley stunt. So I thought to myself, “Francesa is either making things up, or he has his facts wrong.”
Well, shame on me; Francesa was absolutely right. An examination of the Sports Illustrated archive confirms the story.
In September of 1964, Colavito was closing in on No. 300. In anticipation of the magic home run, Finley arranged for a Brinks truck filled with silver coins, accompanied by two guards on motorcycles, to be parked just outside the ballpark. They would remain stationed there for every Athletics game on the homestand, at least until Colavito hit the home run.
When Colavito stepped to the plate, the motorcycle riders were told to be on the ready. If Colavito then clubbed the historic home run, the motorcycle riders would drive directly onto the field with the bags of coins and head toward home plate, where the A’s would stop the game and present The Rock with his 300 silver dollars.
Unfortunately, Colavito failed to hit the historic home run during the homestand. After the A’s hit the road, he finally hit his 300th at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, where there was no Brinks truck, no motorcycle riders, and no game-stopping ceremony awaiting his accomplishment.
It’s unclear whether Colavito ever received his money. Knowing Finley’s cheapskate tendencies, it’s possible he kept the money and took it to his grave (if that were actually possible). If that’s the case, maybe today’s Oakland A’s would be kind enough to give Colavito the $300. Forty-eight years later, that might make for a nice promotion at The Coliseum.
So, good job, Mike Francesa. You brought me another intriguing chapter in the unending saga of Charles Oscar Finley.
Here’s an odd franchise milestone to note: The Minnesota Twins are on the verge of some history for themselves, and not the kind of history that they want to make.
With the Twins' loss yesterday in Oakland, the franchise’s all-time cumulative since moving to Minnesota now stands exactly one game over .500: 4,123-4,122. So if the Twins lose tonight, their all-time Minnesota record will no longer be over .500.
Of course, this doesn’t cover the franchise’s entire existence. They were the Washington Senators for 60 years, but from Opening Day 1961 onward have been the Twins.
They’ve typically been over .500. They had a rough first year in Minnesota but in their second season, behind young stars like Harmon Killebrew, had a good season. They reached their all-time franchise zenith with a win on Aug. 12, 1977 that put them 167 games over .500 (1,429-1,262).
Then the team became bad, and sunk under .500 in 1997. The Twins' all-time Minnesota record hit .500 a bunch of times that season, but a 12-inning loss on July 26 dropped them to 2,897-2,898, and they stayed .500 for several years. They bottomed out on the last day of the 2000 season 98 games under .500 (3,121-3,219), and then returned to prominence in 2001.
It took a while to dig out of a 98-game hole, but they did it with a win on Aug. 15, 2006 that gave them an all-time Minnesota Twins record of 3,634-3,633. They’ve been over .500 for the six years ever since.
Now, they’re on the verge of falling back under water. Maybe it won’t happen this week. Maybe the Twins will have a bit of a winning record. It could happen. But it looks wildly unlikely that they’ll avoid their all-time cumulative Minnesota record falling under .500 this year. They’re just not a very good team.
Nationals 4, Braves 1: I have been arguing against a Stephen Strasburg shutdown for a while now, but allow me to say that if those dudes are really gonna do that, I wish they would have done it before last night. Strasburg struck out 10 in six innings, allowing a single run and winning his 15th. Jesus Flores' three-run homer was all Washington needed. The Braves are pretty much playing for the Wild Card now. Viva Los Nationals.
Royals 1, Rays 0: If you told me that a big time pitchers duel was going to go down involving David Price, sure, I'm on board. Luke Hochevar? Eh, color me skeptical. But that's what we had. Each of the starters tossed eight shutout innings, with Hochevar giving up only one hit and Price three. It was decided in the 10th when Eric Hosmer singled in Jeff Francoeur, who wouldn't have even been in scoring position but for a Ben Zobrist throwing error. In other words: offense was tough to come by here. BTW: David Price has been utterly fantastic in all of his no-decisions this year but has gotten butt for run support. Guess he doesn't know how to win.
Rockies 6, Mets 2: Jhoulys Chacin came back for the first time in nearly five months, holding the Mets to one run on four hits in six innings. Bad defense hurt the Mets, with Chris Young throwing a ball away, contributing to a big inning and the Mets botching a rundown. Is it Jets season yet?
Reds 5, Phillies 4: Cliff Lee was cruising until the seventh and then ran the heck out of gas in a hurry. By the time Charlie Manuel got him it was 3-1 Reds. Not that it was over by then. That's when it went all see-saw. Philly tied it on a Jimmy Rollins RBI double in the bottom half, Todd Frazier homered in the eighth, Philly tied it back up in the bottom half, but then Zack Cozart homered in the ninth. And, yes, the Phillies threatened in the ninth, with Jimmy Rollins stealing and second and third with Chase Utley up to bat. Aroldis Chapman doesn't give a flying eff, though, and throws a 102 mph fastball by him, leaves and presumably goes to sit in his hotel room and dream about someone who can challenge him one day.
Angels 5, Red Sox 3: The four game losing streak is over, thanks in part to Mark Trumbo's 30th homer. Mike Trout had two hits, but the highlight of the game had to be Aaron Cook actually striking Trout out. Cook had struck out seven dudes all season before then. Trout probably saw Cook's eminently hittable junk just hanging there and about came out of his shoes he was so excited to mash it. He didn't, but every other Angel did, practically, so it was all good.
Tigers 5, Blues Jays 3: Max Scherzer struck out eight in seven innings, allowing one run. Rickey Romero: not so good. He lost his 10th straight decision, giving up five runs on seven hits while walking eight. EIGHT. And no, he didn't strike out anyone. How Detroit only scored five here is a miracle.
White Sox 7, Yankees 3: It was 2-2 in the fifth when Kevin Youkilis walked up to the plate with the bases loaded. Bammo, grand slam. I'm sure the Yankees fans who came to love Youk so much over the years dug that.
Cardinals 7, Astros 0: St. Louis didn't really need Adam Wainwright to throw eight and a third shutout innings while fanning 11, but he did it anyway. Bring on Roger Clemens. Heck, bring on Mike Scott or J.R. Richard. The Astros could use a side show right around now.
Brewers 5, Cubs 2: Chris Rusin was meh at Iowa this year, but his major league started out well enough: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER. But then Alberto Cabrera came in and set fire to the place, allowing one run on a wild pitch and two more on an RBI double. Is it Bears season yet?
Orioles 5, Rangers 3: Manny Machado must have heard that I talked smack about him yesterday because he went 2 for 3 with an RBI triple. Nate McLouth, who is apparently alive, homered and scored on a wild pitch.
Mariners 5, Indians 1: Johnny Vander Meer's legacy remains safe, but Felix Hernandez was once again fantastic, allowing one run over seven and two thirds.
Giants 4, Dodgers 1: Tim Lincecum beats Joe Blanton. Had decent velocity too, which has been elusive for him this season. The Giants' lead over the Dodgers is now one and a half.
Padres 7, Pirates 5: Garrett Jones had two homers but Chase Headley's walkoff in the 10th won it for San Diego. Headley has had a fantastic August, hitting nine homers and driving in 26 to lead the bigs. The Pirates are now 7.5 back of the Reds so, like Atlanta, they too are clearly in Wild Card City.
Athletics 4, Twins 1: Brett Anderson made his first start since mid-2011 and it was pretty darn good (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6K). The A's turned a 5-4-3 triple play too, which is pretty nifty. Oakland is a half game back of Baltimore for the Wild Card.
Marlins 6, Diamondbacks 5: Arizona jumped out to a five-run lead in the first but that's all the D-backs would get, as the Fish chipped away and Giancarlo Stanton delivered an RBI single in the 10th. "We should have won that game," Kirk Gibson said afterward. Yep, you should have.
Thirty years ago today was the most amazing stolen base ever by a team managed by Whitey Herzog.
The above is a remarkable statement because Herzog loved the stolen base more than any other manager of the last 100 years. In his 2,409 games in the dugout, his teams swiped 3,036 bases. That’s 1.26 steals per game. Among skippers with over 1,600 games managed since 1920, the next best SB/G rate is 0.92 by Chuck Tanner. Drop the games floor to 1,000 and the runner up is Buck Rodgers at 1.03 SB/G. Any way you slice it, Herzog loved the stolen base like no one else.
With the Cardinals in the 1980s, Herzog had his guys run wild as often as possible with great base stealers like Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Lonnie Smith, and Willie McGee. From 1982-88, the Cardinals stole at least 200 bases a year, every year. The 1985 Cardinals stole 314 bases.
But nothing quite matches the one from 30 years ago today, in part because it didn’t involve any of those big-name guys.
On Aug. 22, 1982, the Cardinals battled the Giants in a back-and-forth game. The Cardinals tied it in the bottom of the ninth, sending it into extra innings tied at 4-4. Both teams kept threatening in extras, but neither could score. In the 10th and 11th, a runner reached scoring position in every half-inning, but the game entered the 12th still knotted, 4-4.
The fun came in the bottom of the 12th. After a George Hendrick fly out began the inning, backup catcher Glenn Brummer singled to begin a rally. Immediately after that, McGee singled him to second, and a few minutes later a Smith single loaded the bases.
With two outs, Herzog had an idea. Gary Lavelle, the Giants pitcher, was a lefty. That meant he had his back to third base and so wasn’t watching the runner. And the runner was a backup catcher, so who could even imagine one of those guys trying to steal home?
Well, as it happens, that’s exactly what happened. It was as unlikely and unexpected a move as you could imagine, and that’s why it worked. With the element of surprise as strong as you’ll ever see it, Brummer stole home for the walk-off win in the bottom of the 12th for a 5-4 Cardinals victory over the Giants.
Glenn Brummer would play in 178 games over five years, stealing four bases in a dozen attempts. But they’ll never take this one away from him, the one that won a game exactly 30 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate an anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim.
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