December 7, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
And here's the full roster.
THT's latest e-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's new e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
Most Recent Comments
Let’s discuss the THT Annual (7)
10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski trade (15)
It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014 (8)
25th anniversary: Rob Neyer writes a letter (4)
Putting the knock on pitching changes (2)
our CafePress store. We've got baseball caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs and even wall clocks with the classy THT logo prominently displayed. Also, check out the THT Bookstore. Please support your favorite baseball site by purchasing something today.
Or you can search by:
All content on this site (including text, graphs, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
A little bit of the 1970s died when George Scott passed away on Sunday at the age of 69.
Scott, who had struggled with diabetes in recent years, was one of my favorite players. Some of that is attributable to the distinctive look that he cut during his years with the Red Sox. With his massive round body wrapped tightly in Red Sox polyester, Scott had an appearance that made him easy to spot, both on television and at the ballpark. He also wore a helmet when he played first base and he accessorized his uniform with a necklace that was apparently made of a strange mix of shells, wooden beads, and ivory tusks.
Let’s tackle the necklace first. When a curious reporter asked him to identify the material that comprised the necklace, Scott answered matter-of-factly, “Second basemen’s teeth.” Whatever the actual composition of the necklace, the jewelry made the feared slugger that much more intimidating when he strolled to the plate or delivered a rolling block on a middle infielder.
Much like his contemporary, Dick Allen, Scott wore a helmet while playing first base for most of his career. Scott began wearing the helmet because of the idiotic behavior of some fans on the road who threw hard objects his way. Rather than take any additional chances, Scott ditched the usual soft cap for a hard helmet. He continued the practice, both at home and away, for the rest of his career.
The helmet and the necklace were ever-present during games in the 1970s, but Scott had another unusual fashion habit that trademarked his pre-game workouts. During his second stint with the Red Sox, Scott wore a rubberized suit in an attempt to lose some of the weight near his midsection. As Don Zimmer revealed in the first of his two books with New York sportswriter Bill Madden, Scott managed to sweat off a few pounds during each workout, but by the time the start of the game rolled around, Boomer seemed to have gained all of the weight back. Whatever he tried, he just couldn’t rid himself of the excess poundage.
Scott’s weight, helmet, and necklace tended to distract from one other important consideration: He was a very, very good player. Amazingly agile for a man his size, Scott’s quickness, footwork, and soft hands made him arguably the best defensive first baseman of the late 1960s and early 1970s. (Perhaps only the Dodgers’ Wes Parker was better.) At the plate, Scott had “light tower” power. When he connected, his ferocious swing and sheer strength produced an array of tape measure home runs.
Signing with the Red Sox in 1962, Scott made his big league debut four years later as a combination first baseman and third baseman. Although he struck out a league-leading 152 times, he also hit 27 home runs, made the All-Star team as the starting first baseman, and finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting.
He played even better in 1967, putting up an OPS of .839 and helping the Red Sox win the pennant and complete their “Impossible Dream.” Though he still put in some time at third base, the Red Sox played him more at first base, where his fielding won him the first of eight Gold Gloves.
The 1968 season saw Scott begin the year in a deep and mysterious slump from which he could not recover that summer. He batted a meager .171 with three home runs in 124 games. It was a lost season, but Scott bounced back to put up decent numbers in each of the next three seasons. A 24-home run campaign in 1971 had some thinking that Scott would remain in Boston for years, but the Red Sox decided to take advantage of his growing trade value and turn him in for some speed and pitching. The Sox packaged Scott with outfielders Billy Conigliaro and Joe Lahoud, catcher Don Pavletich, and pitchers Jim Lonborg and Ken Brett, sending them to the Brewers for 30/30 outfielder Tommy Harper, right-handers Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin, and minor league outfielder Pat Skrable.
The massive 10-player deal took Scott away from friendly Fenway Park and into the relatively unfamiliar environ of County Stadium. Though he hit only seven home runs in Milwaukee that summer, he put up a better OPS at home than he did on the road. For the entire season, Scott hit 20 home runs while adding the surprising dimension of 16 stolen bases. He remained a solid player, earning MVP votes and winning a Gold Glove in each of his first three seasons with the Brewers. In 1973, he batted a career-high .306 while actually increasing his power output.
In 1975, Scott’s bat exploded. Reaching career highs with 36 home runs and 109 RBIs, Boomer tied Reggie Jackson for the league lead in the former category and captured the league crown in the latter. He also paced all league hitters in total bases. With his violent, all-out swing and raw power, Scott emerged as the most feared right-handed hitter in the American League.
After a downturn in 1976, the Brewers decided to cut bait with their 32-year-old slugger. The Red Sox, looking for another right-handed slugger, thought it was a good time to bring back their former first baseman. They sent the left-handed hitting Cecil Cooper to the Brewers for Scott and veteran outfielder Bernie Carbo.
Enormously popular in Boston, Scott enjoyed a happy homecoming with the Red Sox. He blasted 33 home runs and slugged an even .500. Scott helped the Red Sox win 97 games, but Boston ran second to the eventual world champions in New York.
In 1978, Scott began to show his age. He hit only 12 home runs in 120 games and struggled during the second half, when the Red Sox blew their 14-game lead over the Yankees.
Then came the tumultuous season of 1979. After a terrible start, the Red Sox dumped him two games before the June 15 trading deadline, sending him to the Royals for young outfielder Tom Poquette. But Boomer was a bad fit for Royals Stadium, where the deep power gaps, spacious outfield and fast artificial turf did not suit his game. After he hit only one home run in 146 at-bats, the Royals released him. For the first time, it appeared that Scott’s career might be at an end.
Nine days later, a surprising team came to Scott’s rescue. The Yankees, in the midst of an awful, tragedy-filled season, decided to give Boomer a late-season look. Looking for any kind of bright spot during a miserable summer, Yankees fans watched Scott played well in his Bronx audition, putting up an .840 OPS in a 16-game stint. With his bat looking live, rumors circulated that the Yankees might bring Scott back for the 1980 season.
It didn’t happen. The Yankees signed free agent Bob Watson as a right-handed hitting first baseman and DH. “The Bull” made Boomer expendable, so the Yankees allowed him to become a free agent. When no other teams came calling, Scott took his bat and his mitt to the Mexican League, where he finished out his career as a player and manager.
As fine a player as Scott was, he had even great impact as one of the game’s most colorful characters of the 1970s. Friendly and outgoing, Scott happily chatted with fans and regularly signed autographs at the ballpark. Willing to talk after both wins and losses, he readily provided quotes to members of the media, whether in Boston or Milwaukee. He even developed his own terminology, referring to home runs as “taters.” (Other players, like Reggie Jackson, caught on and began to talk about hitting taters, too.) Scott also had a nickname for the dark first baseman’s mitt that he used, calling it “Black Beauty.”
George Scott was a beauty himself. If you were around to watch him play in the 1960s and 70s, you can easily picture him in your mind today. The large waistline. The helmet at first base. The booming swing. And yes, hanging from his thick neck, that full set of second baseman’s teeth.
Pirates 9, Cardinals 2: In what is the most meaningful baseball played in Pittsburgh in over 20 years, Francisco Liriano was dominant and Pedro Alvarez hit his NL-leading 27th homer and the Pirates pulled to within a half game of first place.
Rays 2, Red Sox 1: Gotta love that a blown call impacted a game in which a division lead changed hands. That's just fantastic. Hey Bud: now that you're showing how tough and powerful you're getting with a union that once gave you fits with the drug stuff, how about doing the same with the umpires and unilaterally instituting replay?
Braves 9, Rockies 8: Four wins in a row for the Braves. The winning pitcher: Scott Downs, who didn't show up to the park until 10 minutes before first pitch and literally had to introduce himself to his infielders when he came into the game in the 10th. Lost in this win: Brandon Beachy's return: pretty disastrous (3.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER).
Rangers 4, Angels 3: Ninth inning home runs from catchers is the new inefficiency. First A.J. Pierzynski homered then Geovany Soto, giving the Rangers a come-from-behind win.
Mets 6, Marlins 5: Mets blew a 3-0 lead and found themselves down 5-3 but Ike Davis hit an RBI double in a three-run seventh.
Indians 3, White Sox 2: The fifth straight win for the Indians, this on a Jason Giambi walkoff homer. He's the oldest player to ever hit a walkoff home run. The previous record holder was Hank Aaron, who did it in 1976. Except then they didn't call them walkoffs. Indeed, I believe someone woulda looked at you funny if you called it a walkoff in 1976.
Brewers 5, Cubs 0: Scoreless until the ninth then the Brewers put up a five-spot. If you squinted you could see Carlos Marmol out there on the mound for Chicago. Then you realize it wasn't him and you shed a single tear.
Athletics 9, Blue Jays 4: Yoenis Cespedes continues to climb out of his post All-Star Game funk. He homered and hit an RBI triple as the A's scored four in the first and then cruised.
Padres 2, Reds 1: Chris Denorfia sat fastball on Aroldis Chapman and then drove a two-run homer over the wall in the bottom of the ninth. In other news, it feels like the Reds have been on this west coast swing for a month.
When the sun rose 40 years ago today, on July 30, 1973, 20 of the 24 major league teams had ever had a no-hitter. When the day ended, their ranks had risen to 21.
On July 30, 1973, the Rangers celebrated the first no-hitter in franchise history, courtesy of the right arm of Jim Bibby.
Bibby had originally been in the Mets farm system. (And the Mets, along with the Padres, Senators/Rangers, and Brewers, were the only squads without any no-hitters heading into July 1973.) However, the club traded Bibby to St. Louis in October 1971. By this time he was an aging prospect—he turned 27 shortly after the Cardinals got him—and they didn’t think he was good enough for the big leagues.
After just a dozen appearances with the big league squad over a year and a half, the Cardinals sent the now 28-year-old Bibby to Texas. The Rangers were desperate for pitching. Actually, the Rangers were just plain desperate. They lost 100 games in the strike-shortened 1972 campaign and were plodding their way to a horrible 105-loss record in 1973.
Was Bibby a 28-year-old non-prospect? Congratulations. On this club, he still had a chance to prove himself. Rookie manager Whitey Herzog used Bibby as a swingman in his first few appearances, but on June 29, 1973, Bibby made a start that gave him a firm place in the rotation. He threw a complete game one-hit shutout over the Royals. Only a double by the ninth hitter in the KC batting order deprived Bibby of a no-hitter. Just think: if it weren’t for catcher Fran Healy, Bibby would be one of the few men in history with two no-hitters in one season.
Bibby suddenly became the staff ace. In his next outing on July 3, he allowed one unearned run and got another win. Ten days later, he fanned 13 in a complete game win, and followed that up with two more double-digit K performances in his next three starts. After all those years of waiting, Bibby was seizing his moment.
And he never seized it more than on July 30, 1973. Bibby wasn’t supposed to be the star of that game. No, he was facing the defending world champion Oakland A’s. It was supposed to be their day. The star should’ve been opposing starter Vida Blue, a phenom for the A’s in 1971. Though he’d had his rough spots in the time since then, he was a far bigger name than Jim Bibby.
However, the first inning was a disaster for Blue. Jeff Burroughs, easily the most dangerous batter in the Texas batting order, smashed a grand slam, and role player Bill Sudakis followed with a solo shot for a 5-0 Texas lead.
Bibby hadn’t taken the mound yet, but he’d already been given a comfortable lead. Playing in Oakland’s pitcher-friendly stadium, Bibby would show that five runs were more than enough. Against the star-studded Oakland lineup of Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Bert Campaneris, and Gene Tenace, Bibby was on fire. He struck out the side in the second, and then did it again in the fourth. He retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, walking Jackson.
His control faded in the middle innings, as he walked another batter in the fifth, still another in the sixth, and two more in the seventh. But that wasn’t what people were paying attention to. The complete lack of hits was the interesting thing.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth it was 6-0 Texas, with Bibby three outs from a no-no. He walked Bando to begin the frame, but then Jackson whiffed for the second time on the day. It was Bibby’s 13th K.
Just two outs away, Bibby made it look easy. The A’s couldn’t even get the ball out of the infield against him, with a grounder and a routine pop up. That was fitting—only four times all day had the A’s hit the ball out of the infield. Bibby had done it—he’d thrown a no-hitter.
It ended maybe the best month of his career, as Bibby allowed 30 hits in 60.2 innings, fanning 60 while posting a 4-2 record with a save and a 1.78 ERA.
However, things quickly turned south on him: He allowed five runs in six of his next eight starts. But he did have that no-hitter, the first in franchise history, exactly 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...