Gehrig Owns Comiskey For a Day

On this day in 1928, the Bronx Bombers visited Comiskey Park, which just a year before had undergone massive renovations largely to accommodate all the extra fans who wanted to witness the spectacle that was Babe Ruth.

Today however, it was the Iron Horse who put on the real show.

As if on cue, Ruth would belt out his 23rd home run of the season this day, but it paled in comparison to the 14 total bases and five runs collected by Lou Gehrig. His singular onslaught included two triples and two home runs while driving in five in the Yankees’ 15-7 thumping of the Pale Hose.

For good measure, Gehrig also added seven putouts and two assists on the day.

The Sox would add 13 hits of their own but a late surge would fall well short as the incendiary crusade led by Gehrig was too much to overcome. It was certainly not the only time the Iron Horse was the iron fist in a ballgame.

Source: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHA/CHA192806120.shtml

75 Years Ago Today, the Iron Horse Fell

75 years ago today, baseball’s Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig, lost his battle with ALS at the all-too-young age of 37.

Widely regarded as one of the true good guys of baseball, Gehrig had a brilliant 17-year career, all with the Yankees, in which he was an integral part of an unprecedented eight World Series championship teams.

Upon retiring from baseball and being inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1939 as one of the greatest of all time, his records still sit among the highest in history, even after 3/4 of a century since his passing. As of today, Gehrig still remains:

  • 14th in batting average (.340)
  • 11th in runs scored (1,888)
  • 5th in runs batted in (1,995)
  • 28th in home runs (493)

At the end of a stellar career in which he was a two-time MVP and also batted a career .361 in postseason play, Gehrig delivered, on July 4, 1939, perhaps the most famous speech in the history of the game:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”

Farewell, Buster. Baseball will never forget you.

                    http://www.baseballhall.org

Milestone for Gramps Is Just Another Contribution

In the fourth inning of yesterday’s 6-2  win over the visiting Phillies, veteran catcher David Ross blasted his 100th career homer, a 3-run, 417 foot rocket out of Wrigley Field, sending the home dugout and 38,000-plus fans into a frenzy.

 “The boys were excited, I was excited,” Ross said. “My favorite part while this has been going on is rounding second base and looking in the dugout. It makes me smile every time seeing everybody so happy for me and counting down for me. They’re as happy as I am. That makes me feel good.”

The new milestone was one of three 2016 Bucket List items for Ross, affectionately known as “Gramps” by his teammates and fans, in his final season before retirement.

As a journeyman backup catcher who’s long been known as an outstanding defensive player but not the greatest hitter, reaching the century mark in homers is a sizable accomplishment. For Ross is a throwback type to the old days when catchers were regarded as the field generals, defense-first players who called great games, mentally and spiritually guided the pitching staffs and terrorized opposing baserunners. 100 homers is nothing to scoff at from such a player. But nor is it a fluke.

“He brings so much more to us and to the game than just being a backup catcher,” says Jon Lester. “He makes our clubhouse better, he makes our guys better. He knows how to go about pushing buttons with certain guys and getting the best out of them. I know that’s true for myself. He knows how to say the right things without going too far.”

Ross’ swan song season has been nothing short of terrific to this point. In just 25 games so far, he sits among the league leaders in Defensive WAR, Assists, Stolen Base percentage and Range Factor, all categories that effectively measure a catcher’s performance. His bat isn’t too shabby either, as he’s hitting a solid .254 with 4 homers and 17 runs batted in. A noticeable increase in walks, long at-bats and sacrifices have rounded out his endless contributions to the Cubs’ early success. In addition, the extremely likable, always humble, team-first Ross provides immense value to this Cubs team both on and off the field, and has developed into a fan and league favorite.

“I’m proud to contribute to a good team,” Ross said. “None of us like to fail. Failing is not fun. I had a lot of failure at the plate last year. You’ve just got to keep working and you never know what’s going to happen the next at-bat, the next month or the next year. You have to keep working hard and trying your best. That’s what I’ve learned over my 14 years is, you know what, I’m going to go out there and put my best foot forward and play hard for my teammates.”

Catch a no-hitter? Check. Hit that 100th home run? Check.

We all know what that third Bucket List item for this season is.

Sources: http://www.cubs.mlb.com

Heyward Injury Another Chance For Master Mixologist Maddon

If the St. Louis Cardinals ever did write some mythical book on how to play baseball, Chapter One would be titled “How To Win With Injuries.” Cubs skipper Joe Maddon may need to take a page from that chapter, right now.

First, Kyle Schwarber is lost for the season in a horrific collision in Arizona in early April. Now, Jason Heyward suffers an injury while making an absolutely incredible catch in San Francisco. The nature of Heyward’s injury, or the time he may be out, has yet to be determined at the time of this writing.

The catch itself, was nothing short of amazing. According to StatCast, the ball hit by Denard Span traveled 385 feet with an exit velocity of 103mph. It sailed out to the deepest part of AT&T Park, nicknamed “Triple’s Alley” for good reason. Heyward somehow tracked it down before crashing, in a torso-twisting fashion, into the wall, suffering an apparent oblique/midsection injury. Very, very few players could have made that catch.

To throw salt in the wound, the kneejerk reactions were brutal. One may expect some jabs from Cardinals fans over this, but oddly enough some of the most idiotic viewpoints came from Cubs fans and even local radio personalities who ran the gamut in social media commentary from being glad he got hurt “because he wasn’t producing anyway,” to criticizing his effort on the play because it was “meaningless.” Seriously. Maybe it’s just me, but there are two principles I’ve always stuck by, in any sport, or really any situation in life itself:

  1. Never, EVER, celebrate or be glad when someone gets hurt.
  2. Never, EVER, criticize, judge, or blame someone for giving 100%.

How long Heyward may be out remains to be seen, and (most) Cubs fans are hoping for the best case scenario. For while his bat was just slowly heating up, his defense has been incendiary from day one, and proof that run prevention can be equally as important as run creation. It’s a shame that some fans forget that fact. In the meantime, this gives Crazy Joe Maddon another chance to play toy soldiers, something he loves doing. Matt Szczur coming off the DL will be a much needed element, in addition to extended outfield time for Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. For the latter, let’s face it, his table is ready. In a perhaps ironic twist, Soler was a star in last night’s game, with two hits including a home run and several excellent defensive plays. He will need to continue that production as he has quickly gone from a useful piece to a key cog.

Read that chapter, Crazy Joe.

Johnson vs. Williams: The Forgotten Clash

On this date in 1918, with World War I the focal point of the globe, baseball continued on with less attention than usual. Somewhat hidden in that season was a game on May 15 where the Washington Senators beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0 in an 18-inning contest at Griffith Stadium. The drawn-out duel took less than three hours to complete.

In this often overlooked contest, young Sox starter Claude “Lefty” Williams (later banned from baseball for his involvement in the infamous Black Sox scandal,) battled Hall of Famer Walter “Big Train” Johnson for the entire game, as both hurlers went the distance. Williams was extremely efficient, scattering just 8 hits through 18 innings. Johnson, conversely, turned in his typical stellar performance, striking out nine of the potent Sox lineup (who were without big sluggers Shoeless Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch due to their wartime duties,) and even added a single in the bottom of the 18th to move the winning run into scoring position. The Senators then grabbed the win, ironically on a wild pitch, by Williams.

18 innings. 18 hits. Two pitchers. One run. 2 hours, 50 minutes. You’ll never see that again.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.org

http://www.retrosheet.org

Matching History

 

Jake Arrieta, 2016

In drawing yet another odd but curious comparison to past Cubs teams, Jake Arrieta becomes the first Cub hurler to win his first six starts since Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown did so back in 1908. 

Mordecai Brown, 1908

We’ll see if history continues to repeat itself this season…

Those Baseball Gods, They’re Funny Guys

Baseball is the weirdest of all games, that much we know. It also provokes intense amounts of superstition, sometimes to ridiculous levels, in players, coaches and fans alike. At times like these, or when any sort of streak is apparent, it’s difficult for some of us not to stop and wonder, “hmm…”

With the red hot starts for both the White Sox (15-6 and the best record in the AL) and the Cubs (15-5 and the best record in the NL), naturally much “what if” chatter, often of the absurd variety, has begun. But certain situations have arisen during the course of this otherwise normal business day, however, that are likely pure coincidence, but peculiar nonetheless. For me personally, those who know me understand that my superstitions and awkward OCD routines are borderline lunacy. I may reach far in connecting my illogical-logical dots, but when sequences like this happen, I skypoint to the Baseball Gods with a knowing “I hear ya, fellas!” Take today for example:

  • Several callers, texters and tweeters to AM 670 The Score this morning were posing questions like “Are these Sox for real?,” “What if the Cubs and Sox were to meet in the World Series? Would the city survive?,” “Could we have a repeat of 1906?” and so on. Nothing unusual there, but keep reading…
  • At a routine meeting, it became known that my client is the great-niece of former White Sox catcher Billy Sullivan, who played in the 1906 World Series as part of the infamous “Hitless Wonders” against the Cubs. I’ve known this client for years and never knew this amazing fact. Billy’s son, Bill Jr., also had a long MLB career and played in the 1940 World Series, becoming the first father/son duo to play in the Fall Classic. The rest of her family are Cubs fans and recently posed the question, “what if they play each other in the…” oh stop me, you get the idea.
  • At a quick glance, there are downright eerie comparisons between Sullivan’s career and that of current Cubs veteran catcher David Ross. Eerie as in, they’re virtually the same player. (More on this in an upcoming article.)
  • After my meeting, the managing editor in my office (and a huge Mets fan), asked me if I think the Sox are for real and would the city survive if there ever was a Cubs/Sox World Series? He did not pay attention to the radio station chatter that I did this morning, or knew of my meeting. It was a random conversation. By this time I was literally laughing.
  • The Cubs currently are on pace to match or exceed the 1906 Cubs .763 winning percentage, while the White Sox current team batting average is right on pace with their 1906 counterparts, hence the nickname “Hitless Wonders.” Neither of these is likely to happen, but it’s a fun comparison nonetheless.

Am I suggesting that the stars are aligned, that “this is the year” (a battle cry that this Cubs fan has grown to completely despise), or that both teams are destined for a 1906 rematch in the 2016 World Series? Of course not. It’s only April after all. But in the here and now, both teams are playing strong, inspired baseball and winning, at the same time, and at a pace not seen in decades.

Granted, these little situations are hardly connected, except for their coincidental nature amid much excitement for both teams. But with my acknowledgement of the sheer bizarre, and belief that some driving, external, ethereal force contributes to the strangeness of our pastime, I wonder, a little bit, if the Baseball Powers-That-Be are smirking.

Just a little.