Fast Rise and Faster Fade: The Yde Mystery

Every generation has them: The flash-in-the-pan players who are highly touted, or sometimes coming from nowhere, to create an instant impression only to quickly fade into nothingness again. Emil Yde was one of these types. A potential ace in the early days of the Live Ball Era, Yde would fall as quickly as he rose, but not before enjoying some team and individual successes both on the mound and at the plate.

Pitchers that can hit can be a deadly weapon. Ah, in the classic style of baseball, before the Designated Hitter came about, and still (thankfully) the rule in the National League where pitchers bat for themselves, occasionally there’s a gem waiting to be mined. Although usually the weakest hitter in a given lineup, there is an opportunity for a threat to the opposition: If the pitcher can hit, it’s a formidable advantage.

Such was the case with Yde, and particularly in one game at Forbes Field, on June 25, 1924.

Rookie left-hander Emil Yde entered the game against the Cubs in the 4th inning, facing a 6-1 deficit. Yde would hold the Cubs in check the rest of the way, and at the plate he capped off an improbable comeback in the bottom of the 9th with a game-tying double. Continuing on the bump, Yde would add an RBI triple in the bottom of the 14th to give his Pirates an 8-7 win. The left-handed slinger would end the day having pitched 10 1/3 innings in relief for the victory, and add 5 RBI’s on two extra base hits.

Yde would have a brilliant season in 1924, finishing 16-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 14 complete games while leading the league in shutouts. He was highly effective the following year as well, going 17-9 with a 4.13 ERA and helping the Pirates win the World Series. An inexplicable decline in performance thereafter forced Yde to spend much of the late ’20’s racking up a ton of innings in the minors, and save for a brief stint with the Tigers in 1929, his life in the major leagues had ended. His final major league record of 49-25 was strong overall but ended up being unsustainable, and his career batting average of .233 was nothing to scoff at for a pitcher, either. He remained in the minors for a few more years, fading into obscurity before retiring at the age of 33 in 1933, having never been given another shot. His short, but notable career was a clear case of here one minute/gone the next.

For a brief moment however, Yde was the hero of the day.

Sources: http://www.nationalpastime.com

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PIT/PIT192406250.shtml

The Grounds Crew: Artists of the Ballpark

Ah, the ballpark. To the players, coaches, and serious baseball fans, the ballpark isn’t just a place where the game of baseball is played. Instead, it’s considered hallowed ground that is so sacred, they may as well be called cathedrals. From their aesthetically pleasing lines and angles to the miraculously landscaped grass (heck, even the dirt looks perfect), and just the general aura of the field itself, ballparks across the world are a sight to be revered.

Today we offer a very special tip of the cap to those men and women who are responsible for so majestically nurturing the (literal) landscape of baseball. In honor of that recognition, we’re thrilled to have a little Q&A with Shaun Thomas, Head Groundskeeper for the Class-A Staten Island Yankees.

Q: Hi Shaun! Thanks for taking a few minutes with us today. What is your current role and with what organization?

A: No problem at all! I’m currently the Head Groundskeeper for the Staten Island Yankees, a Class-A affiliate.

Q: How did you get into groundskeeping as a profession?

A: I finished my baseball career in college and was not fortunate enough to get drafted to pro ball, so I figured groundskeeping was my next best route.

Q: Baseball fields are famous for the various patterns that get cut into the grass (checkerboards, crisscross designs, etc.) How exactly is that done and who chooses the designs?

A: The designs are chosen by me and my grounds crew. The two different colors that you see are just from the direction the mower was being driven on the grass. I have a reel mower which has rollers behind the three reels and the rollers bend the grass in which the direction the mower is going. The bending of the grass blade away from you lets more light reflect upward whereas the darker shade of green the grass blade is folded towards you and the light reflects down. So if you were to see one pattern behind home plate, it would look the exact same from center field, just opposite colors.

Q: Is there a specific type of dirt/clay that you use in the infield and warning track?

A: The warning track is usually just made up of crushed brick. As for the infield, there are two types of materials there: The sub soil is an engineered soil that is designed to retain water and get firmer as the moisture leaves. Then the top layer is calcined clay, which is just clay that is heated at extreme temperatures to harden it. The top layer is very minimal, just enough for the players to slide on.

Q: Is there a standard height the grass needs to be cut? Or is it your call? Or player’s preference?

A: The height of the grass is completely up to the Groundskeeper. Coaches and players can have their say, but it is ultimately the Groundskeeper’s choice. I keep my grass cut at 1 ¼ inches. I mow everyday so that my players have a consistent play with the same grass every day. A lot of teams cut their grass at 1 inch height. I keep mine a little longer because of the extra events we have at the stadium which leads to more wear and tear on my field.

Q: Best part of your job?

A: The best part of my job is waking up and going to the ballpark every day! It doesn’t feel like work! I have been around baseball since I can remember and I couldn’t imagine my life without it. As for the duties themselves I would say mowing is the best part. The grass is the first thing everyone sees when they walk in and I love seeing people’s reaction to a nice looking pattern!

Great stuff there! Thank you for your time Shaun, and keep up the great work making America’s pastime look so beautiful.

 

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