Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: history

Still Standing For Stan

Stand for Stan Day in 2010 (from Cadence)

Whenever we receive emails from the Cardinals beginning with the word “Bloggers,” it usually means we are being asked to do something. I’m not complaining, even if they are using me/us for free PR. This kind of PR is definitely worthy of a mention though.

Last year the Cardinals put on a “Stand for Stan” campaign to help Stan Musial receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. Towards the end of the 2010 season, the Cardinals even held a “Stand for Stan” day at the ballpark, and Cadence and Courtney were there to talk about it.

This year the Cardinals are taking on a mini-version of that tremendous effort. Leading up to the All-Star Game, Major League Baseball is having a vote of the greatest all-time All-Star moments. Now, Stan Musial himself had a walk-off winning home run in the 1955 All-Star game, and his home run has made it to the Final Four. The voting can be found here, and each email address can vote 25 times, just like for All-Star balloting.

Seeing as how the fans embarrassingly left Musial off the All-Century team in 1999, something that commissioner Bud Selig admitted was a huge oversight, this is a chance to help shed a little more light on an incredible player that has been largely overlooked by many. Head over to the vote and help Stan get a little more recognition!

9 Years Later…

It’s been 9 years to the day when the landscape of the Cardinals clubhouse made a drastic change. No one could have seen it coming. No one would have ever predicted it. But every Cardinals fan old enough to remember the events of June 18-22, 2002, will be able to tell the story.

Jack Buck, beloved voice of the Cardinals for almost 50 years, had been in the hospital for treatment on a variety of ailments, from his well publicized Parkinson’s disease to lung cancer to an intestinal blockage. On June 18th, Cardinals ace Darryl Kile left the mound at Busch Stadium after 8 strong innings against the Anaheim Angels. The 7-2 win over the AL West foes pushed the Cardinals into first place in the NL Central. Little did Cardinal fans know that their world was about to change.

A few hours after the game ended, the news started circulating that while the Cardinals were battling for first place, Jack had been battling for his life, and that battle had ended. My family was on vacation in Yellowstone when I heard the news, and I felt like a little piece of me was gone. We watched some of the funeral proceedings from our hotel room before venturing out for more sightseeing, but I was thinking about Jack.

On June 22, Jack’s funeral was in the past, and the team was foraging on, his memory burned in their minds. The Cardinals were in Chicago to play those lovable losers in the Cubs. Still out West, my family had some downtime at the hotel, and we turned on the game. Or at least, we thought it was the game.

We watched, stunned, as Joe Girardi from the Cubs strode up to a microphone and announced that the game would be postponed due to a tragedy in the Cardinals family. The emotion visible on Girardi’s face told us all that something had gone horribly wrong. When we later learned of Darryl Kile’s passing due to a heart attack, those same emotions from just a few days earlier came flooding back. It is a memory I will never forget.

I can’t believe it has been 9 years.

I wrote more about Darryl Kile for i70 Baseball today. Please head over there and check out more about his life, his death, and his legacy.

I’ll end today with a poem by Jack Buck. Baseball is life, and the lives of Jack Buck and Darryl Kile will be remembered by the baseball community for years to come.

365

By Jack Buck

When someone asks you your favorite sport
And you answer Baseball in a blink
There are certain qualities you must possess
And you’re more attached than you think.
In the frozen grip of winter
I’m sure you’ll agree with me
Not a day goes by without someone
Talking baseball to some degree.
The calendar flips on New Year’s Day
The Super Bowl comes and it goes
Get the other sports out of the way
The green grass and the fever grows.
It’s time to pack a bag and take a trip
To Arizona or the Sunshine State
Perhaps you can’t go, but there’s the radio
So you listen-you root-you wait.
They start the campaign, pomp and pageantry reign
You claim the pennant on Opening Day

From April till fall
You follow the bouncing white ball
Your team is set to go all the way.
They fall short of the series
You have a case of the “wearies”
And need as break from the game
But when Christmas bells jingle
You feel that old tingle
And you’re ready for more of the same.
It will be hot dogs for dinner
Six months of heaven, a winner
Yes, Baseball has always been it.
You would amaze all your friends
If they knew to what ends
You’d go for a little old hit.
The best times you’re had
Have been with your Mom and your Dad
And a bat and a ball and a glove.

From the first time you played
Till the last time you prayed
It’s been a simple matter of love.

A Community Like No Other

I haven’t met most of you faithful readers out there in the Cardinal blog-o-sphere, but chances are if you’ve been around here for awhile, you know the names. If you’re on Twitter, you can even picture a good chunk of the faces. So, like me, some of you sat around wringing your hands over the past week or so every time the next big storm came up, because you could recall all the people you now ‘know’ that are in those areas. Your hearts, thoughts, and prayers went out to all the people there as the reports started rolling in. People started talking about the families of Cardinal players with ties to OK (scroll to the last paragraph).

You realize in that moment just how far and wide Cardinal Nation really does reach. People that have never met face to face, concerned about each other,  sending well wishes from states and time zones away. Coast to coast, generation to generation. I am so thankful that all the people I know are okay!

I received an email from Eliza this morning, who runs the fabulous site “A Blog Of Their Own.” She asked me something I was actually in the middle of doing – talk about Dolores. If you haven’t already, head over and read all about her. To put it shortly, this woman might be my new hero. A 94 year old woman who knows more about baseball than an encyclopedia (or, perhaps, wikipedia), and is a Cardinals fan to boot? She might actually be everything I could hope to be. I can’t wait to learn more about her!

Alright, let’s talk baseball. I wish I knew what was up with Matt Holliday. The team obviously isn’t willing to put him on the DL, as evidenced by his pinch hitting in last night’s game. He gets walked intentionally, then immediately removed for a pinch runner. So… he can’t play the field, he can’t run the bases, all he can do is swing the bat? Okay then… hope whatever it is that’s tweaking on him in his quads gets better quickly, because outside of last night’s small ball display (which I LOVED) there hasn’t been a lot of run scoring going on without him. However, as Chris Reed pointed out today on i70, this team seems to survive all the random bumps they’ve been going over.

Tonight’s game starts in just a couple short hours, on FOX even. Unfortunately, I’m out of here, so pull in a win and enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!

Go Cards! :)

Kid In A Candy Store

I know that there are about three of you out there that have been waiting for this post, but I hope the rest of you enjoy it as well…

This past weekend was the first Midwest Baseball Writer’s Conference, held at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield, Missouri. I know, a long trip for me, but worth every second. I got to leave the snow of Wisconsin, enjoy a few days of sunshine in Missouri, see a truckload of sports history, and talk baseball for an entire day? WIN.
For those of you (I’m assuming most of you) that have never been able to check out the Hall of Fame before, I snapped some pics on my dumbphone (that would be a non-smartphone) for your enjoyment.
Stan’s corner, complete with a TV showing his enshrinement
into the hall (he played his harmonica!)
Main Cards section, including lots of momentos from the
2006 World Series
I know that I could have spent several more hours reading all of the various plaques that were in the upstairs of the museum. Some of my favorites included…
Branch Rickey
Rogers Hornsby
Jack Buck
Stan Musial (of course)
Of course, I checked out all the sports fun and games. For the record, I am horrible at the football throw, but think I could take most of you at shooting free throws. An interesting one was the simulation where you could watch a major league pitch. The Cardinal player you could pick was Darryl Kile, so of course I had to see what his 12-to-6 curveball would look like coming in to me at the plate. It’s definitely worth the trip to see the history, but the little kid in me couldn’t walk away from the games either!
Of course, if you go to a conference, you should actually talk about the presenters, right? Up first on the day was John Lofflin, a journalism professor at Park University in Parkville, MO (and writer over at i70 Baseball). John’s section was labeled “Interlopers in Eden: Sports Writers, Gamblers, Gurus and Women.” He talked on many different baseball books, what the author’s intent was, the thought process that readers go through as they journey through the stories, and how the different ‘villains’ (for lack of a better term) were portrayed. I had to laugh at the inclusion of women in the title, considering I was the only one there! Matt Kelsy made a good point in the discussion when he stated the following:

These stories aren’t about baseball. They’re about life. They just use baseball to tell the story.

I couldn’t agree more. One of the best things about this conference was the discussion feel of it. We weren’t there to be lectured at, but to be chatting about the game we all obviously loved.

Roger Erickson was up next. Roger is the head of the Kansas City chapter of SABR, that is, the Society for American Baseball Research. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what all SABR had their little hands in, but in reality it is quite a lot. People point to them as the creators of more advanced sabermetrics such as WAR, WHIP, and many other statistics that we’ve just accepted into our mainstream baseball vocabulary. I got a good laugh when the first thing he stood up and said was, “The first thing I want you to know about us is that we are not all baseball nerds.” I looked around the room… do you really think any person in there listening to him was not a baseball nerd? Nice.
Steve Sommer from Gashouse Graphs was last up on the agenda, and my math background had a major geek-out during this one. Steve and Erik run an amazing site using all kinds of advanced statistical analysis to do anything from predict trends in current players (like this post on Motte’s fastball velocity) and do things like this post on Jim Edmonds where they prove that he is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Steve actually sat down and explain in broad terms how WAR is calculated, which I was happy about. It seemed like this mystical number that people came up with, and in reality… umm… it kind of is. Okay, take it back, there is a method to it, but there’s still a lot of room for interpretation too. Obviously not an exact science, but there is some reasoning, so I feel better.
Long story short, y’all should have been there. I think that we all walked away learning a little more, enjoying some great history in the museum, and, if nothing else, getting to enjoy a day of talking about baseball, both past and present. I’ll let Jack Buck tell you how I felt about this day…
Yes it is Jack… yes it is.
Oh, this is what happens when I’m left unsupervised with baseball history all around me.
You know, in case you were wondering…

Lessons Learned as a Baseball Fan

 

Lesson learned: winning really is the ultimate feeling.

My first Major League baseball game is a hazy recollection. It was in 1977 or 1978, Reds vs. Cubs at Wrigley Field on a gray day. My family was there to see the Reds because my brother loved them – Johnny Bench was his idol. Somewhere in all the boxes of family photos are snapshots my brother took that day. I remember there are a lot of backs of heads in the photos, plus a blurry figure in the distance that was Bench. The day didn’t have a big impression on me, nor did either of the teams involved. It wasn’t until five or so years later that I fell in love with Major League Baseball, even though it was first with the Cubs (a story that I detailed in my first post for Diamond Diaries).

And the fact that you really can change allegiances is one of the lessons I’ve learned in these many years I’ve been a baseball fan. My brother who loved the Reds and Johnny Bench is now a Cubs fan with a basement bar filled with more memorabilia than many real sports bars. My friend Kathy grew up loving the Cubs but changed loyalties to the Yankees when that was where the Cubs traded her favorite player, Henry Cotto. I, of course, wised up and abandoned the Cubs after the 1999 season and became a Cardinals fan in 2000. And it’s been the right decision. Frustrating at times, of course, but every good relationship has its ups and downs.

There are some other lessons I’ve learned in these many years as a fan.

Until the numbers say otherwise, there is always a chance.
This lesson was repeatedly learned during almost all my years as a Cubs fan, when sometimes that chance ended in June. During the past month, the 2010 Cardinals have forced us to look more closely at the standings and the number of games left. Six games behind the Reds with 21 games left to play is still a chance (and perhaps a more realistic one than climbing past three other teams in the wild card).

Even when a season is hopeless, there are reasons to watch.
Even though the 2010 season is not yet hopeless, our friend Bob detailed on Twitter the other day many of the reasons to still be excited about watching this year’s Cards: Albert (of course!) Jaime Garcia’s Rookie of the Year quest (continuing tonight). Adam Wainwright’s push for 20 wins. Jon Jay. For me personally, of course it’s Chris Carpenter. Watch the games now, while they are still on daily. There will be a cold and dreary January evening when you will wish the Cardinals were playing the Pirates live on your television.

Talent is necessary, but it takes a good team to win.
One great player (such as Andre Dawson in his 1987 MVP season or Albert any year) or even five 2010 Cardinal All Stars plus Jaime Garcia doesn’t guarantee a thing. It takes a productive roster overall for success.

Technology enhances your enjoyment of the game.
Obviously my brother didn’t have a digital camera with a zoom lens back when he took those blurry photos of Johnny Bench, but that’s just one small improvement to watching baseball these days. We all have so many ways to find and watch our team now, as well as to find and connect with other fans – to say nothing of the improvements of the broadcasts themselves. Truly a different world that would have been unimaginable back when I rejoiced because my family finally got cable TV in 1983. (Or, during 1984, when I would write journal entries on that day’s Cubs game – who knew in the future I’d have the chance to share my writing for anyone to read?)

Gut instincts are right.
This is something I’ve learned only in the last 10 years as a Cardinals fan. There has been a moment late in every season, regular or post, when I’ve had a flash of what’s ahead for the team. All but one of those times, it was a realization that the season was – at some point in the near future – going to be ending either with a loss or on that early October Sunday when the season ends for 22 other teams as well. Then there was the exception. In 2006, while watching Chris Carpenter dominate the Tigers in game three of the World Series, I knew they were going to win it all.

Winning really is the ultimate feeling.
When you think of the 2006 Cardinals, of course the World Series win is the first thing that comes to mind. Perhaps the second is how awful that month of September was, when they lost seven straight and went from a seven-game lead in the NL Central barely clinching the division. Yet all that angst (and all the media reports mocking the Cardinals for even being in the World Series) was long forgotten when Adam Wainwright struck out Brandon Inge on Oct. 27. And the emotion of that instant, of knowing you are the champions, is what we all – fans, players and coaches – hope to experience (or experience again) when a season begins.

There’s always a time to move on.
Truthfully, and personally, I’m hoping this is a lesson Tony La Russa realizes when this season ends. It’s a lesson that I’m glad Jamie Moyer, who I met during my internship in 1988, has not yet learned. Moving on also is a lesson I’m learning, as this is my final post for Diamond Diaries. As a writer and a Cardinals fan, being a baseball blogger was something I always wanted to do (once blogs actually existed!) Now that I’ve done it for five months, I’ve realized that blogging definitely has its high points. But it’s not helping me move toward my ultimate writing goal of being a published novelist. (There are, unfortunately, only 24 hours in a day and I cannot spend all of them writing.) So, although it’s been fun, now it’s time for me to move on.

Thanks for reading.

A Search For History

If you’re here looking for Cardinal writing, today there isn’t any here. However, I have a new post up over at Baseball Digest that I would appreciate you checking out. It talks all about Tony making players work for their playing time, and I had some fun writing it! In the meantime, I have a story for you, if you will indulge me for a few minutes…

I received a challenge from a friend when talking about ‘A League of Their Own’ one evening. Every time I watch that movie I remember that I live in the town where one of the teams from the AAGPBL was located, and I wonder where they played and what still exists to showcase the historic area. I made the mistake of mentioning my curiosity to said friend, who challenged me to go out and find it. I couldn’t say no, so I started researching. Unfortunately, what I found has left me frustrated.

The Racine Belles played at Horlick Field, which made me happy since I’d actually been there to watch a high school football game, not knowing that there was a baseball field on the other side of the bleachers I was sitting on. I’ve been searching for baseball in this goofy town for a year and didn’t know I already had found the field! What started to deflate my sails was when I found out that the championship game had not been filmed in Racine, but in Indiana, at a minor league ballpark that hadn’t even been in existence when the AAGPBL was playing. More confusion came when I learned that the championship game was actually played between the Belles and the Kenosha Comets that year, not the Belles and the Rockford Peaches. I don’t know why the movie changed those details, but that’s how it goes.

At this point all of my research had been online, and I had been coming up fairly empty as to what history might still exist that I could go and physically see. I finally decided that if there was something to see, I would find it at Horlick Field, so I made the five minute trek to the field to explore.

If you’re looking at the picture to the left, you are looking at all there is to see. I drove around the entirety of the complex before parking to get out. The whole place was locked up, which wasn’t particularly surprising, but I stuck my head through the gates to see if there was anything on the inside that might actually give clue to the history on this ground. Women in baseball is such an under-appreciated story, I felt like if I just looked hard enough I would surely find something. The Belles played there for over 10 years! How could there just be nothing?
After looking as far as I could through the gates, I gave up. Frustrated, I started walking back towards my car. I had been looking around by the baseball field, which is why I hadn’t noticed the plaque at the entrance of the football field. I almost missed it again, but happened to glance over as I was waiting to cross the street. This little plaque is the only reminder of the tough women who played their hearts out day in and day out on the grass of Horlick.
My search might be over. I’ve been poking around, but nothing has come up. My last play was to get in touch with the Racine Kiwanis Club to see if there is something else hidden away in a museum or something. I sent out an email to every branch in town, but I don’t think I should hold my breath. After being so excited to finally have something baseball-related near me, I could not be more frustrated with how this search has ended.

The BEST Rivalry

Let me say right now, that if you’re a big fan of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry and think it’s the best rivalry in sports… I’m not sure how you got here, but you’re lost, and should probably leave now.

In the earlier years of baseball, when the thought of teams west of the Mississippi River was still a novel idea and Jack Buck and Harry Caray were crooning over the waves of KMOX, most of the people in the Midwest only had the Cardinals and Cubs to follow along with. You could find fans of both teams duking it out from Nebraska to Tennessee, because those were the only teams they really ever heard about. The players know it is a special rivalry, the fans feel it … and the rest of the world, for the most part, tends to ignore it.

Fast forward to 2010. The Cardinals/Cubs rivalry, while still very special to fans of both sides, feels all but ignored by the rest of the country. Even Major League Baseball schedulers have showed little regard for scheduling the match-ups. A lot was made about the fact that this weekend’s series was the first time these two teams have met this year. In the same vein, today’s series with the Reds marks the third series in the first two months for the two teams. I imagine that it’s not easy putting together the schedule for a year’s worth of baseball games for 30 teams, but seriously, let me try. I can do better than that.

This weekend’s series might not have been one for the ages. It was great to take a series win in Chicago and salvage a 3-3 road trip, and I’m definitely thankful to Erika for making Albert Pujols mad enough to hit 3 home runs yesterday after she dared to question him on Friday, but chances are we won’t be talking about any one of these games for years to come. That said, I did want to share with you some memorable Cards/Cubs games that we are still talking about…

June 20, 1968
Bob Gibson had a memorable 1968 season. He led the league with a 1.12 ERA, 13 shutouts, 268 strikeouts, went to the All-Star Game, won the Cy Young, won the NL MVP, and won a Gold Glove… not to mention his 17 strikeouts in game 1 of the World Series. In this game, Gibby came up against Fergie Jenkins, and both hurlers threw complete games, with Gibson striking out 6, giving up 5 hits and 1 walk, and Jenkins striking out 11, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks. The only tally for the game occurred in the bottom of the 3rd, when Lou Brock slapped a ball to right and scrambled all the way to third for a triple, then was brought home by a Curt Flood single to left. The Cardinals snuck out with a 1-0 win, which meant that Gibby came away with a deserving win, instead of the 11 times in his career that he lost with a 1-0 score.

June 23, 1984
The Cardinals and Cubs traded blows for 11 innings on this day, and with a final score of 12-11 Cubs, you know some crazy events had to happen. Most notable in this game included Willie McGee hitting for the cycle, and Bruce Sutter coughing up the lead not only in the 9th inning, but again in the 10th, both on home runs to Ryne Sandberg.

September 8, 1989
Going in to the top of the 5th inning, the Cardinals were already down 7-1 and starter Joe Magrane had been chased after just 3 innings. The Cardinals put 1 on the board in the 5th, 4 in the 7th and 5 in the 8th to make an impressive come from behind 11-8 final score. Those 5 runs in the 8th were scored off of a Pedro Guerrero 3 run moon shot (think the distance of Albert’s blasts from yesterday) and a 2 run blast by Terry Pendleton all off of Mitch Williams, who was having the best year of his 11 year career.

September 8, 1998
After a summer of slamming long blasts, Mark McGwire took over the single season home run record after lining a ball just far enough to sneak over the left field wall for number 62 on the year. It was only fitting that the Cubs were in town for this game, with Sammy Sosa – who had been trading blasts with Mac all summer long – coming in from the outfield to join in the celebration at home plate.

Obviously there have been many other memorable games for the Cardinals and Cubs over the span of their rivalry, spanning almost 130 years and thousands of players. Whether you’re talking about the sea of red making their way to the friendly confines, Brock for Broligo, or 2006 vs. 1908, it’s not difficult to see the history seeping through. This is a rivalry for the ages, and it’s a shame that more people don’t see it that way.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, everyone. Remember those who have sacrificed their lives so we can enjoy a day off with nothing better to do than catch up on the national pastime!

How Good is Jaime?

Spending the last four days without any internet connection was absolute torture, because it meant I was completely cut off from baseball. The only baseball I could find solace in was in the texts I received from various sources, 15 second Cardinal highlights on Sportscenter, and the six Nationals hats I saw while wandering DC. Don’t try to tell me they give a rip about baseball out there…

But I digress.

I’ve been working on a little project that was suggested to me as a possible topic for the blog a week or so ago. The challenge: put together a comparison between Jaime Garcia’s first 7 games and the first 7 of some of the more well-known rookie Cardinal pitchers of the past. I realize that Jaime has now pitched 8 games, but I got the research before I left town, so 7 it is. My criteria was fairly simple: players included (roughly) one starting pitcher for each decade and they had to come up through the St. Louis farm system. The later names I’m sure most of you know, but the earlier names might be a little unfamiliar, so here are bios on all the boys.

Jaime Garcia (full rookie year: 2010) – Jaime was selected in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft. He came up for one start and a handful of relief appearances in 2008, then was shut down for almost all of 2009 after having Tommy John surgery. He came back to pitch well at the end of 2009, and won a place in the starting five coming out of Spring Training this year.


Rick Ankiel (2000) – Rick was signed out of high school and given a $2.5 million signing bonus, which the Cardinals had not ever seen before nor have paid since. He was 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 2000 and struck out almost 10 batters per 9 using a devastating curveball, a mid-to-high 90′s fastball and a sharp sinker. He fell apart in the NLDS, throwing 5 wild pitches in 1 inning against the Braves. 5 more went to the backstop in game 2 of the NLCS against the Mets, and things did not improve in 2001 for Rick. He went back to the minors and… well, you know him now as Rick Ankiel, centerfielder for the Kansas City Royals. To quote Harry Doyle in Major League 2, “It’s a funny game, eh Monty?”


Matt Morris (1997) – Matty Mo was taken 12th overall in the 1995 draft, and didn’t waste time becoming a fan favorite in St. Louis. He pitched well for a few years, underwent Tommy John in 1999, then won 22 games in 2001, made the first of his two All-Star appearances, came in 3rd for the Cy Young and won the Comeback Player of the Year award. After 2005 he signed a 3 year deal with the Giants, and was traded to the Pirates before retiring in 2008.


Danny Cox (1983) – Danny was drafted in the 13th round of the 1981 draft. His numbers fluctuated a little over his first 5 years, then he dropped off the radar completely after 1988, when he underwent shoulder surgery and was released by the Cardinals. After recovering from surgery he was a changed pitcher, found himself in Philly, Pittsburgh and Toronto and finished his career as a rarely used relief pitcher.


Bob Forsch (1974) – Forsch was taken in the 26th round of the 1968 draft. He is one of few pitchers to pitch two no-hitters in his career, both of them coming at Busch II. These are also the only two no-hitters pitched in Busch II. His brother, Ken, was also a pitcher and also pitched a no-hitter, making the Forsch brothers the only set of brothers to ever accomplish this feat. Bob was a ‘better’ hitting pitcher, holding down a .213 batting average and winning two Silver Sluggers in his career.


Steve Carlton (1966) – Carlton was brought on as an unsigned free agent in 1963. Were it not for contract disputes with the volatile Gussie Busch, Steve wouldn’t be remembered as one of the greatest Phillie pitchers of all time. He was already a 2 time All-Star by the time 1970 rolled around, however he held out during Spring Training, then lasted through 1971 before Gussie had him traded to the Phils, in what many consider to be the worst trade the Cardinals have ever made (yes, worse than Mulder, for you more recent fans).


Larry Jaster (1966) – Jaster was signed as an undrafted free agent in 1962, and spent a few years in the minors before getting the call in late 1965. In his rookie year alone he shut out the Dodgers 5 times – and the Dodgers won the pennant in ’66! He had another solid year in 1967, but never matched up to those first two full years. Jaster found himself in Atlanta in 1970 where he made 14 relief appearances, then appeared in 5 more games in 1972 and was out of baseball after that – at only age 28. Fun fact: Jaster was the first pitcher to throw a pitch in Canada.

Thank you Wikipedia!

Bob Gibson (1959) – If I tried to say 5 words on Hoot, I’d talk for 5 paragraphs. I defer you instead to the box at the right, noting all of Gibson’s highlights. Add ‘Hall of Fame’ to that résumé as well, if you would.


Dizzy Dean (1932) – Ol’ Diz is in a class by himself. He was one of the leaders of the Gashouse Gang of the 1930′s, and his colorful antics and bizarre way with words made him both endearing and irritating to all who tried to follow him. Along with his brother Paul, Diz predicted that the two of them would combine to win 45 games in a season – and they did! If you’re looking for some lighthearted fun in baseball history – look no further than Dizzy Dean.


Those were the boys (and yes, there will be a quiz). Now for the statistics! Putting the stats together was time-consuming, hence my unwillingness to add in an 8th start to every pitcher. For several, the ‘first seven’ for each pitcher sometimes spanned a couple of different seasons. The year listed is the year that they had their first full season.


So, how good is Jaime? He leads this rather spectacular group in ERA, runs, earned runs, hits allowed, batting average against, on base percentage and on base plus slugging. Ol’ Diz had a leg up on the slugging line, as he played in the ‘Dead Ball Era,’ otherwise Garcia would have had a clean sweep on the percentages. I feel that the most true number here to balance out innings pitched (among other factors) is to note the WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) line. While Jaime does not lead that category, pulling second in that ferocious lineup is still quite impressive.
Bottom line – do I or anyone else expect Jaime Garcia to continue running these kind of numbers up the scoreboard? No, of course not. All of the players in this study went on to have very different careers. Some became Hall of Famers, some saw their careers end far too soon, and there’s always Ankiel. What I am saying is that our current rook is definitely making his case to be something special, and I know I’m not the only one out there who is ‘honking for Jaime.’

Blame the Manager?

Count me as one of the many who continually find ourselves scratching our heads with the ‘antics’ of one Tony LaRussa. Last night was definitely no exception, as Tony did some more juggling of the lineup, moving the pitcher back into the traditional 9th spot and bumping Colby Rasmus into the lead-off.

Tonight’s shuffling didn’t really catch me off guard, because I’ve been watching Tony long enough to know he doesn’t stick to the same lineup for very long, especially if he thinks he can come up with a better one.

I’ve been candid about my first impression of TLR from when he arrived with the Cardinals. I was a kid who didn’t know him and wasn’t pleased with the fact that he wasn’t letting Ozzie Smith play full time anymore. My dad’s not a big fan of him, and I’m a ‘Daddy’s Girl’, so I was more than happy to take on that opinion as well (Dad – if you’re reading, skip the rest of this paragraph). Over time I have learned, read up on, and psycho-analyzed our manager, which has brought a deeper appreciation and (surprisingly) a feeling of understanding as to why he does what he does. That last sentence might just be me blowing smoke though, because some days I’m just as confused as the next person!

It probably comes as no surprise to hear that Tony is not well-loved among the rest of the NL Central. Despite having several Astro and Cub fan friends in college, I really did not realize just how much other fans hate him until I moved to Wisconsin. Here, Tony is referred to as ‘that hard-nosed, old school jerk who plays dirty, stirs up trouble and tells his pitchers to plunk guys just for kicks.’ That, my friends, is pretty much a direct quote from a life-long Brewers fan. (I’ve kept my opinions on Ryan Braun to myself. People worship that guy here.)

Well, that old school jerk has been managing baseball long enough and well enough to be third all time behind Connie Mack (who owned his team!) and John McGraw. Those two have been out of baseball for 60 (Mack) and 75 (McGraw) years now. Old school? He fits right in. He knows every unwritten rule in the fictitious book. He lives by them, and he expects his players to as well.

We know about all the tinkering with the lineups. Tony’s ‘Crazy 8′ lineups have been the subject of sports radio call in shows and internet pundits ever since the off-and-on again experiment began in 1998. Derrick Goold has (in my mind anyway) the definitive story on the whole situation. To be perfectly honest, with what still looks like a loaded lineup (despite what the numbers are telling us), I didn’t expect to see the pitcher hitting 8th this season. Shows what I know.

Other Tonyisms… it amuses me that a guy who was brutalized for his handling of Rick Ankiel (the pitching version), and has since been hailed as a non-young kid kinda guy, is trotting out lineups like the one we saw on Sunday, where, by my count, Tony trotted out 8 ‘young guys’ in a single game, and the Cardinals scored 11 runs, or the most they’ve scored since Opening Day of this year. I was amused reading reactions to that lineup (as well as last night’s) on Twitter before the game started. Don’t get me wrong – I thought Sunday’s lineup was nuts too, but it’s amazing how many times those ‘nuts’ things work out.

Two more fun facts: not only does Tony have a law degree, but he invented the closer. Sweet.

For games like last night, it’s not the manager I’m pointing blame at. It’s the players.

We’ve been playing around with different topics the past few weeks. Now we want to know – what do you want to see more of on the CDD? Take a second and check out our poll question on the sidebar!

One last note for today…
Dear Brendan,
You look like you could use a hug.

We just wanted to let you know we still love you. Today is a new day/game, and we’re positive that things are going to turn around for you soon. No, really. Any day now.
Love,
Ang, Erika and Chris

Please Send Bats

Credit where due

How I long for the days when we were (complaining?) talking about how the Cardinals were hitting too many home runs. Those were good good days. This has been a very unkind road trip for our boys in red, and the men in blue (aka umps) haven’t helped, to be sure, but the biggest issue? Far and away – the Cardinals bats have been lost. I’m not sure if they didn’t make the plane out of St. Louis for the east coast or if the boys are holding them at the wrong end, but it’s been tough to watch some of these at bats lately. In fact, I’m fairly certain some of the boys in my 8th grade class had better at bats in PE last week than I saw last night.

I’ve come to the conclusion (not that this is a new one by any means) that the Cardinals are indeed playing the role of guess hitters. I went out in search of the article that started this thought process in my head a few days ago. My search was exhausting, and took me to so many random and varying sites that I got a little lost in the history of the game, as well as wrapped up in the current oddities of the internet. Here are some of the examples:

  • tweets that were just a few minutes old (that are appearing on google now… and I saw twitter names I knew… sometimes google is scary)
  • Bleed Cubbie Blue game threads
  • Milwaukee Sentinel articles from 1954 about the Milwaukee Braves (pictured at right)
  • Baseball Digest articles from 1959 and 1961 (I’ll get back to these)
  • Joe Strauss Live transcripts
  • a simulation to see if you can react fast enough to hit a fastball (entertaining for the first 5 seconds or so… and I recommend turning down the sound)
  • and this article from Bernie Miklasz, which (along with the Mark McGwire/Al Hrabosky conversation mentioned therein) is what started this whole thought process to begin with for me

That’s right, I am admitting for the second post in a row that something Al Hrabosky said got me thinking. I’m scared too.

However, hearing that our batting coach thinks that our guys are going out there guessing, and are far too reliant on watching video scares me much more. Videos like this speak to the issue as well.

I’m not saying this problem is localized to the Cardinals by any means. One article I found (and lost – there were too many) stated that there were more guess hitters in the league now than ever before, which didn’t surprise me in the least. Players from Garrett Anderson and Pat Burrell to Dustin Pedroia were being nominated as being guess hitters.

It sounds scary doesn’t it? Guessing. You and I couldn’t go into our daily jobs and just guess. I know I don’t get paid millions of dollars to guess all day (I also don’t get paid millions of dollars). That said, here are some names of guys that ‘just guessed’ through their whole careers and came out juuuuust fine:
Johnny Bench
Ted Williams
Tony Gywnn

That’s just the short list. I would also venture my own guess here and say that these guys knew a little bit more than some of the current free swingers running around MLB clubhouses. Just a guess though.

Speaking of history, ThisBaseball Digest article (I miss having a subscription to this mag) from May of 1959 had a nice quote from Rogers Hornsby, AKA the second-last NL player to hit .400 in a season. He stated,

Don’t be a guess hitter. Too many hitters are guess hitters. They should wait until they get a ball in the strike zone. It only takes one to hit. Instead they guess. They swing when they think they’ve outguessed the pitcher. But that isn’t a good percentage. Every pitcher has four pitches in his repertoire, fastball, curve, change-up and one other, possibly a knuckler. If the batter guesses right once out of four he’ll only hit .250.

A coach says swing, (players) swing, even if the pitch is a foot from the plate. They’re not supposed to. That’s not required. A batter doesn’t even have to protect a base runner if the hit-and-run signal is on. The main thing is don’t do anything silly.

Leave it to the Rajah to tell it like it is. I believe if someone pulled out this quote and showed it to Mark McGwire right now, he would look at you and say, ‘Exactly.’

I will leave you with one more thought for today (I know, I’m wordy for a Sunday). This gem is another Baseball Digest find, from 1961. Legendary Cleveland skipper Jimmie Dykes had this to say on guess hitters:

There are two kinds of ‘guess’ hitters in baseball. A batter of one kind ‘guesses,’ if you would call it that; that he will get some certain pitch while at bat and looks for this particular pitch; in fact, waits for it and lets other pitches go until he has two strikes and must hit at anything. A better name would be ‘waiting for your pitch,’ and most of the great hitters do it. The other kind ‘guesses’ on each pitch. Batters of this type will ‘guess’ that the next pitch is to be a curve or fast ball, and if wrong, as they frequently are, try again, probably changing the guess. They are continually getting crossed up, in part because they don’t stick to the original guess, but keep switching, thus can be wrong on every pitch. This is a bad hitting habit to get into and a hard one to break.

Let’s all hope the Cardinals are more like the first type, but the past few games don’t do much to reassure me in that regard. We need to see a beat-down of the Pirates today so the boys can at least go home on a higher note!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: