Please enjoy the deadline work of two heavyweights–Jimmy Cannon and Murray Kempton–on the unlikely winner and hard luck loser of Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. The 2-0 win by the Yankees gave them a 3-2 series lead (they’d win it in 7) but the game is remembered because Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in the history of the World Series.
From The New York Post, here’s Cannon on Larsen and Kempton on the losing pitcher, Sal Maglie.
“Perfect Day for a Dim-Time Guy”
By Jimmy Cannon
You’re Don Larsen, the dim-time guy who pitched the perfect game. You’re a midnight kid who doesn’t miss any laughs. It’s one more for the road and no one ever gets sun-burned by a sallow morning sun. But yesterday on a sun-spangled afternoon you achieved everlasting fame in baseball. You pitched a no-hitter, the first in any World Series game, the perfect one because no one reached first base in nine rapid innings. So let them rib you about busting up a past-curfew car in St. Pete last spring. You weren’t hurt and yesterday it was 2-0 against the Dodgers in the fifth game of the World Series in Yankee Stadium.
All the night-long bus rides around the no-sleep leagues, from the village of Aberdeen to Globe-Miami in the Arizona Texas League, through the Three Eye League, through the North League, through Wichita and Wichita Falls, they brought you to the Stadium yesterday. From the St. Louis Browns to the Baltimore Orioles, and to the Yankees in ’55 after being dropped back to Denver, there fun all the way. And some grief, too, because in ’49 in Globe-Miami the right arm was sore. It wasn’t too much but down there you don’t get much help from specialists with the club picking up the bill. You were an outfielder for a while, a respectable one but pitching is your business. The arm healed itself and you returned to your trade.
You don’t counterfeit humility for the reporters. You don’t turn it on for the crowd. You’re a tall, slow-walking man and that’s the way you go. You kept to the usual routine of your life. You knocked over a few beers, grabbed a couple of laughs and hit the sheets at midnight, You belt a few every night and why not? Why go to bed early? You knew you don’t sleep. You’re a dim-time guy.
It occurred to you in the sixth or seventh inning you might be the first man to throw a no-hitter in a Series. You can’t remember exactly when this thought took shape. You don’t know who the batter was. You were taking them one at a time, hitter by hitter. The infielders didn’t give you any advice. Even Joe Collins, who generally reminds a pitcher to cover first when a lefthanded hitter is up, stayed away from you.
On the bench, Billy Hunter rolled the practice ball out to the infield. He made certain he did it every inning. Once Mickey Mantle came in and sat where Hunter had been all game long. Whispering so you wouldn’t hear it, Hunter asked Mantle for lis lucky seat. They were guided by superstition as the innings passed, each man following the same routine but not mentioning it to you.
Under the stands, Rip Coleman, who rooms with you on the road, tried to walk out the tension. He didn’t want to see the base hit that would take it away from you. A grounds-keeper told Coleman you were pitching a no-hitter. And Coleman didn’t reply, just glared at the guy.
You didn’t wind up once yesterday as you pitched the first perfect game since Charlie Robertson did it for the White Sox against Detroit during the regular season of 1922. You figured Del Baker, the Red Sox coach, was catching your pitches and tipping off the hitters. So you experimented without a wind-up after the Yankees had won the pennant this year. But your roommate claims you got this style from a comic book character called The Ghoul.
You used the fast ball, the curve ball and the slider. Only once, in the first inning to Pee Wee Reese, did you throw three balls to hitter. It came down to three and two and they the shortstop stood transfixed as a third strike was called by Babe Pinelli. In the ninth Yogi Berra told you that you had to get Jackie Robinson who was the first hitter. You threw him out, then Roy Campanella hit a ground ball to Martin and Dale Mitchell, batting for Sal Maglie, took a third strike.
At times you resembled a reflective man throwing stones into a river, so easy was your motion. Occasionally, you examined the ball as if it were made of crystal and could reveal the secrets of the innings to come. Against you, Maglie, sad as old men are who desperately hold onto their youth, squeezed the ball in both hands as if it were made of snow and he could press it smaller. He was marvelous, too, and stingy with his five hits. But Mantle hit a curve ball that slanted toward his wrists for a home run in the fourth inning. In the sixth a single by Andy Carey, your bunted sacrifice and Hank Bauer’s leftfield single made the other run.
Only four times was your perfect game in jeopardy. In the second, Robinson’s line-shot jumped out of Carey’s glove but Gil McDougald fielded it. In the fifth, Mantle, running sideways, made a spectacular back-handed catch of Gil Hodges’ fly. Also in the fifth, Sandy Amoros’ fly ball abruptly turned foul. If it had fallen fair, it would have been a home run. The one-leap ground ball Jim Gilliam hit to McDougald in the seventh was difficult, but the shortstop performed the play.
Early in the season, you were a five-inning pitcher but your stamina came back. You pitched one-and-a-third inning in the second game of this Series, but the four runs they made off of you on a hit and four bases on balls were unearned. The hell with al [sic] that. You’re Don Larsen, a dim-time guy, who pitched the perfect game.
“Maglie: Gracious Man With Dealer’s Hands”
By Murray Kempton
There was the customary talk about the shadows of the years and the ravages of the law of averages when Sal Maglie went out to meet the Yankees yesterday afternoon. It was the first time, after all the years, that he had ever pitched in Yankee Stadium, the home of champions.
He threw that humpbacked setup pitch that is last in the warm up, and then for the first time looked at Hank Bauer. He threw the curve in; Hank Bauer made a gesture at hunting; and the strike was called.
The hitter leaned over a little; the pitch was high; Hank Bauer skittered back in haste and the ball went by the catcher’s mitt and back to the wall.
“If I know Sal,” the old Giant writer in the stands said, “He threw that to tell -em on. He knows the Yankees probably think he’s a little tired. H’s saying to them, look fellas, I’m still around. You’ve got to come and get me.”
“The call was for an inside pitch,” said Sal Maglie later. “I threw it too high and it got away.” He is a gracious man who takes no pride in the legend of professional venom.
He worked his arm a little and blew on his hands as though he came from a world no sun could warm. And then Bauer plunked it up to Reese; Maglie looked once at the ball and then at the fielder, and, without needing to see the catch, bent over and worked his long, brown, dealer’s hands into the resin bag.
He got Joe Collins to hit on the ground to the wrong field; MickeyMantle went all the way around; Sal Maglie heard the sound and judged it. The left fielder was still circling under it when Sal Maglie crossed the foul line on his way to the dugout. He gives very little and can afford to to spend less.
He went that way through the line-up for the first three innings. It seemed a memorable incident when the first pitch to the eighth Yankee batter was a ball. The utility infield of the fifth-place team in the Westport Midget League League would have eaten up anything hit by either team in those three perfect 18 outs. “I figured,” said PeeWee Reese, “that both you guys weren’t giving anybody anything, and we’d have to call it at midnight.”
Sal Maglie ended the third for the Dodgers, walking out slowly carrying one bat, digging his spikes In as though anything ls possible in this game, driving the first pitch straight to Mickey Mantle and walking over towards third base to change his cap and get his glove. He threw the warm-up pitches; Roy Campanella was standing up and almost dancing at the plate.
Maglle got the two quick strikes on Bauer who hit to Jackie Robinson; Maglle did not look at the play; he was busy with the resin. He pushed the curve by Joe Collins; it was the third strike. Mantle was back.
The first strike was a curve and called. There were no times intrudlng upon the memory when he had seemed more sharp. He threw the next pitch outside, and then hit the corner again. He waited awhlle, rubbing his fingers on his shirt, wiping the afternoon’s first sweat of his forehead. He threw a pitch on the corner that was low by the distance of a bead or sweat from the skin; it was that close and was called a ball.
Mantle hit a foul. Sal Maglie knew it was out of play; the left fielder was still running and he was working on a new ball. The next pitch he threw Mantle was down the middle a little inside. Roy Campanella said later that he hit on his fists. Sal Maglie watched it almost curve and then stay fair in the stands; with the unseeing roar all around him. he walked back to the rubber and kicked it once.
“He’d been fouling off the outside pitches,” he said later. “I thought I’d try him Inside once.” He stopped for a minute, naked and dry beside his locker, the skin showing through the thin hair above his forehead. “That shows what can happen when you’re thinking out there and the other guy isn’t.” That was as close as he came to suggesting that God is too tolerant with the margin of error he assigns the very young.
Then Yogi Berra hit one hard to the wrong field; Duke Snider ran the distance of years, and tumbled up with lt. Sal Maglie had no reason lo know it then, but that was the inning and the run.
In the fifth Enos Slaughter was walked very fast. Billy Martin bunted. Sal Maglie came scuttling onto the grass and snatched the ball and turned around and fired it high and smoky to second just in time, a 40-year-old-man throwing out a 40-year-old-man and knowing he had to hurry. He was sweating hard by this time. Harold Reese went up half his height and knocked it into the air and recovered it for the double play. Sal Maglie was watching the way the ball went now; the sound was different; for the first time today he had to think of the fielders.
Don Larsen went on making the rest period painfully short. Sal Maglie took his warmups for the sixth; he was throwing the last one in hard now. Andy Carey hit one over his head into center and the old remembered tight rope walk had begun.
Larsen bunted the third strike; Maglie and Campanella scrambled off too late to get the runner at second; they had made their mistake. Carey went far off second; Bauer slapped the ball to lwft. Sal Maglie drove himself over to back up third, but the run was in and safely in. Walter Alston came out; the conference went on around Maglie. A man in the stands said that if Labine was reasy, it was time to bring him in. “Take Sal out?” Campanella said later, “the way he was pitching?” Joe Collins hit a low, hard single; Maglie went over to cover third again and came back slamming the ball into his glove. Mantle was up.
The first pitch was out of control; then he threw two strikes, one called, one swinging. Mantle hit the ball to the first baseman who threw to the catcher, who threw not well to the third baseman, who fell away and threw around Bauer to get him. After the game, Sal Maglie looked at Jackie Robinson sitting sombre across the dressing room: in a moment of surprise, Robinson’s hair was gray. “That was a throw,” he said. “Him falling away like that.” Maglie saw it and walked to the third base line and waited for the rundown so as not to interfere, like a waiter at his station, and then walked slowly back to the dugout.
He was the last to come out after the swift Dodger half of the seventh. That appears in the box score to have been all it was, except that in the bottom of the eighth, Don Larsen was the first to bat. Sal Maglie went on with his warmups; alone in that great ballpark, he and Campanella were not looking at the hitter. He struck out Larsen; he struck out Bauer; he struck out Joe Collins swinging. When he walked back, the crowd noticed him and gave him a portion of its cheers. It was the last inning of the most extraordinary season an old itinerant, never a vagrant, ever had. “If figured,” he said later, “that, for me, either way, it was the last inning and I didn’t have to save anything.”
”I would like to see him.” he said later, “pitch with men on bases.” Someone asked him if he had minded Larsen getting his no-hitter. “I might have wanted him to get it,” he answered, “If we hadn’t had a chance all the time.”
They asked him was he satisfied with the game he pitched. “How,” said Sal Maglie, “am I to be satisfied? But you got to adjust yourself.” To time and to ill chance, and the way they forget, you got to adjust yourself. Someone asked if you knew when you had a no hitter, and he said, of course you do. You remember who had hit, for one thing. “lf you ask me two years from now,” said Sal Maglie, “I’ll be able to tell you every pitch I threw this year.” He said it, in passing naked, his body white except for the red from countless massages on his right arm, tearing his lunch off a long Italian sausage.
On the other side of the room, somebody asked Campanella if Maglie had made any mistakes out there. “Sal, make mistakes?” said Campanella. “The only mistake he made today was pitching.” He pulled on jacket and turned to what was last of the assemblage. Maglie was going now, as losers are required to go, to get his picture taken with Don Larsen in the Yankee dressing room.
“I told you,” chided Roy Campanella, as Sal Maglie went out the door, “that there should be days like this.”
All efforts have been made to reach the rights-holders for these stories. If you are the rights holder and would like the material removed, please contact me.—Alex Belth
I like this from a recent post by Joe Posnanski. Here’s his All Star team of players who failed to receive one vote for the Hall of Fame:
C: Darrell Porter
1B: Ken Singleton
2B: Robby Thompson
SS: Dick McAuliffe
3B: Bob Horner
OF: Jimmy Wynn
OF: Andy Van Slyke
OF: Roy White
DH: Hal McRae
P: Frank Tanana
P: Mark Langston
P: Steve Rogers
P: Sam McDowell
CL: Todd Worrell
Honorable mentions: Devon White, Amos Otis, Cecil Cooper, Garry Maddox, Joe Rudi, Boomer Scott.
In his third year of eligibility, Barry Larkin was elected to the Hall of Fame, an honor most baseball fans agree should have come sooner. However, even though the Hall of Fame bylaws make no such distinction, the voters from the BBWAA have taken it upon themselves to create a stratified election process that bestows special meaning to how quickly a player gains enshrinement (for a closer look at players forced to wait their turn, click here).
Since the first Hall of Fame class in 1936, 297 members have been inducted, including 207 former major leaguers, of which 112 were elected by the BBWAA. Of that latter total, only 44, or 39%, have been enshrined in their first year of eligibility, meaning Larkin’s delayed induction wasn’t abnormal.
The restriction on first ballot Hall of Famers has been eased somewhat of late (there have been 10 first-year elections over the past 10 years), but sentiment about denying an initial vote is still prevalent in Cooperstown discussions. Unfortunately, the shortsighted logic behind such an approach can sometimes be taken to an extreme, as was the case with Lou Whitaker and Ron Santo, two strong candidates that dropped off the ballot after failing to receive 5% of the vote in their first year of eligibility (Santo, who will join Larkin as a posthumous Veterans Committee induction, was later reinstated). Despite these examples of a philosophy gone awry, the practice continues to this day, and almost claimed Bernie Williams as another victim.
Although fans and baseball writers still get hung up about the importance of being a first ballot Hall of Famer, many might be surprised to learn some of the players who don’t qualify for the distinction. Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb and Whitey Ford all needed two ballots to gain enshrinement. For Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell, the third time was a charm. There haven’t been many players more elite than Joe DiMaggio, Eddie Collins, and Lefty Grove, but each of those men needed four ballots to enter the Hall. As you go down the list, the names continue to impress, which should be reason enough to scrap any notion about a first ballot commendation.
In defensive of the BBWAA, there once were credible reasons for withholding votes from first timers. The most compelling was the glut of qualified candidates resulting from the decades of baseball history that pre-dated the Hall of Fame. As a result, the voters not only had to consider which players were the most deserving, but also which had already waited too long for their rightful honor. Several other eligibility rules from the past also supported the first ballot stinginess, including players becoming eligible after only one season of retirement and the lack of a minimum requirement to remain on the ballot. That’s why when DiMaggio kept failing to win induction, for example, there was surprise, but not outrage, even if not everyone agreed with the philosophy.
The temptation is strong to exclaim indignantly that all members of the Baseball Writers Association who failed to vote for the Jolter are rockheads. But that would be a grievous error. The reasoning is this: Joe DiMaggio in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. Admittedly, he rates it but can afford to wait a bit just as other great stars had to wait. Let’s get some of the older fellows into Cooperstown before time runs out on them.” – Arthur Daley, New York Times, January 23, 1953
Arthur Daley’s justification for withholding deserved votes expired along time ago. Making Barry Larkin wait three years for induction didn’t serve any purpose other than to create an artificial distinction between classes of Hall of Famer. Of course, because past procedures necessitated delays, Larkin can still boast that his election came well before the likes of DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx and Rogers Hornsby. However, there is still one part of Daley’s comment that rings true, and it will be hauntingly evident when someone other than Ron Santo is forced to accept the Hall of Fame honor on his behalf. Compared to the former Cubs’ third baseman, Larkin’s wait was nothing.
Our man Cliff has a piece up at SI.com about Jorge Posada’s chances at making the Hall of Fame:
He was the funny-looking one. The last to join the quartet, he had a big nose, a weak chin, a penchant for rings and worked sitting down. His contributions to arguably the greatest ensemble in his field have always been overlooked. Yet, even moreso than his Beatles analog, Ringo Starr, Jorge Posada was an equal partner in baseball’s fab four, the quartet of Yankees teammates who debuted in 1995 and won seven pennants and five World Series together (though Posada, who played in just eight major league games in 1996, sat out the first of those).
That Posada is so comparable to Ringo, “the funny one,” who wrote just two Beatles songs and two of the worst at that, helps explain why he has had such a hard time being taken seriously as an all-time great at his position. However, news of his impending retirement, first reported by WFAN beat reporter Sweeny Murti last weekend, gives us a much-needed occasion to revisit Posada’s significance in baseball history. It’s fitting that the news about Posada arrived just days before the announcement of this year’s Hall of Fame class, as a case can be made that Posada is worthy of enshrinement, and it has nothing to do with his having kept time with sure-fire first-ballot inductees Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera or fellow borderline case Andy Pettitte, his Core Four brethren.
Over at the Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman compares Bernie Williams with Kirby Puckett:
Both were excellent hitters with very different skills who nonetheless arrived at similar results. Puckett was short and stout, Williams long and lithe. Puckett reaped a huge benefit from his Metrodome home park, hitting .344/.388/.521 at home, .291/.331/.430 on the road. Williams was about the same hitter everywhere. Both were Gold Glove center fielders who won several of the defensive awards with their bats. Both won a single batting title. Puckett led the AL in hits four times; Williams walked too much to compete in that department.
Career-wise, Williams looks a little worse overall, but that’s because his peak isn’t quite so high and his career is a little longer. Due to glaucoma, Puckett’s career came to an abrupt end, depriving him of a decline phase, whereas Williams got to play until he was no longer useful. If you consider both through their age-35 seasons, it’s a virtual tie: Williams had hit .301/.388/.488 in 1804 games, while Puckett hit .318/.360/.477 in 1783 games. When you adjust for time and place, there isn’t a lot of difference–at which point, I would argue, you have to look at Puckett’s home-road splits.
Jorge Posada’s Yankees career has come to an end, at least that’s what he seems to think. Considering Brian Cashman has not even reached out to discuss a reduced role with his long-time catcher, chances are Posada’s hunch is probably right. There’s always a possibility, albeit slim, that the Yankees could decide Posada still fits into their plans for 2012, but if this really is the end of his time in pinstripes, we can finally take a look back over his long career and truly appreciate just how much he has meant to the organization.
Since 1996, when the current Yankees’ dynasty was born, only Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera contributed more to the team than Posada, at least in terms of average WAR. Of course, you really don’t need a sophisticated sabermetric to illustrate how important Posada was to the franchise’s incredible success over the span of his career. He really was a core member of the Yankees. That wasn’t just a clever marketing slogan.
The magnitude of Posada’s contribution to the Yankees is impressive even beyond the context of the era in which he played. Again using average WAR as a barometer, only 10 position players have contributed more to the pinstripes, and, needless to say, the company is rather select. By just about any measure, it isn’t a stretch to say that Jorge Posada is one of the greatest Yankees to ever play the game, and many of the players worthy of that distinction also happen to be in the Hall of Fame.
Although some might dispute the notion of Posada as Cooperstown worthy, his credentials are compelling. Unfortunately for the Yankees’ backstop, his career happened to coincide with arguably the greatest offensive (Mike Piazza) and defensive (Ivan Rodriguez) catchers to ever play the game, so it’s easy to see why he is sometimes overlooked when making Hall-worthy assessments. Despite these formidable contemporaries, however, Posada’s statistical record still stands out.
Comparing Catchers, 1990-2010
During the 20-year period from 1990 to 2010, Posada’s OPS+ of 123 ranks second only to Piazza’s 142 (among players with at least 1,000 games, two-thirds of which were as a catcher). The same is true for his wRC+ and wOBA. Based on more traditional stats, Posada also distinguished himself during the period, ranking tied for first in on base percentage and third in home runs and RBIs. As a result, Posada won five silver sluggers behind the plate, the fourth highest total amassed at the position. Although some catchers, such as Joe Mauer, have had better rates over a shorter horizon, Posada’s longevity is also a feather in his cap. In the 20-year span under consideration, only four others have started more games behind the plate, which is remarkable considering how slowly the Yankees eased him into the starting role.
Jorge Posada vs. Hall of Fame Catchers and Likely Inductees
There are currently 12 primary catchers elected to the Hall of Fame, making it the most underrepresented position on the diamond. However, even despite this very select company, Posada’s career totals still figure prominently among catchers already enshrined or almost certain to be. In the chart below, Posada’s relative rankings in several offensive categories are provided. Although a rudimentary analysis, it shows that Posada can stand toe-to-toe as a hitter with every other Hall of Fame backstop but Piazza.
As a hitter, Jorge Posada’s Hall of Fame credentials seem undeniable, so the deciding factor could be his work behind the plate. Defensive metrics are relatively unreliable in general, but for catchers, they are severely limited. For that reason, it’s likely that Hall of Fame voters will rely on reputation. Because of how rapidly his catching skills declined at the end of his career, that might seem like a liability for Posada, but during his prime, the backstop was often regarded as being an above average defender. If that’s the prevailing sentiment when Posada’s name comes finally appears on the ballot, his chances of being enshrined would be greatly bolstered.
“I see vintage Jorge Posada, everything we expect. He’s one of the best catchers in baseball and he has been. He’s an offensive and defensive catcher. This is what I expect, this is what he is and this is what he’s been. This guy is going to go down as one of the famous Yankee catchers, along with Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson.” – Brian Cashman, quoted in the New York Daily News, August 8, 2006
How will Jorge Posada be remembered? Despite often being overlooked on a team chock full of talent, Posada’s contribution to the Yankees’ dynasty is undeniable. He is more than deserving of all the accolades usually bestowed upon a Yankees’ legend. His number 20 should never be worn again, and his plaque for Monument Park should soon be minted, but perhaps the most meaningful honor is the special place he occupies in the memories of an entire generation of Yankees’ fan. They won’t soon forget how great Posada really was. Hopefully, the Hall of Fame voters will remember too.
With all of the focus on the Yankees’ alleged pursuit of Ubaldo Jimenez and sundry other pitchers, most of the mainstream media has lost focus on the team’s other concern: an inconsistent and hardly overpowering offense. The Yankees have not scored a ton of runs since a time from before the All-Star break–with the sorry output against James Shields on Thursday being the latest example. Very quietly, the Yankees have fallen to third in the American League in runs scored, trailing not only the Red Sox but the resurgent Rangers.
In the last 11 games, the Yankees have been held to one run four times. In another game, they scored two runs. They haven’t scored more than seven runs in any game over that stretch. And they haven’t reached double figures in runs since June 28. This ain’t a powerhouse any more.
It should be no secret that the loss of Alex Rodriguez is playing a role. A-Rod should be back within the next month, but will the Yankees be able to score enough runs to stay close to the Red Sox during the interim? Even with a small resurgence since his dreadful start, Jorge Posada is still having a terrible season; Derek Jeter remains a middle infield mediocrity; and Mark Teixeira is struggling to keep his batting average above .240. Frankly, the Yankees need some help, and it will probably have to come from within since Brian Cashman will be saving most of his trade chips for a pitcher.
Eric Chavez appears on the verge of returning from the DL, and it’s can’t come at a better time. Once he’s activated, he should immediately be made part of a third base platoon with either Eduardo Nunez (who hasn’t hit much since the A-Rod injury) or prospect Brandon Laird.
Then the Yankees should address the DH situation, where Posada and aging Andruw Jones simply aren’t cutting it. For the umpteenth time this summer, I’m calling for the promotion of Jesus Montero. Once he comes off the minor league DL, it‘s time to let him make his debut as a Yankee. (As Bill Parcells once said about one of his kickers, “It‘s time to take those Huggies off.”) For crying out loud, bring up Montero once and for all, put him in a platoon with Posada, and let him back up Russell Martin ahead of the useless, fist-pumping Francisco Cervelli. It’s beyond me why the Yankees continue to play with a 24-man roster, which is essentially what they’re doing with Cervelli.
None of this is meant to say that the Yankees should ignore their pitching concerns. They shouldn’t. But they need a boost of hitting, at least until Rodriguez returns. And they need it now…
As usual, there will be a nice Yankee presence in Cooperstown this weekend for the annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The Hall of Fame contingent includes plenty of pinstriped blood: Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Phil Niekro, and Dave Winfield. Plus, let’s not forget 2011 inductee Pat Gillick, who once worked for the Yankees as an executive and had extensive input on the trades that brought Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, and Ed Figueroa to New York.
There will be other ex-Yankees in town, too. Jim Kaat, who once honeymooned in Cooperstown, will attend Sunday’s ceremony. Favorites like Ron Guidry, Dwight Gooden, and Paul Blair will be signing autographs on Main Street. And others who made relatively overlooked appearances in pinstripes will also be signing, including Jesse Barfield, Bert “Campy” Campaneris, and Elliott Maddox.
Five of these six ex-Yankees have become Cooperstown regulars. The exception is Maddox, who has not visited in years. He tends to be a forgotten Yankee, having been acquired in a straight cash transaction from the Rangers, but at his peak, Maddox was one of the game’s premier defensive center fielder, a player who appeared destined to succeed Blair as the game’s premier flychaser. He had it all: loping speed, the knack for lightning quick jumps, and a powerful arm. On offense, he was a contributor, finishing fourth in the AL in on-base percentage in 1974. The Yankees thought so much of him that they moved Bobby Murcer to right field just to make room for Maddox in center.
And then Maddox had the misfortune of slipping on the wet outfield grass at Shea Stadium (which didn’t drain particularly well) and badly tearing up his knee. It happened in 1975, when the Yankees were playing out the string at Shea as they waited to move into the renovated Yankee Stadium. Maddox was never the same after the incident, for which he sued the Yankees, Mets, and anybody else he could think of, including the City of New York. He lost the suit, not to mention any chance of being a premier player.
But man, at one time, Maddox could go get them better than most, and that includes Mickey Rivers, Bernie Williams in his prime, and even Curtis Granderson. Elliott Maddox was that good.
Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.
I just don’t see a strong case for Maris, do you?
Over at The Baseball Analysts, Rich chronicles his recent visit with Bert Blyleven:
Bert went out of his way to accommodate me as he had hip replacement surgery in October. Believe me, he can still zing it. Not shy, I told Bert that I wanted to compare curveballs. I threw him a spinner and he mocked me. “That’s your curveball?” Hey, it was the first one I had thrown in years and only then at a family picnic. He raised his arm and hand to a 12 o’clock position and said, “You’ve got to get it up here.” As someone who had a good curve through high school, I knew I was supposed to throw the ball over the barrel and shake hands with the center fielder (a visual that worked wonders for me). Nevertheless, at age 55, my shoulder wasn’t as cooperative as it once was. Bert, who is four years older than me, broke off a couple of tight ones. Impressive indeed.
My manager, Lee Stange, asked me what position I played. I told him pitcher but said I could also play first base. He kidded, “Everyone out here is a first baseman/DH.” Lee sent me to the bullpen to warm up. He liked what he saw enough to give me the start. The first two batters hit line-drive singles. Standing just outside our dugout on the third base side, Blyleven shouted, “Hey Rich! Try to get an out, why don’t you!” I smiled at him, took a deep breath, and got back to the task at hand. The next batter hit a slow roller to my right. I was thinking two but, then again, I thought I was 30-something rather than 50-something. My brain made the play with no problem, but my body failed me. The ball passed me and the shortstop had no play. A couple of runs later and Bert was now needling me again. “You’ve got an 18.00 ERA!” It was actually higher at that moment in time because I had not yet completed the inning. Thankfully, I did with no further damage.
[Photo Credit: Brian Hirten/Ft. Myers News-Press]
Rich Lederer, the man who helped get Bert Blyleven elected to the Hall of Fame, set the Internet community back years this week when he got his tits lit in a Twins Fantasy Camp game. Way to go, Rich. It’s back to the basement for you. When will these Nerds ever learn?
Is Posada a Hall of Famer? Like Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte, he’s close, that’s for sure.
[Photo Credit: SI.com]
Your new Hall of Famers:
Roberto Alomar — and (at long last, love) Bert Blyleven.
Barry Larkin’s totals were third-highest, with 62.1% of the vote (short of the 75% needed, but in good shape to get in a few years down the road); Jack Morris managed 53.5%, Lee Smith 45.3% (…seriously?), and Jeff Bagwell 41.7%, so get ready to have that fun discussion all over again next year. You can see the full results over at the BBWAA’s high-tech website of the future.
According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system and series of articles over at Baseball Prospectus, there were eight deserving candidates on the ballot this year: Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell. I wasn’t so sure about Raines and Trammell initially, but I’ve completely come around on Rock over the last year and I’m edging towards being convinced on Trammell. It’d help if the guy had a better nickname, which I believe is not a factor JAWS takes into consideration, but it really ought to be. That’s something I’ll have to bring up with Jay, and I won’t have to wait long because he’s chatting live over at BP this very moment.
For those of you who are sick of reading and debating about the Hall of Fame, exhale. For those who aren’t, have at it in the comments. What would your ballot look like?
Originally, blogging inherently meant not only being an outsider but an amateur. Now that the idiom has been co-opted by professionals in the mainstream, it is something different. Or, a blog can be many things–started by an amateur at home, or part of a reporter’s job. Being an amateur means anything goes and so a lot of blogs are not memorable, and many don’t last, but being an independent blogger also grants you a freedom that professional journalists don’t enjoy. I’ve found that the best bloggers have standards and are at least professional in their amateur approach.
In the baseball world, there is a select group of guys who were blogging when I started Bronx Banter back in 2002 that are still going–Geoff Young, Jon Weisman, Aaron Gleeman and David Pinto to name a few. Rich Lederer is one of that crowd. Ah, Rich. Woolly Bully himself. The man who relishes a good fight, a guy who isn’t afraid to piss people off. He’s got chutzpah, I’ll tell you that. We began an on-line friendship in 2003 when we both brought our blogs to all-baseball.com. And Rich has been campaigning for Bert Blyleven’s Hall of Fame candidacy ever since.
A bunch of the all-baseball crew met at the winter meetings in Anaheim back in 2004 (that’s Rich as the Incredible Hulk). Here is how Alex Ciepley described Rich, a big, middle-aged guy who was the very opposite of the nerd-in-the-basement-blogger stereotype:
Rich’s Weekend Winter Meetings Beat was in full effect again Saturday morning. Fresh off an evening in which he had managed to both raise and lower Scott Boras’ ire, Rich was all smiles, eager for another day of baseball highs.
SI’s Tom Verducci was apparently a Lederer target, and I joined Rich, Jon, and Verducci in mid-conversation. Verducci has the glow of an athlete, a rare claim among the writers in the room. Steve Finley had the glow when walking through the lobby on Friday night. Matt Williams, standing alone outside the hotel’s glass doors, has the glow. Even the old-timers, Lou Piniella and Felipe Alou, have it. Verducci, too — if you didn’t know his gig you might think he was a retired outfielder looking for a job.
Verducci might not have known Rich’s gig, either, as Rich directed the conversation towards Verducci’s Hall of Fame ballot. I knew there was trouble ahead as soon as Verducci admitted he’ll only vote for a couple guys this year, and that some of Rich’s favorites weren’t among them.
Sandberg? Close but no cigar.
Blyleven? (Now the kicker.) Not even close.
For those who aren’t familiar with Rich’s player fetishes, Blyleven may top the list. He wrote a beautiful and memorable piece detailing Blyleven’s qualifications last year, and I braced myself when hearing Verducci say Blyleven was “never dominant” during his career. Did Rich’s hair just stand on end? Dum-dum-dum-dum-dee-du-wah. Here it came: 5th in career strikeouts. 9th in career shutouts. Top 20 in a host of other categories. Was Rich able to convince Verducci of the case for Blyleven, or is Rich himself only the lonely on this one?
(For what it’s worth, Verducci thinks Blyleven will get in today, though I don’t know if he was personally influenced at all by Rich’s arguments.)
I remember calling Rich at one point, maybe in 2005, and told him, “Hey, you might want to give this Blyleven thing a rest. You don’t want to be just known as the Blyleven guy.” But I was thinking about Rich as a professional writer and he never had any such aspirations. He is a hobbyist, albeit one with roots in the professional game (his father was a journalist as well as a public relations man for both the Dodgers and Angels). Rich took on the Blyleven cause because he honestly felt that the voting process for the Hall was not completely kosher.
“The only problem I have with the word ‘campaign’ is that it makes it sound like this was orchestrated with Blyleven’s blessing, and that couldn’t be further from the case,” Lederer said over the phone this week. “I’ve talked with Bert, and I’ve emailed with Bert, but we’ve never even met in person.
“I’m not even sure how to describe it. I don’t know if ‘campaign’ is the right word or not — I’m kind of at a loss. It’s just something I got behind, because I felt he was very deserving. And this is a way for me to follow in the footsteps of my dad, to put to use my love of baseball and analysis. It’s been fun.”
…“The Internet flattens the world a little and allows someone like me to have a say, an audience, and indirectly participate in the discussion,” Rich Lederer said. “I enjoy that. If not for the Internet, it would be next to impossible for me to have an impact on those types of things. It’s been a great vehicle. People say there have been more words written about Bert’s candidacy than anyone else in the history of the Hall of Fame.”
Lederer is one of the spawn of Bill James (as are many contemporary baseball writers from Rob Neyer and Joe Sheehan to Joe Posnanski), using reason and data to build his case. He has been tireless in his advocacy of Blyleven–something I hope the pitcher appreciates. But I think Rich is after something more than just building a case for his guy, he wants the fundamental voting process to change, to be more considered and thorough. And because of the Internet and places like baseball-reference.com, the information is available. It’s foolish to think that all of the baseball writers will change their approach but some of them might.
Rich is not alone–Jay Jaffe, Jonah Keri, and Craig Calcaterra have helped lead the charge. Still, Rich put in the work and deserves kudos for his efforts. I was wrong when I told him to back off stumping for Blyleven. Not bad for a rank amateur!
I know it’s a cheap move on my part to dog pile on this guy, cause I’m certain he’s going to take a beatin’, but yo, Barry Stanton gets the Gas Face:
Nice ballot, dude:
Over at Baseball Prospectus, John Perrotto discusses his Hall of Fame Ballot. Here is his comment on Barry Larkin:
Barry Larkin—Put it this way: If Derek Jeter had range, he’d be Barry Larkin. That’s not a knock on Jeter, just how little Larkin was appreciated because he played away from the spotlight with the Reds during his entire 19-year career. He won nine Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, and had a .371 OBP.
We are all keenly aware of the myopic view of Jeter . . . the “winner” . . . the “heart and soul” of the Yanks recent run of excellence . . . the “nice guy”. We are also aware of Jeter’s warts . . . the DP machine at the plate . . . the lack of range.
(image: Baseball Almanac)
There are many reasons why I should never, ever be allowed to have a Hall of Fame vote.
For one thing, you know I would absolutely vote for players based on whether they had cool or funny names, based entirely on my own personal criteria. Welcome to the Hall, Wayne Terwilliger! I would work to establish a sort of Veteran’s Committee variant to ensure that historic greats like Cletus Elwood “Boots” Poffenburger and Bris “The Human Eyeball” Lord were not forgotten but instead enshrined in their deserved splendor.
I would also probably not be able to resist voting for Don Mattingly and indeed pretty much any player who spent time on the Yankees roster between 1996 and 2001, not merely undeserving fan favorites like Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez, but also, there’s a good chance, Graeme Lloyd, Chili Davis, Robin Ventura, maybe Brian Boehringer and quite possibly a bunch of players whose names I don’t even remember at this point. Do I really think Scott Brosius let alone Shane Spenser is a Hall of Famer? Of course not, but it’d be nice to do a little something for those guys, you know?
I guess there’s not really a way to throw anyone out of the Hall once they’re in, but I would try to change that and, in the meantime, regularly TP and egg the plaques of Tom Yawkey and Walter O’Malley, also occasionally drawing devil horns and lipstick and goatees on their bronzed faces. Actually, I guess there’s nothing stopping me from doing that now even without a Hall of Fame vote, except the fear of arrest. Little known fact: if you’re a Hall of Fame voter you legally cannot be arrested within Cooperstown city limits. It’s like diplomatic immunity. I’m pretty sure.
In addition, I would try to get the name officially changed to the Hall of Very Good just because it would piss people off so much.
Finally, please note that my complete failure to take the Hall seriously does not mean that I won’t sputter indignantly when the results are announced next week, because I absolutely will, especially if Jack Morris gets elected and Blylevyn does not, and also if I have to read about the Bagwell-steroid-suspicion mishegoss for another damn week. Indignant sputtering is one of life’s little pleasures and every baseball fan’s innate right, and I greatly look forward to it.
Over at Pinstriped Bible, Jay Jaffe takes a look at the Yankees on the Hall of Fame ballot.
A quick scan of the newly released Veterans Committee ballot, featuring candidates from the Expansion Era, reveals a “who’s who” of Yankee baseball during the 1970s and eighties. Two left-handed aces, Ron Guidry and Tommy John, highlight the list of players. The managerial pool is represented by five-time Yankee skipper Billy Martin. Former Yankee executive Pat Gillick, who is best known for putting together championship teams in Toronto and Philadelphia, can also be found on the ballot. And let us not forget about the highly anticipated presence of the late George Steinbrenner, who arrives on the ballot for the first time.
So let’s take the Hall of Fame cases of each candidate, one by one. At his peak, which ran from 1977 to 1981, Guidry qualified as a Cooperstown-caliber pitcher. But then there was too much inconsistency in the early eighties, followed by a quick three-year decline from 1986 to 1988. Unfortunately, when Guidry lost his king-sized fastball, he never made the successful transition to a breaking ball, change-of-speeds pitcher. If only Guidry had enjoyed more longevity, he might have stretched his career win total from 170 to 200-plus and made himself a worthier candidate for the Hall of Fame. A very fine pitcher and a legitimate ace, but not quite Cooperstown material.
John was just the opposite of Guidry. He had the longevity, 26 seasons worth, which was particularly remarkable given that his left arm was ravaged and then rebuilt through the surgical procedure that now bears his name. Unlike Guidry, John lacked the kind of dominant stretch that would have made him a Hall of Famer. John was a very good pitcher from 1977 to 1980, twice finishing second in his league’s Cy Young Award voting, but he was never regarded as one of the top two or three pitchers in the game. That’s what happens when you lack the power out-pitch and the big strikeout totals, something that was incompatible with his reliance on sinkers and sliders. In many ways, John was the Andy Pettitte of his era, a legitimate No. 2 starter and an occasional ace, but without Pettitte’s extensive postseason resume.
On to this year’s managerial candidate, the fascinating and bizarre Billy Martin. I’m always tempted to vote for Martin because of his baseball brilliance, his innovation, his preference for a daring, breakneck style of play. I’ve often said that if I needed to win one game, just one game, without regard for tomorrow, Martin would be my choice to manage. But such a narrow criteria does not fit the breadth of a Hall of Fame candidacy, where long-term outcomes matter. In the short run, few managers produced better results than Billy the Kid. Almost all of Martin’s teams showed significant improvement when he began a new managerial tenure. The records of his teams in his first season—and sometimes in the second season—improved dramatically. Unfortunately, none of the turnarounds endured in the long run. By the third season, Martin had clashed with the front office or alienated too many of his players, with several taking residence in his overcrowded doghouse. The bottom line on Martin is this: one world championship, as the Bronx burned in 1977, does not a Hall of Famer make.