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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Frank White’s Breakup with the Kansas City Royals: The Baseball Historian’s Notes for the Week of October 26

In less than a week’s time another baseball season will be finished. A new World Series champion will be crowned and major league teams will press forward with hard decisions about how to bring their 2015 plans to fruition. The lull following the Fall Classic is always a withdrawal-inducing time for baseball fans. However, it’s as necessary as the shifting weather seasons to see what new things will grow and take off the next year. The many who have “Pitchers and Catchers Report” as a bonafide holiday on their calendars will squirm and do unthinkable things like clean out their garage and watch college volleyball as the hours tick down until the game is upon us again.

With those somber thoughts in mind, let’s move on to the notes for the week.

*Lou Lucier, who had been the oldest living former Boston Red Sox player, has passed away at the age of 96. A right-handed pitcher, he had brief stints with the team in 1943-44 and also had cups of coffee with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 33 major league games over three seasons, he went 3-5 with a 3.81 ERA and a save. His best professional season came in 1941 with the Canton Terriers in the Middle Atlantic League, as he posted a stellar 23-5 record with a 1.49 ERA in 36 games.

*A lot of great nostalgia has enveloped the Kansas City Royals during this season’s voyage to the World Series. In addition to celebrating this year’s success, there have been many references to players from 1985, the last time they made it to the championship. Unfortunately, the memories are not so sweet for everyone, as Yahoo’s Jeff Passan outlines the fracture between the Royals and their great former second baseman and announcer Frank White. Having spent most of his life employed with the franchise, it’s a shame to see that they currently don’t see eye to eye. Here’s hoping Kansas City’s thrilling postseason run can help with the mending of these fences…

*His major league playing career lasted just 10 years but Ralph Kiner packed enough in that relatively brief time to ultimately earn a Hall of Fame nod in 1975. The slugging outfielder hit 369 home runs and drove in 1,015 runs for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians between 1946 and 1955—including leading the league in homers the first seven years of his career. He later became a long-time announcer for the New York Mets. Although he passed away earlier this year at the age of 91, he will always be remembered for his contributions to the game. An interview (part 1 and part 2) he did last year with the Hall of Fame lends fantastic insight into his career.

*The Baseball History Daily has ferreted out yet another of baseball’s forgotten figures from a bygone era. Harley “Doc” Parker was a right-handed pitcher who was a nondescript 5-8 with a 5.90 ERA in 18 major league games with the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds between 1893 and 1901. Unfortunately, the game he is best remembered for was a minor league contest in 1894 when he was pitching for the Cedar Rapids Rippers and gave up 38 hits and 39 runs to the Kansas City Blues in a 39-10 loss. To be fair, his team committed 13 errors behind him, but it was a truly atrocious result.

The good news is that Parker’s meltdown makes his final major league game look like a gem by comparison, as he permitted 26 hits and 21 runs in a complete game loss to the Brooklyn Superbas on June 21, 1901—with future Hall-of-Fame outfielder Wee Willie Keeler going a perfect 5-for-5 with one of his 33 career major league home runs.

*Here’s an interesting piece by The New York Time’s Michael Powell about how Barry Bonds has bore the brunt of the baseball PED backlash for much of the past decade but is slowly returning to the game.

Bonds, who was essentially forced into retirement following the 2007 season because nobody would sign him, may still have a future with the game off the field now that he is 50. Commissioner Bud Selig, a nemesis of his, is retiring and the passage of time has eased the ill will directed towards him because of his transgressions. It will be interesting to see how far he is able to travel on this road to redemption.

*Former right-handed pitcher Ed Keegan has passed away at the age of 75. He got into 13 games with the Philadelphia/Kansas City Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies (1959 and 1961-62) and was 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA. He struck out just 11 batters in his major league career, but two of them were Mickey Mantle and Roberto Clemente, which gives him major baseball cred for eternity.

*Did slugger Adam Dunn ruin baseball? The Hardball Times’ Neil Weinberg asks that question, citing the slugger as the poster boy for the three true outcomes approach (home run, walk, or strikeout) that has permeated baseball in recent years. In 14 major league seasons, Dunn has slammed 462 home runs while drawing 1,317 walks and whiffing an incredible 2,379 (third all-time) times. With the Royals and San Francisco Giants finding success this year with hitting approaches that value making contact and small-ball tactics, the tide may be shifting to their way of thinking. That being said, as Weinberg concludes, who is to say which approach is better than another in a game that requires so much skill to be successful?

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1 comment:

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