Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mariano Rivera Hits an Inside-the-Park Home Run: The Baseball Historian's Notes for June 23, 2019

The 2019 baseball season is in full swing. Along with a full slate of exciting games, comes regular remembrances of players, teams and occurrences from the past. This is the next edition of the Baseball Historian’s Notes.

-There is an exciting new baseball museum exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum. “Detroit Stars & The Negro Leagues” opened June 22nd to much fanfare, including hosting remarks by Joyce Stearnes Thompson, the daughter of former Stars’ outfielder Turkey Stearnes. The exhibit has a variety of displays, including relics, from the days of the famed Negro League team.

-Billy Martin Jr., the son of the late pugnacious New York Yankees infielder and well-known manager, recently sat down for an interview with the Post Bulletin. A sports agent and president of an independent baseball league, he is steeped in the game much like his father. The younger Martin, who has represented the likes of pitcher Tom Koehler, believes his father should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, citing his impact on the game in multiple roles. His induction could eventually become a reality, depending upon the whims of the Veterans Committee.

-Nearly 85 years after he last made an appearance in a major league game, slugger Babe Ruth remains an American baseball legend of mythical proportions. His memorabilia is among the most coveted, and that was proven yet again by the sale of one of his game-worn jerseys from his time with the New York Yankees from the late 1920s, fetching a record price of $5.64 million. The jersey was part of an auction of other Ruth items made available by members of his family, including his granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti. Naturally, the previous record was another Ruth jersey, which sold for $4.4 million back in 2012.

-Larry Stone of The Seattle Times celebrated the 50th anniversary of the lone season of the Seattle Pilots. Although the team was a miserable 64-98, they brought the fun and exciting experience of major league baseball to the northwest. Their sudden departure in the spring of 1970 to move to the Midwest and become the Milwaukee Brewers left a surprising void that was eventually filled by the emergence of the Seattle Mariners.

-Yankees’ left-handed starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia recently notched his 250th career victory, throwing six solid innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. The 38-year-old is now in his 19th season. He became the 48th pitcher to reach the 250-win level, and just seven weeks earlier had become the 17th pitcher to surpass 3,000 career strikeouts. Although not a slam dunk, he is continuing to build a strong case for the Hall of Fame. No longer the dominant force he once was, each accomplishment he continues to accrue is only going to give voters more to think about when his time comes to be on the ballot.

-His connection to PEDs has helped keep Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame thus far in his first seven tries on the ballot. Otherwise, the owner of 354 career wins and seven Cy Young Awards could have been a no-brainer first-ballot selection. While he waits to see how his candidacy plays out, he has added another Hall-of-Fame induction to his resume. The Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, recently added the right-hander to their Hall of Fame. Although he pitched in a total of just nine games for the franchise, his 2-3 record and 1.63 ERA, along with his legendary status made him a natural fit. In the meantime, he will continue to wait and see if Cooperstown eventually comes calling.

-Mariano Rivera, the best reliever in the history of baseball, just played in his first Old-Timer’s game for the New York Yankees. Naturally, he played center field and hit an inside-the-park home run, only adding to the legend of the hurler who spent his entire 19-year big league career in pinstripes. He also pitched the final inning of the game, saving the win for his team—something he did a record 652 times while a member of New York’s active roster.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Jeff Schaefer: Translating Versatility and Hard Work Into a Major League Baseball Career

Jeff Schaefer wasn’t the biggest, fastest or the strongest, but he was versatile and worked hard for everything he gained on the baseball diamond. Where many others failed to make the major leagues, he parlayed the gifts he did have into a career that stretched 14 seasons and included parts of five years at the big-league level.

Following a distinguished career at the University of Maryland, where he hit a combined .333, Schaefer was selected in the 12th round of the 1981 draft by the Baltimore Orioles. A second baseman, the right-hander gradually started playing more around the infield and occasionally in the outfield. However, he was a light hitter without top-end speed and in the winter of 1986, he was purchased by the California Angels, having reached Triple-A, but no further.

After one year in the Angels’ organization, he bounced to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then the Chicago White Sox, where he finally received his first major league chance in 1989. He appeared in 15 games for the South Siders, collecting a lone single (against Rob Murphy and the Boston Red Sox) in 10 at-bats, with a stolen base.

Continuing his experience of being a journeyman, he signed with the Seattle Mariners that offseason and became an important cog off their bench over the next three seasons, hitting a combined .208 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 204 games (just 341 at-bats), playing second, shortstop and third base.

After eight at-bats with the Oakland Athletics in 1994, his professional playing career was over. He finished with a .203 career batting average but was valued for his ability to fill out a roster by being hungry and versatile.

Keep reading for more from Schaefer, as he shares some memories from his playing career.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Thurman Munson. He was grit. He was a gamer. He was the Captain.

What did you do to celebrate after being drafted and signing?: Nothing overly special; dinner with family and friends.

How difficult is it to persevere and keep fighting to make the major leagues after nine years in the minors?: Not as tough for me as it may have been for others. I loved playing the game. Yes, I wanted to be in the big leagues sooner, but I was just happy playing the game for as long as someone would let me.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Oakland Athletics)?: Striking out... But I took three man hacks. The adrenalin was rushing through my veins like I never felt before

As someone who played with them for years, how would you compare the hitting skills of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez?: Two different hitters completely. Edgar was a self-made professional hitter and Junior was a hitter made by God.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My first start ever was in Yankee Stadium. I grew up a Yankees fan and Jeff Torborg saved my first start for Yankee Stadium, so my family and friends could experience it with me.

Which of your teams was your favorite, and why was that?: Seattle. I knew I was playing with greatness...They just needed time. Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Omar Vizquel, and Randy Johnson.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?: I played for Joe Maddon in Double-A and Charlie Manuel in Triple-A...Jeff Torborg will forever be favorite. He gave a kid who spent eight-and-a-half years beating the bushes his first shot.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: Nothing. I beat the odds. No one slated me as big-league player. I was an organizational guy in just about everyone's mind except my own.

What have you been up to since your playing days ended?: Regional Director of USA Baseball NTIS, CBC Baseball, President:, Chairman:

I hope this YouTube video helps as well: (Full video available here). 

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Todd Greene: Catching Up with the Slugging Backstop

Certain skill sets can get a baseball player noticed a lot more quickly than others. One of those is power, as that’s something that can’t be taught. One of the best slugging prospects in the last half-century was Todd Greene, who had the benefit of also being a catcher, which made his dangerous bat all the more coveted and helped him go on to an 11-year major league career.

The right-handed Greene was a prospect right out of high school, getting drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 27th round in 1989. He declined to sign and went on to Georgia Southern University instead. The St. Louis Cardinals rolled the dice and drafted him in the 14th round in 1992 after he had three very productive years, but he returned to school to finish his senior year. 

He wound up hitting a whopping 88 home runs and driving in 257 runs in 240 games while a member of the Eagles. The California Angels, recognizing such production, picked him up in the 12th round in 1993.

Listed at 5’10” and 195 pounds, Greene didn’t necessarily look the part of a hulking slugger; he just let his bat do the talking when it came to that. After hitting 15 home runs in short season ball in 1993, he hit another 35 in 1994 and 40 in 1995.

With little left to prove in the minors, the Angels brought up Greene in the midst of the 1996 season. He hit a home run in his second big-league game, blasting a long two-run shot off Brian Williams of the Detroit Tigers.  

With his bat much more of an asset than his glovework, Greene settled into a career as a backup catcher and pinch hitter. It was a role he was well suited for. Over the course of 11 seasons with the Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants, he hit a combined .252 with 71 home runs and 217 RBIs in 536 games.

Years later, he continues to work in the game as a scout. Keep reading for his memories of his time in baseball.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Dale Murphy. I was a Braves fan, so he was naturally my favorite player.

What did you do to celebrate after being drafted and signing?: No celebration. I worked my tail off to be the best player I could be. 
How did you find out that you had first been called up the big leagues, and what was your reaction?: I was actually in Arizona getting ready for the Fall League when Ken Forsch called my home in Georgia. This is before cell phones. My sister got the message about 3:00 AM and I was in Anaheim about seven hours later.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Detroit Tigers)?: Just being in the big leagues for the second time was awfully rewarding. I remember having my 1st at bat against CJ Nitkowski, who is now a good friend of mine.  I got my first hit versus Richie Lewis in my second at bat. I was called up in 1995 but did not get in a game.

In your opinion, who was the most underrated player you ever played with or against, and if you are feeling bold, is there anyone you can think of who was overrated?: Garret Anderson is the most underrated player I played with and against. There are several overrated players, but I’m not touching that one. 
What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Catching the first pitch from President George W. Bush before Game 3 of 2001 World Series.

Which of your teams was your favorite, and why was that?: The New York Yankees. Their fan base is great and made me feel like a part of the team immediately.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?: By far my favorite coach was Don Zimmer. Smartest baseball guy I’ve ever been around. Even though he was only my manager for a short time, Marcel Lacheman was my favorite manager.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: I have no regrets, but would’ve trained differently to try and ensure I’d stay healthy.

What are you up to today?: Special assignment scout for the Arizona D-Backs. 

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Minor League Baseball Announces May Uncle Ray’s Players of the Month

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., June 5, 2019 — Minor League Baseball today announced the Uncle Ray’s Player of the Month Award winners for each of the 10 leagues for the month of May. In recognition of the honor, each winner will receive an award from Minor League Baseball and Uncle Ray’s, the “Official Potato Chip of Minor League Baseball.” 

Columbus Clippers (Indians) first baseman Bobby Bradley led the International League in home runs (12) and RBI (28), was second in slugging percentage (.740) and third in total bases (71) and OPS (1.113). His month was highlighted by a two-day surge which saw him go 7-for-8 with two doubles, three homers, four runs and six RBI May 7–8 against Charlotte. Bradley, 23, was selected by Cleveland in the third round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, Mississippi. 

Round Rock Express (Astros) outfielder Kyle Tucker batted .333 in May and led the Pacific Coast League in home runs (11), runs (28) and total bases (80) and was third in RBI (28), slugging percentage (.741) and OPS (1.169). Tucker had a nine-game hitting streak from May 23– 31, homered in three straight games from May 2–4 and homered in four straight games from May 23–26. Tucker, 22, was selected by Houston in the first round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Plant High School in Tampa, Florida. 

Akron RubberDucks (Indians) outfielder Ka’ai Tom led the Eastern League in runs (21), on-base percentage (.434), slugging percentage (.635) and OPS (1.069) and was second in average (.333), hits (32) and total bases (61). He finished third in homers (seven) and walks (16). Tom hit safely in 20 of 26 games in May and recorded four three-hit games. Tom, 25, was selected by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Kentucky. 

Tennessee Smokies (Cubs) infielder Vimael Machin led the Southern League in average (.369), hits (38), doubles (12), slugging (.534) and OPS (.974) and was second in total bases (55), third in on-base percentage (.440) and was fourth in RBI (17). He posted 12 multi-hit games and raised his season batting average from .250 to .346 during the month. Machin, 25, was selected by Chicago in the 10th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Arkansas Travelers (Mariners) outfielder Jake Fraley led the Texas League in batting average (.371), hits (36) and RBI (26), was second in total bases (62), on-base percentage (.440), slugging percentage (.639) and OPS (1.080), and fifth in runs (19) and doubles (five). Fraley posted 13 multi-hit games and hit safely in 20 of his 26 games. Fraley, 24, was originally selected by Tampa Bay in Competitive Balance Round B of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Louisiana State University. 

Lancaster JetHawks (Rockies) first baseman Luis Castro led the California League in runs (30), total bases (60), home runs (nine), RBI (22), walks (21), on-base percentage (.450), slugging percentage (.706) and OPS (1.156). His 30 runs scored were 10 more than anyone else in the league in May. On May 26, Castro went 4-for-4 with three homers, six RBI and scored four times against Rancho Cucamonga. Castro, 23, was signed by Colorado out of Caja Seca, Venezuela, on March 3, 2013. 

Salem Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran led the Carolina League in batting average (.388), runs (23), hits (38), slugging percentage (.561) and OPS (1.021) and was second in total bases (55) and third in on-base percentage (.460). Duran, who was promoted to Double-A Portland on June 4, posted 11 multi-hit games and had a 16-game hitting streak from May 7–24 that included eight multi-hit games. Duran, 22, was selected by Boston in the seventh round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Long Beach State University. 

Fort Myers Miracle (Twins) outfielder Trevor Larnach led the Florida State League in average (.371), hits (36), doubles (10), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.075). He finished second in slugging percentage (.619) and total bases (60), and third in walks (16). He recorded 11 multi-hit games and hit safely in 18 of his 26 games. Larnach, 22, was selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Oregon State University. 

Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers) outfielder Niko Hulsizer batted .330 in May and led the Midwest League in home runs (10), RBI (26), total bases (72), slugging (.720) and OPS (1.166) and finished second in runs scored (24). Hulsizer hit in 10 straight games from May 20–30 and recorded 10 multi-hit games in May. Hulsizer, 22, was selected by Los Angeles in the 18th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Morehead State University. 

Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox) outfielder Ian Dawkins led the South Atlantic League in average (.419), hits (49) and on-base percentage (.473) and was second in runs scored (24) and total bases (66). His 11 doubles were fifth best in the league in May. Dawkins posted 14 multi-hit games in May and had separate hitting streaks of 10 (May 6–15) and 15 (May 18–31) games as he hit safely in 25 of 26 games from May 6–31. Dawkins, 23, was selected by Chicago in the 27th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Sacramento State University

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Minor League Baseball Establishes Largest Pride Celebration in Professional Sports

Nearly 70 MiLB teams to host LGBTQ Pride-dedicated games and events this season 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., June 3, 2019 — Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) today announced the official launch of MiLB Pride, the largest documented Pride celebration in professional sports, as part of the organization’s diversity and inclusion initiative. Nearly 70 MiLB teams will host Pride Nights or events this season. 

MiLB Pride events will include teams holding LGBTQ-themed nights, incorporating Pride into scheduled promotions, providing discounted tickets to LGBTQ organizations, and/or engaging with the LGBTQ community both in the ballpark and beyond. Additionally, some teams are giving back to their local communities by donating a portion of ticket sales to LGBTQ non-profit organizations in their area. 

MiLB Pride was created in response to the growing number of MiLB teams’ Pride events and a desire to further conversations about LGBTQ inclusion throughout baseball. Designed to reinforce MiLB’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and to provide a safe environment for all fans, the national initiative is prioritizing learning opportunities for its teams and fans. MiLB is arranging educational workshops, networking opportunities and social events — all designed to connect with the LGBTQ community and support the creation of a welcoming environment for LGBTQ fans, employees and partners in MiLB ballparks. 

“Sports can bring people together and help transcend differences. MiLB Pride is putting the power of sports into action and building bridges to the LGBTQ community that didn’t previously exist,” said Vincent Pierson, director of diversity and inclusion for Minor League Baseball. “Launching this program is a proud moment for the game of baseball and we look forward to building on this in the future.” 

The national platform includes teams forming partnerships with more than 150 local LGBTQ organizations across the country, making for authentic and genuine connections. Those alignments include MiLB’s national partnerships with You Can Play – an organization that advocates for equality and respect for all who connect with sports, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity – and Pride Tape, “a badge of support from teammates, coaches, parents and pros to young LGBTQ players and fans.” 

“You Can Play is grateful to be partnering with Minor League Baseball as it continues to serve as a model for diversity and inclusion,” said Brian Kitts, president of You Can Play. “We share a commitment to growing a great sport by making locker rooms and stadiums safe for every baseball player and fan, including those in the LGBTQ community” 

MiLB Pride is the latest initiative to join Minor League Baseball’s other established Diversity Initiative programs including Copa de la DiversiĆ³n™ (Fun Cup™), Women in Baseball and the FIELD Program, among others. In 2009, MiLB laid the foundation for a comprehensive initiative designed to diversify the industry by addressing racial and gender diversity within ownership groups, executive management teams, employment and more. 

For more information about the Minor League Baseball Diversity Initiative, visit

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Bill Buckner: Redefining a Remarkable Career

After battling dementia, baseball stalwart Bill Buckner passed away this past weekend at the age of 69. Having spent parts of 22 seasons in the major leagues, he will forever be one of the most recognizable names in the game. While many immediately think of him because of one misplayed ball made on the biggest of stages, his legacy deserves to be much, much more.

Buckner played for five teams between 1969 and 1990. During that time he accumulated 2,517 games played, a .289 batting average, 174 home runs, 1,208 RBIs and 2,705 base hits. The left-handed first baseman (he also played a little outfield early in his career) also stole 183 bases, scored 1,077 runs and struck out just 453 times in 10,037 career plate 
appearances—including no more than 39 in any given season. He made an All-Star team, won a batting title in 1980, had two top-ten MVP finishes and received votes three other times. That all being said, one play came to define him in the minds of baseball fans.

In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Buckner, playing first for the Boston Red Sox had a slowly hit ground ball by Mookie Wilson of the New York Mets go under his glove and through his legs to force a Game 7, which was ultimately taken by New York. Although the play didn’t lose the World Series for the Red Sox, Buckner was saddled (quite unfairly) with the blame and frequently found himself as the subject of guffaws and derision. 

In death, a person typically receives a bounty of fond remembrances. This will also happen in the case of “Billy Buck.” While he is quite deserving of this, it’s also well past due to change the arc of his baseball story and remove the burden of the 1986 World Series. He became a convenient poster boy for a quite unfortunate moment, but that moment was not the entire game or the whole Series. He was so much more than that miserable October night more than 30 years ago, and that should be what defines his baseball career.

In 1986 Buckner was 36 and in his third season with the Red Sox. Despite nagging injuries, he still appeared in 153 regular-season games and hit .267 with 18 home runs and 102 RBIs. A sore back and bad Achilles heels forced him to wear special black high tops that helped him stay upright, but didn’t stop him from regularly taking the field. To be clear, if this was a player in 2019, they would have been shut down long before. However, Buckner, kept suiting up and was certainly not going to stop once his team made the playoffs and advanced to the World Series.

The Red Sox famously believed they had the Series in the bag late in Game 6, even going so far as to having cases of champagne wheeled into their clubhouse in anticipation of being able to celebrate their first title since 1918. Heading into the bottom of the 10th inning them held a 5-3 lead. After recording the first two outs of the inning, Boston’s Calvin Schiraldi became unhinged, relinquishing three straight singles before giving way to Bob Stanley, who threw a wild pitch and then gave up Wilson’s famous grounder.

Buckner, visibly stooped and hobbled with his bad back and feet, had the misfortune of being the face of the final play of the game. He shouldn’t have even been in that position to begin with. In Boston’s previous three victories in the Series, Dave Stapleton had been summoned as a late-inning defensive replacement at first. Perhaps manager John McNamara wanted his gritty veteran to be on the field to enjoy the feeling when the team clinched; perhaps it was poor managing; perhaps it was something else. For whatever reason, the more agile defender stayed on the bench and the rest became history.

Buckner never snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The Red Sox had already allowed the Mets to tie the game before Wilson’s dribbler. He also banged out two hits, scored a run and played an errorless first base as Boston got pounded 8-5 in the deciding Game 7.
In the final years of his career, Buckner bounced around between Boston, the California Angels and Kansas City Royals. After 22 games with the Red Sox in 1990, he was released and called it a career at the age of 40. Because of the blowback he continued to receive, it was literally years before he could show himself in Beantown again. 

To have given his team everything his failing body had in 1986 to help them get in position for a championship, only to see those efforts erased by one play must have been an acidic pill to swallow. Buckner is now gone. By all accounts he was a good man, a good teammate and a damned good ball player. This should be his legacy in and out of baseball. The grounder was simply one play in a remarkable career.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Emmy-Nominated Author Granville Wyche Burgess Discusses His New Book The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe

Emmy-Nominated Author Granville Wyche Burgess has written a new historical fiction book, titled The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe (Chickadee Prince Books, May 1, 2019).

Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal, The Last At Bat of Shoeless Joe re-imagines the final days of disgraced baseball legend Joe Jackson and his relationship with a young ballplayer trying to escape the tough mill life in Greenville, South Carolina with a ball and his glove.

Ken Davidoff, baseball columnist for The New York Post, writes "The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe brilliantly bakes wish fulfillment into a period piece. A gripping story that is both illuminating and emotional, it'll hook you early and won't let go. Great for baseball fans, and even true-crime enthusiasts, of all ages."

Burgess recently answered some questions about his newest work and his thoughts on Joe Jackson and baseball. What gave you the idea to write The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe, and do so in the vein of historical fiction?: When I played baseball as a youth in 1950’s Greenville, SC, as an all-field no-hit second baseman, nobody ever mentioned that Joe Jackson, whom many considered the “greatest natural hitter of all time,” lived in my hometown! Such was animus towards Shoeless Joe because of the Black Sox scandal. I think Joe himself wanted to keep a low profile. Years later, when I read about the scandal, I became convinced of Joe’s innocence and wanted to put the truth, as I saw it, out into the world. An added plus: I love baseball, I think it’s a great game!
I originally wrote this story as a screenplay. Baseball is a very visual game and the baseball sequences can be very exciting when filmed, with cutting between shots greatly enhancing the action. I also was drawn to the fact that no movie has ever been made about the Textile Baseball League, which was the precursor of the minor leagues and had a very quirky and amusing culture. Or course, writing the story as a novel allowed me to delve more deeply into character, which has its own rewards.
I wrote THE LAST AT-BAT OF SHOELESS JOE as historical fiction because I love history. I majored in History at Princeton University. I created an educational nonprofit, Quill Entertainment Company, whose mission is “Teaching America’s Heritage Through Story and Song.” We have performed our musicals drawn from American history before thousands of students and families as well as producing musicals like BATTLECRY, about the Battle of Gettysburg, and COMMON GROUND, about the remarkable friendship between Frederic Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, for general audiences. I enjoy turning history into drama, whether on the stage or on the page, so it was quite natural—and immensely enjoyable—for me to weave the history of the Black Sox Scandal into my fictional account of a young ballplayer who wants to become the next Shoeless Joe Jackson.
What is your background with baseball?: For some reason, when I was growing up in Greenville, SC, in the 50’s, the Brooklyn Dodgers games were broadcast on the radio. I have an older brother, Frank, (to whom my novel is dedicated) who loved baseball, so naturally I loved it, too. I played Little League ball for the Lions Club—second base, just like Frank. I wasn’t a very good fielder. One play sticks in my mind: a batter hit an infield fly and I remember seeing the ball heading my way over the top of my glove and then I remember being on the ground because the ball bonked me on the head. But we didn’t have a backup infielder, so time was called while I was allowed to go to the water fountain and drink, and then I was put back in the game. Naturally, the very next batter hit a blooper right at me. I remember to this day how my hands quivered in fear. The ball hit the middle of my glove, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to close it, so the ball fell to the ground. Those were two of the many errors I made that day.
That was it for my days in organized baseball. But I continued to play stick ball in high school, and I was a “social chairman” kind of guy so I organized a lot of pickup games along the way. When I was an actor in New York City, I played for Actors Equity, the actors’ union softball team. And, of course, I always followed the game and loved the team wherever I lived: the Red Sox, the Phillies, and, now, the Mets.
Did you have any personal experiences with Joe or his family?: I was only 4 years old when Joe died so I didn’t know him, or, as I’ve said, even know about him. He and Katie had no children, so there was really no family to whom I could talk. Alas, I have no personal experiences with Joe or his family.
Are any of the fictional characters in the book based on anyone in real life?: All of the fictional characters are really an amalgam of people I have known in real life. I suppose the closest thing to a character drawn from someone in real life is Piggy, the inept and frightened ballplayer. I did have a friend growing up whom, in the casually cruel way of kids, was called Piggy. Crusher is based on another friend against whom I played ball. He was bigger than the rest of us and he was a pitcher who could really throw hard, which made him very scary to bat against. He was a nice guy, however, not the ego-driven Crusher of my novel.
What are your thoughts on how the Black Sox scandal and Joe Jackson are portrayed in modern popular culture?: There have been several movies about the Scandal and Joe. EIGHT MEN OUT and FIELD OF DREAMS, come to mind. The former seemed to take the tack that Joe was guilty of conspiring the throw the World Series, and the latter was a fantasy that had little to do with the real Joe, although its popularity certainly thrust Joe back into the public consciousness. They are both excellent movies.
I believe Joe was innocent, so of course I am going to disagree with any portrayal that paints him as guilty. Without going into detail, I think his Series average of .375 (the highest), his no errors, and his 12 hits, a record that lasted until 1964, show a man who played to win. As for the Scandal, there were definitely players who conspired with gamblers to cheat for money. But let’s not forget: two juries found Joe and other players innocent. If Kennesaw Mountain Landis hadn’t declared them all banished from baseball for life, we probably would never have given the Scandal much thought.
If I have any gripe about how Joe is portrayed in today’s modern culture it is that I don’t think any of it succeeds at humanizing him, at showing his pluses and minuses, at emphasizing not whether he was a cheater or a hero, but whether he was someone who loved his wife, loved his community, and, ultimately, loved the game. This is what I have tried to do in my novel: bring to life not a ballplayer involved in a scandal, but a man involved in living.
Are there other baseball figures you are drawn to and would like to write about?: There are a ton of interesting baseball stories. I’ve always loved Satchel Paige, but he’s been written about often. I am also drawn to the man who made being second famous: Larry Dolby, who was the second African-American to break the color barrier, joining the Cleveland Indians just a few months after Jackie Robinson, and becoming the second African-American baseball manager.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon

Friday, May 17, 2019

Impact Relief Pitchers That Got Away from the Boston Red Sox

After an odious start to the 2019 season, the Boston Red Sox have slowly climbed their way back to a level of play expected from them after winning the 2018 World Series. Some areas of concern, like very hittable starting pitching and a lack of timely hitting seems to have largely taken care of itself. However, one area that still remains a major concern is the bullpen. Although hindsight is 20-20, there are a number of relievers excelling this season on different teams, who started out in the Boston organization and are now having their departures from the Hub cause major regret.

Boston’s bullpen ERA currently sits at 3.88, which is the ninth-best mark in baseball. However, they have given up an alarming number of home runs; lack a consistent left-hander and a closer with any significant prior experience; and have little depth. Here are some of the pitchers that Boston let go of in recent years who never latched on with the Red Sox but have turned into relief stalwarts elsewhere.

Ryan Pressly: Boston made the right-hander an 11th-round draft choice in 2007. Working as a starter in the minors, he was solid, but unspectacular and went to the Minnesota Twins via the Rule-5 Draft in 2012. He spent the next five and a half years pitching exclusively out of Minnesota’s bullpen. In 281 games, he posted a 3.75 ERA and was generally a good 10-11th man on a staff. However, following a mid-season trade to the Houston Astros last year, he became unhittable. The 30-year-old throws a fastball that averages 96 MPH, which is 2 MPH higher than when he was a rookie. He also sports a devastating curveball that he throws more than a third of the time. Since joining the Astros, he has appeared in 43 games, allowing just 20 hits and 3 walks in 43.2 innings, while posting a microscopic 0.43 ERA and striking out 52 batters.

Ty Buttrey:  Expectations were high on the right-hander when he was a fourth-round choice in 2012 as a starter out of high school. Solid results in the minors were accomplished around ongoing injuries, which resulted in his eventual transition to the bullpen. He went to the Los Angeles Angels in last year’s Ian Kinsler trade and was quickly brought up to help the team’s relief efforts. Now 26, he has been lights out since, including a 0.86 ERA in 19 games this season, and 26 strikeouts in 21 innings. He is also yet to allow a major league home runs through his first 37.1 innings. Featuring a fastball that averages better than 96 MPH and a good curve, he may be a closer in the making.

Chris Martin: The left-hander was signed as a minor league free agent by Boston following spring training in 2011. He spent the next three years in the organization, and despite positive results, was never summoned to the big-league club. He has bounced around since leaving but seems to have found a home with the Texas Rangers. The 33-year-old is now in his second year with the team and has been one of the most consistent members of their bullpen this season, with a 2.76 ERA and a save in 16 appearances, all while striking out better than a batter per inning.

Jalen Beeks: Given how last season ended for the Red Sox, it’s hard to fault them for trading the left-handed prospect to the Tampa Bay Rays for Nathan Eovaldi. Although it may be one of those rare deals that may work out for both teams, there’s little doubt Boston wouldn’t mind having Beeks back. Pitching as a long man in Tampa’s “Opener” pitching strategy, he has amassed 32 innings in 11 relief appearances this year, striking out more than a batter per inning and posting a 2.25 ERA. He is also an impressive 8-0 in his 23 career relief appearances with his new team. Still just 25, he appears to have just gotten started.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

The 5 Best Shortstops in the History of the Boston Red Sox- Excerpt From The Top-5 of the Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are one of the most popular and successful teams in the history of Major League Baseball. There has always been significant debate over who exactly are their best players of all time. I recently published The Top-5 of the Boston Red Sox: Ranking and Reviewing the Best Players by Position in Team History in both eBook and paperback form. This book will end all the arguing, as it definitively ranks and reviews the top-five players at every position in Red Sox history. 

Here is an excerpt discussing the shortstop position.

Parent built his career off his superior defensive skills, but he had a solid bat and was a solid all-around player for the inaugural Red Sox and for a number of years afterwards. He played in the franchise’s first 413 games before taking his first day off, displaying his iron man side despite barely being 150 pounds soaking wet.

His best season, which was in 1903, coincided with Boston winning the pennant and ultimately the first World Series. That season he hit .304 with four homers, 17 triples, 24 stolen bases and 80 RBIs.
Parent’s final major contribution to the Red Sox came when he recommended that the team sign one of his teammates with the Baltimore Orioles in 1914; a young pitcher named George Herman Ruth.

4… Rico Petrocelli: Played with Boston 1963-1976, .251, 1,352 base hits, 210 home runs and 773 RBIs

Petrocelli played his entire big-league career with Boston. Although he only played shortstop for the first half he did enough during those years to merit placement on this list. He not only was an offensive force, but had a stellar glove, leading the league in fielding percentage twice.

The right-handed hitter made his major league debut at the age of 20 and was already an established regular for the 1967 Impossible Dream that made it to the World Series. He peaked in 1970 when he hit .297 with a then-record 40 home runs (for a shortstop) with 97 RBIs.

He shifted to third base in 1971 and played out the rest of his career at the hot corner. After retirement he worked in announcing and in minor league managing. He has also remained close to the Red Sox due to his work with the Boston Jimmy Fund charity.

3… Johnny Pesky: Played with Boston 1942-1953, .313, 1,277 base hits, 13 home runs and 361 RBIs

You know you’ve made an impact on a team when part of the stadium where they play is named after you. The eponymous right field “Pesky Foul Pole” at Fenway Park is named after the left-handed hitting shortstop for his notoriety of wrapping home run(s) around it, which is ironic given how few dingers he hit during his career. Of his 17 career home runs, six of them came at Fenway. Only one of them wrapped around the pole, but it helped pitcher teammate Mel Parnell win the game, who coined the name for the pole, which caught on.

Despite the lack of power, Pesky was a cog in Boston’s offense. He posted a .401 OBP during his time in Boston and scored at least 100 runs in every full season with them except one (when he had 93). He was also a fine fielder, forming a double play partnership with second baseman Bobby Doerr.
Pesky finished third in MVP voting his rookie season, hitting .331 with a league-leading 205 hits, two home runs and 51 RBIs. He then missed the next three seasons because of his military service in World War II. He bounced back, despite the missed time, by hitting .335 and leading the league in hits, on his way to finishing fourth in MVP.

After his retirement as a player, he served the Red Sox as an announcer, coach and goodwill ambassador for decades leading up to his death at the age of 93 in 2012. His number six was retired by the team in 2008.

2… Joe Cronin: Played with Boston 1935-1945, .300, 1,168 base hits, 119 home runs and 737 RBIs

Cronin was a star wunderkind with the Washington Senators, who became a player-manager at the tender age of 26 in 1933. Somehow, the Red Sox were able to convince the Washington owner, who was Cronin’s father-in-law, to send him to Boston in a trade for shortstop Lyn Lary and $225,000 prior to the 1935 season.

Cronin played for the Red Sox until 1945 and managed them through the 1947 season. During that time, he made five All Star teams, but failed to take them to the postseason. His best year came in 1938 when he hit .325 with 17 home runs, 94 RBIs and a league-leading 51 doubles. As a manager he lead the team to a 88-61 record and second-place finish, which was a pretty good effort for someone who was 31 at the time.

He was a strong defender earlier in his career but had regressed significantly by the time he came to the Red Sox and had become a little thicker physically. Following the end of his stint as Boston manager, he assumed the role of team General Manager and eventually was named the American League President. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956 in his 11th year on the ballot.

1… Nomar Garciaparra: Played with Boston 1996-2004, .323, 1,281 base hits, 178 home runs and 690 RBIs

Like a meteor, Garciaparra burst on to the scene in a flash of brilliance.  In his first four full seasons he won Rookie of the Year (1997), made three All Star teams, won two batting titles and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting four times. Between 1998-2000 he hit .323, .357 and .372, crushing the ball all over Fenway Park from the right side of the plate.

He also had power, hitting as many as 35 home runs in one season (1998) and was a solid fielder with a strong arm. He particularly enjoyed hitting at Fenway, as he dominated opposing pitchers to the tune of a .338 batting average in 502 career games there. A fan favorite who caused fans to scream “Nomah” every time he strode to the plate, he was well-know for his constant adjustment of batting gloves between pitches and for his fastidious approach to hitting.

Bitterly, his departure from the team in a 2004 mid-season trade with the Chicago Cubs as he had declined with age and mounting injuries (he played less than 100 games in a season five times in his career) was an ignominious ending to the former icon. Ironically, the players brought back in the deal were essential for the team winning the World Series later that year; the franchise’s first championship in 86 years.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon