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Monday, May 27, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for May 27, 2013

The 2012 season saw Detroit Tigers’ slugger Miguel Cabrera win the Triple-Crown with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. Although it’s hard to fathom, he may be headed to an even better season this year, which could see him make history.

Cabrera is currently hitting .385 with 14 home runs and 57 RBI. He ranks first in the American League in batting and RBI, and is second in home runs. If he were to repeat the Triple Crown, he would not only be the first player to ever win consecutive Triple-Crowns, he would also join legendary Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams as the only players to accomplish the feat more than once.

Another mark Cabrera is eyeing is the all-time RBI record. To date, he is on pace to finish the season with 192, which would break the major league record of 191 set by Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Hack Wilson in 1930. While RBI has seen its reputation tarnished in the advancing sabermetric world, the possibility of Cabrera unseating Wilson to set a new standard would still be a big deal.

***Speaking of Hack Wilson, he once was given an unexpected ride in a paddy wagon. On May 23, 1926, the oddly-shaped 5’6” and 190 pound Wilson (he wore a size-6 shoe) went out to celebrate with some friends after hitting a home run estimated at over 450 feet in a win against the Boston Braves. Unfortunately’ Wilson’s party went to a Chicago area beer parlor, which was a poor choice given that the country was in the midst of Prohibition.

On what was reportedly a tip by the Cubs, Wilson and his pals were arrested when the beer parlor was raided. “Hack was loaded in the wagon with eleven others and taken to jail,” cried one newspaper report. No doubt because of his celebrity, Wilson was released without facing charges. He went on to lead the National League with 21 home runs that season and set the all-time single-season RBI mark just a few years later.

***Former Boston Red Sox second baseman and current announcer Jerry Remy is affectionately known as the Remdawg to his fans. His pleasantly gruff voice has graced Red Sox television broadcasts for years, but fans should check out his truly terrifying profile (No worries, he is not nude) in Play Girl Magazine from the 1980s. With a listed position of “Sex God” and a weakness identified as “undersized,” it’s impossible to not burst into convulsive laughter after viewing the write-up.

***If it can be believed, former pitcher Dock Ellis may have accomplished one of the most difficult feats in baseball history when he threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970 while a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates—and supposedly under the influence of LSD.

Recently, Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio attempted to sort fact from fiction in the notorious incident. The game and the claim were the highlights of Ellis’ above-average major league career, which saw him go a combined 138-119 with a 3.36 ERA in 12 seasons. Sadly, Ellis passed away in 2008, so other than the information that is already out there it’s unlikely there will ever be a true resolution to this story.

***There are few left-handed pitchers in baseball history who can compare to the dominance and majesty of former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers’ hurler Sandy Koufax. For an idea (or a reminder for my older readers) of his beautiful pitching form, this classic footage, which is set to an excellent vintage soundtrack, shows how he was able to carve up the National League on his way to a 12-year Hall of Fame career.

***Randy Mario Poffo, better known as WWF wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage, passed away two years ago of a heart attack. Prior to becoming a grappling icon, he was a minor league player in the St. Louis Cardinals’ and Cincinnati Reds’ systems. In addition to this picture of him from his hardball days, his career statistics show he was a catcher and outfielder, who hit .254 with 16 home runs over four seasons.

***The New York Yankees will host the Boston Red Sox later in the week, continuing what has been one of the longest rivalries in baseball. It has produced some of the best games and regional competiveness, but there have also been some ugly moments.

A game on May 19, 1929 at old Yankee Stadium was called after five innings because of rain. Once the game was cancelled, it started to pour and the estimated 53,000 fans in attendance bolted for cover. In the right field bleachers, several people fell in the mad dash, which caused the surging masses to trample those who couldn’t get out of their way, causing two deaths and leaving 63 with injuries.

Yankees’ star Babe Ruth later visited some of the injured and pledged to hit a home run for each of the 14 injured children. Since he wound up leading the league with 46 round-trippers, it appears he made good on his promise.

***Finally, your baseball moment of Zen. This Conan O’Brien Old Time Baseball bit still makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. It gives an excellent idea of what the game was like in the 1860s, with just a few embellishments for comedic effect.


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