Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, July 31, 2016

It's Been a Strange Baseball Season

We’re barely two weeks past the 2016 MLB All Star Game and it is already appropriate to say that this has been a truly strange baseball season. Every year there are stories that unfold that cause outsiders to do a double take to make sure they understood correctly but this year seems to have had a disproportionate amount with more than two months of the season left to go.

Here are some of the most unforgettable:

-Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale is usually striking fear in the hearts of opposing batters. Recently, his reign of terror extended to the clubhouse manager, as he received a five day suspension for cutting up the team’s commemorative throwback jerseys they were set to wear because he thought they were too uncomfortable and his objections had been overruled.

With a 14-4 record and 3.17 ERA, the southpaw is a leading contender for the Cy Young Award but his actions may have earned him a quick ticket out of town in a story that is sure to continue playing out in the coming weeks.

-Chris Correa, the former scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $250,000 in restitution for masterminding the hacking of the Houston Astros’ player database and email system.
-Right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech, a 2014 first-round draft choice of the Boston Red Sox, had a dubious start to his season by breaking his pitching hand in an altercation with one of his teammates. This came on the heels of having his 2015 season cut short with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a PED.

Although the 20-year-old missed significant time with his broken hand, he has rebounded surprisingly well, posting a 1.61 ERA in 22.1 innings with 32 strikeouts and making headlines by having one fastball in a recent start register at a jaw dropping 105 MPH.  He has also made impressive gains in his personal life, as reports have him dating Brielle Biermann, the daughter of reality TV star Kim Kolciak (The Real Housewives of Atlanta).

-Speaking of minor leaguers who in incidents gone awry with teammates, there is also first baseman Josh Naylor from the Miami Marlins organization. One of the team’s top prospects, he injured the hand of teammate Stone Garrett with a knife while attempting to pull a prank. Fortunately, it looks like it will all turn out alright, as Garrett, a good prospect in his own right, was eventually able to return to the field after missing some time, and Naylor at the age of 19 has looked very impressive, hitting .265 with 9 home runs and 54 RBIs in 90 games for Single-A games. Unfortunately, it does not look like he will reach the majors as a Marlin, as he was recently included as the headliner prospect in the Andrew Cashner trade with the San Diego Padres.

-Basebrawls are typically wild disjointed displays of testosterone-fueled preening. This was the case during a recent kerfuffle between the independent league New Jersey Jackals and Rockland Boulders, but what set this dustup apart was that it was started by relief pitcher Fernando Cruz in the middle of a live play when he sprinted from his dugout to that of the Boulders in an attempt to rearrange someone’s face. He was pile-drived into the ground by a timely Boulder before he was able to make contact with anyone. It took the better part of the next five minutes to corral and escort the enraged right-hander, who has spent the past decade pitching in various minor and other professional leagues, from the stadium.

-There has been a goodly amount of odd injuries to strike baseball players this year. New York Mets ace Matt Harvey (who is out for the remainder of the season with an unrelated issue) nearly missed his first start of the year with a bladder infection that was caused by him “holding it” too long between bathroom breaks.

Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith missed the first two months of the season after tearing a knee ligament while removing his cleats after a spring training game.

Apparently mistaken for a large flowering plant, Chicago Cubs outfielder Jayson Heyward was swarmed and stung over 10 times by bees during a spring training game. It was an inglorious start for the player who joined the team this offseason on a $184 million contract and thus far has hit just .230 with 5 home runs.

If those injuries are hard to swallow, they have nothing on Atlanta Braves infielder Erick Aybar, who had to have a chicken bone removed from his throat while under sedation, after swallowing it during a lunch back in May.

Only time will tell if more weirdness ensues in the concluding months of the baseball season.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lake Erie Crushers' Ballpark Naming Rights Available

Press Release from the Lake Erie Crushers: (July 25, 2016: Avon, Ohio)-  The Lake Erie Crushers have announced that they are accepting bids for a new stadium naming rights partner.  The Crushers will immediately initiate scheduling appointments with those parties interested in putting their name on the ballpark, located along Interstate-90 in Avon, Ohio.

All Pro Freight, the original naming rights partner since 2009, will continue its partnership with the team, however the naming rights deal has expired as a result of the February change of ownership.  All Pro Freight CEO Chris Haas stated, “We still support the Lake Erie Crushers and will continue to partner with the team going forward.  The new owners, Tom and Jacqueline Kramig, have brought great energy to the organization and have the Crushers headed in the right direction.”

Co-Owner Tom Kramig thanked Haas for his support during the first eight years of the franchise. “Chris Haas and All Pro Freight have been outstanding partners during the first eight years of the Lake Erie Crushers. We thank and applaud them for taking the lead when the franchise was started back in 2009, and supporting the organization in good seasons and bad.  We look forward to continuing our partnership and bringing another Frontier League Championship back to Avon.”

            The team has already been approached by several organizations, and has several more on a short list of naming rights candidates. Kramig went on to add, “With the current and upcoming stadium improvements, visibility on I-90, addition of numerous, new, non-baseball events, and all sales figures up over last year, it's a great time for a business to secure such a prominent marketing opportunity.  Naming rights opportunities don't come around very often.  They've proven to be a tremendous tool to drive branding campaigns, customer service programs, employee retention, and new sales.”

The team will spend the next sixty to ninety days meeting with interested parties and discussing terms for a new, long-term agreement.   The plan is to have a new naming rights partner in place, including new stadium branding, prior to the start of the 2017 baseball season in May of next year.  Around the nation, naming rights partners are heavily represented in banking, car dealerships, grocers, medical centers, telecommunications, utilities, and major employers in the area.  

Interested parties can contact Tom Kramig at 440-934-3636 or

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

David Ortiz and Great Final Seasons

At the age of 40, Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is playing in his final and perhaps best season of a 20-year major league career. He is providing a grand finale for what may well end up being an eventual induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Although such impressive exits from the game are rare, there have been others who retired with a bang instead of a whimper.

If the 2016 season were to end today, it could be reasonably argued that Ortiz truly did go out on top. Thus far, in 89 games, he has hit .332 with a league-leading 35 doubles, 24 home runs, 81 RBIs and a 182 OPS+, which represents a career high. He also leads the league in on base percentage (OBP) and slugging, all while walking (52) more than he has struck out (45).

Keep reading for some other outstanding final seasons. Eligibility was determined by players who voluntarily retired, as opposed to those like Shoeless Joe Jackson (who hit .382 in 1920 with 218 hits, 121 RBIs and just 14 strikeouts but never returned to the game after being suspended for life); injury (Sandy Koufax and Kirby Puckett had tremendous final seasons before retiring suddenly for health reasons), or death (like Roberto Clemente, who hit .312 and won a Gold Glove in 1972 but was killed during the offseason in a plane crash).

Ted Williams, 1960: Any comparison to Ortiz has to start with his Boston counterpart. Although he was unable to play every day, The Splendid Splinter made the most of his 19th and final season for the Sox, appearing in 113 games and walloping .316 with 29 home runs. For added emphasis, his final at-bat resulted in a home run off Jack Fisher and the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.

Barry Bonds, 2007: Although the outfielder’s career likely ended more because of controversy surrounding him and PEDs, he was never technically suspended, so he belongs on this list. Reaching his 42nd birthday by the end of the season, he played in 126 games for the San Francisco Giants and produced a .276 batting average, a league-leading .480 OBP (helped by 132 walks), 28 home runs and 66 RBIs. Interestingly, he had nearly as many intentional walks (43) as strikeouts (54), showing off his laser-focused batting eye.

Roy Cullenbine, 1947: Batting just .224 while playing first base for the Detroit Tigers in his final season, one might wonder why the switch-hitter is on this list. It’s because the 33-year-old set a career high with 24 home runs and 133 walks. Partly because hitting well was held in higher regard than the simple ability to get on base, Cullenbine was released following the season. Although he was picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies, he never made it into another official game and retired being able to say he went out on a high note.

Mike Mussina, 2008: There are few pitchers who provided as much consistency throughout their careers as the right hander. Pitching for the New York Yankees in his final season, he led the American league with 34 starts and went 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA. He not only finished sixth in Cy Young voting but also won a Gold Glove—the seventh of his career. It also represented the 17th consecutive year he contributed a double-digit win total; a run only made imperfect because he had just 12 starts during his rookie campaign.

Will Clark, 2000: The first baseman with the sweet left-handed swing battled injuries during the second half of his career. However, as a 36-year-old in his final season, he was healthy enough to appear in 130 games between the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals and compile a .319 batting average, .426 OBP, 21 home runs and 70 RBIs. He was particularly lethal after joining the Cards in a mid-season trade, posting a staggering .345 batting average and 1.081 OPS in helping them reach the postseason.

Mariano Rivera, 2013: It would be a tall task to find an athlete in any sport that played so well and so long as the former closer of the Yankees. Coming back from a serious injury that occurred in 2012, the right-hander never missed a beat in his last season in the Bronx. Making 64 relief appearances, he continued to shut down hitters to the tune of a 2.11 ERA and 44 saves.

Honorable Mention

Joe Adcock, 1966: The massive slugger definitely saw a dip in production as he grew longer in the tooth but he was able to go out with a bang because of being used intelligently during his final season. Playing for the California Angels, he platooned at first base with veteran left-handed hitter Norm Siebern. Although he played in just 83 games, he was by far the team’s most productive hitter (the entire squad combined to hit just .232), mashing .273 with 18 home runs and 48 RBIs. His 167 OPS+ was the best mark of his career. Some have pointed to a cozy home park for his success but a look at the numbers show his home/road OPS split was actually .854/.1.021.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016


Blackwing Luxury Pencils has released a pencil salute to New York Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio, called the BlackWing 56. Paying tribute to the 75th anniversary of the Yankee Clipper's 56-game hitting streak, the new model has all the details down, including the quality of the item and the pin stripes. For more keep reading on their website.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Black Prince of Baseball- Hal Chase and the Mythology of the Game: A Review

Before Babe Ruth, another mega star dominated the baseball landscape.  His name was Hal Chase and he was a supremely talented and flawed athlete and human, who was ultimately overtaken by his demons and unceremoniously cast out of the majors because of his penchant for gambling and allegedly throwing games—which possibly included involvement in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. Detailing his rise and fall is Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella, with their excellent The Black Prince of Baseball: Hal Chase and the Mythology of the Game (University of Nebraska Press, 2004/2016).

Chase was a first baseman who spent 15 seasons (1905-1919) in the majors with five different teams; rising to stardom with the New York Highlanders/Yankees. Known as one of the slickest fielders the game has ever seen, he was no slouch at the plate, hitting .291 with 941 RBIs and 336 stolen bases during the final decades of the Dead Ball Era. Off the field was another story, as he was an inveterate gambler and womanizer; thought nothing of jumping contracts if the money was right; and was an alleged frequent flyer when it came to making a couple of bad plays to keep the score close, or even orchestrating outright dives for a price.

Dewey and Acocella have done a first-class job in researching and writing about Chase’s life. Always a shadowy figure, it was surely no easy task, but the reward is massive, as they have produced a seminal work on the first sacker.

Trying to track the movements of the nomadic Californian must have been quite an undertaking but The Black Prince emerges with a coherent timeline that takes the reader throughout his life. His exploits on the field are fun (he was a bonafide gregarious star who by all accounts had the hands of a magician in the field) to read about but the real star of the show, sad though they may, be are all of his transgressions. One cannot possibly take delight in his wrongs, yet when splashed across the pages, they keep the reader from looking away, much like a car crash.

In addition to the suspicions of intentionally playing poorly and recruiting others into his nefarious schemes, he also frequently held out or jumped to different teams in order to extract the most money. This included stops in the Federal League and a bushel of professional and semi-pro circuits in California, Arizona and Mexico. Although the fans adored him, his reputation within the game was something less, given his constant focus on making a buck or gaining an angle.

Although he was not officially thrown out of baseball, nevertheless, a cloud of impropriety continues to hang over Chase’s head to this day. The book is rife with accounts from opposing players and former teammates who claim they were witness to his transgressions. There was also substantial suspicion that he was among those who conspired to rig the 1919 World Series in an effort to make a financial windfall by betting. No formal charges were ever proved against him, but he never played or coached in another major league game after the 1919 season, despite still being a productive player.

Utilizing thorough research, the authors paint a complete picture of Chase. While he cut a dashing and brash figure as a player, despite his schemes, things were quite different in his personal life. He was a serial philanderer, who once erroneously accused his first wife of cheating on him so he could secure a divorce in order to marry his second wife (with whom he had been having an affair). He was an absentee father, who alienated many of his family members because of his dishonest and boozy ways. 

Ultimately, once his body began to betray him, and baseball of any kind was no longer an option, his life spiraled into a pathetic end. A memorable passage in the book has an acquaintance recalling how Chase was so down and out that he used to emulate his baseball swing with a pool cue in Arizona border town bars in exchange for drinks.

Chase can best be summed up as the extremes in baseball that came to be because the games popularity outgrew its leadership and infrastructure. He lived and played as to be a lesson to those who came after him. That’s not a great legacy to aspire to but it’s the best the flawed first baseman has nearly a century after he departed the game in disgrace.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free advanced copy of this book, but received no payment or other consideration for this review

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Minor League Baseball Remains a Budget-Friendly Entertainment Option

Minor League Baseball issued the following press release today:

Minor League Baseball Remains a Budget-Friendly Entertainment Option 

Family of four can attend a game for an average of less than $65 

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Minor League Baseball announced today that attending one of its games is, yet again, one of the most economical forms of family entertainment available. The average cost for a family of four to enjoy a Minor League Baseball game this season is only $64.97; a price that includes parking, two adult tickets, two child tickets, four hot dogs, two sodas and two beers. 

The average cost for two adults to attend a game at one of the 160 ballparks in the 14 domestic-based leagues that charge admission ranges from $33-$37, depending on the fans’ choice of beverages. 

The ticket prices are based on the most economical fixed seat in a stadium, although a majority of the clubs have discounted, free or special ticket prices for children under a certain age, senior citizens and/or military personnel. Berm seating, concessions specials and other deals available through clubs’ social media platforms also save fans money and contribute to making the cost of attending a Minor League Baseball game one of the best budget-friendly options among all professional sports leagues. 

“Minor League Baseball has long strived to be a budget-friendly source of family entertainment, providing fun promotions and a quality product on the field,” said Minor League Baseball President and CEO Pat O’Conner. “We take great pride in knowing that over 42.5 million fans chose Minor League Baseball to help create lifelong memories with family and friends.” 

About Minor League Baseball Minor League Baseball, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the governing body for all professional baseball teams in the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic that are affiliated with Major League Baseball clubs through their farm systems. Fans are coming out in unprecedented numbers to this one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found at Minor League Baseball ballparks. In 2015, Minor League Baseball attracted 42.5 million fans to its ballparks to see the future stars of the sport hone their skills. From the electricity in the stands to the excitement on the field, Minor League Baseball has provided affordable family-friendly entertainment to people of all ages since its founding in 1901. For more information, visit  

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

For Baseball Hall-of-Famer Fred Clarke, Mustaches Were a Hairy Subject

Facial hair is all the rage these days for those many, who spend inordinate amounts of time and money cultivating beards, mustaches and other elaborate whiskery concoctions. Although many ball players currently sport all manners of hair on their faces, it’s something that has not always been tolerated. An early opponent was Hall of Famer Fred Clarke, who came out swinging heavily in the press in 1905 when the question of mustaches was broached with his team.

For whatever reason, whiskers have been a regular point of contention throughout baseball history. At various times, they were prohibited, or at the very least, frowned upon, despite whatever craze might have been sweeping through society. The powerhouse New York Yankees are well known for not permitting their players to have anything on their faces other than eye black and a smile during the season. This has branched out to other teams, as the Miami Marlins adopted a similar policy under new manager Don Mattingly, a long-time former Yankee and former wearer of a very distinctive mustache.

This all takes us back to Clarke. A .312 batting average in 21 years (1894-1915) as an outfielder with the Louisville Colonels and Pittsburgh Pirates occurred simultaneously with a 19-year stint as a player manager, resulting in a .576 career winning percentage, four pennants and winning a World Series in 1909. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1945. Simply put, he was one of the most successful all-around figures in the history of the game, so when he spoke, it was wise to listen.

In 1905, Clarke was 32, one of the stars (along with shortstop Honus Wagner) of the Pirates and in the midst of directing his squad to a 96-win season. He was asked why he didn’t let his players wear mustaches, which were in vogue at the time, and he had a surprising amount to say about his mandate on shaving

“Mustaches make the men look older than they are and I think the people like to see men as young as possible playing the game,” mused Clarke. “The time was when practically all the players who could raise them wore mustaches, but that day is past, and I don’t think it will ever return. I wore a mustache once at Savannah, when I played there. If I could show you a photograph taken at that time you wouldn’t recognize me.”

It was interesting reasoning from Clarke to say the least but his conviction has had staying power over the years. Although teams like the 2013 Boston Red Sox will certainly continue to rear their shaggy heads, many teams will play with their players sporting faces as smooth as a baby’s behind, and in part that can be attributed in part to those like Clarke who have been so passionate about keeping facial hair out of the game.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Legendary Catcher Ray Schalk's Escape as a Hostage From a Bowling Alley Armed Robbery

Ray Schalk has one of the most impressive baseball resumes one can find when combing through the annals of the game. The catcher had a distinguished 18-year playing career and was a “Clean Sox” on the infamous 1919 Chicago Black Sox before moving on to a career in coaching. He was ultimately inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955 but nearly didn’t live to see that moment because of the time he was taken hostage by armed robbers at his bowling alley.

Schalk, a native of Illinois, played all but his final season (1929) with the Chicago White Sox. Although he hit just a combined .253 with 11 home runs in his career, he was considered a superb defensive player and a strong team leader. He was considered so unimpeachable that he was known as one of the Clean Sox; unable to be corrupted by the dishonesty of his 1919 teammates. Once he hung up his catching equipment, he held coaching jobs around professional baseball but maintained a home base in Chicago. His career allowed him the capital to invest in business ventures; one of them being Ray Schalk’s Evergreen Towers, a Windy City bowling alley.

Evidently, the alley enjoyed some success—to the point it became a target for a gang of thieves. In early June, 1948, Schalk was in his office at the premises when six gunmen (one held a machine gun while the others were armed with pistols) masked by handkerchiefs forced their way in and ordered him open his safe. The former ballplayer told the intruders that the only person with the combination and key to access the vault was Lou Barbour, the former secretary of the White Sox and then manager of the bowling alley. Believing a big score was nigh, the robbers decided to wait.

In an effort to make their scheme go as smoothly as possible, the robbers marched Schalk, his wife Lavinia, a coat check girl, a few customers and approximately two dozen pin setters downstairs and locked them in various rooms in the basement. In total, 36 people were held during the wait for the man with the combination and key. Chivalry was not bypassed altogether, as one of the gunmen provided Mrs. Schalk with a moist towel after she complained of a headache.

Ironically, Barbour, who was walking to work that day, was picked up and given a ride by Lou Riddering, the Evergreen Park police chief. An appreciative Barbour invited his benefactor in for a drink but was rebuffed. Little did he know how much he would soon wish his offer had been accepted.

When Barbour walked into the building, it must have seemed eerily quiet at first but that feeling would have likely been quickly replaced by great alarm, as two robbers with drawn guns quickly cornered him and demanded money. Under duress, the safe was opened and ne’er-do-wells extracted nearly $2,000, and then with the use of a crowbar, proceeded to make off with an additional $800 from the adjacent bar that was owned by Schalk’s business partner. Adding insult to injury, the six men helped themselves to the keys to the old catcher’s 1947 Buick and roared off with their ill-gotten gains.

Schalk and the hostages were held for a couple of hours. Shortly after the robbers fled, some of the pin boys broke down the door. Their situation had been more dire than the rest, as they were confined in an airtight liquor storage room and a couple had passed out from the lack of air. The brave souls who broke out carefully surveyed the premises and after ascertaining that their tormentors were gone, they freed the rest of their companions.

A thorough investigation ensued but the culprits were never caught. In a city not far removed from Al Capone and gangland hysteria, this crime may not have registered as high on the scale as it might have in other communities in terms of shock value. However, it was a close call for the Chicago icon, who survived the ordeal and ended up living until 1970 when he passed away sat the age of 77.

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