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Christy Mathewson


The dominant pitcher of his era and one of five all-time greats originally inducted into the Hall of Fame, Mathewson looked like the classic American hero: tall, blond, and blue-eyed, with a reputation for clean living and good sportsmanship that was often held up as a splendid example for the nation's youth. While those virtues were surely exaggerated, his pitching skills were not. He retired with 372 wins (fourth all-time), 78 shutouts (third), and a 2.13 ERA (fifth).


The son of a gentleman farmer, Mathewson attended Bucknell University, where he was class president, an excellent field goal kicker, and, of course, star pitcher. Leaving Bucknell in 1899 to pitch for Taunton (New England League), he advanced to Norfolk (Virginia League) the following year and went 20-2. The Giants bought him for $1,500, but returned him to Norfolk when he lost his first three decisions, declaring the deal cancelled and demanding their money back. He was then drafted by the Reds for $100 and traded to the Giants for sore-armed Amos Rusie who had not pitched since 1898. Reds' owner John T. Bush was about to buy the Giants and wanted a promising pitcher when he got there.


In 1901 Mathewson won 20 games with a 2.41 ERA for the Giants, but manager Horace Fogel still did not believe his young star would win consistently, and had him practice at first, shortstop, and in the outfield. John McGraw arrived in mid-1902 to quickly put a stop to such experiments, and from 1903 to 1914 Mathewson never won fewer than 22 games.


Mathewson's pitching was marked by intelligence, good mechanics, and outstanding control (he walked only 1.6 batters per nine innings), but he also had a magic pitch. Today's screwball, he called it his "fadeaway," a reverse curve that broke in to righthanded batters. Thrown with an extremely unnatural twist of the arm, he rarely threw more than a dozen a game, but the threat was always there. Combined with his other outstanding pitches, it made him one of baseball's rare masters. He could breeze through a game on 75 or 80 pitches, often holding something back for what he called "pitching in a pinch" (the name of his book).


Mathewson was only 14-17 in his second full season, but led the NL with eight shutouts and posted a fine 2.11 ERA. The following year he won 30 games and led the league in strikeouts, feats he would repeat in 1904 and 1905. In the 1905 World Series, Matty turned in one of baseball's best postseason performances, shutting out the Athletics in Games One, Three, and Five, allowing only 14 total hits, as the Giants took the Series 4-1. In 1906-07 Christy's brother Henry pitched three games for the Giants, going 0-1; until Gaylord and Jim Perry broke their record, Christy and Henry held the record for wins by brothers.


Mathewson's finest regular season was 1908, as he led the league in wins (37), ERA (1.43), strikeouts (259), and shutouts (12), but the Giants finished a game behind the Cubs. Between 1911 and 1914 Mathewson won 98 games to young Grover Alexander's 96, but when Matty slipped to 8-14 in 1915 Alexander won 31, and the mantle of the league's best pitcher was passed. In 1916 he was traded to the Reds, where he won the one game he pitched before leading them to two fourth-place finishes as manager. When he retired, Matty had won the ERA title and the strikeout crown five times each and had led the NL in wins and shutouts four times each.


Off the field, public reputation aside, some found him brusque and stand-offish, others said he had a swelled head. He was also known to break a contract, once signing with the Philadelphia Athletics before changing his mind and jumping back to the Giants. Still, he lent considerable prestige to the players' unionizing efforts in 1912, and while managing once suspended Hal Chase for "indifferent playing." He was also one of the few to publicly state he thought the White Sox were throwing the 1919 World Series.


Enlisting as an Army captain in 1918, he served overseas and was gased in a training exercise, thereafter suffering from tuberculosis. He coached with the Giants in 1919-20, but spent much of his time upstate, fighting TB. He served as part-time president of the Braves in 1923, and died two years later at the age of 47.


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Tony Gwynn


On June 10, 1981, Gwynn was drafted by both the San Diego Padres (third round) and the NBA's San Diego Clippers (10th round). After signing with the Padres, he reported to Walla Walla of the Rookie Northwest League, where he earned MVP honors after leading the league with a .331 batting average. He spent the final three weeks of the season at Double-A Amarillo, where he hit .462 over 23 games.

He made his major league debut on July 19 that season, going 2-for-4 with a double, run scored, sacrifice fly and an RBI in a 7-6 loss to the Phillies.

In his 20 seasons with the Padres, Gwynn compiled a career average of .338, a mark that ranks 17th all-time among major league players. He hit .300 or better against every team in the National League with a high-water mark of .379 against the Colorado Rockies.

He hit over .300 for 19 consecutive seasons, surpassing Honus Wagner's National League record set from 1897-1913. The only time he failed to bat .300 at any stop in his professional career was in 1982, when after batting .328 in 93 Triple-A contests; he hit .289 in 54 games for the Padres in his major league debut season.

Gwynn ended his playing days ranked 17th in career hits (3,141). He was also ninth all-time in singles with 2,378, 17th in doubles with 543, and was among the top 75 in runs scored with 1,383.

From 1993 to 1997, Gwynn hit .350 or better, becoming only the fourth player in history to top the .350 mark in five consecutive seasons, a feat previously accomplished by only Ty Cobb (11 straight .350 seasons), Rogers Hornsby (six) and Al Simmons (five). His career-high average came during the 1994 campaign when he hit .394, the highest average in the National League since 1930.

Over the course of his 20 seasons, he struck out only 434 times in 10,232 plate appearances, an average of once every 23.6 plate appearances. With 790 career bases on balls, he drew 1.8 walks for every strikeout. He walked more times than he struck out in every one of his major league seasons except his rookie campaign when he drew 14 walks and struck out 16 times in 54 contests.

Gwynn won a record-tying eight league batting titles (1984, 1987-89, 1994-97), joining Honus Wagner as one of only two players in National League history to accomplish that feat. The only major leaguer to win more is Ty Cobb, who earned 12 titles in the American League. Gwynn and Cobb share the distinction of being the only players to string together two separated streaks of three or more consecutive batting titles, with Tony earning three in a row from 1987-89, then collecting four straight from 1994-97. He is the only player in major league history to win four batting titles in two separate decades.

Over his 20-year career, Gwynn hit .351 with runners in scoring position, including a .390 mark over his final six seasons. With 200 or more hits in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1997, he is one of only 19 players to have reached that milestone in five seasons.

A member of the 3,000-hit club, he achieved that feat on Aug. 6, 1999, in a game at Montreal with a first-inning single to right center off Dan Smith. Only two players achieved 3,000 hits in fewer games than Gwynn and just five needed fewer at bats. Gwynn's first major league hit had come off Philadelphia's Sid Monge on July 19, 1982. His 1,000th hit was against Nolan Ryan in Houston (April 22, 1988), and he got his 2,000th off Colorado's Bruce Ruffin (Aug, 6, 1993).

Gwynn played in 15 National League All-Star games and was voted to start that contest 11 times. His 11 starts are the most ever by an N.L. outfielder and equals Reggie Jackson's major-league record among outfielders. He was named to the all-star squad 12 of his final 13 seasons (all but 2000) and 16 of his last 18 campaigns.


Known as "Mr. Padre" both during and after his long and distinguished major league career, the San Diego club retired his number 19 jersey in ceremonies held at PETCO Park in September 2004. Last spring, the street on which the stadium is located was named Tony Gwynn Drive in his honor.


On August 24, 2002, Gwynn was inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame. His jersey No. 19 was retired by the Padres during Petco Park's inaugural season in 2004.


On January 9, 2007, Gwynn was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, being selected on 532 out of 545 ballots (97.61%), seventh highest percentage in Hall of Fame voting history.He was inducted alongside Cal Ripken, Jr.on July 29, 2007. Ripken and Gwynn are two of the 46 players in the Hall of Fame who played their entire major league career for only one team. Both were elected almost unanimously in their first year of eligibility.


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Bill Wambsganss


William Adolph Wambsganss was a Cleveland native--born in the area that has since 1930 been known as the city of Garfield Heights--and lived to be 91 years old (March 19, 1894--December 8, 1985). He was right-handed with a playing height of 5-feet-11 and a listed weight of 175 pounds. During his years in baseball, he was more typically known as Wamby.

Bill spent his first year in the pros, 1913, with the Cedar Rapid Rabbits of the class D Central Association, playing shortstop and batting .244 in 67 games. His second year with Cedar Rapids, he played in 84 games and started hitting distinctly better, at .317. He was almost part of baseball history on July 10 as Rabbits pitcher Lefty Mellinger threw a no-hitter against Burlington, marred only by an error when his first baseman unaccountably dropped a "perfect throw." The man who reached base was promptly retired on a double play.

As the season progressed, the Cleveland Naps wanted the hometown hitter. Owner Charles Somers bought him from Cedar Rapids on August 1, for a reported $1,250. Manager Joe Birmingham first put him in a game against the Washington Nationals on August 4, replacing Ray Chapman at shortstop late in the game. Batting in the bottom of the ninth, after Cleveland had come within two runs of Washington, Wambsganss grounded a ball to Wally Smith, the second baseman, and a run scored when Smith misplayed it. With two outs and the bases loaded, Joe Wood smoked one to second and this time Smith held onto the liner.

Wamby's first start, on August 10, 1914, resulted in an 0-for-2 at the plate. He picked up his first hit, a single, on the 11th. His first big game was on August 16; he went 2-for-5 with a double, and helped execute two double plays. On September 30, he tripled in the bottom of the 12th (he had doubled earlier) and scored the winning run on Nemo Leibold's single, beating the White Sox, 6-5. That first year, as an understudy for Chapman, he appeared in 43 games, batting .217 and driving in 12 runs. He also filled in during four games for his childhood hero, Nap Lajoie, the baseball legend after whom the team was known. The Naps finished in last place, and even right fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson had a down year -- hitting only .338.

Bill had one of the best days of his career on May 18, 1919, going 4-for-4 against the visiting New York Yankees, three singles and an inside-the-park home run off George Mogridge which escaped the clutches of Ping Bodie and brought in the final three runs of the 4-3 win. It was his first career home run. He added a second homer on August 15, off Washington's Jim Shaw, but in a losing cause. May was a good month overall, with Wamby batting .407 as of May 24, well ahead of Joe Jackson's .386, but the season ended with Wamby hitting .278 (and driving in a career-high 60 runs) while Jackson hit .351 for the champion White Sox--a year later to become known as the Black Sox. Once again Wambsganss led the league in errors, with 30. One of them he was glad to take. It came at the Polo Grounds in the seventh inning of Ray Caldwell's September 10 no-hitter against the Yankees. The New York Times account called it an "easy roller," in fact "such an easy affair that Wamby should have got it by one hand with his eyes closed. He ran in on the ball and then let it trickle through his mitts."

That 1920 season was the year in which "Wambsganss" eventually became, if not a household name, well-known in the world of people who've learned unusual facts about baseball. It's not always players themselves who know the game. In 1949, Philadelphia A's pitcher Joe Coleman was speaking at a community event in Northampton, Massachusetts, and was asked whether or not anyone had ever made an unassisted triple play in the World Series. He had to admit he didn't know--but Grace Coolidge, the former First Lady of the United States, quietly replied, "Yes, Bill Wambsganss, Cleveland infielder, in the 1920 Series."

Of course, to get to the World Series the Indians first had to win the pennant. It was a three-team battle, with Cleveland on top, two games above the White Sox and three ahead of the New York Yankees, still pennant-less in the history of the franchise. For Cleveland, it was their first pennant. The Indians clinched it with a 10-1 win on October 2, a quickly-played (1:28) game that saw Wambsganss go 3-for-6 with two runs scored. He helped execute two double plays and might have had another hit except that he was struck by his own batted ball in the fourth and therefore ruled out.

The 1920 World Series

Cleveland played the Brooklyn Robins, who had taken the National League with ease. Among other things, the Series would pit Brooklyn third baseman Jimmy Johnston against his two-year-older brother, Cleveland first baseman Doc Johnston. Jimmy hit .291 during the regular season; Doc hit .292. Neither played any significant role on offense in the Series.

Game Five, on October 10, was a day for headlines. The public awoke that Sunday morning to read that Brooklyn pitcher Rube Marquard had been arrested, charged with scalping tickets before Saturday's game. Turned loose so he could make the game (the Cleveland chief of police said it would "hardly be sportsmanlike" to hold him), Rube threw three innings in relief, giving up two hits but no runs. His manager, Wilbert Robinson, "was so provoked when he heard of Marquard's arrest he is alleged to have said he would not give five cents to get him out of hock." After Marquard was found guilty on October 12, Brooklyn severed all ties with him. So did his wife, who divorced him within the week.

In Game Five, Wambsganss singled in the first and was the second of four runners to score on right-fielder Elmer Smith's grand slam. One might have expected Smith to grab all the headlines; it was the first grand slam in World Series history. Then pitcher Jim Bagby homered, a three-run shot in the fourth inning, perhaps pushing for his own headline--it was the first home run by a pitcher in a World Series. The score was 7-0 Tribe after four innings, and things were looking good for Bagby, who'd lost Game Two but was 31-12 (2.89 ERA) in the 1920 regular season.

Bagby got himself in trouble in the top of the fifth, though, allowing back-to-back singles to second baseman Pete Kilduff and the catcher, Otto Miller. Kilduff held up at second. Two on, nobody out, and Mitchell was up--Clarence Mitchell, the left-handed reliever who had taken over for Brooklyn starter Burleigh Grimes. The Indians had two men warming up in the bullpen.


Mitchell was a decent hitter and Robinson had used him occasionally to pinch-hit. Wambsganss deliberately played back on the outfield grass, as Mitch often hit to right and Wamby wanted to keep the ball from getting through and perhaps scoring a run. When the count reached 1-1, the hit-and-run play was put on, and it had everything to do with the execution of the play that followed. Mitchell hit the ball hard, and it was heading toward center field several feet to the right of second base. Wambsganss had broken toward the bag, or he wouldn't have been able to make the play. Make it he barely did, catching the ball in mid-flight with his outstretched glove. Kilduff was almost to third base and Miller rapidly approaching second. Momentum carried Wamby in the direction he was going and two or three strides took him to second base. The minute his foot hit the bag, Kilduff was out. And Miller's own momentum brought him right to Wamby. He pulled up short and didn't have time to turn back and try to retreat. He was just five feet away. "He stopped running and stood there, so I just tagged him. That was all there was to it," Wambsganss explained. "Just before I tagged him, he said, 'Where'd you get that ball?' I said, 'Well, I've got it and you're out number three.'" It was all over in a flash. Three outs. There was dead silence in the park as everyone took in what they'd witnessed, and then an explosion of celebration.

On the day that Wamby pulled off the triple play, crowds gathered in front of newspaper offices around the country. These were the days before radio broadcasts of games, and the notion of television was pure science fiction. Play-by-play results were telegraphed to newspapers and conveyed to those gathered in front of the newspaper offices, sometimes by way of elaborate scoreboards erected for the occasion. In Fort Wayne, the Journal Gazette had set up a magnetic board that was being operated by sports editor Bob Reed. He knew that Rev. Wambsganss was in the crowd of several thousand people on the streets out front. When Reed received word of Wamby's triple play, he said, he was stunned, then nervous. "Finally, I grabbed a megaphone and shouted the news. The roar which followed was the loudest I had ever heard. What a thrill that was--home town boy making a play like that!"

Wambsganss played in the major leagues until 1926 and then played another seven more seasons of minor-league ball.

Wambsganss was active in senior citizen activities right up until November 1985, when he was hospitalized for heart failure, of which he died on December 8. The record books show him as playing in 1,491 major-league games with a .259 batting average. He had a .958 fielding percentage, except in World Series play, when it was 1.000.


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Greg Maddux


At times, Greg Maddux’s mastery of the strike zone truly seemed effortless.

Fastball down-and-away – on the black – for strike one. Fastball in on the hands for strike two. Change-up away for strike three.

Pitch after pitch, strike after strike for the average-looking right-hander who elevated “control” to a new definition in the 1990s.

Now, the winningest pitcher of his generation is heading to Cooperstown.

Gregory Alan Maddux was born April 14, 1966 in San Angelo, Texas. He spent some of his childhood in Madrid, Spain – following his father on his Air Force assignment – before graduating from high school in Las Vegas. Maddux’s father, Dave, taught Greg and his older brother Mike the fundamentals of the game – and Mike was drafted by the Phillies in the second round of the 1982 MLB Draft.

Two years later, Greg – who had not yet reached his full size of 6-foot, 170 pounds – was taken in the second round by the Cubs.

After winning a combined 27 minor league games during the 1985-86 seasons while demonstrating a pitching intelligence beyond his years, Maddux struggled as a 21-year-old in 1987 with the Cubs – going 6-14 with a 5.61 earned-run average. It would be more almost two decades later before Maddux posted another losing record.

In 1988, Maddux improved to 18-8 – the first of his 17 straight seasons with at least 15 victories, the longest streak by any pitcher in big league history. Maddux also earned the first of his eight All-Star Game selections that year.

In 1989, Maddux went 19-12 with a 2.95 ERA, leading the Cubs to the National League East title while finishing third in the NL Cy Young Award vote. He won 15 games in 1990 along with the first of his record 18 Gold Glove Awards, and led the NL in innings pitched in 1991 with 263 – the first of five straight seasons in which he led the league in that category.

Then in 1992, Maddux went 20-11 with a 2.18 ERA, earning the first of four straight Cy Young Awards – a record that went unchallenged until Randy Johnson tied it from 1999-2002.

After the season, Maddux became a free agent and eventually agreed with the Braves on a 5-year, $28 million contract. It would become one of the best bargains in big league history.

Maddux went 20-10 in 1993, leading the Braves to their third straight NL West title and topping theleague with a 2.36 ERA – the first of four ERA crowns he would capture. During the next two strike-shortened seasons, Maddux was practically untouchable – going 16-6 with a 1.56 ERA in 1994 and then following that with a 19-2 mark in 1995 that included a 1.63 ERA.

In 1995, Maddux and the Braves won the World Series – topping Cleveland in six games. Maddux was 3-1 in the postseason.

During his four-year stretch of Cy Young Award dominance, Maddux was 75-29 with a 1.98 ERA. And his control improved almost every year. In 889.1 innings from 1994-1997, Maddux walked just 102 batters – including 23 intentional passes.

Maddux used every edge he had and continued to dominate the batters as the Braves continued to amass NL West titles. From 1993-2003 – his 11 years in a Braves uniform – Atlanta won the division crown in each completed season, advancing to the World Series three times and winning the 1995 Fall Classic. In that time, Maddux went 198-88 with a 2.63 ERA.

Maddux returned to the Cubs via free agency in 2004, winning his 300th game in 2004 and leading the NL in starts in 2005 with 35 at the age of 39.
In 23 big league seasons, Maddux spent only 15 days on the disabled list – a two-week stint in 2002 with an inflamed nerve in his lower back.

He retired following the 2008 season with 355 wins and only 227 losses – a .610 winning percentage. His victory total is the eighth-best of all-time, and his innings pitched total of 5,008.1 ranks 13th.


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Carl Yastrzemski

It's not easy following in Ted Williams' footsteps, but that's exactly what Carl Yastrzemski had to do as a rookie for Boston in 1961. Williams' final season was in 1960 and Yaz stepped right in as a 20-year-old rookie in 1961.

Yastrzemski was raised in Southhampton, N.Y. by Polish parents on a family potato farm. He briefly attended Notre Dame on a basketball scholarship before signing a professional baseball contract for $100,000.

Originally a second baseman in the minors, Yaz moved to left field when Williams vacated the spot for the 1961 season. He was solid but unspectacular in his first two seasons, but really broke out in 1963 when he made his first all-star game and led the league with a .321 batting average.

Yastrzemski was well-known for his batting stance, in which he held his bat high in the air, giving his swing a large, dramatic arc, and more power at the plate. However, in his later years, he adjusted his stance and held the bat lower. He was also known for modifying his batting helmets by enlarging the right ear hole for comfort and removing part of the right ear flap for better vision of the ball as it was being pitched.

Yastrzemski spent his entire 23-year career in Boston, where he was a 18-time all-star and seven-time Gold Glove winner. In 1967, he won the American League Triple Crown, becoming just the 16th player to lead his respective league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. Yaz was named the American League MVP that year as well and, as of 2010, no player has been a Triple Crown winner since. Yastrzemski led the league in hitting three times during his career and hit for the cycle once, on May 14, 1965.

In 1979, Yastrzemski became first American League player to record more than 3,000 hits and more than 400 home runs.

"I'm very pleased and very proud of my accomplishments, but I'm most proud of that," Yastrzemski said. "Not (Ted) Williams, not (Lou) Gehrig, not (Joe) DiMaggio did that. They were Cadillacs and I'm a Chevrolet."

Yastrzemski retired after the 1983 season and was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1989.

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Joe Page

Joe Page came up to the Yankees in 1944, in the middle of WWII. He started in 16 games and relieved in three more. He went 5-7, 4.56, ERA+ 77. Despite that, he was an All-Star, for after the games of June 4th (two days before D-Day), he was 5-1, 2.07. From June 5th through July 30th, Page was 0-6, 9.82. Ugh. He didn’t pitch in the majors again that season after July 30th.

In 1945, Page suffered a shoulder injury. He started nine games, relieved in eleven more, and was 6-3, 2.82, ERA+ 123 in 102 IP.

Page had one of the great relief seasons ever in 1947. He went 14-8, 2.48, ERA+ 142, starting two games but relieving in 54 more. He led the majors in games finished (44), the AL in saves (an unrecognized and unofficial stat back then) with 17, was an All-Star, and finished 4th in the MVP voting. His 14 wins in relief was a record until Luis Arroyo (see the Classic Yankees piece on Arroyo) broke it in 1961. Even in this year, he was on the verge of being shipped out. Bucky Harris, now the Yankees manager, brought Page into a game at a point where Page was basically down to the last straw. One more failure and that straw would break the camel’s back and Page would be sent down or traded. Page proceeded to walk the bases full. He was thisclose to being shipped out and probably for good. He ran the count to 3-0 on Rudy York, a good power hitter, then came back to strike out York, then Hall of Fame second baseman Bobby Doerr, and then got the next hitter on a pop-up. (David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49—great reading). Page had saved his career…for now.

In the World Series, Page was 1-1, ERA 4.15. That doesn’t sound like much, but Page entered in the sixth inning of Game One and got the save. He entered in the sixth inning of Game 3 and got a ND. He came into the game in the 5th inning of Game 6 (the game of Gionfriddo’s catch off DiMaggio) and didn’t have it and took the loss, but he came back the next day and pitched the last five innings in relief, giving up no runs and only one hit in that Game Seven, thus delivering the title to the Bombers.

Although Page led the AL in games pitched (55) and games finished (38) in 1948, he had a bad year, going just 7-8, 4.26, 16 saves, ERA+ 96. He was an All-Star, but his carousing wasn’t helping. The Yanks finished third that season, just 2 ½ games out, and some thought Page’s lifestyle cost them a pennant.

Page’s 1949 season helped the Yanks to another WS title. He was 13-8, 2.59, ERA+ 156. He wasn’t named to the All-Star team, but finished 3rd in the MVP voting behind Ted Williams and Phil Rizzuto. His 27 saves, unrecognized and unofficial, broke a record. It would “stand” until Luis Arroyo’s record 29 for the Yanks in 1961. (The save didn’t become an official statistic until 1969.) Page also led the majors in games pitched and games finished.

With two games to go in the 1949 season, the Red Sox had a one-game lead over the Yankees with the last two games at Yankee Stadium. In the penultimate game of the season, the Yanks were down to the Red Sox when Page came out of the bullpen with one out in the third inning. He saved the Yankees season by pitching 6 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, giving up just one hit while the Yanks rebounded from a 4-0 deficit to win 5-4 on an eighth-inning HR by Johnny Lindell. Now tied going into the last game, the Yanks would then win the pennant 5-3 the following day. 

In the World Series, Page won Game 3, entering the game in the fourth inning. The series was even at a game apiece, and the score was tied at one apiece. The Dodgers had the bases loaded and one out. Page got out of the inning, inducing a popup and a groundout. He held the Dodgers scoreless into the ninth.


Page’s career came crashing to an end after that 1949 season. The workload, both on and OFF the field, caught up to him. In 1950, he pitched in only 37 games after having pitched in 56, 55 and 60 from 1947-1949. He went 3-7 with 13 saves, but with an ERA of 5.04, ERA+ 86. He only pitched in three games in September, and didn’t pitch in the World Series.

In his two World Series, Page was 2-1, 3.27, with two saves.


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Ron Guidry


Although  Ron Guidry won over 20 games three times in his career, he is remembered for having one of the greatest single seasons ever. He was 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA in 1978, won the Cy Young award unanimously, and finished second to Boston's Jim Rice in AL MVP voting. Guidry set club records that year in strikeouts (248) and consecutive wins at the start of a season (13). He called his Yankee-record 18 strikeouts against California on June 17 of that season "perhaps my greatest single thrill." He started the AL East playoff game on October 2, 1978 against Boston and won 5-4 in what was "probably the most tension-packed game I ever played in." Guidry was named TSN Player of the Year and Man of the Year and the Associated Press 's Male Athlete of the Year, and he made every all-star team. His nine shutouts tied Babe Ruth's AL record for a lefthander.


During the 1970s, Yankee management made a policy of acquiring pitchers through trades and free agent signings. As a result, Guidry did not find a regular place in the Yankee rotation until 1977, when he was 26 years old. Even then, there were those who felt that the 5'11" 160-lb lefty was too small to pitch effectively and last in the major leagues. Guidry dispelled the notion by going 16-7 that year and perfecting the wicked slider that became his bread and butter pitch. He went on to lead the majors in victories from 1977 through 1987 with 168, posting records of 18-8 (1979), 21-9 (1983), and 22-6 (1985). He is fourth on the all-time Yankee victory list (170), second in strikeouts (1,778), sixth in games and innings, and tied for sixth in shutouts (26). Guidry compiled a 5-2 postseason record, 3-1 in World Series play.


Guidry's success and durability were attributable in part to the fact that he was an outstanding athlete. He won five straight Gold Glove awards (1982-1986) and was twice used briefly in the outfield.


Guidry was slow to recover from elbow surgery following the 1988 season, and he started 1989 on the disabled list before beginning a rehabilitation assignment in June at Triple-A. When he didn't impress the Yankee management with his performance at Columbus, he retired from baseball on July 12, 1989.



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my favorite player is Mark Mcguire because He is the reason im into Baseball but besides him Randy Johnson i luved rj since i was 7 and I just caught on with he dbacks and Yankees when I was 7 and ive been a fan of both since.

​The Big Unit is AWESOME!!!!  Don't forget the mullet.  Business in the front and party in the back!  I wish Mark would've been clean.  He was already a part of the Bash Brothers before he hulked out with roids.  He still would've been a great and powerful hitter.  I have 4 Olympic Team 1984 Baseball cards that are pretty much worthless now.

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Luke Appling


Luke Appling 01.jpg


Luke Appling had the misfortune of playing for the White Sox during some of their leanest years. A decade before his arrival, the franchise had been devastated by the Black Sox scandal, when eight players conspired to fix the 1919 World Series and were banned from baseball, and the team did not compete again until the 1950s. Appling, a happy-go-lucky man and a notorious hypochondriac, was one of the Sox' few bright lights. He never got to play in a World Series, as his career was ending just as the team embarked on a period of competitiveness highlighted by their 1959 pennant.

At a time when America, along with the rest of the world, was struggling to cope with the worst depression in its history and the ominous rise of fascism in Europe, baseball provided some diversion from dark times. Appling started his major league career in 1930, just about the beginning of the Depression. The best word to describe Luke Appling is durability, a quality he showed throughout his baseball career and his life. He was emblematic of an America struggling through the Depression and digging into their psyches (perhaps unknowingly) to prepare for another world war. Appling endured and so did America.

"Old Aches and Pains," as Appling was called, was arguably the greatest hypochondriac to ever play the game. Backaches, headaches, bad knees, eye problems would torment him-and then he'd go out and get three hits.

Lucious Benjamin Appling, born in High Pont, North Carolina, on April 2, 1907, was clearly no slouch when he took the field. All of his medical complaints disappeared when game time came. He was so infirm that he managed to collect only 2,749 hits in a career that spanned twenty years, all with the Chicago White Sox. Appling never let a backache or headache get in the way of playing shortstop and getting in his licks as a hitter. He even complained about field conditions at Comiskey Park. "I swear that park must have been built on a junkyard," he exclaimed. It turned out later he was right.


The apex of his career came in 1936. He won the American League batting title with a .388 batting average, the highest in the twentieth century by a shortstop. Luke also had a 27-game hitting streak that year. After winning the batting title, Appling was promised a $5,000 bonus, but General Manager Harry Grabiner reneged. In disgust Appling tore up his 1937 contract. Lou Comiskey, the owner, withstood Appling's protests, and when Appling cooled down and was ready to play gave him a new contract. Unfortunately, it was for $2,500 less than he had wanted. In 1940 Appling, Rip Radcliff of the St. Louis Browns and Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees battled each other for the batting title with DiMaggio winning out.

The White Sox contended only once during Appling's tenure at short. They lacked power, so Appling, a natural leadoff hitter, batted third in the lineup. Never a slugger, he did manage to drive in 1,117 runs during his career. Appling remembered that his teammates were not great baserunners. Player-manager Jimmy Dykes instituted an automatic fine for any baserunning blunders The very next day Dykes was on second base when he became lost in thoughts about his managerial duties. He wandered off second base, wondering whether he should hit for the pitcher, and in a flash he was picked off. The players on the bench howled with delight and had some uncomplimentary words about the gaffe. When Dykes sheepishly returned to the bench he said, "All right say it, come on, I've got it coming," but no one said a word. Later he asked Appling why they didn't say anything. Appling replied, "They already said it before you got back to the dugout."

Championships eluded the White Sox and the Cubs year after year. Ironically, the two greatest players in Chicago, Luke Appling and Ernie Banks, both shortstops, never played in a World Series.


Appling was a pitcher's nightmare. He could and would foul off pitch after pitch until he got the one he wanted. Pitchers would get so frustrated they'd almost dare him to hit the blasted thing. Appling struck out only 528 times in his career and coaxed out 1,302 walks.

As one story goes, Appling once asked the tight-fisted business manager of the Sox for several balls to sign for friends. The business manager refused, citing the Depression and that each ball cost $2.75. Appling turned and walked out without a word. That afternoon in his first at bat he fouled off ten consecutive pitches into the stands. Turning to the club official in the owner's box, he said, "That's $27.50 and I'm just getting started."


Despite all his alleged ailments Appling was a good-natured person and popular with his teammates. The only White Sox player to win a batting championship until Frank Thomas, he was also voted the greatest White Sox living player by Chicago writers in 1969.

Appling entered the service in 1944 and returned to baseball late in 1945. At the time Appling entered the service his wife said, "The war will be over soon. Luke has never held a job for more than two weeks outside of baseball." His hitting did not suffer when he returned in 1945. He batted .368 in his shortened season.


Appling managed in the minors for quite a few years, winning pennants for Memphis in the Southern Association and Indianapolis of the American Association. Named Minor League Manager of the Year in 1952, he still had only one chance managing in the majors, at Kansas City replacing Alvin Dark. He was not very successful as his team went 10-30 during his tenure. He also managed at Richmond and coached in the majors at Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Kansas City. He served as batting instructor for the Braves until 1990.


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Richie Ashburn




Because he played in an era that featured such stalwart center fielders as Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider, Ashburn was sometimes overlooked by fans of the game. But during a 15-year big league career, the lefty swinging Ashburn twice won the National League batting title, finished second three times, and nine times batted over .300. A lifetime .308 hitter, his 1,198 walks and 2,574 hits helped him finish with a .397 on-base percentage.


“Ashburn is the fastest man I’ve ever seen getting down to first base,” said Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher in 1948. “He’s even faster than Pete Reiser in his prime. Anybody who’s faster than Ashburn isn’t running. He’s flying.”


Short and slight, the 5-foot-10, 170 pound Ashburn excelled from 1948 to 1959 as the prototypical leadoff hitter and center fielder with the Phillies. In possession of an excellent eye at the plate, he led the league in walks on four separate occasions and his 1958 season marked the first time a leadoff hitter paced the league in both batting average and bases on balls. Defensively, Ashburn set outfield marks with nine years of 400 or more putouts and four years with 500 or more.


After spending two seasons (1960-61) with the Chicago Cubs, Ashburn ended his playing career as a member of the expansion New York Mets for their inaugural 1962 season. Despite hitting .306 and being the lone All-Star representative for a team that lost a record 120 games, he become one of the few regulars to ever retire following a season in which they batted at least .300.


Though he left the field of play, Ashburn soon began a second career when he returned to Philadelphia as a member of the media. He joined the Phillies’ television-radio broadcasting team in 1963, where he would combine perceptive commentary with a wry sense of humor for 35 years.



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Mark Belanger




The most electrifying defensive shortstop of his generation, Mark Belanger set the standard by anchoring a great Baltimore Orioles infield for most of 14 seasons. During this stretch, Baltimore won 90 or more games 11 times with six postseason appearances capped by the 1970 world championship. Belanger and Ozzie Smith are the only shortstops to retire with fielding averages over .975 while averaging more than five fielding chances per game.


Belanger used two tiny black gloves per season and broke them in with spit and coffee. He got upset if anybody touched them. Watching him have a catch with a teammate on the sidelines was striking. He never seemed to actually catch a ball; rather he redirected them into his throwing hand. Sports Illustrated once wrote: “Belanger would glide effortlessly after a grounder and welcome it into loving arms; scooping the ball up with a single easy motion, and bringing it to his chest for a moment’s caress before making his throw.”


Belanger’s fielding prowess was due to the start-and-stop speed of an All-American high school basketball star, his lightning-quick hands, and what scouts called Belanger’s First Step. A student of pitch counts, locations, and batter tendencies, Belanger sprinted at odd angles for the big hop and is best appreciated in slow-motion video. His small glove transferred the ball to his right hand – the seams of the ball always aligned the same way – enabling him to uncoil a strong throw on his next left step. In 18 years, he never dove for a ball, insisting that an all-out sprint was faster and maintained the mechanics of the play. And he was supremely confident: He never wore a protective cup.


Called “the greatest shortstop prospect in baseball history,”  Belanger drew offers from many clubs but General Manager Harry Dalton was adamant: “I will never trade Belanger.” Playing behind Luis Aparicio, a seven-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner in his career thus far, Belanger showed uneven play in his rookie year of 1967. On April 30 he dropped Aparicio’s feed as a second baseman and allowed an unearned run to score to give Steve Barber a loss in what ended as a no-hit game. (Barber threw 8 2/3 no-hit innings and Stu Miller 1/3 in the loss.) The Orioles’ manager, Hank Bauer, still said Belanger “sparkled”  and Bauer liked the fact that Belanger hit well when given consecutive starts. Aparicio had an off-year and Belanger became his late-inning replacement. In the same May 14 game in which Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run, Belanger hit one off Yankee Stadium’s left-field pole, victimizing the Yankees’ Mel Stottlemyre.


In 1969 bullpen coach Charlie Lau approached Belanger to offer batting tips. Lau kept track of every pitch Belanger saw that year, sending him up to bat with instructions to take and swing on specific counts, and encouraging him to expect certain pitches in certain spots based on previous batter-pitcher matchups. Belanger responded with his best batting season ever, won his first of eight Gold Gloves, and earned the nickname Blade for his silhouette as Baltimore rolled to a team record 109 wins. He hit for a .287 average with 50 RBIs.


Belanger became a respected member of the team, offering an articulate clubhouse interview and buffering Earl Weaver’s rants. Between the foul lines he was no-joke, all business, directing fielders to shade right or left and approaching rookies and new players with the abrupt “We don’t do it that way” – a line he even used on Jim Palmer in 1978. Backed by veterans Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson, Belanger became a leader on the team, replacing Davey Johnson as assistant player representative. Even in the loose clubhouse atmosphere after wins, Belanger elevated small talk into something relevant without being called a clubhouse lawyer. Late after games, Belanger was still in his canvas chair by his locker talking baseball through a haze of Marlboro cigarette smoke and sips of National Bohemian beer. When the team’s mock “Kangaroo Court” was in session, Belanger was often fined one dollar for ludicrous imperfections, to which he would exclaim: “I appeal!”


In 1970 Charlie Lau signed with Oakland, and Belanger jammed his thumb in March. He was described as lost at the plate, batting “all-arm”  without a clue. He developed “projection room eyes”  from looking at so much film, but all he got for it was a .218 average and a mountain of broken bats. He did hit .333 in the American League Championship Series – in the opener against Minnesota, Belanger’s soft liner off pitcher Jim Perry’s glove was called the turning point, loading the bases for Mike Cuellar’s fourth-inning grand slam. Belanger hit just .105 in the World Series, but celebrated the Orioles’ victory anyway. The next year he rebounded to a more respectable .266 and captured his second Gold Glove.


The tradeoff between Belanger’s lousy offense and great defense was usually one Weaver was willing to make, but he was not above trying to gain an edge. In September of 1975, Weaver often used Royle Stillman as the shortstop high in the starting lineup in road games, allowing rookie Stillman to bat in the first inning and Belanger to replace him in the bottom of the first. Stillman was an outfielder, and never played an inning of shortstop in his career, despite his six “starts” there in 1975. He hit 3-for-6 in these games.


Belanger holds the American League career record for being pinch-hit for – 333 times. And if he wasn’t being pinch-hit for, he was sacrificing; his league-leading 23 sacrifices in 1975 were an Oriole record at least through 2009. In 1976, Belanger carried a .300 average into June and earned over a million votes in the All-Star balloting, making the team as a backup. When Peter Gammons wrote, “Belanger could be the first 140 lb. weakling to win the MVP award,”  Belanger sought him out at Fenway Park and confronted him: “I’m 170 pounds, and I’m not a weakling.”  The next year, writing for Sports Illustrated, Gammons called Belanger “the leader of the club.”  One of the last players to represent himself and not use an agent, Belanger signed after 1976 for $60,000, a contract that was later extended through the end of the 1981 season.



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Duke Snider


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The Yankees had Mickey Mantle, the Giants had Willie Mays and the Brooklyn Dodgers had “The Duke of Flatbush.” At the time when there were three New York baseball teams, the team that had your allegiance was as important in the five boroughs as life itself, and in the 1950’s nobody represented Brooklyn baseball more than Duke Snider. Those team rivalries of yesterday live on a half century later with members of that generation. Willie Mays recalled “Duke was a fine man, a terrific hitter and a great friend, even though he was a Dodger.”


Edwin Donald Snider was called Duke his entire life. He got the nickname from his parents as a young boy because of the way he strutted around like he was royalty. On the baseball field, Duke was royalty. He gracefully patrolled center field in Brooklyn and was one of the most prolific power hitters of the 1950s, as he hit more home runs and had more RBI in the decade than any other player.


Duke’s star seemed to have shone brightest when the pressure was on. In 1949, on the season’s final day, he drove in the winning run to clinch the pennant for the Dodgers and in 1955 he led Brooklyn to their one and only World Series victory over the Yankees. In total, Snider hit .286 with 11 home runs and 26 RBI in 36 World Series games, and is the only player to hit at least 4 home runs in two different Fall Classics.


In 1957, when the Dodgers played their final game in Brooklyn before moving to Los Angeles, it was Duke Snider that hit the last home run ever in Ebbets Field, and fittingly that home run was hit off Robin Roberts. In his career Snider hit 19 home runs off of Roberts - no other batter in major league history has hit that many home runs off of a single pitcher.


Snider hit .295 with 407 career home runs, played in the World Series six times and won two titles. But the eight-time All-Star was defined by much more than his stats -- he was, after all, part of the love affair between Brooklyn and "Dem Bums" who lived in the local neighborhoods.


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Ron Hunt

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In his 12-year career Ron Hunt batted .273 with 39 home runs and 370 RBIs in 1483 games played. He was also one of the most difficult batters to strike out, fanning 382 times in 5235 at-bats, or once in every 13.70 at-bats. In 1973, he set an Expos record by only striking out 19 times in 401 at-bats, the fewest ever in franchise history by a player who had at least 400 at-bats on the season.


But it was his talent for getting hit by pitches that made him famous. Pull up a chair and read on.


In 1964, Ron Hunt was a young second baseman just starting to make his bones in the big leagues. He played for the Mets, a terrible team still years away from transforming into Amazin’ glory. On May 9 of that year, they were playing the mighty Cardinals, a loaded team that would go on to win the World Series. The man on the mound that day was Bob Gibson, one of the best and most terrifying fireballers in baseball history.


Gibson had staked the Cards to a big lead, and he now needed just two more outs to bag a complete-game win. Hunt was due up next, and he knew all about Gibson’s blazing fastball, his tendency to come inside with it, and his neverending quest to intimidate batters into submission.


“I started messing with my shoelaces,” said Hunt 51 years later, speaking in short, hard-edged bursts from his farm in Wentzville, Missouri.


At the time, he figured that fiddling with his laces and stalling for time would do one of two things: Break Gibson’s concentration, piss the big right-hander off, or both. A warning rang out from the dugout: “ ‘Gibson is gonna drill you!’ Sure enough, he hits me.”

Shaking off the impact of the pitch, Hunt spotted the ball coming to rest near his feet. He picked it up, turned toward Gibson … and flipped it back to him. Trotting down to first base, Hunt was greeted by first baseman Bill White, who wanted to know if Hunt was OK after getting drilled by the one fastball that caused more nightmares than any other of his generation.


“Yeah, I’m all right,” Hunt replied indignantly. “Now tell that blankety-blank to go warm up!”


In 1971 he was hit by 50 pitches when playing for the Montreal Expos. This is how he did it, in his own words.


“First I would blouse the uniform — this big, wool uniform, I would make sure it was nice and loose,” Hunt said. “Then I’d choke way up on the bat, and stand right on top of the plate. That way, I could still reach the outside pitch. That was the Gil Hodges philosophy on hitting: The two inches on the outside corner were the pitcher’s, the rest was his. I thought, ‘If I can take away those two inches, and he’s not perfect, I can put the ball in play and get some hits. And if he comes inside, I can get on base that way, too.’ ”


Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne:


“The ball would be headed toward his elbow or his ribcage,” said Dave Van Horne, who called Expos games on TV and radio for the first 32 years of the franchise’s existence. “He would turn his back away from the pitcher and deflect the ball with that spin move, so that he avoided those direct hits. To the average person, it would look like he was trying to get out of the way of the pitch, when, in fact, he just wanted to stand in there and take it.”


“Did the umpires know what he was doing?” Van Horne asked rhetorically. “Sure. But I don’t think they wanted to get into many arguments with him!”


At 6 feet tall, 186 pounds, Hunt wasn’t the biggest guy, even if he was strong for his size. But it was his fearlessness, as well as his quick and nasty temper, that earned him respect within the game. No other player, then or now, had the courage to flip baseballs back to pitchers after getting hit. Most players don’t want to piss off the guy who could hold your life in his hands, and really don’t want to do it when that guy is Bob Gibson.


Never was Hunt’s win-at-all costs approach better on display than in 1971. His HBP pace started relatively slowly that season, with Hunt getting hit seven times in his first 33 games. Then on May 26, he put on a clinic, reaching base four times in five trips to the plate, via a walk, a trademark slap single, and two plunks in an 11-1 over the Braves. On June 6, Padres lefty Dave Roberts fired a nine-hit shutout against the Expos … and Hunt still found a way to get hit twice. On June 25, he absorbed three blows in a single day, with one HBP in the first game of a doubleheader, and two more in the nightcap; that first one came against Nolan Ryan, whose fastball could bore a hole into Fort Knox. Finally, on Aug. 7, Hunt led off the game against Reds right-hander Jim McGlothlin … and got nailed for the 32nd time that season, breaking the 20th-century record held by long-ago Cardinals outfielder Bobby Evans.


But he still had 18 bruises and one major brawl to go. Ten days later, Hunt led off the top of the third against Padres righty Steve Arlin. He took a fastball in the ribs, winced, then watched the ball come to a dead stop right next to him. Keeping with tradition, Hunt picked the ball up and gently tossed it back to Arlin. His next at-bat came in the fifth, with a runner on first and nobody out. Again Arlin tried to come inside with a fastball. Again he whacked Hunt with the pitch, this time on the arm. The ball bounded a few feet up the first-base line. Hunt walked toward it, ready to scoop the ball up and lob it back. Padres catcher Bob Barton, widely regarded as a nice guy, had had enough of Hunt’s act. Barton scurried to the ball, and grabbed it before Hunt could get it. Hunt turned toward Barton, ripped his mask off with two hands, and punched him right in the jaw. A fight ensued, the benches emptied, and in the end Hunt was the only player ejected. He returned to the lineup the next day and got drilled by Padres lefty Fred Norman.


While being known for the talent to get hit by pitches Hunt was also a two-time All-Star and he finished second in the 1963 National League rookie of the year voting behind Pete Rose of Cincinnati.


Ron Hunt 02.jpg



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Bill Terry


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Bill Terry's big league career almost ended before it began. Once he got his chance though, Terry became one of the National League's best first baseman of the 1920s and '30s, followed by a highly successful managerial career.


Terry originally tried to make it as a pitcher in the mid-1910s. He had some fine seasons in the minor leagues, but was never signed by a big league club. He actually got out of professional ball for a time, taking a job with Standard Oil in Memphis. He continued playing for his plant's team though, and in 1922 he was brought to the attention of New York Giants manager John McGraw.


Much to McGraw's surprise, Terry wouldn't join the Giants unless McGraw made it worth his while, and the two would always have a frosty relationship. McGraw eventually relented, and Terry cemented himself as the Giants' everyday first baseman in 1925 when he hit .319, the second best average on the team, in his first season as a regular.


Terry never batted under .320 in the nine seasons in which he received over 500 at-bats. He finished second in the National League in batting three times but only captured a batting title once, when he hit .401 in 1930. He led the Giants in average every year from 1929-35.


The left-handed hitting Terry concentrated on hitting balls up the middle and to left-center. While he did have three 20-home run seasons and hit 154 for his career, some observers felt he could've hit more if he'd taken advantage of the short porches down the lines at the Polo Grounds.


Terry succeeded McGraw as the Giants' manager in the middle of the 1932 season. A year later, the 34-year-old Terry managed the Giants to the 1933 World Series title while continuing to be their leading hitter with a .322 average. Terry intended to end his playing career after the 1935 season, but he reversed course in the middle of 1936 and played through severe knee problems, continuing to hit while leading the Giants back to the World Series, though they lost to the Yankees.


Terry did retire as a player after 1936, but he continued managing the Giants for another five seasons, including another NL pennant in 1937. He had over 800 wins as a manager when his career ended in 1941.


"Bill Terry was the finest playing manager I ever saw," Giants second baseman Burgess Whitehead said. "He was always thinking ahead. He was a great fielder and when he was on first, I did not have to worry about my left."


Bill Terry 02.jpg



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Bob Shawkey


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Prior to 1923, the largest attendance at a baseball game was 47,373 at Game 2 of the 1916 World Series. This record was shattered on Opening Day, April 18, 1923, when 74,200 fans filled the brand-new Yankee Stadium to see the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox. The Seventh Regiment Band, led by John Philip Sousa, played the national anthem, and New York Governor Alfred E. Smith threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The noise produced by the crowd was overwhelming. Yankee manager Miller Huggins selected 32-year-old Bob Shawkey as his starting pitcher. Amidst the din and excitement, Shawkey coolly delivered a complete game and allowed only three hits in a 4-1 Yankee victory. He singled in the third inning and scored the first run, and Babe Ruth smacked the first home run, in the stadium that became known as “The House That Ruth Built.” This game was “the greatest thrill of my life,” said Shawkey


A four-time 20-game winner, Shawkey played on seven American League champion teams and won 195 games over 15 seasons. “He has a beautiful fastball with a great hop to it,” said Amos Rusie. Shawkey was also known for his sharp-breaking curveball. One of the smartest pitchers in baseball, Shawkey kept a mental book on hitters and their tendencies. “Pitching,” he said, “is first and last a study of the batter and a never-ending effort to give him something that he doesn’t want.” “Sailor Bob” (aka “Bob the Gob”) Shawkey served in the Navy in World War I. He taught baseball in Japan with Ty Cobb, and he mined for gold in Canada. He was industrious, adventurous, and affable.


On July 16, 1913, Shawkey made his major league debut with the first-place Athletics, allowing two runs in seven innings to the Chicago White Sox. He shut out the Detroit Tigers in his third start and pitched a two-hitter against the second-place Cleveland Indians in August. He admired Mack and veteran pitchers Chief Bender and Jack Coombs who mentored him. “I was throwing too much with my arm,” said Shawkey. Bender “showed me how to get my body into it.” Bender and Coombs declared the 22-year-old phenom to be “one of the finds of the game.


Shawkey was acquired by the Yankees midway through an uninspired 1915 season. His 1916 season was outstanding: a 17-10 record in 27 starts, plus a 7-4 record and league-leading eight saves in 26 relief appearances. His 24 wins were second in the AL behind Walter Johnson, and his 2.21 ERA ranked eighth in the league. Shawkey’s work as both a starter and reliever in 1916 was unusual: The only other pitcher in major league history to start at least 24 games, and finish at least 24 games as a reliever, was Mordecai Brown in 1911. Shawkey “is beyond any doubt one of the best right-handers in the game,” wrote Grantland Rice.


In 1920, Shawkey again won 20 games, including eleven consecutive victories from May 12 to July 23. His 2.45 ERA was the best in the league. The Yankees finished three games behind the first-place Indians, despite Shawkey’s 6-1 record and two shutouts against the Tribe. His greatest nemesis was Indians outfielder Elmer Smith. “I couldn’t seem to fool him,” said Shawkey. “He would hit me no matter what I gave him.” Six of Smith’s 70 career home runs were launched off Shawkey’s pitches. “He was a good fastball pitcher,” said Smith, “but I hit him like I owned him.”  Another nemesis was Clarence “Tillie” Walker, who hit eleven of his 118 home runs off Shawkey.


For each season from 1919 through 1924, Shawkey ranked in the top four in the American League in strikeouts. During that period, he accumulated 743 strikeouts, and only Walter Johnson had more strikeouts (761) among AL hurlers. Shawkey “worked slowly and methodically” on the mound in a “steady, unemotional manner.”  He was “the most maddening deliberate pitcher I ever saw,” said Waite Hoyt. Shawkey’s walk rate was average for a major league pitcher and noticeably higher than the walk rates of other elite pitchers. In games in which he walked six or more batters, though, he was “effectively wild” with a 14-7 record and 2.87 ERA.


Shawkey's last season was in 1927. He finished with a 195 - 150 record with a 3.09 ERA.


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Ken Singleton


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Over a ten year Orioles career that spanned more than 6,000 plate appearances, Ken Singleton batted .284/.388/.445 and finished in the top three of the league MVP voting on two separate occasions. For someone who's used to watching plate discipline-starved Orioles teams, it's Singleton's on-base percentage that stands out when looking back now.


Singleton walked over 100 times in three different seasons and had another three seasons where he was in the 90s for number of walks. No surprise that he had an on-base percentage over .400 in four years. The Orioles have yet to have a player record 100 walks in one season since the 21st century began. The last was Albert Belle in 1999, although Nick Markakis did have 99 in 2007, but 99 is not 100. His .388 OBP in his O's career stands behind only Frank Robinson on the franchise leaderboard.


That Orioles career began when the team cashed in on the end of Dave McNally's career, dealing him to Montreal, where Singleton spent three seasons in his mid-20s. It's good to draft well, but it's just as good to trade well. He turned in one of those 100-walk, .400+ OBP seasons in his first year in an O's uniform, dropping 37 doubles and 15 home runs in the process.


Two years later, in 1977, he had one of those unicorns, a .300/.400/.500 season, on his way to finishing third in the MVP voting. With a 165 OPS+, he was 65% better than the average batter that season. That was the best he hit compared to his peers in his career, but over the decade he was on the Orioles, he was still 35% better than everyone else. Not many hitters are so much better than the league for a decade or more. That's what makes him one of the franchise best.


As the team surged into the 1979 World Series, Singleton had another near-MVP caliber season in the eyes of the baseball writers. He finished second in the voting, coming in with a .295/.405/.533 batting line. This was one of his 100+ walk seasons, and he had a career-high 35 homers at the age of 32. Pitchers walked him intentionally 16 times, more than even the 12 intentional walks given to Chris Davis in his 53 homer season.


Singleton was still going strong four years later when the team found themselves back in the postseason again. Though he was 36, by then a full-time designated hitter, he was still an important part of the team. If all you do is hit, you'd better be good at it. He hit .276/.393/.436, walking 99 times, 19 of which were intentional, and hitting 18 home runs. That'll do, indeed.


The 1,446 games he played as an Oriole are eighth-most in the 60 years of Orioles history. He had 1,455 hits - sixth-most - meaning he averaged more than one hit per game played, and added 886 walks (fourth-most) besides. Within a single season, runs batted in don't reveal much, but it does show that he came through when it mattered that he had 766 RBI in his O's career, which is fifth on the franchise leaderboard. Double digit home runs in nine out of ten years left him with 182, coming in seventh. In every category you look, he's there.


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Nap Rucker


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Nap Rucker was one of the Deadball Era's top left-handed pitchers. Brooklyn's winning percentage was an even .500 when the hard-throwing Southerner got the decision, but without him the Superbas played .430 ball, losing 175 more games than they won. "The Rucker appendage is the only thing that has kept Brooklyn in the league," wrote the New York Herald, while the Brooklyn Eagle lamented that "the fates have tied him up with an aggregation that has steadfastly refused to make a bid for championship honors." Still, the gentlemanly Rucker loved pitching for the blue-collar borough. "It's got New York beaten by three bases," he told a reporter in 1912. "You can get a good night's rest in Brooklyn. You meet more real human beings in Brooklyn. Your life is safer in Brooklyn."


The son of a former Confederate soldier, George Napoleon Rucker was born on September 30, 1884, in Crabapple, Georgia, just north of Atlanta.


In 1909 Rucker set a career-high with 201 strikeouts, and on July 24 of that season he struck out 16 St. Louis Cardinals, tying the modern record that stood until Dizzy Dean broke it in 1933. (Nap always claimed that he fanned 17 that day, but a lackadaisical official scorer whose name he still remembered--Abe Yager--forgot to record one of them.) Once again he was the best pitcher on a terrible team, going 13-19 despite a 2.24 ERA. His record improved to 17-18 in 1910, the year he led the NL with 320 innings pitched, 27 complete games, and six shutouts. Rucker started 1911 with six consecutive losses--during which Brooklyn scored a total of 10 runs--but rebounded to post the only 20-win season of his career, finishing at 22-18. In 1912, however, he reached the 20-loss plateau, going 18-21 despite a 2.21 ERA, more than a full run better than the league average.


All the strikeouts, no-hit bids, and low ERAs brought Rucker acclaim as one of the NL's fastest pitchers. On October 6, 1912, he and Walter Johnson became the first to have their throwing speed scientifically measured when they submitted to testing at the Remington Arms Plant in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Using copper wires set up several feet apart, the rudimentary test measured the amount of time it took the pitches to travel a given distance. It almost certainly underestimated the pitcher's speed: Rucker tested at 113 feet per second (77 mph), Johnson at 122 (83 mph). When not subjecting himself to speed-throwing experiments, the Brooklyn lefthander spent his off-seasons as a typesetter for the Marietta Free Press, a newspaper owned by a cousin. To his managers' dismay, he also spent much of his winters eating peanuts and ice cream. Never one for vigorous training, Rucker routinely reported to camp weighing 210 lbs., though by Opening Day he was usually down to his playing weight of 180.


On August 1, 1916, Rucker pitched 5.2 innings of scoreless relief against Cincinnati to earn the 134th and final victory of his major league career. The win evened his lifetime record at 134-134, with 28 percent of those victories coming by shutout (the second-highest percentage in history, behind only Ed Walsh). His career 2.42 ERA was 85 percent of the league average, which was 2.85 over the same period. To honor its best pitcher of the Deadball Era, Brooklyn held a "Nap Rucker Day" at Ebbets Field on October 2, 1916. "I will not monkey around with baseball any more," the veteran southpaw said on the occasion. "I have had my day, and it has been a long one, in which I have made money and gained thousands of friends." Knowing that Rucker would retire after the season, Wilbert Robinson allowed him two innings of mop-up duty in Game Four of the 1916 World's Series. Rucker pitched scoreless ball, striking out three Red Sox in his swansong.


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Mike Schmidt


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Mike Schmidt was a second-round pick out of Ohio University in 1971, one pick after George Brett was selected by the Royals. Signed by legendary Phillies scout Tony Lucadello, Schmidt didn’t spend long in the minors, making his major league debut on Sept. 12, 1972. Because of that, he took some lumps as a rookie in 1973, hitting just .196/.324/.373. But Schmidt turned things around in a hurry—making the All-Star team in 1974 and never looking back. Schmidt was a 12-time all-star during his career.


Home runs were Schmidt’s calling card at the plate. He led the National League in homers eight times during his career and his 48 home runs in 1980 set the Major League record for a third baseman, which he held for 27 years until Alex Rodriguez broke it. On April 18, 1987, Schmidt became the 14th member of the 500 home run club and finished his career with 548.


Along with the power, Schmidt also led the National League in strikeouts four times and retired with the third-most strikeouts in major league history. However, Schmidt drew walks almost as often as he struck out.


In the field, Schmidt was a graceful defender at third base and was occasionally the Phillies’ emergency shortstop. Schmidt was a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner and won six Silver Slugger Awards. He was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1980, 1981 and 1986.


The Phillies won the World Series in 1980, beating the Royals in six games, and Schmidt was named World Series MVP.


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Mel Stottlemyre


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A baseball lifer, Mel Stottlemyre burst on the scene as a midseason call-up for the New York Yankees in 1964, helping the club win its fifth consecutive pennant and starting three games in the World Series. One of the most underrated and overlooked pitchers of his generation, Stottlemyre won 149 games and averaged 272 innings per season over a nine-year stretch (1965-1973) that corresponded with the nadir of Yankees history. Only Bob Gibson (166 victories), Gaylord Perry (161), Mickey Lolich (156), and Juan Marichal (155) won more during that period; only Perry tossed more innings, and only Gibson fired more shutouts (43) than Stottlemyre’s 38.


Just 19 years old, the unheralded Stottlemyre began his professional baseball career splitting his time with the Class-D Harlan (Kentucky) Smokies in the Appalachian League and the Auburn (New York) Yankees in the New York-Penn League in 1961. A combined 9-4 record and 3.27 ERA in 99 innings earned him a promotion to Class-B Greensboro in 1962. Described by sportswriter Moses Crutchfield as the “hottest prospect” in the Carolina League, Stottlemyre relied on a fastball, slider, and sinker to post a 17-9 record with a stellar 2.50 ERA in a league leading 241 innings, including a stretch of 28⅔ scoreless frames early in the season.  “His biggest asset,” wrote Crutchfield, “is his ability to keep the ball low.” That quality turned out to be Stottlemyre’s calling card to the big leagues.


The Yankees brass was impressed with Stottlemyre’s unexpectedly quick progress. He was invited to participate in spring training in 1963 as a nonroster player and was subsequently assigned to the Triple-A Richmond Virginians (International League). The youngest player on the club, Stottlemyre struggled against seasoned competition, posting a 7-7 record and splitting his time between starts (16) and relief appearances (23). The Yankees, fresh off a 104-win season that ended in a drubbing by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, did not invite the 22-year-old to spring training in 1964. Stottlemyre began the season in the bullpen for Richmond, but the lanky righty scuttled those plans by tossing a shutout in a spot start on Memorial Day. He worked his way into the rotation and won 10 consecutive decisions, earning a berth on the league’s All-Star team.


While Stottlemyre was leading the IL in wins (13), ERA (1.42), and shutouts (6), the Yankees were in a tense, three-way battle with the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox for the 1964 pennant. When longtime ace Whitey Ford went down with a hip injury in late July, New York called up Stottlemyre, who arrived on August 11.


Stottlemyre’s debut on August 12 was “movie script stuff,” wrote New York sportswriter Til Ferdenzi. The rookie tossed a complete-game seven-hitter to defeat Chicago, 7-3. In what developed into a refrain heard over the next decade, hitters pummeled Stottlemyre’s sinker into the ground all afternoon. “He sure knows how to serve up those grounders,” said batterymate John Blanchard as the Yankees recorded 19 groundouts. Stottlemyre’s fairy tale continued throughout the regular season. On September 17 he recorded his seventh victory in nine starts to give the Yankees a psychological boost by pushing them into first place, tied with the Orioles and White Sox, for the first time in almost six weeks. Nine days later, he blanked the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium on two hits (his first of seven career two-hitters) and tied a big-league record for pitchers by collecting five hits (four singles and a double). The Yankees’ most effective hurler, Stottlemyre finished the campaign with a 9-3 record and a team-best 2.06 ERA in 96 innings. Most importantly, Stottlemyre stabilized a shaky staff and helped the club win 34 of its final 52 games and capture its fifth consecutive AL pennant.


Stottlemyre’s success is often attributed to his sinker, which Yankees coach Jim Hegan compared to that of his former batterymate with the Cleveland Indians, Hall of Famer Bob Lemon. They both threw the sinker overhand, whereas most throw it side-arm or three-quarters because of how difficult a pitch it is to control. Said Stottlemyre, “When [the wind] blows in, I may be a bit faster, but my ball straightens out. When the ball blows out, my ball sinks.” Cerebral and reflective, Stottlemyre also succeeded because of his ability to adjust over time. Around 1962 he took pitching coach Johnny Sain’s advice and began gripping the ball with the seams instead of across them in order to get a bigger break. This change made his fastball as effective as his sinker. “I created some movement with my delivery and the way I held the ball, but mostly it was just natural.” Often touted for his good control (2.7 walks per nine innings in his career), Stottlemyre himself admitted, “I couldn’t throw the ball straight if I wanted to.”


People regularly praised Stottlemyre for his character, sportsmanship, and unassuming leadership. “He doesn’t moan when you don’t get him runs,” said Houk, “[or] when they kick ones behind him.” Quiet and self-effacing, Stottlemyre rarely sought the spotlight or chewed out his teammates. He was seen as “old school” before the term was common, an embodiment of Yankees style more reflective of the 1940s and 1950s than the mid- to late 1960s and early 1970s. “In the second-division days around the stadium,” wrote beat reporter Jim Ogle, “Stottlemyre is one Yankee who retains the old championship aura and class.” Stottlemyre’s outwardly quiet demeanor belied a passion and desire to succeed. Said one-time Yankees backup catcher Bob Schmidt, “He works like a machine, never showing his feelings. Inside he’s thinking and fighting and planning to win.”


A quiet, unassuming player and a dedicated, well respected coach, Stottlemyre spent almost 50 years in Organized Baseball. He lived his final years in Washington state and died after a long battle with bone marrow cancer at the age of 77 on January 13, 2019, in Seattle.


Mel Stottlemyre 02.jpg



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