Names from the Cleveland Buckeye’s Past: Sam Jethroe and Eddie Klepp (Who’s He?)

I’m pleased to present this guest post from Joe Guzzardi, who regularly contributes Wednesday and Saturday articles here. Due to technical issues, today’s post is a little later than usual but worth the wait. It highlights Sam Jethroe, a forgotten Negro League great, and Eddie Klepp, who also played in that league– as a white pitcher.


Last week, at our SABR Forbes Field Chapter fall meeting, Stephanie Liscio, president of the neighboring Cleveland Jack Graney Chapter, talked about her new book, Integrating Cleveland Baseball.

Cleveland, whose Indians was one of baseball’s first integrated teams, with the addition of Larry Doby on July 2, 1947, had to cope with their city rivals, the Negro American League Buckeyes. The two teams competed for the African-American fan’s support.

Liscio, a Ph.D. candidate at Case Western Reserve University, chronicled the dismal history of Cleveland’s Negro League baseball teams. All failed until the Buckeyes which in 1945 became the world champion Negro League team and won the Negro American League pennant in 1947. One of Liscio’s major focuses is the role played by the African-American Cleveland newspaper, the Call & Post, efforts to integrate Major League baseball.

During her presentation, Liscio talked about Eddie Klepp, a white pitcher who in 1946 joined the Buckeyes as part of an experiment (some say a stunt) in integrating Negro League baseball.

Klepp turned out to be an unfortunate choice. His career was limited to a few innings pitched and was sandwiched in between two stretches for larceny and burglary.

Another Buckeye made a more lasting and positive impression. Before joining the major leagues in 1950, Sam “The Jet” Jethroe was the premier base stealer in the Negro League and led the league in batting average in 1944 and 1945. In six seasons with the Buckeyes, Jethroe had a .342 career batting average and was been selected to the East-West All-Star game four times.

When Jethroe joined the Boston Braves in 1950, he was named the National League Rookie of the Year. By that time, Jethroe was at least 32 and remains the oldest player to win the Rookie of the Year award. In two of his three seasons in the majors, he led the NL in stolen bases. In the first year Jethroe accomplished this, when he posted 35 steals in 1950, he fell just shy of swiping 10 percent of the bases in his league, a feat only a handful of ballplayers have accomplished.

By 1952, Jethroe’s production dropped dramatically. Although he rallied with a .307 batting average in Toledo in 1953, Jethroe’s career was over. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954, Jethroe appeared in only two games.

At the end of his major league career, he had accumulated a .261 average, 49 home runs, 181 RBIs and 98 stolen bases in 442 games.

I recommend adding Integrating Cleveland Baseball to your library.

Liscio has a limited number of discounted copies available. Contact her directly. Otherwise you can order from Amazon or the publisher, McFarland.


Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at

The Name Game

I’m pleased to present this guest post from Gerry Garte, who recently began contributing here. Today, Gerry writes about the many names for the Florida Marlins’ home park. As a bonus, in honor of Thanksgiving, Gerrys closes with a Baseball: Past and Present first: a poem. Long ago, sportswriters like Grantland Rice published books of verse, but that kind of thing has been curiously absent from the blogosphere, sports media in general, and definitely this Web site.


It was a couple months ago when I first saw the huge Sun Life Stadium sign. I had gone to see the Marlins face the visiting Cardinals.

About 23 years before that, the stadium had opened as Joe Robbie Stadium, new home of the Miami Dolphins in northwest Dade County.  Joe Robbie was owner of the Dolphins when they joined the American Football League in 1966. In 1970, he hired Don Shula away from the Baltimore Colts.

Unlike most stadiums that have been built in the past 30 years, Joe Robbie Stadium was built solely through private funding.

At the time, my parents lived about seven or eight miles directly east of the stadium. When the Dolphins had a night game at home, a roaring stadium crowd could often be heard at my folks’ house.

Mr. Robbie had the stadium built to also accommodate a future MLB club. In 1990, he passed away. But three years later, after the Marlins gained admittance to the National League, they played their baseball at Joe Robbie.

In 1996, the name-changing craziness started. Since then, the stadium has had six different names: Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and now Sun Life Stadium.

No other current ballpark in Major League Baseball has had near as many name changes.

Here’s a quick rundown of current baseball stadiums that have endured name changes:

Angels:  Anaheim Field to Edison International Field of Anaheim to Angel Stadium of Anaheim

A’s:  Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to Network Associates Coliseum to McAfee Coliseum back to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Blue Jays:  Skydome to Rogers Centre

Diamondbacks:  Bank One Ballpark to Chase Field

Giants: Pacific Bell Park to SBC Park to AT&T Park (Editor’s note: The Simpsons recently made light of this in the SABR-themed episode, “Moneybart.”)

Indians:  Jacobs Field to Progressive Field

Royals:  Royals Stadium to Kauffman Stadium

White Sox:  new Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Field

In 2012, the Marlins will be moving to their own stadium, located at the downtown site of the former Orange Bowl, which housed the original Dolphins and the University of Miami. Hopefully, whatever name is chosen for the stadium (currently Marlins Ballpark) will stick.

I know money talks when stadium name-changes are discussed. But for my money and my memory, it’s best to keep name changes to a minimum.

— — —

In celebration of the great American holiday, Thanksgiving, I offer a poem:

Giving Thanks

The coast of New England, a harvest grown strong
The pilgrims of Plymouth work hard and work long.
A festival of feast, for thanksgiving they pray
Gathered in worship, with faith they did stay.
America’s birth, its patriotic splendor
The fourth of our Thursdays in the month of November.
–Gerry Garte

Gerry Garte belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research. Email him at

Any player/Any era: Willie Mays

What he did: After last week’s column where I took a non-Hall of Famer, Jack Clark and saw how he would compare to Joe DiMaggio by playing his career, I went another direction. Willie Mays is one of the greatest players ever, possibly the greatest– I rate him second to Babe Ruth. What may not be appreciated about Mays is he played much of his career in an era ruled by pitchers. A .302 hitter lifetime, Mays might have batted .330 in Ruth’s time. And if Mays were matched season-for-season with Barry Bonds, baseball might have a different home run king.

Era he might have thrived in: We’ll plug Mays into every season of Bonds’ career from 1986 through 2007, since their career spans line up almost perfectly, and we’ll give Mays credit for the time he lost 1952-53 for Korean War service. By doing this, Mays easily overtakes Ruth in home runs, and depending how one looks at it, might have enough to beat out Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs or Bonds’ 762.

Why: There are two big reasons Mays sees a boost. First, he gains two solid seasons of production for the time he missed with Korea. Second, his career peak occurs 1996 through 2000, one of the greatest offensive periods in baseball history, instead of 1961 through 1965, one of the bleakest. He also plays his entire career with 162-game seasons, instead of just from 1961 on. Bottom line, in a better time for hitters, Mays might have arguably the best offensive numbers in baseball history. I also have greater appreciation now for Mays’ real numbers, which were hard-won.

There are a few ways to forecast Mays’ numbers here. Lately, I have been using the stat converter on which can adjust numbers between different eras. Using this tool, I went year by year for Mays, converting the 1951 New York Giants to the 1986 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1952 Giants to the 1987 Pirates, and so on.

Here’s how it comes out for Mays:

86 PIT (51) 126 477 58 127 22 5 20 66 7 57 .266
87 PIT (52) 147 544 116 170 27 7 34 101 17 76 .313
88 PIT (53) 147 526 92 152 25 6 31 84 15 69 .291
89 PIT (54) 159 570 103 181 31 12 38 95 7 61 .318
90 PIT (55) 160 598 114 182 18 13 50 118 24 77 .304
91 PIT (56) 159 595 99 170 27 8 36 83 40 68 .286
92 PIT (57) 159 591 103 183 25 19 33 89 36 71 .310
93 SF (58) 160 636 128 224 32 12 32 102 34 84 .352
94 SF (59) 111 426 93 135 32 3 26 78 20 49 .317
95 SF (60) 142 561 109 185 28 12 28 106 24 60 .330
96 SF (61) 161 598 137 184 33 3 42 131 19 85 .308
97 SF (62) 162 622 132 190 36 5 50 143 18 79 .305
98 SF (63) 157 612 133 203 35 8 42 119 9 71 .332
99 SF (64) 157 595 140 188 23 10 52 129 21 90 .316
00 SF (65) 155 566 130 187 22 3 55 123 9 81 .330
01 SF (66) 152 554 101 161 30 4 38 105 5 71 .291
02 SF (67) 141 494 91 136 23 2 23 77 7 54 .275
03 SF (68) 147 522 111 170 23 6 27 103 14 79 .326
04 SF (69) 117 417 74 128 19 3 15 68 6 55 .307
05 SF (70) 139 484 94 145 15 2 29 83 5 82 .300
06 SF (71) 136 446 102 142 30 6 22 76 29 141 .318
07 SF (72) 92 267 45 76 14 1 10 28 5 75 .285
TOTAL 3186 11701 2305 3619 574 150 733 2107 371 1635 .309
REAL 2992 10881 2062 3283 523 140 660 1903 338 1464 .302

(On a side note, I arrived at Mays’ 1952 and 1953 totals by taking his 162-game averages if he’d played every year of his career on the 1987 and 1988 Pirates, respectively. I then converted to 147-game seasons, the average number of contests Mays gets in here. It’s a conservative estimate if Mays keeps healthy, which he mostly did in early seasons. On another side note, Mays strikes out 1,612 times in this version of his career.)

The 2,305 runs would be most all-time, the 733 home runs third, and the 2,107 RBI also third, impressive totals all. I had some questions if the stats were dependent on Bonds being in the lineup with Mays. While there are some interesting writing possibilities on them as teammates, that isn’t what this column is about, and I wanted a way to swap out Bonds for Mays. I didn’t want Mays’ numbers simply to seem like a byproduct of playing besides Bonds. Thus, I emailed Cyril Morong, a stats whiz and an occasional commenter here and the kind of person who might know this.

Cyril wasn’t sure, though he offered something when I asked if Mays could out-homer Bonds. Cyril wrote:

I think he has a good chance. In his career, his HR% was 6.07. The league average during his time was 2.42. So that is a ratio of 2.51. During Bonds’ time, the NL HR% was 2.8%. That times 2.51 is 7.02. If he had that % during his career of 10881 ABs, he gets 763

I clarified that in this arrangement, Mays has 11,701 at bats, and Cyril ran new calculations and found Mays finishing with 822 home runs. Assuming Mays would have done this free of steroids (which I’m saying he would), maybe there’s hope another hitter like him sets a real record in the right era.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert PujolsBarry Bonds, Bob CaruthersDom DiMaggioFritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon KillebrewHome Run Baker, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Nate ColbertPete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe JacksonThe Meusel BrothersTy Cobb

My Evening With Bob Costas, MLB Network and the 1960′s Pirates

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular contributor here. Today, Joe writes about attending the premier showing for recently uncovered footage of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.


The stage: Forbes Field, October 13, 1960
The scene: Seventh World Series game, bottom of the first inning, Pittsburgh Pirates at bat against New York Yankee starter “Bullet” Bob Turley.

In the top of the first, Cy Young award winner Vernon Law retired the Yankees, one-two-three. Bobby Richardson lined out to shortstop Dick Groat, Tony Kubek popped out to Bill Mazeroski and Roger Maris fouled out to Don Hoak.

Before Turley, who had won game two, threw a pitch Casey Stengel had ordered double barrel action in the bull pen with lefty Bobby Shantz and right hander Ralph Terry furiously warming up.

Whether Turley fell apart when he saw Stengel perched on the top of the dugout stairs to yank him at the slightest sign of trouble or just didn’t have it, he came out faster than a sore tooth in the second. New hurler: Bill Stafford. (See Stengel poised to give Turley the hook here.)

While the game is most famous for Mazeroski’s ninth inning home run, having two pitchers warm up before the starter has thrown a pitch may be without precedent.

How Stengel mishandled his pitchers was one of dozens of insights, this one provided by Richardson, during’s premier showing at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater of the lost Bing Crosby tape of the famous seventh game.

Richardson, the lone Yankee present, Dick Groat and Bill Virdon were on stage with host Bob Costas. In the audience were catchers Hal Smith and Bob Oldis, Bob Friend, El Roy Face, Joe Christopher and Law. All including special guests Franco Harris, Nathaniel Crosby and archivist Robert Bader got rousing applause throughout the evening. Smith, whose two out, three run homer in the bottom of the eighth briefly put the Pirates ahead 9-7, got a standing ovation.

Ironically Mazeroski, recovering in the hospital from kidney stones, was absent.

For fifty years, baseball historians have been unable to explain why Stengel overlooked Whitey Ford, one of the most successful World Series pitchers in the game’s annals, in favor of journeyman Art Ditmar for the crucial Game One.

Ford was certainly not tired. His last regular season outing was on September 28 when he pitched five innings against the Washington Senators. By October 5, Game One, Ford had six days rest.

Stengel’s fatal choice of Ditmar killed any chances the Yankees had to win the series. Shelled in the first and fifth games, Ditmar’s series line was: 0-2; ERA 21.60

Ford, who in a normal rotation would have started games one, four and seven, ended up pitching complete game shutouts in the third and sixth contests. Ford’s line: 2-0, ERA 0.00

Richardson, when asked directly by Costas why Stengel chose Ditmar, could not explain it. And again, when Ford warmed up briefly in the seventh game but never got the call, Costas asked why. Richardson’s reply: “Good question.”

Pirates’ announcer Bob Prince shared the game call with the Yankees’ Mel Allen. Both worked alone but brilliantly and never missed a beat. The actual game only took 2:36 but the edited version in black and white with no graphics, no replays, no commercials and which segues immediately from one inning to the next runs just over two hours.

The batters didn’t step out of the box or wear batting gloves; the pitchers worked fast. will broadcast the game nationally on December 15. The two-DVD set will be available for purchase December 14th and includes the game and the Pittsburgh pre-game tape that includes all of Costas’ witty exchanges with the Pirates and plenty of his own entertaining insights.

I’ve already placed my order!


Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Rafael Palmeiro

Claim to fame: 500 home runs. 3,000 hits. Steroids.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Palmeiro becomes eligible for enshrinement in 2011 through the Baseball Writers Association of America, meaning its members will vote on him for the first time in coming months.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I was tempted to simply write “No” and move on to other more enjoyable things. I have no desire to see a Palmeiro plaque in Cooperstown, and the idea of him giving an induction speech triggers my gag reflex. But there are a few things that should probably be said here.

First, were it not for steroids, Palmeiro would be a sure bet for Cooperstown. No member of the 3,000-hit club has failed to be a first ballot selection since Paul Waner in 1952, and Palmeiro is also one of just four players in this group with at least 500 home runs. Palmeiro also boasts a career batting average of .288, an OPS+ of 132 and a Wins Above Replacement ranking of 66.0, all things which put him in line for Cooperstown. lists him above on three of its four Hall of Fame ranking tools.

But, of course, Palmeiro was named as a steroid user in Jose Canseco’s memoir Juiced, subsequently denied before Congress with a defiant wave of his finger that he’d ever used, and had a positive test a few months later in August 2005 that effectively ended his career. A finger wave has never been so damning or potentially haunting to his Hall of Fame case. I suspect it’s the image at least 70 percent of the BBWAA will reference as they decline to vote for him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Palmeiro stays on the ballot a full 15 years, consistently receiving votes from the 10-20 percent of the electorate that says there’s no proof he used steroids besides that positive test or that he was doing anything different than many other ballplayers. Some may also say that 500/3,000 is 500/3,000 regardless of how it’s accomplished, that if it was so easy with steroids, then why didn’t more players accomplish it? After all, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and even Barry Bonds did not.

Still, I don’t see Palmeiro as more than an afterthought or a pariah, only the latest McGwire, Dave Parker, or Dick Allen to come before voters. Historically, these types of players have a loyal core of support but rarely get enshrined. And why should they? I believe Cooperstown can make its own rules, that no one is required to be enshrined. I’d vote for Parker or Allen, flawed individuals who were also very talented, but if baseball wants to do its best to forget Palmeiro, McGwire, or any other member of the Steroid Era, so be it.

Why Palmeiro and Co.’s exploits should be celebrated in any Hall of Fame is beyond me, though a Steroid Hall of Fame might be something worth considering. More on that some other time.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Al OliverAlbert BelleBert BlylevenCecil TravisChipper JonesDan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerJack MorrisJoe CarterJohn SmoltzKeith HernandezLarry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete BrowningRocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve GarveyThurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

Searching for the next Aubrey Huff

The November 15 issue of Sports Illustrated carried a short but interesting piece, Attention Shoppers, about how teams capitalized in 2010 signing cheap veterans like Aubrey Huff and Darren Oliver. The article speculated who the next of these players could be, offering possible candidates like free agent pitchers Frank Francisco and Aaron Harang and Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who’s signed through 2011.

This got me thinking, and I have a few more players in mind:

Carlos Pena: After hitting .196 in 2010, Pena is unlikely to reap a large payday in Tampa Bay with teammate Carl Crawford also due to hit free agency and the Rays possibly needing all available funds to resign him. Pena, who’s a free agent, could do well to sign a Huff-esque 1-year deal in a hitters park like Texas, whose first baseman this year, Justin Smoak, didn’t hit much better. With a resurgent 2011 season, the 32-year-old Pena could score a contract next offseason to cover him the rest of his career.

Matt Murton: Is Murton the next Cecil Fielder? Like Fielder, Murton left a nondescript career stateside and became a star with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. Fielder followed his 38-home-run, 1989 season for Hanshin by hitting 51 homers for the Detroit Tigers in 1990. Murton’s .349, 214-hit Japanese debut ought to be more than sufficient to get him a job with any number of MLB teams.

Jorge Julio: One of many ex-big league relievers currently in the independent circuit (which, I’ve noted before, is packed with veterans), I like Julio’s prospects more than Armando Benitez or Antonio Alfonseca, among others. Julio saved 36 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2003 and was an effective middle reliever as recently as 2008, before he had delivery problems. Due to turn 32 in March, he’s young enough to rebound and spend several more years in big league bullpens.

Elijah Dukes: If Mike Williams can get a job in the NFL, his baseball equivalent deserves another shot in the MLB. Dukes is another supremely talented prospect who’s found himself out of the bigs due to personal problems. Like Williams, Dukes is 26 and could have a lot left if he gets his head straight and finds a supportive team. As it stands, the speedy outfielder is overqualified for his current environs, the independent Newark Bears.

Erubiel Durazo: Even though he’ll be 36 in 2011 and has bounced around Mexican ball in recent years, I haven’t forgotten Durazo. He was once supposed to be big in Oakland, and while he never met the hype in three injury-plagued seasons, he hit .281 in his career with 94 home runs. An AL team could seemingly do worse than to use Durazo as a pinch hitter or a DH.

Jose Guillen: For shoppers, free agent outfielder Guillen is like a week-old steak marked to bargain basement prices. Due to turn 35, coming off a .258 season with a below-average OPS+ of 98, and implicated in an HGH scandal, he’ll come cheap. There’s the chance he could recreate his power-hitting numbers of old and be the 2011 version of Vlad Guerrero. But things could also go horribly wrong.

Who else belongs here?

I Need A GM, A Manager, A Right Fielder, A Catcher And An Ace Starter

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Doug Bird, who recently volunteered to start contributing Sunday articles here.


The hunt for a new manager has begun for several major league teams with some having signed their new field boss and others still going through the interview process. Those teams with a settled upon GM and manager and money to spend can now set their sights on the 2010 free agent class. Those who haven’t still have some work to do.

There are teams which need too many major league caliber players still to be contenders and would not be helped by signing either of the two big name free agents, Cliff Lee and Jayson Werth. There are self proclaimed we don’t spend money teams whose philosophy will keep them from any free agent pursuits other than spare parts. There are teams which will overpay by a ridiculous amount for players who had a great 2010 season but are unlikely to repeat such a performance.

As has been proven many times with lessons seldom learned, a sound and successful baseball organization begins with ownership that is committed to more than the bottom line and a GM who understands the game and recognizes what players his team needs to be and remain competitive. There are many GMs who don’t grasp this concept either because of their own incompetence, monetary restrictions imposed on them, or unknowledgeable owners who meddle in the day to day operations of the franchise. Any one of these three will prove disastrous to the franchise. A combination of these three factors will lead to a team which is uncompetitive year in and year out. Baseball should be more than a business and more than a hire a friend to run the team enterprise. GMs and managers are fired because the franchise is unsuccessful only to be hired by another organization hoping that those fired will have somehow become knowledgeable during their time on the unemployment line. Successful career minor leaguers are often overlooked or hired to run a franchise which is hopelessly untalented and then blamed for the inevitable failure to come.

Now comes the offseason and with it the free agent frenzy, especially for starting pitchers this year. How valuable is an ace starter? C.C. Sabathia and Johan Santana, (not a free agent by the technical definition), proved that owners and GMs consider them to be priceless and will offer contracts of a length and amount which none could ever live up to. A starting pitcher, no matter his talent, plays only once every five games and won-lost records are highly team dependent, not solely a result of a starting pitchers ability. This, of course, can change dramatically if a team reaches the playoffs, (Cliff Lee), but getting there takes twenty five players as the Giants proved during the 2010 World Series. Sometimes a contract is offered to ensure that a division rival is unable to secure the services of a player, subtraction by addition.

Position players are often over valued based on rival players salaries, many who become underproductive. The reasoning for a high salary demand for mediocrity , at least with agents, uses the logic of if a certain player is paid $15 million per season and hit .250, my client who hit .260 must be worth even more money. Many teams seems to hold this underproduction as relevant and are willing to pay for mediocrity or a player who is solid but not franchise saving. Signing a free agent marquee position player makes sense only if you are close to being a legitimate contender or wish to keep that status. A Jayson Werth, Andre Beltre, or Victor Martinez won’t help a failing franchise reach the playoffs. For some franchises it seems to depend on the market and whether you, as an owner or GM want this years’ free agent marquee players as a showpiece to the casual fan or feel that they are the one missing piece. Baseball has long proven that one player seldom puts you over the top-unless that player is the one missing piece on an aging franchise, a player who can also handle the pressure which a big contract often brings. Or maybe a last grasp at the playoff straw.


Email Doug Bird at

How Bill Mazeroski Got From Hollywood (the Stars) to Pittsburgh (the Pirates)

I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular contributor here. Today, Joe looks at how Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski got to the majors.


On Saturday the MLB Network, led by Bob Costas, will be in Pittsburgh to tape a Pirates special that will accompany the December 15 broadcast of Bing Crosby’s recently discovered seventh 1960 World Series game film.

The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates lovefest continues!

Saturday’s event at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater is the fourth grand celebration honoring the Buccos. In June at PNC Park, most of the living players brought back for the occasion received an on-the-field standing ovation and a post-game private party. On September 5, the Pirates unveiled a statue of Bill Mazeroski outside PNC. Then, on October 13, the annual Forbes Field gathering took place with the players again flown in.

The 1960 Pirates are synonymous with Mazeroski, the home run hitting, bottom of the ninth inning, seventh game hero.

Mazeroski’s road to Pittsburgh fame began in Hollywood, California. And in the July 11, 1956 Sporting News, a short blurb announced the trade that sent Mazeroski from the Pacific Coast League Stars to the Pirates. The magazine noted:

While Hollywood fans adopted a ‘wait and see’ policy, local press, radio and TV observers generally hailed the Pittsburgh recall of three players and optioning of four Pirates to the Stars as possibly beneficial to both sides. Called up to the Pirates were Hollywood’s three top players—Cholly Naranjo (7-6), southpaw Fred Waters (4-3) and second baseman Bill Mazeroski, brilliant 19-year-old double play maker and the club’s leading hitter at .316

In return the Stars received a sorely needed third baseman Gene Freese plus catcher Danny Kravitz, second baseman Spook Jacobs and southpaw Luis Arroyo.

‘Pittsburgh fans, I’m sure,’ commented Hollywood manager Clay Hopper, ‘will see a polished second baseman who is a master at the double play.’

As a Pirate, Naranjo was a complete bust, 1-2, 4.46 in his only season; Waters, fractionally better with a 2-2, 2.89 ERA over two seasons.

As for those traded to the Stars, they eventually returned to the Pirates. Freese was a moderately useful part time infielder with some power. Sent from the Pirates in 1958 to the St. Louis Cardinals, Freese also played for the Philadelphia Philies, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros before retiring with a .254 average and 115 home runs.

Kravitz was a fourth-string catcher behind Smokey Burgess, Hal Smith and Bob Oldis. Although he was a member of the 1960 Pirates National League pennant winning team, he only batted six times and got no hits.

Jacobs’ major league career, such as it was, ended in Pittsburgh where here he hit .162 in 11 games.

Of the four former Stars, only Arroyo achieved real success but not in Pittsburgh (two seasons, 6-14, 4.89). After a detour with the Cincinnati Reds in 1959, Arroyo landed with the New York Yankees. During his four seasons of outstanding relief, Arroyo compiled a 22-10, 3.15 ERA with one All Star Game appearance.

The trade did neither team any immediate good. The 1956 Pirates finished seventh, 22 games back of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Stars, in its next to the last year of existence, finished a distant fourth behind the Los Angeles Angels, Sacramento Solons and Portland Beavers

Hopper’s prediction about Mazeroski was right on the money, however.  As evidence of the “polish” Hooper referred to Mazeroski, a seven-time All Star, holds baseball’s career record for most double plays turned, 1706.

As for Maz’s historic 1960 home run, it ranks as the all-time high point in Pittsburgh sports’ history and one of the most dramatic moments in baseball.


Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at

Buying a box of baseball cards

When I was about seven and used to get a dollar a week for allowance, I remember once saving a few months to buy a box of baseball cards. I had started buying packs of Topps, Donruss, and Fleer maybe a year before, a pack or two at a time from the grocery store or card shop, and the idea of getting a few dozen packs at once enthralled me. I saved with resolve, my nylon wallet increasingly stuffed with ones even during times I wanted to break and buy a pack. It felt like Christmas when I got that box (1991 Fleer), and the last of the packs couldn’t have gone unopened more than a few hours.

That scene repeated itself a few times the rest of my childhood until I grew out of spending my allowance on trading cards. I’m 27 now and haven’t collected since middle school, but last Friday, I got a reminder of the past. I have been working as a delivery driver the past few months, and on my San Jose route last week, I spotted a sign for a baseball card store near one of my stops. Intrigue, plus desire for a quick break, got me in– one simply does not see many pure baseball card stores anymore, since the bottom for the market fell out around the time I hit adolescence. Even my old card shop in Sacramento had to start holding Magic card contests at the shop, the sports cards tucked almost apologetically into a corner of the display cases.

The San Jose shop was pretty barren, and I was somewhat amazed it was still in business and relatively free of Magic, which I never got into. There was a pretty good selection of vintage cards, with the likes of Mantle, Mays, and Koufax available if one was willing to hand over at least $100. I don’t make that kind of money, and I get leery of buying counterfeits. But behind the case of Hall of Famers were a few boxes of cards, including a 36-pack box of 1990 Score for $10, which I bought along with a July 4, 1983 copy of Sports Illustrated with Dale Murphy on the cover.

The nice thing about the card market having collapsed is that I can pay the same price now that I would have paid in second grade. In fact, with inflation, it’s probably cheaper. One might say the cards don’t have any value. That’s true in a literal sense, but I’m reminded of a series of Calvin & Hobbes strips where the family house is burglarized, and a distraught Calvin can’t find Hobbes (who he simply misplaced.) Calvin’s mom tells him Hobbes wouldn’t have any value to thieves, but a tearful Calvin remarks, “I think he has value.”

Back in the car, I opened maybe 10 or 15 packs before going on with my delivery route. I’ve opened most of the remainder, moving at a curiously slower pace than I would have 20 years ago. I’ve been enjoying getting players who were once icons to me: Will Clark, Ken Griffey Jr, Nolan Ryan, so many others. I’m not sure what their value is today, but it was worth ten bucks for the blast from the past. Would if I could, I’d reach back in time, and give the box to the seven-year-old version of me.

Any player/Any era: Jack Clark

What he did: Clark was the best thing going on some abysmal San Francisco Giants teams of the late 1970s and early ’80s, a two-time All Star outfielder who hit 20 home runs five times in San Francisco. I wrote a column last week transporting Joe DiMaggio to this ball club, and a reader commented, “Very interesting. In effect, he becomes kinda, sorta, an upscale Jack Clark, during his Giant tenure but with more sustained consistency and fewer injuries.” Thus, I got to wondering: How good might Clark have been if he’d played during DiMaggio’s time?

Era he might have thrived in: While DiMaggio makes a go of it at Candlestick Park, we’ll plug Clark into all 13 seasons of Joltin’ Joe’s career between 1936 and 1951. Clark’s numbers would almost certainly rise.

Why: I have this idea. As much a legend as DiMaggio was, a part of me thinks he was overrated, that his numbers weren’t that amazing since he was on some supremely talented Yankee teams and played half his career before World War II, a renaissance for hitters. I have this idea that there’s a talented non-Hall of Famer who played in a less-friendly time for hitters and/or on a worse team or in a crappier ballpark who could have made Cooperstown or eclipsed DiMaggio’s numbers if he’d had his career. I call this, “Searching for Joe DiMaggio.”

It’s no simple task, certainly. After running some conversions for Eric Davis, Fred Lynn, and Al Oliver among others, I’ve yet to find an inactive, non-Hall of Famer with the combination of DiMaggio’s batting average, slugging, and staying power, though Clark makes a respectable poor man’s version.

In real life, Clark played 18 seasons from 1975 through 1992. To plug him into DiMaggio’s 13-year career, I started Clark’s career at 1977 and removed his ’84, ’85, and ’86 seasons for World War II service.

Here’s a breakdown of how Clark comes out:

1936 (77) 129 410 76 116 19 4 15 61 55 69 .283
1937 (78) 148 596 119 205 52 9 29 130 57 68 .344
1938 (79) 136 530 109 166 29 2 30 112 73 90 .313
1939 (80) 121 437 96 139 22 9 25 102 83 49 .318
1940 (81) 143 573 107 167 31 3 28 95 73 65 .291
1941 (82) 149 546 99 157 31 3 28 114 92 87 .288
1942 (83) 128 472 82 130 25 0 20 66 73 75 .275
1946 (87) 125 397 79 113 22 1 33 90 128 132 .285
1947 (88) 143 477 78 120 14 0 27 89 113 134 .252
1948 (89) 143 451 85 123 21 1 29 105 147 138 .273
1949 (90) 109 326 61 93 13 1 26 64 109 87 .285
1950 (91) 133 467 79 124 18 1 28 91 100 126 .266
1951 (92) 77 251 32 58 11 0 6 33 60 83 .231
Total 1684 5933 1102 1711 308 34 324 1152 1163 1203 .288

Under this arrangement, Clark adds 20 points to his batting average and loses 16 home runs in playing five fewer seasons with nearly 1,000 less at-bats. He’s probably still not Hall of Fame-worthy, but the man who received just 2.5 percent of the vote his only year on the Cooperstown ballot probably would at least inspire more debate.

Of course, for these numbers to be legit, one must assume Clark doesn’t have greater health problems playing in an earlier era or that he doesn’t platoon playing his final seasons for Casey Stengel, who liked to use outfielders part-time depending on who was pitching. It’s a testament to DiMaggio that he got as much playing time as he did or put up MVP-caliber numbers after returning from World War II. A long break generally doesn’t favor hitters, but injuries got to DiMaggio more in the later part of his career than rust from his war-time sabbatical.

Still, I’ll keep looking to see if I can find an inactive, non-Hall of Famer like DiMaggio. There has to be someone, and I invite anyone to send their suggestions.

Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.

Others in this series: Albert PujolsBarry Bonds, Bob CaruthersDom DiMaggioFritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon KillebrewHome Run Baker, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Nate ColbertPete Rose, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe JacksonThe Meusel BrothersTy Cobb