Double the fun: Bye-Bye, Bobo

Editor’s note: Last year, Joe Guzzardi wrote a Saturday column on noteworthy doubleheaders throughout baseball history. With a new season underway, this column makes its return.

__________________

Alva Lee “Bobo” Holloman’s St. Louis Browns’ career lasted only three months. On May 6, 1953, pitching in his first start, Holloman tossed a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics. Holloman, 27, struck out three, walked five, and batted in three of the Browns’ runs with a pair of singles in the 6-0 victory.

Browns’ fans hoped that Holloman would go on to notch other great achievements. But Holloman was out of the majors by July 19th of the same year, only three months after his no hitter. Holloman’s career record: 3-7; 5.23 ERA.

When Holloman joined the Browns from the Syracuse Chiefs, manager Marty Marion tagged him as a relief pitcher. But Holloman insisted that starting was his true talent. Tired of hearing him gripe and noting that in his four relief appearances, Holloman was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA Marion, with owner Bill Veeck’s blessing, gave him the nod on that rainy May evening. Although he struggled throughout, when Holloman retired the last batter, Eddie Robinson, he registered not only his no hitter but also his first win and only complete game.

No hitters are often referred to as “masterpieces”. But that was hardly Holloman’s case. The A’s half of the ninth reflected what a dicey game Holloman pitched. Elmer Valo and Eddie Joost led off with back to back walks. Then, Dave Philley hit into a double play. Holloman promptly issued another free pass to Loren Babe that brought up the dangerous Robinson. But Holloman secured his no-hitter when Robinson hit a fly ball to right fielder Vic Wertz.

Veeck, realizing how lucky Holloman had been in his no hit effort, wanted to send him back to Syracuse for further seasoning. But fearing that demoting his new star would be a public relations error, Veeck ordered Holloman, against his wishes, back to the bull pen. Why public relations were a consideration at that stage of the Browns’ history is not clear. Only 2, 413 saw Holloman pitch his no hitter. Worse, by 1954, the 54-100 Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles.

Holloman eventually notched two more wins, both in relief, against the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox. But when Holloman pitched mop up in the second game of a July 19 double header against the Washington Senators and gave up six earned runs in 1.2 innings during a 13-4 loss, he was gone for good. Veeck sold “Bobo” to the International League’s Toronto Blue Jays.

“Bobo” was soon forgotten. Holloman’s legacy: he’s the only pitcher to toss a no hitter on his first start.

Any player/Any era: Charles Victory Faust

What he did: Okay, this one’s unconventional. Faust qualifies as a baseball player only in the barest sense of the word, as limited a participant as Eddie Gaedel, a midget who made one plate appearance in 1951 or Aloysius Travers, a seminary student who served as a replacement pitcher during a one-game strike in 1912 and gave up a record 24 runs. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Faust arriving at a New York Giants road game and announcing he would pitch the team to the pennant. As the story goes, a fortune teller had predicted his fate. In a century since, there’s never been anyone like Charles Victory Faust in Major League Baseball.

The 30-year-old Faust had no baseball skills to speak of, though manager John McGraw found that when he was with the Giants, his team won. Being superstitious as baseball people were and still are, McGraw kept Faust on as a mascot of sorts, paying him out of pocket and letting him appear in two games at the end of the season. With Faust around, the Giants won the National League pennant in 1911 and again in 1912. Faust was let go after the Giants began to lose and later institutionalized for dementia, dying of tuberculosis in 1915.

Era he might have thrived in: The purpose of this column isn’t to suggest any baseball generation before or since would allow Faust a chance to play professional ball. Even his odds of making the majors as a mascot today might be slim, as ballpark entertainment is more professional and slickly produced, clown princes like Nick Altrock and Al Schacht relics of a bygone era. There’s a reason guys like Faust don’t sit in dugouts today. But that’s not to say Faust couldn’t have a role somewhere in baseball today and a longer, happier life.

Why: In many ways, Faust was a victim of his times, when tuberculosis still raged in the western world, treatment for mental illness was woefully inadequate and draconian, and those afflicted were sometimes eccentrics, historical footnotes with otherwise troubled lives. Faust’s neurosis may have bought him a couple years in baseball and recognition from more fans 50 years later when the Giants’ center fielder in those days, Fred Snodgrass recounted the tale in The Glory of Their Times, but that can’t compensate for the sad end to Faust’s life. The story is admittedly amusing, or I wouldn’t be relating it here, but it’s also tragic.

It’s not to say Faust would easily tackle his issues today, but he’d at least have more options. And if he did make his way into baseball, I’d like to think better media and mental health advocacy would help protect him from being exploited. He might be a hit in the minor leagues, welcomed by a lower budget team (like maybe the one that allowed Borat to sing the Kazakhstan national anthem some years ago.) Or perhaps Faust would just be a dedicated fan. I briefly worked on the sports desk of the Sacramento Bee my first year out of college, and I remember the quirky if well-meaning men who regularly called. They made my job more interesting.

I don’t know if Faust would be any less deluded today and certain he’d pitch in the majors, as seemingly nothing could assuage him from this belief as he descended into madness. But maybe this belief wouldn’t spell his doom today.

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 Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr., Lefty O’Doul, Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Wally Bunker, Willie Mays

Believe It or Not: Norm Cash Plays an Entire Game at First without Recording a Put Out

Of all the statistical oddities in baseball, the rarest occurs when a first baseman plays an entire game without recording a put out.

Detroit Tigers’ Norm Cash did exactly that on June 27, 1963. That Thursday afternoon, the Tigers’ 27 outs in the team’s 10-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins, were recorded as follows: six strike outs, 11 fly balls and 10 line drives.

By comparison, the twenty perfect games pitched in Major League history are common place.

“Stormin’ Norman,” as he was fondly called by Tigers’ fans had other notable achievements in his productive career. In 1960, Cash never hit into a double play. For a slow-footed big man, that’s quite a feat.

The following year, Cash both leagues with his .361 batting average. Critics note that 1961 was the first expansion year and suggest that the diluted pitching may have attributed to Cash’s lofty average. Cash attributes his batting prowess, at least in part, to his corked bat.

After his career ended, Cash admitted to using an illegal corked bat during the 1961 season and demonstrated to Sports Illustrated how he drilled a hole in his bats and filled them with a mixture of sawdust, cork and glue. Cash’s 1961 statistics turned out to be career highs which he rarely approached again. In the following years, Cash never reached 100 runs or 100 RBI and never batted above .283. His 118-point drop to a .243 average in 1962 was the largest ever by a batting champion.

Despite his early summer game against the Twins Cash, considered an outstanding fielder, led the league the league that year in putouts for a first baseman.

Although he played in the shadow of his more famous Hall of Fame teammate Al Kaline, Cash was enormously popular with fans and the media.

In 1986 Cash, age 51, drowned in a boating accident in Northern Lake Michigan when he fell and hit his head.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Dale Murphy

Claim to fame: Murphy was a stalwart outfielder, fan favorite, and back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player during the 1980s for the Atlanta Braves. He declined badly near the end of the decade and was an afterthought for the expansion Colorado Rockies by the end of his career in 1993, though Murphy still finished with 398 home runs and a reputation as one of the best defensive center fielders of his generation. But that might not be the biggest driving factor for getting him into Cooperstown.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Having made 13 appearances on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown, Murphy has consistently received roughly 10 percent of the vote in recent years. With two more years of eligibility remaining with the writers and slim odds of skyrocketing to the necessary 75 percent of the vote, Murphy looks like a Veterans Committee candidate.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Murphy came up Saturday in conversation with my family. We were talking about these epic Wiffle ball games my dad and I used to have in the front driveway of our house in Sacramento, and we got to remembering some of the players we created. I’m lucky enough to have a dad who loved playing sports with my friends and I growing up, and in every sport, he gave his all. I never beat him once in tennis, I avoided inside shots in basketball because he blocked them, and I became a good deep receiver in street football and learned to catch inside passes with my hands because if they hit my forearms, they stung. But my favorite memories might revolve around the Wiffle ball games.

Often, it was just my dad and I playing games that lasted until dusk, but we each had a full cast of characters. My dad alternated between two pitchers, the menacing Nelson, who my dad explained was always in and out of jail and the soft-tossing McGregor who was brought on in relief when Nelson had me close to tears. There was my dad’s spray hitter Tito Fuentes and, my favorite, his power hitters Mickey Mammoth and Mail Murphy. I wasn’t as creative. I had Silly Mays and possibly Silly McCovey, as well.

On the strength of statistics, Dale Murphy might have a distant case for the Hall of Fame. Things like his .265 batting average, relatively pedestrian lifetime WAR of 44.2, and dramatic decline could render him a borderline candidate at best, though I’m sure he’ll have supporters arguing he was every bit as talented in his prime as some of the other outfielders of his generation already in Cooperstown, men like Jim Rice, Dave Winfield, and Andre Dawson. But when it comes down to it, I think of Mail Murphy. I think of a clean-cut player who had a column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for years answering children’s questions. I think of Atlanta native Jeff Foxworthy noting in his memoir that when he learned of Murphy’s trade to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1990, he stood in the middle of an airport crying.

Over the next 10 or 20 years, the Hall of Fame will face a public relations crisis as more and more statistically worthy players from the Steroid Era become eligible with the writers. At some point, the writers will be damned if they enshrine one of these players and damned if they don’t. For Cooperstown’s historically less-objective voting branch, the Veterans Committee, feel-good stars like Murphy might be a welcome distraction.

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

Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, Allie Reynolds, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark

We're turning two

Just a quick note to record a cool fact: As of next Sunday, May 1, this Web site will be two years old. No, the title doesn’t refer to a double play.

I’m amazed the difference even a year can make. A year ago, this was simply my personal blog that I contributed maybe a post or two a week to. I don’t know if I wrote too much that’s worth referencing a year later. In a good month, I got 1,000 unique visitors give or take. A few things happened around this time last year that changed things for the better around here.

First off, I wrote some guest posts for a few other baseball blogs last spring, and after one of them, a reader offered to do a guest post here. Several other people have followed the lead of that reader, the affable Joe Guzzardi, and today, I’m proud to have a site that a number of talented writers contribute to (and I welcome anyone who’s interested to speak up– I generally say yes.)

Around the same time Joe stepped up, I had someone I know at the San Francisco Chronicle give some feedback. Among his tips were to consistently offer new content Monday through Friday. I’ve stuck to this pretty rigidly, with a few breaks, and it’s made a difference. While the overall traffic here fluctuates depending on if major Web sites link up (and links have been a little slow the past couple months), we’ve seen fairly steady increases in the amount of regular readers and visitors from search engines.

The rest of this past year has been a blur of words, seemingly never ending, as I’ve striven to keep up with my commitments here. I admit it’s a challenge at times, but there’s been a great reward. Through this site, I’ve had an excuse to interview some baseball writers I look up to, run a project on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, and do many other cool things. More than that, I’ve gotten to write for a growing audience and work on improving my craft. I couldn’t have asked for a better last year.

What does the next year hold? I don’t know, though I’m excited to see where things go from here. I welcome any feedback and thank everyone who makes this site a part of their regular reading.

Scouts Don’t Always Get it Right

Scouts are the backbone of any successful franchise and without these eyes, major league teams would be unable to build their all important farm systems and find the next major league star. That’s of course stating the obvious. But how does one judge a player possibly still in his late teens and project his ability several years down the road?

The recent release of “can’t miss” prospect Brandon Wood by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim serves to illustrate precisely how difficult the task of player evaluation can be. Wood was released this week, and while interest seems high from several teams, notably Pittsburgh who are desperately seeking an upgrade at the shortstop position, his career has not exactly been noteworthy to this point.

What, if anything, went wrong for Wood and why has his career up to this point been major league mediocre at best?

There are many factors which go into the evaluation of any player, many of which deal with intangibles. Physical tools, at the least the obvious ones of size, speed and coordination would seem to be relatively easy for a seasoned scout to evaluate. Yet, the vast majority of high draft picks never even make it to the major leagues, let alone become stars. Many past and present stars were very low draft picks, seemingly missed by many scouts. The life of a scout is a difficult one with low pay and long hours. Much of his time is spent driving from small town to small town hoping to get a glimpse of a player who has come to his attention either by word of mouth or a star high school or college player who has garnered national publicity. Scouts also use the scouting bureau, a data bank of prospects with reports from many organizations. Some scouts are used as cross checkers, using this data and if they are lucky and have the time, viewing a player in person. They come armed with radar guns and extensive notes.

Many prefer the information that their eyes and experience tell them and Moneyball been damned. They rely on their experience and in many cases I expect, what their gut tells them. All of this leads us to the intangibles which are difficult if not impossible to evaluate no matter the expertise and experience of any scout. Baseball players like it or not, are human and subject to the same frailties, fears and self doubt which all of us feel. Scouts must determine which athletically gifted will succumb to these human emotions, and which will not. Not an envious task and with the money at stake being in the millions, a thankless task if and evaluation turns out to be incorrect.

For teams with high first round draft picks, the success or failure of their pick can have devastating and long term effects on the future of the major league team and the tendencies of sought after free agents to sign with the club. The long term failure of teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates is a glaring example of years of first round picks which didn’t pan out. High round draft picks must live up to the expectations of the team which chose them. The pressure must be unbearable at times.

Brandon Wood may be an example of a player who was unable to perform as an elite major leaguer who could not handle this pressure. Perhaps, players such as Wood have been highly over valued by scouts and whose career would have been perfectly acceptable as an average or slightly below average performer had he not been so highly drafted. Any player who makes the major leagues is certainly an elite one in terms of baseball ability. Some are merely more elite than others but the performance of a high draft pick is put under a microscope and any failure is magnified much more so than a player thought to have the potential to be average at best.

The Angels stuck with Wood longer than they might have a player not so highly recommended by scouts. Wood has proven at best to be a very good 4 A player but nothing more. Perhaps, Wood, and others like him, are really the best they can be despite all the hype. Scouting is a difficult task and difficult tasks performed by human beings aren’t always successful.

Cancel Jackie Robinson Day, Part II

I’m picking up where I left off on my last blog. Jackie Robinson Day, originally a fine idea, has outlived its usefulness and should be cancelled. Everybody knows that Robinson was the first African-American to cross Major League Baseball’s color line. Few know more than that.

I’ve come up with a better idea than repeating Robinson Day year after year, a policy that leads to silliness. For example, as part of the ten day long festivities, Washington Nationals’ catcher Wilson Ramos wore Robinson’s number 42. Ramos was born in Venezuela in 1987, long after Robinson retired and probably grew up idolizing Chico Carrasquel. The current Nationals came into existence in 2005, 33 years after Robinson’s 1972 death. If you ask me, none of that adds up.

As CC Sabathia observed about every baseball player in the major leagues wearing 42: “It kind of waters it down. I could see the Dodgers since that was his team, but not everyone else.”

I realize that we’re talking about preserving and, hopefully, furthering Robinson’s memory. But why limit our history lesson to Robinson when there are so many other worthy players.

How about establishing Robinson’s April 15th anniversary as the date that, each year, outstanding players from different decades would be recognized.

My first choice would be Honus Wagner to represent the decade from 1900-1910. An eight-time batting champion who is generally considered by baseball historians as the all-time greatest shortstop is a great choice.

Or we could go with Christy Mathewson who in his career, few could tell you, led the league in wins four times, won five strikeout titles, won 30 or more games four times, pitched four shutouts and ten complete games in World Series competition and won 373 games. Each decade through 1960 would have a different superstar Hall of Famer honored. When we reach 2020, we’ll extend the selection period through 1970.

Once the cycle is completed, baseball could return to 1900 to start all over.

My system would raise awareness about baseball’s rich and diverse history that dates back over a century. Fans could learn about or reacquaint themselves with some of the truly outstanding players whose names, unlike Robinson’s, have faded from memory.

If the federal government can consolidate Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays into President’s Day, then Major League Baseball can rotate its annual honorees.

The Great Friday Link Out: April 22

  • Joe Posnanski offers a great look on players who may have put together solid cases for Cooperstown but were Not Famous Enough. I like the idea in general of alternate Hall of Fames, be it the Baseball Reliquary, Hall of Merit or a Hall of limited Fame that I proposed last year.
  • Lots of people, fans or not, probably know the story of the 1919 World Series, how eight members of the Chicago White Sox lost on purpose in exchange for gambling money. Less known may be the fact that it possibly wasn’t the only Series thrown, and that gambling influence was rife in baseball between 1900 and 1920. Now, grand jury testimony has been found from 1920, given by one of Black Sox, pitcher Eddie Cicottte that suggests they got the idea from the losing team in the 1918 World Series, Chicago Cubs.
  • Rory Paap, who has contributed articles here and is a man about the baseball blogosphere has an April 17 piece for the Hardball Times about Tim Lincecum’s evolving repertoire, particularly a new slider grip Matt Cain taught him.
  • Behind the Beard: A Hair Raising Look at Baseball’s Changing Face. Title pretty much says it all, with the post featuring pictures dating back to the 1880s and a YouTube video of Roy Campanella in a 1950 shaving commercial. On a side note, this blog is generally fantastic, with lots of well-written content. I have no idea how this guy does it.
  • Fangraphs post on the lack of women employed by Major League Baseball. The author notes that a post done on this subject a month ago was, “I think, the most-commented on post in the history of Fangraphs,” with the majority of the comments being shallow and sexist. This new post has already gotten, as of this writing, 285 comments in a day.

Any player/Any era: Rogers Hornsby

What he did: I’ve picked up some freelance writing work in recent weeks, and on Tuesday, I was in San Francisco at one of the firms I write for, and we got to talking about the Hall of Fame. I mentioned I’d written a column on Barry Bonds’ future candidacy, which led to us talking about the chances his teammate Jeff Kent will be enshrined. I say yes, and one of my clients agreed, calling Kent the best power-hitting second baseman in baseball history. Close, but not quite. I rank Kent second to arguably the best right-handed batter ever, Rogers Hornsby.

A .358 lifetime hitter, second only to Ty Cobb, Hornsby hit 301 home runs despite playing his first few seasons in the Deadball Era and badly declining after age 35. Kent has more home runs at 377, since he played regularly until retiring at 40, though Hornsby trounces him in slugging percentage at .577 to .500, and he led the league in it nine times while Kent never did it. It makes me wonder what Hornsby might have accomplished playing in Kent’s place in San Francisco in recent years. I’m guessing a lot.

Era he might have thrived in: Kent played in San Francisco from 1997 until 2002, so we’ll plug Hornsby in there. In his time, Hornsby was the only man to hit .400 and 40 home runs in the same season, when he won the Triple Crown in 1922. As a modern Giant, Hornsby might do greater still and forge a longer career.

Why: If ever a player could have used an environment like San Francisco, it’s Hornsby, a temperamental superstar who wore out his welcome with five teams. It’s saying something when a guy is shown the door in successive years after hitting .361 for one club and .387 for his next. Milton Bradley has nothing on Hornsby. Rajah was baseball’s original pariah.

Enter San Francisco, where a star as narcissistic and abrasive as Barry Bonds played 15 years. Bonds and Kent clashed and even brawled once in the dugout, though their feuding wasn’t so great to keep Kent from making three All Star teams and winning the 2000 NL MVP award. If Kent makes the Hall of Fame, it will be due to the shift in his career after the Giants traded for him in 1996. In San Francisco, Kent went from being a talented young player to a star. The thought here is Hornsby could co-exist, at least for a time with Bonds. If the circumstances were ideal for one aloof star, why not two? The stat converter on Baseball-Reference.com has the Hornsby of 1922 hitting .398 with 43 home runs and 159 RBI on the 1999 Giants.

There’s another reason I think Hornsby would thrive in San Francisco. A book I have on the 25 greatest players of all-time talks about Hornsby struggling as a 19-year-old rookie and then adding 25 pounds of muscle working at his uncle’s farm and blossoming into a .300 hitter the following season. I’ll be frank. Hornsby is one of those latter day players I assume would use steroids if he’d played in the late ’90s and early ’00s. I’m assuming too that they’d take him to greater heights and allow him a better coda to his career than riding the bench his final six seasons, hitting just six home runs.

One other thing I’ll note: Hornsby was a single-minded player who didn’t watch television or read books because he figured it would hurt his eyesight. In the modern era, this zeal would make him millions. Seeing as he struggled with gambling losses near the end of his big league career and had to take a series of player-manager jobs in the minors in his 40s to make ends meet, I’d like to think he’d have an easier go of it today. Then again, he might be the next Pete Rose.

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 Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz MaiselGeorge CaseHarmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr., Lefty O’Doul, Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Sam Thompson, Sandy KoufaxShoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel BrothersTy Cobb, Wally Bunker, Willie Mays

Cancel Jackie Robinson Day, An Insult to A Great American

Jackie Robinson Day, which started in 2004 as a well intended tribute to a great American, has become a meaningless event that should but will not be cancelled.

Many fans celebrated Robinson’s day on April 15th, the actual calendar date in 1947 that he first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Since the Pirates have been out of town for a week, Pittsburgh and other teams that were on the road will honor Robinson on April 22nd, preposterous though that is.

What we have is every player wearing #42, officially retired from use in 1997, even though they can’t tell you much more about Robinson than that he was Major League Baseball’s first African-American and that he suffered many indignities throughout his career. My educated guess is that if the nearly 1,000 major league players, coaches and managers were asked to write an intelligent 200-word essay about Robinson, the majority couldn’t do it. Neither could the fans. If the MLB’s original intention was to illuminate fans about Robinson’s contributions to the civil rights movement and American eventual integration, then it’s failed. The average person doesn’t know much more about Robinson today than he did seven—or even 20— years ago.

The irony is that since Robinson Day was launched, the percentage of baseball’s African-Americans has declined while Hispanic players have increased. Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has long lobbied that Roberto Clemente’s number 21 should also be retired and that the Puerto Rican should like Robinson have a day of his own.

What about other pioneer players from foreign countries? Should there be days for the first Dominican, Venezuelan and Japanese players? In our politically correct society, wouldn’t that be the right thing to do? After all, they’ve assumed an increasingly prominent role in baseball. (For the record they are Ozzie Virgil, Chico Carrasquel and Masanori Murakami.)

I’m not really suggesting that the former San Francisco Giants’ Murakami, an above average pitcher, would in any way be the equal to Robinson. But I’m sure that Asian advocacy groups could make a case on his behalf. Some one could argue that Murakami paved the way for one of the greatest hitters of our era, Ichiro Suzuki. Furthermore, Murakami a non-English speaker, must have faced many uncomfortable barriers that included racial slurs during his 1964-1965 career.

Once organized professional sports goes down the tributary road, it never ends. Over the weekend, I noticed that the Los Angeles Dodgers are wearing #4 (Snider) while both the Tigers and the Reds have “Sparky” emblazoned on their sleeves. The Pirates trumped the Dodgers and Reds with a two-fer. Inside a Willie Stargell star, which the slugger gave out to teammates who made the largest contribution in winning efforts, is #7, former manager Chuck Tanner’s number. Stargell has been dead for a decade; Tanner, for a month.

Happily, I’m not alone in my skepticism. When he was still with the Minnesota Twins, Torii Hunter said in reference to Robinson Day: “This is supposed to be an honor and just a handful of guys wearing the number. Now you’ve got entire teams doing it. I think we’re killing the meaning. It should be special wearing Jackie’s number, not just because it looks cool.”

CC Sabathia, who decries the diminishing numbers of African Americans in the game, agrees with Hunter: “It kind of waters it down. I could see the Dodgers since that was his team, but not everyone else.”

We live in the era of overkill. If something is good, then multiplied by ten, it becomes ten times better especially if it might help sell tickets or merchandise.