“Old Pete” Handcuffs the Yankees

Editor’s note: With this site back up and running, replete with a new look, please enjoy the latest from Joe Guzzardi.

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Whatever may happen to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, it’s unlikely to produce a moment as dramatic and historic as Grover Cleveland Alexander’s strike out of the New York Yankees’ Tony Lazerri in the seventh 1926 game.

“Ol’ Pete,” by then 39-years old, weary, nearly deaf from a World War I injury sustained during seven weeks on the front under heavy bombardment, alcoholic and epileptic nevertheless managed to summon up his skills once more to lead the Cards to victory in its first series appearance.
In the middle of the 1926 season the Chicago Cubs released Alexander even though he had won 325 games. In a thinly veiled reference to Alexander’s losing battle with alcoholism, the Cubs’ crusty manager Joe McCarthy said that if the Cubs were going to finish last again, as the team did in 1925, he would rather it be without the troubled pitcher.

Looking back on her husband’s release, Alexander’s wife Amy said:

He thought he was through in baseball forever. Whenever he tried to speak, tears came to his eyes.

But Cardinals manager Rogers Hornsby, who postponed his mother’s funeral because it would have interfered with the series, viewed Alexander differently. Admitting that “I’m no Sunday school teacher,” Hornsby jumped at the chance to sign “Old Pete”.

Alexander helped guide the Cardinals to the National League pennant where they faced the young, upstart Yankees and their imposing Murderers’ Row line up with the slugging Babe Ruth, Lou Gerhig, Tony Lazerri and Bob Meusel.

Hornsby gave the starting assignment in games two and six to “Old Pete” who promptly mowed the Yankees down with complete games, 6-2 and 10-2.  After winning the sixth game Alexander, incorrectly assuming his work was done, went on an all night bender.

Alexander, however, had one more appearance to make. With two men out in the bottom of the seventh of the final game, Cardinals starter Jesse Haines faltered. The Yankees loaded the bases when Hornsby summoned “Old Pete” to face the slugging rookie, Lazerri.

Cardinals’ third baseman Les Bell recalled the moment:

I can see him yet…walking in from the left field bull pen through the gray mist. The Yankees fans recognized him right off, of course, but you never heard a sound from anywhere in the stadium. They just sat there and watched him walk in. And he took his time. He just came straggling along, a lean old Nebraskan, wearing a Cardinals’ sweater, his face wrinkled, that cap sitting on the top of his head and tilted to one side, the way he like to wear it.

After a mound conference during which Hornsby tried to tell Alexander not to throw inside fastballs, the manager left the mound muttering:

Who am I to tell you how to pitch?

Alexander’s first pitch was a curve ball, strike one. His second, an inside fastball fouled off, strike two. Then on another curve on the outside corner, Lazerri swung and missed. In the eighth and ninth innings, Alexander held the Yankees hitless to preserve the Cardinals first world championship. In 20-1/3 World Series innings, Alexander struck out 17 Yankees.

In 1927 and 1928, Alexander won 21 and 16 games. But two years later, he drank himself out of baseball and subsequently several other jobs. For a brief period, Alexander worked in Times Square at Hubert’s Flea Circus retelling the story of how he struck out Lazerri on three straight pitches.
In 1938, the Hall of Fame recognized Alexander’s amazing achievements that include 373 wins, a 2.56 ERA and a 1.5 walks per nine innings ratio. Alexander was famous for his pinpoint control and his fast work on the hill where he routinely took care of business in less than two hours.

But by the time the Hall honored Alexander, he was an emotional and physical wreck. As he said in 1944:

I’m in the Hall of Fame…and I’m proud to be there, but I can’t eat the Hall of Fame.


In 1950, after two decades of uninterrupted post-baseball tragedy that included an operation to remove his cancerous ear and abject poverty, Alexander died alone in a rented room in St. Paul. Alexander, the most tragic figure ever to wear a Major League uniform, was buried with full military honors.

The 20 greatest World Series events

1. Carlton Fisk waves it fair: Game 6 of 1975 featured enough moments to fill a list in itself, from a pinch hit home run by Bernie Carbo that tied it for Boston in the eighth inning to a catch by Dwight Evans that saved a home run in the eleventh. But it’s Fisk’s home run an inning later that lives greatest in baseball lore, with the iconic image of him waving his shot down the left field line fair (supposedly, the NBC camera man who captured Fisk doing this was distracted by a rat and froze, ignoring orders to follow the flight of a hit ball.)

2. Kirk Gibson’s home run: I’m a San Francisco Giants fan, and I still love to watch video of a hobbled Gibson fouling off pitch after pitch from Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of 1988, then lifting a shot into the right field stands at Dodger Stadium, and staggering around the bases fists pumping. It was the only Series at-bat for Gibson, who didn’t even come out for a pregame introduction, though it spurred the Dodgers on to an upset of the heavily favored Oakland A’s.

3. Babe Ruth’s Called Shot: This might take the top spot here were it a real story. Ruth hit a home run off Charlie Root in Game 3 of 1932, and there’s a photo of Ruth supposedly pointing to the center field stands just before. It’s more likely Ruth was gesturing to Root, who swore that if Ruth really had called any shot, he’d have knocked him down. Still, teammates like Lou Gehrig backed Ruth up, and the rest of the story is history.

4. Bill Mazeroski’s Game 7 walk-off: David slew Goliath and decades later, Mazeroski got a plaque in the Hall of Fame for hitting a ninth inning home run that lifted the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-6 over the New York Yankees in 1960.

5. Joe Carter wins it for Toronto: Maybe this doesn’t rate quite with Mazeroski for dramatics, since Carter hit his walk-off in Game 6 of 1993, though the image of him racing around the base paths thereafter is equally joyful.

6. The Catch: Willie Mays made a number of great catches in his career but none greater perhaps than what he did in Game 1 of 1954. With the New York Giants locked in a tight game versus the favored Cleveland Indians, winners of 110 games in the regular season, Vic Wertz smacked what looked like a sure triple to deep center at the Polo Grounds. But Mays caught the ball on a dead run and fired an equally remarkable throw back to keep Larry Doby from tagging up. The Giants went on to a sweep.

7. Don Larsen’s perfect game: Larsen made baseball history Game 5 of 1956 on just 97 pitches, atoning for getting shelled in Game 2. He overcame fine work from his opponent that day, Sal Maglie who allowed just two Yankee runs on five hits. Asked after the game if Maglie had made any mistakes, Dodger catcher Roy Campanella said, “Sal make mistakes? The only mistake he made today was pitching.”

8. Reggie Jackson earns the nickname Mr. October: Whoever doubted Jackson’s $2.96 million free agent signing by the Yankees in November 1976 was silenced about a year later when he smacked three home runs in the series-clinching Game 6 against the Dodgers.

9. Bill Wambsganss’s unassisted triple play: The Indians second baseman accomplished his feat in Game 5 of 1920, recounting it years later in The Glory of Their Times:

Well, Jim Bagby was pitching for us, and he served up a fast ball that (Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Clarence) Mitchell smacked on a rising line toward center field, a little over to my right– that is, to my second-base side. I made an instinctive running leap for the ball, and just barely managed to jump high enough to catch it in my glove hand. One out. The impetus of my run and leap carried me toward second base, and as I continued to second I saw Pete Kilduff still running toward third. He thought it was a sure hit, see, and was on his way. There I was with the ball in my glove, and him with his back to me, so I just kept right on going and touched second with my toe (two out) and looked to my left. Well, Otto Miller, from first base was just standing there, with his mouth open, no more than a few feet away from me. I simply took a step or two over and touched him lightly on the right shoulder, and that was it. Three out. And I started running in to the dugout.

10. Jack Morris’s 10-inning win: Morris gave the Minnesota Twins the World Series in 1991 with his 1-0 shutout in Game 7. John Smoltz offered a Maglie-like performance with seven shutout innings in the Braves’ loss. Like Carter, it wouldn’t be overly stunning if this moment is enough to get the Veterans Committee to overlook some lifetime statistical shortcomings, not that that’s kept everyone from the Hall of Fame.

11. Grover Cleveland Alexander strikes out Tony Lazzeri: It was like something out of a movie with the aging, alcoholic Alexander nursing a hangover in the bullpen during Game 7 of 1926 before his big moment. The moment came when St. Louis Cardinals starter Jesse Haines ran into trouble in the seventh inning, and Alexander was called in to face Yankee Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri, two outs, the bases loaded, and St. Louis leading 3-2. Alexander fanned Lazzeri on three pitches and went two more scoreless innings to give the Cardinals the title.

12. Howard Ehmke’s surprise brilliance: On the occasion of Ehmke’s death in 1959, famed newspaper columnist Red Smith wrote of how Ehmke was due to be cut by Connie Mack late in the 1929 season before begging the A’s manager that he had one more good game in him. Mack gave Ehmke orders to clandestinely scout the Chicago Cubs for a week, and the move paid off, with the 35-year-old junkballer striking out a then-record 13 batters and winning 3-1.

13. Sandy Amoros’ catch: Johnny Podres got a lot of the credit for winning Game 7 of the 1955 World Series for the Dodgers, even being named “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated. But it was Amoros who kept things alive in the sixth inning that day, making a dramatic catch on a Yogi Berra fly ball down the left field line and then relaying a throw into the infield to double up Gil McDougald.

14. Cookie Lavagetto breaks up Bill Bevens’ no-hitter: In general, I tried to stay away from famous miscues for the purposes of this list. It’s why there’s no spot here for Bill Buckner in 1986, Mickey Owen in 1941, or Fred Snodgrass in 1912, among so many others. There’s nothing especially great about men making errors, something that could happen to anyone in extraordinarily stressful circumstances. And that’s what was facing Bevens, a journeyman, when he reached two outs in the ninth in Game 4 of 1947 with a chance at the first no-hitter in World Series history. But fellow journeyman Lavagetto found greatness of his own, smacking a double (and the final hit of his career, incidentally) to win the game for Brooklyn.

15. Relief from Walter Johnson: The Big Train was American League MVP in 1924, his case bolstered by four innings of relief and victory in the twelfth inning for his Washington Senators in Game 7 of the series

16. Bobby Richardson’s catch: The Giants looked like they had their first World Series title in San Francisco when Willie McCovey hit a screamer in Game 7 with men on second and third. But Yankee second baseman Richardson made a leaping catch and the game was over.

17. Casey Stengel’s inside-the-park home run: The Giants lost the 1923 World Series, but Stengel won Game 1 for them in style, smacking a ball into the Death Valley of left-center field at old Yankee Stadium and then running cockeyed around the bases. He said after that he felt the rubber pad in his shoe shift as he rounded second base and that he ran the way he did to keep the shoe from coming off, though he never resembled a typical player, with legs later described in his obituary that “looked like two Christmas stockings stuffed with oranges.”

18. Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash: Slaughter scored what proved to be the decisive run in Game 7 of 1946, dashing around from first on an eighth inning single by Cardinals teammate Harry Walker and beating a late throw from Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky.

19. Joe DiMaggio’s inside-the-park home run: The Yankee Clipper hit what looked like a single to right in Game 4 of 1939. But Charlie Keller barreled into Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi, knocking him senseless and allowing DiMaggio to run all the way around the bases and slide by a dazed Schnozz. The Yankees closed out the sweep in short order.

20. Randy Johnson channels Old Pete and the Big Train: Johnson followed up a 104-pitch performance in Game 6 of 2001 by recording the final four outs of Game 7 to give his Arizona Diamondbacks the win over the Yankees.

The All-Time World Series Roster

Editor’s note: Please welcome the latest from Alex Putterman.

Babe Ruth accomplished quite a bit in the Major Leagues, to say the least. The game’s first—and arguably greatest—power hitter batted .342 during his career with 714 lifetime home runs. But Ruth’s consensus-signature moment didn’t count toward those totals. It was the Babe’s “called shot” on the biggest stage in baseball, the World Series, that crystallized his legend. A player who performs in the Fall Classic adds a whole extra layer to his legacy; he’s always remembered as a winner.

In honor of the soon-to-commence 2011 World Series, these are the players (not coincidentally all current- or future-Hall of Famers) at each position who had the most success when it counted most – in the World Series.

C Yogi Berra: Yogi holds World Series records for games, at-bats, plate appearances and hits, having played in more Fall Classics (13) than any man in baseball history. His team won 10 of those series, and the catcher did his part, batting .274 with 12 home runs and an .811 OPS. Johnny Bench posted similar World Series numbers (albeit in far fewer games), but Berra’s legacy is s0 closely tied to postseason baseball that this list couldn’t be complete without him.

1B Lou Gehrig: Ruth gets all the attention, but Gehrig was in many ways a more productive October hitter than his teammate. The Iron Horse’s .361 batting average and 1.208 OPS in seven World Series (of which the Yankees won six) place him comfortably atop the list of 1st base World Series performers.

2B Eddie Collins: Before the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth and dominated the ensuing 80 years of baseball, the Philadelphia A’s were the American League’s dynastic powerhouse and Collins was their best player. A career .328 World Series hitter with the A’s and later the White Sox, he beats out 1920’s star Frankie Frisch as the Fall Classic’s best 2nd baseman.

3B Home Run Baker: Another member of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s and a teammate of Collins, Baker hit .375 or better in each of his team’s three World Series victories, finishing his career with a .952 World Series OPS. Honorable mention to former-Yankees 3rd baseman Bobby Brown and his .439 batting average and 1.207 OPS in 46 World Series plate appearances.

SS Derek Jeter: Jeter is the most contemporary player on this list and also one of the most deserving. He’s hit .321 career in the World Series, highlighted by an MVP performance in 2000, and his 2001 “Mr. November” home run in the wake of 9/11 is one of the greatest Fall Classic moments of all-time.

LF Babe Ruth: In three World Series starts on the mound for the Red Sox Ruth went 3-0 with a .87 ERA in 31 innings, including a 14-inning complete game in 1916. The Babe’s postseason dominance memorably continued as a Yankee outfielder; he retired with a 1.211 career World Series OPS (second all-time minimum 50 Series at-bats) and one of the most iconic moments in baseball history, the aforementioned “called shot” in 1932.

CF Duke Snider: Center field was a surprisingly difficult position to fill. Willie Mays struggled in the World Series, and Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle often underperformed in October as well, while Tris Speaker and Kirby Puckett were good in the Series but didn’t get there often enough to compile viable sample sizes. That leaves Snider, who hit .286 in six career Fall Classics with 8 doubles and 11 home runs in 149 plate appearances, enough to earn him recognition here as the best ever World Series center fielder.

RF Reggie Jackson: Mr. October was perhaps the easiest choice for this list. Jackson hit .357 career in the World Series and boasts the best OPS in its history. His 1977 series was among the most remarkable ever and included arguably the best single game the Series has seen, game 6, in which Reggie hit home runs in three consecutive at-bats, each on the first pitch and each off a different pitcher. His .450 batting average and 5 total home runs in that series earned him his second World Series MVP award, making him one of three players (and the only non-pitcher) to receive that honor more than once.

SP Christy Mathewson: Matty threw 101.2 total innings in four World Series appearances, posting a .97 ERA in these outings and finishing all but one of the 11 games he started. He is second all-time to Sandy Koufax in World Series ERA and WHIP (minimum 50 innings) and first in complete games and shutouts. Mathewson’s 1905 series was essentially perfect; he threw three consecutive complete game shutouts, winning games 1, 3, and 5, in probably the greatest single-series pitching performance in the history of the Fall Classic.

SP Sandy Koufax: So I cheated and went with two starting pitchers, a righty and a lefty. I just couldn’t leave off Koufax and his .95 ERA (best all-time) in 57 career World Series innings. Along with Jackson and Bob Gibson (who would be my choice were I to add one more starter to this list), Koufax is one of three two-time World Series MVPs.

RP Mariano Rivera: 11 career World Series saves, 36.1 innings pitched in seven World Series appearances, and a .99 career ERA in the Fall Classic. One infamous blown save certainly doesn’t diminish Mariano’s unparalleled World Series career.

The Dynamic Duo, 1959-1966: When Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax ruled

Editor’s note: It is my immense pleasure to present a first-ever research paper written exclusively for Baseball: Past and Present. A few months ago, Dr. Vassilios E. Haloulakos and his son George, a University of California, San Diego professor approached me about offering something here on Dodger greats Drysdale and Koufax. The following marks the culmination of a lot of hard work and, with the postseason underway, is very apropos.

Introduction

The careers of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were my childhood. From 1959 to 1966, this Hall of Fame pitching duo hurled the Los Angeles Dodgers to three world championships and four National League pennants while breaking records that had stood since the early 1900s. Their dominance and personas took on a mystical aura as their diamond exploits were carried over the airwaves, uniting Southern California into a huge community of baseball fans following the games on their portable transistor radios.

This paper celebrates a special era in Major League Baseball and one that is particularly meaningful to the history of Southern California– and America, overall. When the Dodgers and Giants moved from New York to California in 1958, it not only changed the baseball landscape but placed an exclamation mark on America’s westward expansion that had begun in earnest a century before. The longstanding rivalry between the two teams peaked over the next decade, with both clubs often near the top of the National League, and for the Dodgers, the heroics of their two star hurler often gave them the edge.

Drysdale and Koufax were especially notable for accomplishing their feats at a relatively young age and in short time. Their Hall of Fame careers not only offered impressive stats but feats that are appreciable from a scientific perspective. This paper offers statistical, historical, and scientific appraisal of the Drysdale and Koufax era when perhaps the best righty-lefty pitching duo in baseball history dominated baseball and left a lasting, positive legacy in Southern California.

A Statistical Profile on the Era of Drysdale and Koufax: 1959-1966

  • Koufax is first with wins, 145 and strikeouts, 2083 for all of baseball and registers a 2.68 ERA. He averages 18 wins and 260 strikeouts per season.
  • Drysdale is second with wins, 143 and strikeouts, 1777 and registers a 2.98 ERA. Like Koufax, Drysdale averages 18 wins per season and is good for 222 strikeouts a year.
  • Drysdale is first with innings pitched, 2316.2, and Koufax is fourth at 1961. On a per season basis, Drysdale averages 290 innings pitched and Koufax averages 245.
  • During this period, Dodgers score 5412 runs in 1280 games, an average of 4.23 runs per game. During the 1965-66 pennant winning seasons, the Dodgers average less than 3.75 runs per game. This marks a steady decline in scoring evident throughout baseball during this 8-year run.
  • The Dodgers lead the NL with the lowest ERA from 1963-66 as LA wins three pennants and two championships.
  • The ’66 Dodgers are third best in baseball history for Net Earned Average with an ERA 0.99 points lower than the average for NL during 1966 season.
The following chart illustrates the number of times Drysdale and Koufax led the National League in various statistical categories between 1959 and 1966:

Pitching Category Don Drysdale Sandy Koufax
Wins 1 (1962) 3 (1963, ’65, ’66)
Strikeouts 3 (1959–60, ’62) 4 (1961, ’63, ’65-66)
ERA 5 (1962-66)
Shutouts  1 (1959) 3 (1963-64, ’66)
Starts  4 (1962-65)
Innings Pitched  2 (1962, ’64) 2 (1965-66)
25+ Win Seasons  1 (1962) 3 (1963, ’65-66)

In this stretch, the Dodgers finished first in the NL four times (1959, ’63, ’65-66), second two times (1961-62), fourth (1960) and sixth (1964.) The Dodgers also had winning records every season except one, 1964 and averaged 91 wins per year, with Drysdale and Koufax accounting for 40 percent of those wins. In this period, the Cy Young Award was awarded to one pitcher annually in the majors. Drysdale won the award in 1962, and Koufax won it three times, 1963, ’65 and ’66. Los Angeles won three World Series in seven years, after making a practically annual thing of falling short in Brooklyn. World Series play, Drysdale recorded three wins with a 2.95 ERA, with Koufax doing even better, posting four wins and a 0.95 ERA.

Here’s a summary of their career accomplishments:

Pitching Category Don Drysdale (1956-69) Sandy Koufax (1955-1966)
Wins  209 165
Strikeouts 2486 2396
ERA  2.95 2.76
Shutouts 49 40
Signature Record 6-consecutive complete game shutouts (58-2/3 innings) in 1968 Four no-hitters four straight years, capped by a perfect game in 1965
Memorable WS Play Three-hit shutout in 1963 with nine strikeouts and one walk. Drysdale matches Koufax pitch-for-pitch in Game 7 of 1965 on standby bullpen duty Record 15-strikeout win in 1963; 3-hit shutout in Game 7 (1965) with 10 strikeouts and three walks on
two days’ rest

This chart shows the six righty/lefty duos with over 300 wins combined since 1940:

Pitchers Team Years Combined Win-Loss WS Champs
Lew Burdette/Warren Spahn BSN/MIL (NL) 1951-63 443-278 1957
Dizzy Trout/Hal Newhouser DET (AL) 1939-53 361-300 1945
Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine ATL (NL) 1993-02 347-160 1995
Robin Roberts/Curt Simmons PHI (NL) 1948-60 347-299 N/A
Don Drysdale/Sandy Koufax BRO/LA (NL) 1956-66 340-219  1959, ’63, ’65
Tom Seaver/Jerry Koosman NYM (NL) 1967-77 326-232 1969

Historical Observations

The historical record affirms that Drysdale and Koufax set records while playing against the stiffest competition of the day, played their best when it counted most for their team, finished a high percentage of their starts, and were very efficient.

In pitching six consecutive complete game shutouts in 1968, Drysdale defeated three future Hall of Fame pitchers, Bob Gibson, Jim Bunning ,and Ferguson Jenkins and the defending NL Cy Young Award winner Mike McCormick. In the 1963 World Series, Koufax outpitched his mound opponent, future Yankee Hall of Fame pitcher (and all-time WS game winner) Whitey Ford by winning two games, the first and the fourth of the Series, to complete an unprecedented sweep of the two-time defending champs. Koufax set a record with 23 strikeouts in pitching two complete games.

Drysdale’s World Series ERA was equal to his career ERA of 2.95 while Koufax’s World Series ERA was 0.95, nearly two points lower than his career 2.76 ERA. With Drysdale winning three games and Koufax winning four games, the Dodgers were three-time World Series Champions in 1959, ’63 and ’65. In order, the Dodgers defeated the “Go-Go White Sox” who featured the base running of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox; the “M&M Bronx Bombers” of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris; and the “Twins Murderer’s Row” led by Harmon “Killer” Killebrew. In 1966, the Dodgers held the Orioles to a meager 3.25 runs per game, comparable to their performances in 1959, ’63 and ’65, but this time it was not enough as Baltimore held LA to 0.50 runs per game in a 4-0 sweep.

Drysdale and Koufax delivered the following clutch performances in pennant-winning stretch drives:

  • 1959: Koufax registers 41 strikeouts in his final three starts of the regular season that puts the Dodgers one game out of first place on August 31. Drysdale wins the second game of a double-header on September 19 that puts the Dodgers into a first place tie with six games remaining in regular season. The Dodgers finish the season in first place two games in front.
  • 1963: With 11 games remaining in the regular season and the Dodgers in 1st place by one-game, Drysdale and Koufax win two games each, with Drysdale registering one shutout and Koufax shutting out the opposition in both wins. LA finishes the season in first place, six games in front.
  • 1965: That September, Drysdale won 5 games, with two shutouts, and Koufax won another, with four shutouts including a storied perfect game. On the next-to-last day of season Koufax wins to clinch NL pennant for LA. At the start of the month, the Dodgers were in a first place tie. LA finished the season in first place, two games in front. The Dodger staff allowed 521 runs or 3.21 runs per game for the season.
  • 1966: Drysdale won four games with two shutouts in September, and Koufax won five with one shutout. On the final day of the season, October 2, Koufax won again for a total of six wins in the final four weeks to clinch the Dodger’s third pennant in four years. For all of 1966, LA’s pitching staff allowed just 490 runs, barely three runs per game and good for a net ERA of -0.99. This latter stat means Dodger pitchers were essentially 1-run lower than the average for the National League in 1966, third best all-time.

Complete Games: Drysdale completed 167 games of 375 career decisions and Koufax completed 137 games of 252. Over the course of a 162-game season, this took pressure off the remaining starters and relievers so that the team could operate at full strength, particularly in the pennant stretch and World Series.

Efficiency: Despite record-setting strikeout performances and a high percentage of complete games, both pitchers were very efficient as measured by four critical metrics:

  1. Pitch count: From 1959-1966, Drysdale and Koufax each averaged 90-115 pitches per game. There few deep counts for hitters as both men pitched into the strike zone to give batters a chance to put the ball in play. Yet they both registered high strikeouts because batters were often unable to make contact.
  2. Shutouts: Both pitchers shut out the opposition in 25 percent of their wins or one shutout out of every four wins.
  3. Strike-to-Walk Ratio. Both pitchers had a career strike-to-walk ratio of 3:1.
  4. Total Bases-to-Total Innings Ratio . Drysdale registered a career total bases-to-total innings ratio of 1.15 and Koufax registered 1.11.

Background

Drysdale and Koufax spanned two different eras, from the Reserve Clause which bound a player to his team for life to the cusp of free agency. The joint holdout prior to the 1966 season in which Drysdale was awarded a salary of $115,000 and Koufax $125,000 presaged the the formation of a player’s union and arbitrator-sanctioned free agency that prevails to this day. In addition, Drysdale and Koufax pitched at a time when baseball was becoming a transcontinental affair. The Hall of Fame careers of both pitchers was a major factor in legitimizing the westward expansion of the game.

The 1959 season featured many signs of great things to come:

  • Drysdale is NL strike-out king with 242.
  • Drysdale named starter for NL All-Star Team.
  • Drysdale is NL leader in shut-outs with four.
  • Drysdale wins second game of double-header on September 19 that puts Dodgers into a first place tie with six games remaining in regular season.
  • Koufax ties NL record with 16-strikeouts in a June night game against the Phillies.
  • Koufax ties MLB record with 18-strikeouts in August versus the Giants.
  • Koufax registers 41-strikeouts in his final three starts of regular season that puts the Dodgers one game out of first on August 31.

Lessons learned from “The Barber”

Both Drysdale and Koufax were influenced by Sal “The Barber” Maglie during his tenure with Brooklyn in 1956 and ’57. Maglie, whose 13-5 record and stretch-drive no-hitter in 1956 helped the Dodgers win the pennant by one game, taught Drysdale and Koufax the necessity of pitching inside and developing an effective curve ball. Maglie’s intimidating and aggressive style was adopted by both pitchers and taken to an even greater level in terms of helping their team reach the World Series four times in eight years. That Drysdale and Koufax pitched even better in the postseason was testimony to Maglie’s influence.

Maglie was noted for pitching center stage in three of the biggest games of the Fifties: Game 3 of the 1951 pennant-tiebreaker when Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard Round the World to win the pennant; Game 1 of the 1954 World Series when Willie Mays made his great catch off Vic Wertz; and Game 5 for the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game. Drysdale and Koufax carried on Maglie’s tradition as both pitchers elevated their performances in pennant races and on the World Series stage numerous times.

Drysdale and Koufax measured accomplishments in terms of how they helped their team reach the World Series. Individual achievement was secondary. Both men expressed this in interviews and their autobiographies. For example, after the 1963 pennant was clinched, Drysdale rested to prepare for the World Series, thus sacrificing the opportunity for a 20th regular season win. He got his 20th win, though it came in Game 3 of the Series when he threw a three-hit, 1-0 shutout with nine strikeouts. Drysdale considered this the signature game of his career. In September 1965, Koufax pitched his perfect game after LA had dropped two games to the Giants and fallen into a first-place tie with them. Including Koufax’s perfect game, the Dodgers won 18 of their final 22 contests to edge the Giants by two games.

Fan Favorites

Not only did their Dodger teammates benefit financially as the Drysdale/Koufax duo pitched their team to glory but management noted that each time Drysdale pitched, LA drew an extra 3,000 fans to the ballpark while Koufax drew an extra 8,000 fans. Great things were expected to happen anytime this duo pitched and often did as evidenced by the body of their work.

The amazing thing about the Drysdale/Koufax era was that it occurred well before ESPN and saturated sports media coverage. It was truly a cultural phenomenon for its day with a very strong, pervasive presence throughout Southern California. This still resonates in the memories of all those who were present (including the authors of this paper) during those exciting years. These days, people walk around connected either to their cell phones doing e-mail or exchanging text messages while listening to podcasts.

But in the 1950s and ’60s, the Drysdale/Koufax era united Southern California into a huge community of baseball fans following the games on their portable transistor radios. People followed the box scores posted in the daily newspapers and tracked the National League standings. Conversations at family mealtimes, the workplace, school yards and casual exchanges while running errands featured the common theme of talking baseball with emphasis on the Dodgers, their dynamic pitching duo and the NL standings. People from all walks of life, including those from the Hollywood television and film industry embraced the Dodgers.

The Word’s Eye View

With the Dodgers games being broadcast on 50,000-watt, clear channel KFI 640 AM, it was possible to walk up and down the neighborhoods in Southern California from the San Fernando Valley to the beaches to to the deserts and never miss a pitch as nearly every household was tuned in, especially when Drysdale and Koufax were pitching. Since games were infrequently televised, and there were no all-news or all-sports TV stations, Vita Pact Orange Juice, a Southern California based citrus company, would sponsor Dodger final score updates on TV for every game throughout the season.

As it turned out, Dodger baseball in Southern California was initially not all that different from Brooklyn. One could go about from homes, automobiles, public venues, stores and restaurants and, as famed New Yorker baseball writer Roger Angell has written, still hear the radio voice of Vin Scully calling the play-by-play of the games just as he had done while the team was in New York. During the Dodgers first four years in LA, they played in Memorial Coliseum, and its cavernous environs required that fans get the word’s eye view from Scully. Even after moving to Dodger Stadium, fans continued to bring their transistor radios perhaps to verify what they were actually watching.

Enshrined in The Twilight Zone

As noted, the enormous and near-immediate success of the Dodgers in Southern California was largely driven by the record-setting pitching of Drysdale and Koufax. This was immortalized by Rod Serling in his classic CBS television series, The Twilight Zone in an episode titled “The Mighty Casey” originally broadcast June 17, 1960. The episode involved a fictitious baseball team named the Hoboken Zephyrs that moved west and became a dynasty noted for stalwart pitching. “The Mighty Casey” was shown not long after the Dodgers beat the White Sox in the 1959 World Series that had featured the pitching of Drysdale and Koufax amidst a dominant staff.

Here is Serling’s closing narration that makes obvious references to the extraordinary pitching of Drysdale and Koufax, as well the Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, who orchestrated the team’s move:

Once upon a time there was a major league baseball team called the Hoboken Zephyrs who, during the last year of their existence, wound up in last place and shortly thereafter wound up in oblivion. There’s a rumor, unsubstantiated of course, that a manager named McGarry took them to the West Coast and wound up with several pennants and a couple of world’s championships. This team had a pitching staff that made history. Of course, none of them smiled very much, but it happens to be a fact that they pitched like nothing human. And if you’re interested as to where these gentlemen came from, you might check under “B” for baseball– in the Twilight Zone.

Two other things are worth noting here. First, the original draft of the story featured the Brooklyn Dodgers. And in a radio adaptation of this episode in recent years, Drysdale and Koufax’s names were actually used in the closing narration, possibly in tribute to Serling.

Observations on pitching styles and techniques

Fastball

Both pitchers were blazing fast, but the key to long-term success and dominance is the ability to change speeds and create movement to keep hitters off-balance. Drysdale, noted for pitching with a sidearm motion, threw a two-seam fastball that created topspin and a bite when it landed in the catcher’s mitt. Jeff Torborg, who caught both pitchers, characterized Drysdale’s fast ball as hard hard when interviewed by Jane Leavy for her Koufax biography. Torborg observed that by contrast, Koufax, who pitched with an overhand motion threw a four-seam fastball so that his fingers would pull back on the stitching to create backspin and lift. In Torborg’s estimation, Koufax’s fastball was an easy hard because it would rise while Drysdale’s fastball would sink.

This subtle, but critical, distinction created havoc with the opposing hitters. Since both pitchers were schooled in the art of pitching inside by Maglie, this dynamic duo kept the opposition off-balance at all times. As noted, both pitchers were extraordinarily efficient in terms of throwing strikes and wasting few pitches. This further strengthened the advantage of Drysdale and Koufax because their efficiency and stamina enabled them to complete most of their starts, thus putting further pressure on opposing line-ups to score early or risk getting behind, that in turn, made most of these contests one or two-run affairs.

Curve ball

Both pitchers were able to throw very effective curve balls. Drysdale’s sweeping sidearm motion would cause his curve ball to follow a fish tail path. This would cause right-handed batters to back away from the plate for fear of being hit. (Such fear was not unfounded as Drysdale– being a star pupil of Maglie– set an NL record by hitting 154 batters in his 14-year career.) By contrast, Koufax’s overhand curveball tended to break down so sharply at the last moment that it appeared to fall off a table.

Koufax, though not afraid to pitch inside, exercised more control. In his final and greatest season, 1966, Koufax pitched 323 innings without hitting any batters. His overhand curve ball was distinctly different and this can be explained. Typically, an average major league curve ball rotates 12 to 13 times on its way to home plate. Former All Star pitcher Al Leiter, a Koufax pupil, claims that by slowing old film footage of his mentor he counts the number of revolutions on a Koufax curve ball at 14 to 15. These extra rotations help explain the very sharp breaking pattern associated with the Koufax curve ball.

A brief look at the physics of the Drysdale/Koufax pitching styles

Whenever a spinning object like a baseball travels through the air it experiences a lateral force that deflects it sideways from its normal path. This is known as the Magnus force and the resulting change in the flight path of the ball is the Magnus effect.

The direction and strength of the force is a function of how fast and in what direction the ball is spinning. For example, if a baseball is traveling at 95 MPH, the ball forces the air to flow around it, but the flow of air moving around the ball is the same as if the ball were stationary and the air was moving past at 95 MPH. If the ball is not spinning, the deflection of the air caused by the ball creates a low pressure region immediately behind the ball that is termed a wake.

The difference in pressure– higher in the front of the ball and less in the rear– creates aerodynamic drag that slows the forward speed of the ball. But without spin, there is no lateral force. But when the ball is spinning, the rotating surface of the ball crashes against the oncoming air. This causes the air on one side of the ball, specifically the side turning toward the oncoming air, to be deflected from the ball. At the same time, the air on the side turning away from the oncoming air is carried slightly further before moving away. In other words, the wake is now shifted sideways rather than immediately behind the ball.

In this instance, Newton’s law is applied because when the baseball deflects the air in one direction, the air must deflect the baseball in the opposite direction. The resulting Magnus force causes the ball to travel a curved flight path. From this, we can infer the following:

  • If the spin axis on the baseball is vertically aligned, counterclockwise spin will cause the ball’s flight path to move from right to left while clockwise spin will cause the ball to travel from left to right, thus explaining Drysdale’s fishtail curve ball.
  • The greater number of spins would cause the curvature of the flight path to be much sharper at the end versus the beginning. This would explain Koufax’s sharp breaking curve ball that Leiter observed had a greater number of rotations versus other pitchers.
  • When the baseball is thrown with topspin, the Magnus force acts downward that causes the ball to drop as it approaches the catcher’s mitt and land hard-aided by gravity. This would explain Drysdale’s “hard hard” sinking fastball.
  • When the baseball is thrown with backspin, the Magnus force acts upward that partially counteracts gravity so that the pitch falls less than it would under gravity alone. This would explain Koufax’s “easy hard” rising fastball.

Closing Thoughts

The late 1950s through the mid-to-late 1960s was a heady, almost magical period for Southern California baseball fans as the Dodgers created an equally loyal following as they had in Brooklyn. This was done in large part through Drysdale and Koufax setting records and helping win repeated championships.

The memories of this period were generated when baseball was still followed by radio. Although we have video footage of both Drysdale and Koufax, it is not as much as if their exploits were taking place now in this age of Internet streaming and 24/7 digital media coverage. But the constancy of the game, their statistical records, and recollections by their contemporaries and students of pitching have sustained an appreciation that seems to grow stronger with the passage of time. From the Baseball Hall of Fame to The Twilight Zone the superlative pitching exploits of this duo define greatness.

Baseball continues to have a mythical hold on so many generations. My father, Vassilios, considered the game part of his education in becoming an American citizen. I wrote the following in a 1996 issue of Fan: A Baseball Magazine:

My father took me to my first major league baseball game in June 1968. We saw Don Drysdale set the record for consecutive shutouts. The game also marked the first time my father sang the national anthem word-for-word in public. He had obtained his U.S. citizenship just a few years earlier. Several days before the game, I wrote out the words of The Star Spangled Banner on a small index card so that he could sing it. Twenty five years (later), on the occasion of Drysdale’s unexpected passing, Dad and I reminisced about the game. It was then that I learned Dad was still carrying that small index card I had prepared for him in his wallet.

Together, my father and I learned the game through the word’s eye view provided by Scully and have a lifetime of shared memories that remain forever linked to Drysdale and Koufax. May any baseball fan be so blessed.

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About the authors

George A. Haloulakos, MBA, CFA: Teacher, Author and Entrepreneur. Chartered Financial Analyst [CFA] and consultant: DBA Spartan Research and Consulting specializing in finance, strategy and new business ventures. Award-winning university instructor. Author of DOLLAR$ AND SENSE: A Workbook on the ABCs of Investments. Hobbyist in aviation, baseball, spaceflight and science fiction. Lifetime member of Strathmore’s Who’s Who Registry of Business Leaders. Reverend Protodeacon, Orthodox Church in America. Email: Haloulakos@gmail.com

Dr. Vassilios E. Haloulakos: Award-winning educator, eminent rocket scientist and university professor. President of the California Academic Decathlon Board of Directors, Member of the West Coast University Board of Trustees and Accreditation Board Proceedings. Played key role in the design and development of numerous space projects, a dynamic national distinguished lecturer in the use of high technology in the areas of education, medicine, manufacturing and commerce. Listed in Who’s Who in the West and American Men in Science & Engineering. Author of Mathematics, the Layman and Daily Life.  Email: imveh@sbcglobal.net

Bibliography

Charmed Circle: Twenty-Game-Winning Pitchers in Baseball’s 20th Century, Mel R. Freese, McFarland & Company, 1997.
Christy Lembesis, old-time radio hobbyist, amateur baseball historian.
Close Shave: The Life and Times of Baseball’s Sal Maglie, James D. Szalontai, McFarland & Company, 2002.
Franklin Big League Baseball Electronic Encyclopedia, 1993.
John M. Deegan, baseball enthusiast and collector.
Koufax, Edward Gruver, Taylor Publishing, 2000.
Koufax, Sandy Koufax with Ed Linn, Viking Press, 1966.
Once a Bum, Always a Dodger: My Life in Baseball From Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Don Drysdale with Bob Verdi, St. Martin’s Press, 1990.
Personal collection of George A. Haloulakos, baseball hobbyist. DVDs, scrapbook of news and magazine articles, baseball cards, game programs and books.
Players of Cooperstown: Baseball’s Hall of FameInternational Ltd, 1998.
Sandy Koufax: Strikeout King, Arnold Hano, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1964.
Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, Jane Leavy, Harper Collins, 2000.
Sir Isaac and the Rising Fastball, P.J. Brancazio, page 44, Discover Magazine, July 1984.
The Best & Worst Baseball Teams of All Time: From the ’16 A.s To The ’27 Yanks To the Present, Harry Hollingsworth, S.P.I Books, 1994.
The Summer Game, Roger Angell, Bison, 1972.
The Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zicree, Bantam, 1982.
Vassilios E. Haloulakos, scientist, engineer and professor. Lecture notes on physics and applied mathematics.

How Not To Hit the Panic Button

Did I miss something?  No really, did I miss something in Boston?  Perhaps it was only a misunderstanding but it seems to me if memory serves that the ongoing and consistent success of the franchise after years of frustration was born out of management finally realizing that finding the right front office personnel and scouting people is the key to success for any sports organization.  Ups and downs are going to happen.  The right people ensure that the ups are more frequent.

The ownership of the Boston RedSox were right in unceremoniously dumping Terry Francona as manager and putting him out on the street. They were right in pushing GM wunderkid Theo Epstein out the door with nothing but an “if you really want to go.”  It makes a lot of organizational sense. I mean, Boston did finish last in the AL East this season didn’t they?  That’s simply not acceptable is it?

Oh wait, Boston didn’t finish last.  Not once in the Francona-Epstein years. Sure they had one of the worst Septembers in memory and didn’t make the playoffs but if I read the recent baseball history correctly, Boston had a pretty decent run from 2003-2011. Well perhaps not that good– they only won two World Series titles and were strong contenders each season in the toughest division in baseball.  I mean, most of the other 29 teams can make the same claim can’t they?

Talk about cutting off your own nose to spite your face. What exactly did Terry Francona and Theo Epstein do that was so heinous that any semblance of loyalty or good business sense was thrown completely out the window by Boston ownership?

Certainly the signings of John Lackey and Carl Crawford were ill advised, some might even say disastrous. In the case of Crawford, someone should have noticed that Crawford had a lifetime batting average of .242 in Fenway Park. Odds were that he was going to play half of his games in Fenway. His performance in Fenway was over the course of nine seasons could hardly be considered a blimp on the statistical radar.

John Lackey had an understandable distraction throughout the 2011 season with the serious illness of his wife.  Ownership should have known that such a situation was more than enough pressure and throwing a player already distracted into the wolves den which maybe should have given the Boston press pause. Lackey had never shown anything near the mental toughness needed to play in Boston or New York. Apparently ownership didn’t notice.

Some of the veteran players, David Ortiz especially, put themselves above the team with their massive egos which weren’t covered by their performance, especially in September. A manger has to count on player responsibility. The press loved Ortiz for his Big Papi stature, with performance and leadership overlooked and blame shifted elsewhere. There was little if any criticism towards a completely one-dimensional player who demanded millions yet produced nothing in September.

Terry Francona had so many distractions from prima donna players and indecisive ownership that he had little or no time to actually concern himself with what was going on during the game. Maybe it was the pills, booze, off field distractions which the Boston press has recently “uncovered” about him.

Historically, the best way to cover up an embarrassing mistake is to manufacture dirt on the innocent victim(s). I had never read anything which questioned Francona’s on field managing skills or his offield behavior. In a town where every breath is written about by someone, I find it odd that nothing had ever surfaced before.

Theo Epstein was the man who brought Boston out of their historically dismal showings.  Certainly Epstein made some questionable signings. Certainly the Boston clubhouse had too many players concerned only with their next paycheck.  Epstein had the resources to fix this problem, letting the prima donnas go by eating what has turned out to be some bad contracts. But when the rumors began to fly that Epstein wanted out of Boston, potential suitors formed a line a mile long.

Boston ownership has finally become more despised than the New York Yankees. Looks good on them.  I hope they pay for it long after Francona has landed somewhere he is appreciated and Epstein builds his next dynasty. Boston ownership decided to throw the baby out with the dirty bath water.

Delay

I have some good news and some bad news.

I’ll start with the bad news. Today’s post isn’t ready to be published, well, today. It’s a 5,000-word research paper, sent in by a couple of readers, and I’d like another day to edit and get the format looking appropriate for publication.

The good news is that in terms of content, this should be one of the best posts ever published on this site. I’m very proud, and I hope it spurs more research-driven submissions.

Check back tomorrow evening, there should be something up. If I have your email address, I may send something to you when I have the post live. This one’s worth reading.

Any player/Any era: Ted Williams

What he did: I’ve written about the Splendid Splinter before, though I was motivated to feature him again thanks to a computer baseball game that I like. I’ve been burning large amounts of free time lately playing a demo for Baseball Mogul 2012, a sim that allows creating historical rosters. One of the niftier game features lets users pull players out of retirement, and today, I wondered how Williams might do on the 1963 New York Mets with their bathtub of a park, the Polo Grounds.

I plugged a 44-year-old Williams onto those Mets, and with other aging imports like Stan Musial and Yogi Berra in the lineup, Williams hit about .350 and helped New York to an 82-80 record (and that was with fellow 44-year-old unretiree Bob Feller going 7-22 with an ERA north of 6.00. It wasn’t pretty.) All of this makes me wonder if Teddy Ballgame’s 1960 retirement may have come a few years too soon.

Era he might have thrived in: For all their struggles, including a historically bad 40-120 in their inaugural 1962 season (which the demo won’t let me play), the expansion-era Mets were largely a veteran club. Their debut team featured the likes of elder baseball statesmen such as Gil Hodges, Richie Ashburn, and Frank Thomas among others, and at 43 on Opening Day that year, Williams wouldn’t have been terribly older. He might also have been a threat for the National League batting title and at least 30 home runs in the Polo Grounds, not to mention eight or ten more wins for the Mets.

Why: Most famous baseball players are pretty well done by the time they hang up their spikes or are forced to retire. Ken Griffey Jr. and Babe Ruth both quit at 40 after playing like men bused in from nursing homes. Steve Carlton made more stops at the end of his career than a kid with a paper route. Williams, on the other hand, may have had some more baseball in him, hitting .316 with 29 home runs and an OPS+ of 190 in his final season. Granted, his defense wasn’t anything nice at the end, though for a team like the Mets, Williams’ bat may have been enough to compensate.

There are other factors that might have made this interesting as well. The famously tough New York media would probably have been no problem for Williams who was excoriated and libeled by what passed for media in Boston during his career. I’m also curious how Williams might have gotten on with the Mets’ first manager, Casey Stengel. The Old Perfessor clashed with the conservative Joe DiMaggio in his time with the Yankees and once called Mickey Mantle his greatest disappointment, but otherwise seemed to have the temperament to welcome a hard worker and candid spirit like Williams. Whatever the case, I doubt it would have been too much to derail Williams’ stint as a Met.

I’ll admit I often wonder why players aren’t coaxed out of retirement more often. My guess is that a 44-year-old formerly elite player would be of more value than an average player ten years younger, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for fan interest, either. When the U.S. men’s basketball program was in the toilet a few years ago, I thought it would have been cool to draft the ’92 Dream Team back into action, with ageless wonders like Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler still capable of gold medal work. And then there’s Ty Cobb. Around the time Williams retired, Yogi Berra was asked what Cobb might hit in the modern game. Berra guessed .260. When asked if he thought pitching was that much better, Berra added something to the effect of, “Yes, but you have to remember Cobb’s about 70 years old.”

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 PujolsBabe RuthBad News Rockies,Barry BondsBilly BeaneBilly MartinBob CaruthersBob FellerBob Watson,Bobby VeachCarl MaysCharles Victory FaustChris von der Ahe,Denny McLainDom DiMaggioEddie LopatFrank HowardFritz MaiselGavvy CravathGeorge CaseGeorge WeissHarmon KillebrewHarry WalkerHome Run BakerHonus WagnerHugh CaseyIchiro SuzukiJack ClarkJackie RobinsonJim AbbottJimmy WynnJoe DiMaggioJoe PosnanskiJohnny AntonelliJohnny FrederickJosh HamiltonKen Griffey Jr.Lefty GroveLefty O’DoulMajor League (1989 film),Matty AlouMichael JordanMonte IrvinNate ColbertPaul Derringer, Pee Wee ReesePete RosePrince FielderRalph KinerRick AnkielRickey Henderson,Roberto ClementeRogers HornsbySam CrawfordSam Thompson,Sandy KoufaxSatchel PaigeShoeless Joe JacksonStan MusialTed WilliamsThe Meusel BrothersTy CobbVada PinsonWally BunkerWill ClarkWillie Mays

Bob Friend: The Warrior

On October 13, the Pirates celebrated the 51st anniversary of the team’s spectacular seventh game, bottom of the ninth, come from behind World Series victory over the heavily favored but universally disliked (at least in Pittsburgh) New York Yankees. In one form or another, Pittsburgh has continuously celebrated the upset since the instant Bill Mazeroski hit his historic home run in Forbes Field at 3:36 P.M. See it here.

The most popular event occurs annually at a small section of the old Forbes Field that was left behind for posterity after the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium in 1970.  Hard core fans gather to share their recollections and chat with some of the players on the 1960s team. Among them are Dick Groat, Elroy Face and Bob Friend.

When it comes to the 1960s Pirates, it’s pretty much a non-stop love fest until Friend’s name is mentioned. Friend was then and still is now a fan favorite. We just hoped that the World Series would have turned out differently for Bob.

During the years that led up to the Pirates fifth World Series appearance, Friend acquired the nickname “The Warrior”. A quick look at Friend’s statistics explains why. From 1956 through 1960, Friend averaged 39 starts and led the league twice in that category. During that same period, Friend also led the league in innings pitched twice. In 1955 for the 60-94 Pirates, Friend posted a 14-9 record with a National League best 2.83 ERA, the first pitcher ever to record the league’s lowest ERA while toiling for a last place team.

Friend’s stellar 1955 and 1956 seasons earned him a spot on the All Star Game roster. During his three innings, Friend struck out Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Ted Williams and got credit for the win. In the 1960 All Star Game, Friend also notched the victory and thus shares the record for most All Star Games won. two. Years later, Friend ran into Williams.  Teddy Ballgame asked him, “What were you doing throwing me a curve ball?”

The 1960 World Series was a nightmare for Friend. In his two starting efforts in the second and sixth games, the Yankees shelled Friend. In game 7, manager Danny Murtaugh summed Friend in from the bull pen to preserve a 9-7 lead.  But Friend gave up two quick singles to Bobby Richardson and to pinch hitter Dale Long. Murtaugh lifted Friend, charged with two earned runs, in favor of Harvey Haddix. By the series’ end, Friend’s record stood at a sorry 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA.

By the next season, Friend had put his disappointing World Series behind him. Between 1961 and 1964, Friend continued to be the Pirates’ go-to guy; he started 35, 38, 36, 35 and 34 games while averaging 15 wins a year for mostly second division teams. In 1965, the Pirates traded Friend to the New York Yankees who in turn swapped him to the cross-town Mets.

Friend ended his career with a 197-230 record and is the only Major League pitcher to lose 200 games without winning 200. A Purdue University graduate who served as the Allegheny County Controller from 1967 to 1975, Friend still lives in the Pittsburgh area.

Among Pirates’ fans who remember that Friend at his peak rarely missed a start, we know  that if fate had dealt him a different hand– like say 15 seasons with the Yankees and one with the Pirates– his final totals would be similar to Robin Roberts’ and he would likely be in the Hall of Fame.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Harry Dalton

Editor’s Note: Please welcome Jon Daly to the site. Jon puts in long hours down at BaseballThinkFactory.org and is no relation to anyone who has golfed professionally.

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Claim to fame: After graduating from Amherst College and spending a stint in the Air Force, Dalton took a front-office job with the Baltimore Orioles. Jim McLaughlin, the iconoclastic scouting director, hired him. Eventually, McLaughlin left after a power struggle with Paul Richards over the signing of pitcher Dave McNally, and Dalton took over for him. Lee
MacPhail was the Baltimore general manager in the early Sixties. When Spike Eckert was elected Commissioner, he needed someone who actually knew about baseball in his office and he tabbed MacPhail. Thus was while Baltimore was trading Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson. Dalton’s first task as GM was to finish up the deal and he tried to get another player for the Orioles.

Dalton became the auteur for three teams; Baltimore (‘66-‘71), California (‘72-‘77, and Milwaukee (’78-’91.) His teams won five American League titles and two World Series, and Milwaukee had the best record in the AL East during the shortened 1981 season. All told his teams had a W-L record of 2175-1965, good for a .519 winning percentage. Dalton was the Sporting New Executive of the Year twice. Only George Weiss and Walt Jocketty have won the award more often. More information about Dalton can be found in Daniel Okrent’s excellent Nine Innings, which I bought as a high schooler with money from my job at Roy Rogers’ and still own and will occasionally flip through to this day. It looks at baseball through the prism of a getaway day game at County Stadium between Baltimore and Milwaukee in 1982.

Eligibility: Veterans Committee or Golden Era Committee. Dalton last appeared on the VC ballot in 2007 and received eight votes. It is hard to keep track of eligibility rules of the VC, but Dalton may be eligible this year by the Golden Era Committee. I had not heard of this latter committee before researching this. According to the Hall’s website: “The Golden Era Committee (“The Committee”) shall refer to the electorate that considers retired Major League Baseball players no longer eligible for election by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), along with managers, umpires and executives, whose greatest contributions to the game were realized from the 1947-1972 era.” I would consider Dalton’s best years to be those he spent with Baltimore.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Baseball is a general manager’s game and has been for some time. Right now, Moneyball is in the theaters. Yet, there are only a handful of general managers enshrined in Cooperstown; Branch Rickey, Ed Barrow, George Weiss, and this year’s inductee Pat Gillick.

A lot of credit for the Nixon-era success of the Orioles goes to Earl Weaver, and rightly so. When Weaver and Dalton worked in the Oriole farm system, they collaborated on what was to become the Oriole Way; playing baseball the right way, and not in some clichéd sense. If you go strictly by who coached for him, Earl Weaver is the only prominent guy from those days who leaves much of a legacy of future managers. George Bamberger, Frank Robinson, Ray Miller, and Billy Hunter all coached under him. Davey Johnson played for him. Tommy Lasorda’s managerial tree has Mike Scioscia and Joe Maddon. But Lasorda and Anderson seemed to staff their coaching ranks with loyal lifers.

But it wasn’t just Weaver and his coaches. The front office had some long-lasting influence. Dalton had John Schuerholz and Lou Gorman work under him in Baltimore. He worked under Frank Cashen who was the president of the club. A baseball outsider, he was Jerry Hoffberger’s right hand man in his other ventures then Hoffberger bought the team. When Dalton left for California to pursue Gene Autry’s dollars, Cashen assumed the GM role. I’m guessing he learned a lot from Dalton. He eventually went to New York and turned the Mets around.

I couldn’t find anyone who worked for the Angels that later became a GM, but his Brewer employees included two future GMs in Sal Bando and Dan Duquette. Some of Schuerholz’s underlings in KC and Atlanta (like Drayton Moore) have become GMs, but it looks like Cashen’s branch has been fruitful. Billy Beane admired Dalton’s work and Beane spawned Ed Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta. Cashen’s successor GM’s in Queens worked under him: McIlvaine, Harazin, and Hunsicker. Theo Epstein, Omar Minaya, Jim Hendry, and Tim Purpura can trace their lineage to these Mets execs.

With men like McLaughlin (who tried to systematize scouting), Weaver, Paul Richards, and Dalton, it was like a regular Manhattan Project or Algonquin Roundtable of baseball whose effects reverberated well beyond the Charm City. Dalton had a great track record, but I think what makes him historically great is the widespread influence that he and his acolytes
have had on baseball.

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Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? will relaunch on a weekly basis the first Tuesday after the postseason ends.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosers, Curt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenHarold BainesJack MorrisJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim Rain
es
Tony OlivaWill Clark

The only thing 'Moneyball' is missing? The 2002 Oakland Athletics

Editor’s Note: Please welcome my friend Thia Bonadies to the site. I approached Thia last week about reviewing “Moneyball” here since she may be the biggest A’s fan I know and has written professionally. It’s my pleasure to present her piece.

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So, Moneyball. Yeah, it came out. A while ago now– well, at least in ‘movie reviewing’ terms– however I, myself, have not read one of them. Nope. Not a single one. Unless you count typing ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ into Google the day it premiered only to see that the coveted website had given the Brad-Pitt-turned-Billy-Beane film a whopping 95% on their “Tomatometer”. Which is rarer than you’d think – I mean, as in almost unheard of. Almost. And, regardless of where you stand on the whole pro/con Billy Beane argument (which at this point is so zzzzzzz to me that even mentioning it makes me roll my OWN damn eyes), seeing something – ANYTHING – with a number THAT big, that also happens to be connected with the Oakland Athletics, is something every A’s fan is using as a source of pride. In fact, through some bizarre and non-sequitur form of mind-mathematics A’s fans have developed in the last few years – as a way to formulaically convince themselves NOT to trade in their green and gold hearts for a sparkly new black and orange one – that rating, and the movie itself, was almost, like, a reward for getting through the 2011 season. And, the 2010 season. And while we’re at it, the three seasons before that, as well.

In the years since Moneyball has become a technique in the baseball world, there are two types of A’s fans: those who are “with” Billy Beane and those who, well, aren’t. Me, I’m a member of “Team Against.” But, honestly, it’s probably only because that’s the stance my father has taken over the years and – doing his job to raise me as a loyal fan of the White Elephants, even in losing seasons, I just kind of copy him in every opinion possible.

The A’s have not had a winning season since 2006 when they followed up their ALDS sweep of the Twins by getting broomed by the Tigers in the ALCS. Sitting in the movie theater – which I saw opening night at Oakland’s own Grand Lake Theater (because watching it at another venue would be true fan blasphemy) I couldn’t help but remember watching all those games wishing and hoping for another outcome.

The movie itself was perfectly executed. And, yes there were some obvious places where the filmmakers took creative license to make it into a “better”(?) story. For instance, there’s a scene where Beane announces that he wants to have Jason Giambi’s brother, Jeremy, as part of the 2002 team. But, all of us A’s fans can’t ever forget (no matter how hard we try) that Jeremy was already part of the squad – no doubt spending 2002 reeling from his infamous not-sliding-into-home play during the 2001 Division Series, the very faux pas that resulted in the Yankees ultimately advancing to the next round of the playoffs. But, considering that Moneyball is a movie – and not real life – fictionalizing parts of what really happened seems necessary and not sacrilege. And, in general, although I’ve never personally met Mr. Beane, from what I can tell Pitt played him to a T. From his hot-headed temper to his mannerisms to his perfect hair, it was a movie that was more about Billy Beane, the man, than the A’s themselves.

From a filmic perspective, it makes sense that the A’s weren’t heavily featured in Moneyball. From the earliest scenes in the movie, Beane makes it very clear that he doesn’t really see the players in a personal light: he doesn’t watch them play– he listens to the games on the radio instead; he doesn’t take an interest in their lives– he sees them as statistics. To him, they’re merely walking, talking W’s and L’s and as long as he keeps a fair distance they’re expendable, tradeable, DFA-able, et ceter-able if need be. So, from this perspective, it only makes sense that screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin and director Bennett Miller would keep the A’s presence more OFF the screen than ON. Which, they do. Throughout the 133 minutes I spent sitting in that theater, however, I found myself waiting in on-the-edge-of-my-seat anticipation for the scene that drastically featured the personalities of that fairy-tale team. Because, the movie had to have it, right?

Surely no motion picture about the 2002 Oakland Athletics wouldn’t include a scene with Barry Zito – the team’s ace pitcher whose 23-5 record won him the Cy Young award despite not making it past the American League Division Series, right? I mean, there certainly had to be a part that showed Zito’s lovable downward-dog-on-the-field self goofing off with his “Big Three” companions, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, right? No? Ok, well there would most definitely be some sort of montage that highlighted the notorious twenty-up, twenty-down streak, right? Something that showed how truly remarkable that 2002 roster was, right? Just a little – just a TINY – something that showed them laughing, and fooling around in the dugout, causing us fans to think, “Jeez, these dudes look like they’re having so much fun – I wish I could be their friend,” which is what we were ALL thinking, be tea dubs. But, that clip…that clip that showed how absolutely infectious that team was – as a whole – how absolutely magical the summer at that dilapidated coliseum in Oakland was, how fun it was to watch Miguel Tejada come up to bat, how great it was to see Oakland in the MLB limelight, that clip just never came.

Yes, the movie included the A’s twenty-game winning streak – it’d be impossible to make a movie about that year in baseball without doing so. But, even so, the scene left me feeling hungry and dissatisfied. It made it seem like the 2002 A’s were a total fluke. Like they weren’t even really ‘that good’. Like the entire country wasn’t watching them. But they were. Everyone was.

When I left the theater I ‘got it’. I understood that a movie about Billy Beane, the man couldn’t simultaneously be about the 2002 Oakland Athletics, the players. It just couldn’t. Not when the two are so separate. Regardless of my longing for ‘more Zito’ (because yum!), ‘more Miggy’, ‘more A’s’, what happened as I was exiting the theater is what solidified Moneyball as a film for me: I heard people who said they didn’t like baseball say they ‘loved’ the movie. And, that’s what it was. A movie. Nothing more. Moneyball did a stellar job of showing that you don’t have to know anything about baseball, or baseball history, to fall in love with a movie about one. So, job well done, Moneyball cast and crew – or should I say, job HELLA well done. And, hey, it could’ve been worse: it could have been another movie about the Yankees or Red Sox…