Of the eleven players who won four or more batting titles, only Bill Madlock isn’t in the Hall of Fame. (The other ten are listed at the end of my column; try to name them before looking. Note: some spoilers in the text.)
Of the eleven players who won four or more batting titles, only Bill Madlock isn’t in the Hall of Fame. (The other ten are listed at the end of my column; try to name them before looking. Note: some spoilers in the text.)
Editor’s note: My weekly Tuesday column “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” will resume next week.
It’s a little shy of midnight as I write these words. My cat’s curled up on my couch next to me, I’m flopped out myself, and for the last couple of hours, I’ve gotten very little done. In a little less than one week exactly, this year’s edition of my project on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame will go live. We’re getting into crunch time, and I have a lot of work ahead of me in the next week. I’m already a little stressed, and my current procrastination is the byproduct.
So far, 161 people have requested ballots to vote in this year’s project, and without checking, I estimate close to half have voted. About 95 people asked for ballots last year, with 63 people voting, and if the completion rate holds steady this time around, we should have over 10o voters. This is a good thing, as more votes leads to truer, better-separated rankings. But it’s also nerve-wracking, as I count every ballot by hand for quality control purposes, and last year, they took about 20 minutes a piece on average. I estimate I’ll need to tally at least 20 ballots a day the rest of this week to have enough time to write the results post and avoid pulling another all-nighter before my project goes live, like I did last year. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if another sleepless night is in my near future.
To everyone who’s voted so far: Thank you! To everyone else: Votes are due by Thursday at 9 p.m. PST, and I’m happy to answer any questions between now and then. Please feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. After the deadline passes, my plan is to have something up by the evening of next Monday, December 5, after the Veterans Committee announces whether it will be enshrining anyone next summer. Hopefully, folks will take notice of our work. Last year’s project got linked to on ESPN.com and received so much traffic my server crashed. So far, this year’s project is looking bigger and better. I’ve even created the first-ever t-shirt in the history of this Website for it, a t-shirt won by voter Nick Diunte, I’ll add, for identifying I put every starter from the 1989 San Francisco Giants on my ballot.
All things considered, I suppose a word of warning to my tech guys may be in order.
Editor’s note: It is my pleasure to present the latest from Alex Putterman. With the recent National League Most Valuable Player Award being given to one of the players here, Alex’s piece seems very apropos.
When I was playing, I used to resent being singled out as a Jewish ballplayer. I wanted to be known as a great ballplayer, period… Lately, though, I find myself wanting to be remembered not only as a great ballplayer but even more as a great Jewish ballplayer.
From the birth of professional baseball through the present day, Jews have played and succeeded in the Major Leagues. And as baseball history has progressed, the fraternity of Jewish players has grown to the point where an all-time 25-man Jewish roster is exceedingly easy to compile. Here are my selections for the all-Jewish all-star team, beginning with the starting line-up:
C Brad Ausmus – Ausmus didn’t hit much during his 18-year career but is a three-time Gold Glove winner with an impressive career defensive WAR of 9.8. He was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, one of ten players on this list to have received that honor.
1B Hank Greenberg – The Hebrew Hammer was a two-time MVP, a four-time home run champ, and a Hall of Famer, but Jewish fans of his era admire him just as much for a religious-stance as for a batting-stance. In 1934, with his Tigers engaged in a pennant chase, Greenberg, by his own admission not a particularly religious man, opted to sit out on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, prompting poet Edgar A. Guest to write that, “We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat / But he’s true to his religion–and I honor him for that.”
2B Buddy Myer – Baseball-Reference.com lists Hall of Famers Billy Herman and Joe Sewell as the batters most similar to Myer, suggesting that the Senators middle-infielder, who received only .7% of the HOF vote in his only year on the ballot, is somewhat underrated. A two-time all-star and one-time batting champ, Myer is the all-time hits leader among Jewish players.
3B Al Rosen – Rosen’s career was short but tremendously productive. From 1950 to 1954, he hit .296 with 156 home runs and an OPS+ of 150, earning the 1953 AL MVP award and very nearly winning that year’s Triple Crown. Rosen embraced the attention from the Jewish community that his success yielded, calling himself “one Jewish kid that every Jew in the world can be proud of.”
SS Lou Boudreau – Boudreau was raised by a Christian father and never identified as Jewish, but his mom was Jewish, and the Hall of Famer therefore qualifies for this team. Without him, we’d have a hard time filling the shortstop position (although Myer could move to short and Ian Kinsler into the starting lineup), and given that Boudreau hit .295 career, played terrific defense, and won the 1948 AL MVP award, I’m happy to claim him as Jewish.
LF Ryan Braun – The recently-crowned National League MVP could eventually challenge Greenberg’s undisputed title of Greatest Jewish Hitter Ever. Braun has hit over .300 in three consecutive seasons and has topped 30 home runs in four of his five big league campaigns. He has also developed into somewhat of a five-tool player, having stolen 33 bases in 2011 and greatly improved defensively from year to year. If Braun, 28, continues to grown in all facets of the game, he could pick up another MVP trophy or two before he’s done.
CF Lip Pike – One of baseball’s first stars, Pike was a home run champion in the 1860’s and ’70s, playing in the National Association of Base Ball Players, the National Association, and eventually the National League. He was also the first person ever to legally receive a salary for playing baseball.
RF Shawn Green – Green’s peak was short and his career’s ups and downs parallel to the steroid era, but for years Green was the only recognizable Jewish ballplayer and therefore holds a special place in the heart of a 90’s born Jewish baseball fan. As a New York Times headline once pronounced, Green was “A Power Hitter. And a Source of Jewish Pride.”
SP Sandy Koufax – Owner of four no-hitters and three Cy Young awards, Koufax is the all-time Jewish leader in strikeouts and is second among Jewish pitchers in career ERA and wins. When Game 1 of 1965 World Series fell on Yom Kippur, Koufax followed Greenberg’s precedent, sitting out to honor his religion. The Dodgers won that game and the series, with Koufax throwing three gems, including complete game shutouts in games 5 and 7.
Outfielder and third-baseman Sid Gordon (129 career OPS+) is the first man off the bench for this Jewish all-star team and could arguably start over Green or Pike. Kevin Youkilis and Ian Kinsler may one day sneak into the starting lineup but for now are relegated to the pine. Since Mike Lieberthal “does not wish to identify himself as a member of the Jewish community,” Harry Danning gets the nod as back-up catcher. Our All-Jewish team thins out a little bit at the end of the bench, with Mike Epstein (nicknamed Superjew) and Elliot Maddox occupying the final spots, at least until Ike Davis and Danny Valencia eventually usurp them.
All-time Jewish wins leader Ken Holtzman, 1980 AL Cy Young award winner Steve Stone, The “Yiddish Curver” Barney Pelty, and journeyman lefty Dave Roberts round out the starting rotation (Jason Marquis’s inexplicable longevity has put him fourth all-time among Jewish pitchers in wins and strikeouts, but this team deserves better than his 4.55 career ERA).
The bullpen is not the all-Jewish team’s strength. We’ll use Erskine Mayer as a spot-starter and long-reliever, Al Levine and Scott Schoeneweis as middle relievers, Harry Eisenstat as lefty-specialist, Craig Breslow as set-up man, and severely under-qualified Lance Sherry as closer. Let’s just say Koufax better go all nine innings.
Given his success as a player-manager, Boudreau seems like the logical choice to skipper the team. Gabe Paul and Theo Epstein can run the front-office, with Ruben Amaro Jr. and Randy Levine working under them. Former-Pirates headman Barney Dreyfus (one of the key figures in the creation of the World Series) could be team owner, although current-MLB owners Chuck Greenberg, Ted Lerner and Jerry Reinsdorf are viable candidates as well. And if the All-Jewish team needs a comissioner, Bud Selig qualifies.
Okay, okay. I’m happy that baseball has signed a new agreement and there will be no strike for the next five years. I get it. I remember the previous strikes and no baseball definitely equaled no fun. But someone has to stop this maniac who presides over Major League Baseball. Someone has to shout from the highest mountain that the emperor has no clothes.
I’ve noticed after the gleeful announcement that an agreement had been signed that some of my fellow baseball journalists are finally getting the point and are calling it what it is– a shambles and a shame. Some of my fellow journalists have even put aside the relief that there will be no baseball strike for the next few years and managed to see past another chapter in the disastrous reign of King Bud. This is an agreement which serves no one but the rich and powerful of the owners and the television networks. Again, the average fan such as me has been left out of the equation amidst the joyous pronunciations of those who run the game.
An agreement for the sake of an agreement is often not an advantageous result, no matter the industry. Smiles and handshakes all around do not constitute success. The, at least we did something, simply doesn’t cut it. The smiles looked more painful than joyful. Lessons were not learned and successful models were not followed. Profits should not be the only thing that matters and baseball should not become like all the other sports. It was unique. Now it is on the precipice of that slippery slope of mediocrity and sameness. Nothing that needed to be fixed was, all in the name of profit.
The luxury tax instituted way back when was a good idea… in theory. But in actual fact, it was little or no restriction at all. Teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox could afford to spend at will and could and can afford any luxury taxes which may be imposed on them. These taxes were and are distributed amongst the so called smaller market teams but with no accountability as to how this money should be spent. Love him or hate him, the late George Steinbrenner had a valid point. He stated that he didn’t mind paying a luxury tax, the price of success, but he did mind that those owners who receive this money could merely pocket the cash and continue to neglect the product on the field. There was no minimum team salary in place. Franchises like Pittsburgh continue to pocket this money, charge high ticket prices, and field poor teams. This was not addressed.
Now we have regulations in place which punish small market teams for spending the necessary money to sign high round draft picks. This will effectively limit their ability to sign such potentially franchise altering players and allow the rich teams which can afford any penalties to snap them up and continue their dominance of the sport. Selig makes the argument that baseball is one of the few sport to field different championship teams almost every season but this argument is deceptive. It is based on mediocre teams qualifying for the wild card berth and getting hot at the right time.
This brings me to additional wild card teams. This will see more and more barely above .500 teams making the playoffs each season. The one game playoff format is interesting and may serve to make a first place finish meaningful once again. However, once a team survives this sudden death round, the roll of the dice playoff situation again rears its ugly head. Where is the disadvantage to winning 83 games? If home field advantage is as important as Selig seems to believe, why are wild card teams not disadvantaged throughout the playoffs? A second place finish shouldn’t mean as much as a first place finish above and beyond those fluke seasons whereby a second place team has a better record than a division elsewhere. The wild card, albeit giving more fans in more cities hope deeper into a season, is really little more than a money grabbing scenario for the teams and baseball in general.
I’m just getting started.
What he did: Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, to have gratitude. So what might Ollie Carnegie have been grateful for? Carnegie is perhaps the best American baseball player never to appear in the majors, one of a small group of players who carved out a good, long career exclusively in the high minors. If Carnegie had played in a more recent era than his own, one can only wonder what might have might been.
A Pennsylvania Railroad worker and semi-pro ballplayer, Carnegie started playing in the International League at 32 in 1931 after losing his job with the railroad. His age kept big league clubs from pursuing him, though Carnegie played from 1931 until 1941 with the Buffalo Bisons of the IL and spent 15 seasons all told in the minors, hitting .309 with 297 homers and more than 1,000 RBI. He was a man born at least 30 years too soon. In an era with expansion teams, Carnegie would have reached the majors, even if he’d been over 30 when it happened. And in the American League, with the opportunity to DH, Carnegie could have been a star.
Era he might have thrived in: There’s a certain temptation to place Carnegie in the National League of the 1990s on the Colorado Rockies, where men like Dante Bichette, Ellis Burks, and Andres Galarraga were pulled off their respective scrap heaps to find new offensive life. But I don’t think Carnegie would only be a star in Colorado, and elsewhere, he could make more of a difference. In Toronto in 1977, Carnegie might have made the Blue Jays relevant a few years sooner.
Why: As far as expansion teams go, Toronto did well relatively quickly, becoming a playoff-caliber club by the early ’80s behind All Stars like Dave Stieb and George Bell. But the Blue Jays’ initial few seasons were a bleak affair, Ernie Whitt and Jim Clancy their only picks in the 1976 expansion draft who would eventually factor into the glory years. Expansion drafts often provide slim pickings for the newly-minted teams, and sometimes, that’s all that’s needed for an unconventional player like Carnegie to get his shot. With Toronto, Carnegie could have been the favorite son that northern fans so lacked in those early days.
I believe a lot about success in baseball comes down to being in the right place at the right time. Carnegie suffered from playing in an era when good offensive players were easy to come by and guys without much defensive ability didn’t last long in the majors, Dale Alexander, Johnny Frederick, and Smead Jolley just a few of the talented hitters who returned to the minors after short stays in the show. If any of those men were DHs in the majors today, they might be well-known. Same goes for Carnegie, even as he was a right-handed batter who stood 5’7″ and weighed 175 pounds. I’m sure he’d have welcomed not having to roam the outfield in the modern American League.
Carnegie’s International League numbers late in his career hint at what might have been. In 1938 at 39, Carnegie hit .330 for Buffalo with 45 homers and 136 RBI. There is no stat converter on Baseball-Reference.com to project what those numbers would be with Toronto in 1977, but I like to think the end result would be at least good for a starting gig if not stardom. Carnegie might be like a modern-day Lefty O’Doul who had better luck in the Depression making the majors as a good hitter on the wrong side of 30.
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: Al Simmons, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies,Barry Bonds, Billy Beane, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson,Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Chris von der Ahe,Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Don Drysdale, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Hugh Casey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film),Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pedro Martinez, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson,Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Crawford, Sam Thompson,Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb, Vada Pinson, Wally Bunker, Wes Ferrell, Will Clark, Willie Mays
What better season to talk about the magnificent T-3 Turkey Reds baseball card set than Thanksgiving?
Collectors argue about which among the Turkey Reds, the T-206 or the Topps 1952 sets is most stunning. I’ve seen examples of all three cards side-by-side-by and it’s hard to choose against Turkey Reds.
In terms of their art work, both the tobacco card sets dwarf the Topps.
From mid-1910 through mid-1911, packs of Turkey Reds, Old Mill and Fez brand cigarettes contained coupons redeemable for a full-color, cabinet sized (5 3/4″ X 8″) premium picturing one of 100 different baseball players and 26 boxers. See the boxing set here. The cards survive as wonderful pieces of art and history.
In the first series of T-3s, numbered 1-50, is a pitcher known to virtually every baseball fan because of his unusual name and nickname—Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. See Brown’s #1 card here. And—sign of our times—visit his website here.
Brown, dubbed “Three Finger” because of a childhood farm injury, was the dominant pitcher for the Chicago Cubs from 1906-1912. During that period, Brown won 20 or more games six times and was part of two World Series championships.
Brown had a curve ball that Ty Cobb called the “most devastating” that he had ever faced. Although Brown didn’t have what could be called a traditional fastball, he threw his pitches from various angles and showed batters different looks within their same turn at the plate.
The rivalry between Brown and the Giants’ Christy Mathewson was legendary stuff. Giants’ manager John McGraw said the two were the best he had ever seen. In their 25 matchups, Brown had a slim career 13-11 edge on Mathewson with one no-decision.
In one of baseball’s oddities, Brown and Mathewson ended their Hall of Fame careers by facing off against each other on September 4, 1916. Billed as the final meeting between baseball’s greatest hurlers, Mathewson prevailed in an atypical 10-8 slugfest.
Mathewson on Brown:
Brown is my idea of the almost perfect pitcher… It will usually be found at the end of a season, that he has taken part in more key games than any other pitcher in baseball.
Brown finished his major league career with a 239-130 record, 1375 strikeouts and a 2.06 ERA, the third best ERA in Major League Baseball history amongst players inducted into the Hall of Fame, after Ed Walsh and Addie Joss. His 2.06 ERA is also the best for any pitcher with more than 200 wins.
Following Brown’s retirement, he returned to his home in Terre Haute, Indiana. In addition to coaching and managing, Brown continued to pitch in the minor leagues and local exhibition games for more than a decade. According to his biography, Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story, Brown was still masterful at age 51. In a 1928 exhibition game against the famous House of David, Brown pitched three innings for the home team and struck out all nine batters.
From 1920 to 1945 Brown ran a filling station, as they were quaintly called decades ago, that also served as a town gathering place and an unofficial museum. Brown was also a frequent guest at Old-Timers’ games in Chicago.
On Brown’s website, Ferguson Jenkins offers a wonderful quote that explains why baseball has such an important place in our hearts. Said Jenkins:
It’s interesting that Mordecai Brown pitched fifty years before I showed up, and yet we stood on the same field. We both hurled a ball toward a batter standing in virtually the same location…… We both won a lot of games for the Cubs; he won the second highest number of games for the club, and I’m number five. We both managed to pitch several shutouts in the Windy City. It’s my honor to have been the pitcher who broke one of Three Finger’s records. Until I finished my sixth consecutive season of more than 20 wins, in 1972, Mordecai had been the only Cub to do it.
Claim to fame: King was a fixture on sports broadcasts in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond for four decades. The voice of the Oakland A’s from 1981 until his death in 2005, King did a bit of everything well, also calling Warriors games from 1962 until 1983 and Raider games from 1966 until 1992. Former San Francisco Giants announcer Hank Greenwald worked Warriors games with King in the ’60s and ’70s and praised his former partner and closest friend in broadcasting. In a phone interview with this Website on Tuesday evening, Greenwald said of King, “He always had excitement in his voice. He always had that ability to create that word picture that’s vital to radio listeners.”
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Since he was a broadcaster, King can not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. There is no writers or broadcasters wing of the museum, so to speak. What there is at Cooperstown is a permanent exhibit that honors the best media to cover the game, commemorating writers who win the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and broadcasters who receive the Ford Frick Award. Along with nine other broadcasters including Tim McCarver, King is a finalist for this year’s Frick award.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Disclaimer aside that King wouldn’t be enshrined in Cooperstown, he’d make an interesting addition to the media exhibit. His catchphrase “Holy Toledo” seems worthy of inclusion regardless. King will face tough competition from McCarver who looks like the favorite and perhaps Graham McNamee who’d make an interesting historical choice seeing as he was the first person to broadcast a baseball game back in 1922. But even if King doesn’t get into Cooperstown this year or ever, he may belong in a Hall of Fame somewhere.
Greenwald’s son Doug, the announcer for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies said King was like an uncle to him, “my American League dad” and that if there simply were a general sports broadcasting Hall of Fame, King would deserve to be in. Greenwald echoed his son’s sentiments and didn’t hesitate when asked if King had been honored by the NBA Hall of Fame. “I know for a fact that he has not,” Greenwald said. “That’s something that has bothered many of us.”
Greenwald said that perhaps the issue for King was that he did well in a number of sports but didn’t stick out in any of them. It’s the same sort of problem that keeps certain directors from winning Oscars, certain writers relegated to Pulitzer Prizes for something called General Excellence. Life isn’t always good about rewarding steady consistency rather than ephemeral brilliance, though the Hall of Fame makes a fairly decent point of honoring that. The question, I suppose, is if King did enough in his baseball broadcasting career to merit its equivalent of a lifetime achievement award. We’ll find out on December 7 when the voting results are announced.
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, Albert Pujols, Allie Reynolds, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Bobby Grich, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Curt Flood, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly,Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Gus Greenlee, Harold Baines, Harry Dalton, 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,Roger Maris, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey,Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Tony Oliva, Will Clark
Editor’s note: This week’s edition of “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” will be posted sometime this afternoon or evening.
I am making the rounds.
In the interest of promoting our project on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame and also in the interest of writing for some big baseball sites, I have done a few guest posts in the past week.
I shared here a few days ago about my post for The Hardball Times on players who got one vote for the Hall of Fame. Now, I have a guest post up at High Heat Stats, the new de facto blog for Baseball-Reference.com.
I wrote about the Hall of Fame, of course, asking if it was time for the museum to create some more committees to deal with the backlog of candidates. Cooperstown, historically, has enshrined about two-thirds of its honorees through the use of committees, be it the Veterans or Negro League committees or others from the early days of the museum. I proposed a number of additional committees. I had fun with it.
Anyhow, I’m not sure if I’ll be doing any more guest posts ahead of the voting deadline for the project on December 1, but I’ll post here if I do.
Editor’s note: It is my pleasure to present another research paper from George Haloulakos. George and his father Vassilios contributed an outstanding paper last month on Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. This paper, written solely by George Haloulakos, concerns one of the mentors for Drysdale and Koufax. And Sal Maglie accomplished plenty in his own right.
In the 1993 film, The Sandlot, a dream sequence features Babe Ruth telling a Little Leaguer that while “heroes get
remembered, legends never die.” Sal Maglie is a baseball legend. And though he died in 1992 at 75, he might always loom large in baseball history.
Nicknamed “The Barber,” Maglie was not only perhaps the most intimidating pitcher of all-time, but a clutch player, too. He did his best work in the biggest games on the grandest stage when New York– Giants, Dodgers and Yankees– ruled the baseball world from 1949-58. During that period, one or two of these teams played in the World Series every year, and Maglie played for all three teams during that span, usually as a significant or major contributor.
In many ways, Maglie encapsulated his era. It wasn’t just his baseball connection to the Big Apple. He also was one of many players to serve in World War II and was among a group that jumped immediately after the war to the Mexican League. Without his absence from the majors for either thing, which kept his career to 10 seasons, Maglie might be in the Hall of Fame today. Regardless, his ferocious reputation and moniker, is indelibly stamped in baseball lore.
Maglie’s career path was a brief if circuitous one. He played with the New York Giants in 1945 and again from 1950 to 55, the Cleveland Indians 1955-56, the Brooklyn Dodgers 1956-57, the New York Yankees 1957-58, and the St. Louis Cardinals 1958. Nevertheless, Maglie racked up some impressive stats in a short time.
Among his feats in 10 major league seasons:
Maglie’s peak performance came between 1950 and ’52 with the Giants where he posted 59 wins against 18 losses. His year-by-year records in that span are as follows:
MLB CAREER HIGHLIGHTS & MILESTONES
His finest season, 1956 with the Dodgers:
An interesting bit of trivia: Sal Maglie is one of seven pitchers to have played for the New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. (The others were Johnny Allen, Burleigh Grimes, Waite Hoyt, Lefty O‟Doul, Bobo Newsom and Rosy Ryan.)
Before all this, though, Maglie had an unremarkable minor league career interrupted by wartime service. Then, following one season with the Giants in 1945, Maglie was out of the majors for four years as he played in the Mexican League and elsewhere. It took a lot of persistence and patience for Maglie to become the savvy veteran pitcher that he was. Here is the journey he made.
Minors, majors, Mexico
Maglie went 38-47 with a 3.52 ERA over six minor league seasons. His performance improved sharply in his final two seasons. In 1941, he was 20-15 with a 2.67 ERA in A ball, and then in AA ball in 1942, he was 9-6 with a 2.78 ERA.
In 1942, Sal Maglie was called up by the draft board but deemed unfit for military service in World War II due to a chronic sinus condition. For 1943-44 he was advised to go into defense work and was placed on organized baseball’s “voluntary retired list.” Maglie worked as a pipe fitter in a defense plant; his employers during that time were International Paper, Union Carbide, and Atlas Steel. As a resident of Niagra Falls, New York, Maglie sharpened his pitching skills during this period by managing and pitching for Canadian amateur teams.
In 1945, Maglie finally debuted in the majors at 28, going 5-4 for the Giants. In those years, with players bound by the Reserve Clause and very intense competition for pitching slots on eight teams in each league, players had an opportunity to earn 50-100 percent more by jumping to the Mexican League. This was especially tempting and profitable for players who were rapidly advancing in age such as Maglie, and facing prospects of limited playing time by staying stateside. The corresponding risk, however, was that for a few years after WWII, players who had jumped to the Mexican League were banned from the majors. This ban was later rescinded, but kept certain players from immediately returning to MLB.
While some have speculated that Maglie’s tenure in the Mexican League plus the years lost to WWII may have cost him the chance to win 200 games, as a practical matter his Mexican tenure helped him become dominant, while achieving a measure of financial respectability, if not prosperity. Ken Burns in his book, Baseball: An Illustrated History, observed that Maglie earned five times more playing south of the border as he would have with the Giants. Maglie’s Mexican League earnings enabled him to purchase a home and a gas station in Niagra Falls, New York that offered self-employment during the off-season and a semblance of security after baseball. The Mexican League also reconnected Maglie with Deadball Era ace Dolf Luque who helped him develop his best pitch, the curve ball, and refine his aggressive style.
Luque first became acquainted with Maglie while serving as a pitching coach for the Giants. He convinced Maglie to sign with the Mexican League and taught him how to pitch the curve from three different release points: overhand, sidearm and underhand. This multiple release technique enabled Maglie to pitch in drastically harsh conditions where the various climates and air conditions at different altitudes would cause the ball to behave very differently. As detailed near the end of this recent paper on Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, a curve ball can move very differently depending on how it’s thrown.
Luque also taught Maglie the necessity of pitching inside and repeatedly brushing back hitters to take control of a game. And while it’s uncertain what effect if any it had on Maglie, it’s worth noting that Luque carried a .22 caliber pistol and would sometimes fire between a player’s legs to get his attention. Maglie said Luque worked him constantly and was all business in helping him transform into a dominant pitcher. In two full seasons under Luque’s tutelage, Maglie posted consecutive 20-win seasons, going 20-12 with a 3.19 ERA in 1946 followed by a 20-13 campaign and 3.92 ERA.
Maglie then joined a barnstorming team that was a “splinter” or “offshoot” of the Mexican League and is reported by his biographer James Szaltonai in Close Shave to have recorded 14 wins. Unlike the Mexican League, however, complete records were not maintained in this barnstorming run, so the final record cannot be fully verified. But what is verified is that playing conditions south of the border were extraordinarily difficult.
First, there were no grass infields and outfields were hard as brick due to the clay underneath the surface. Some ball parks were in the midst of railroad yards where passing freight trains would interrupt games. Riots often broke out at the games, and teams traveled by bus from town to town over narrow, winding roads in mountainous terrain. Maglie reportedly spent approximately $1500 of his own money on airplane travel during his two-year sojourn to avoid the risk and hassles of riding the bus, as it was popularly understood by residents and visitors alike that while people always got on the bus, they did not always get off.
The ban on US major league players who had jumped to the Mexican League was lifted in 1949, and Maglie was able to eventually rejoin the Giants. Before doing so, he played in Canada for the Drummondville Cubs in the Quebec Provincial League where he posted an 11-2 record and three post season wins to pace the team to a championship. His best was yet to come.
How the legend of “The Barber” came to be
Maglie had a triumphant return to the majors in 1950. He posted a dazzling 18-4 record with the best ERA in the National League, 2.71. Maglie appeared in 47 games altogether as he began the season as a reliever but became a starter in the second half completing 12 of 16 starts. Although other pitchers started 15-20 more games, Maglie led the league in shutouts with five. Of note, Maglie hit 10 batters during the season, which represented 23 percent of the 44 total he hit during his big league career. Perhaps appropriately, Maglie got his famous moniker in 1950.
Maglie claims that New York Daily News baseball reporter Jim McCulley gave him this nickname as a tribute to the way Maglie would “shave the batters” chins by throwing high-and-tight. Giant pitching coach Frank Shellenback is also credited with having giving him the nickname because of the way Maglie shaved the corners. There is also the claim that Giant manager Leo Durocher gave him the nickname because Maglie supposedly resembled the barber in the third chair at the hotel where the players stayed.
Regardless of the origin what is certain is that Maglie was masterful in giving close shaves to batters. In his book, The Head Game: Baseball Seen From the Pitcher’s Mound, Roger Kahn quoted Maglie saying, “The hell with all the hitters. The hell with all of them.” Kahn, who covered the Dodgers during the ’50s, said there was never a meaner pitcher and that Maglie did not know the meaning of the word “remorse.” Decades later, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, in his book, Kings of the Hill, ranked Sal Maglie the #1 all-time pitcher in the category of “intimidators.” (Interestingly enough, the #2 intimidator selected by Ryan was Don Drysdale, with Bob Gibson as #4– both Maglie star pupils.) Other nicknames given to Maglie were “Sinister Sal” and “The Renaissance Assassin” but he is best remembered as “The Barber.”
Maglie played to win
Baseball during the 1950s was a rough, tough and intense game in which there were beanball wars, fights, bench jockeying, retaliation and take-out slides. Maglie used the baseball as a weapon to gain both a psychological and physical
advantage over the hitter. By always threatening to give a close shave, Maglie forced batters to often make a choice between their own personal survival or hitting the ball. When Maglie played ball, he went to war. If he was going to
lose, Maglie would go down with his best pitch regardless of the game situation or the count. In Maglie’s case this often meant throwing a curve on a 3-1 count with runners on base.
Years later Maglie acknowledged that the knockdown pitch was his weapon of choice and that he never, ever thought of giving it up. He likened such an unlikely decision to Marilyn Monroe stopping to wear sweaters. It simply would not happen.
Clutch Pitcher in Hot Pennant Races
Maglie was a big winner in September, the final month of the 154-game regular season, during the hottest NL pennant races of the 1950s. Here’s a look:
Center stage in the biggest games of the 1950s
Maglie was noted for pitching very well on center stage in the three biggest games of the 1950s: for New York in Game 3 of the 1951 playoff when Bobby Thomson hit “The Shot Heard Round the World” to win the pennant for the Giants; 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 his perfect game for the Yankees.
In both the ’51 playoff finale and Game 1 of the ’54 Series, Maglie received a no-decision but pitched well enough for his team to win by limiting the opposition to fewer runs than they usually scored. The 1951 Dodgers averaged 5.45 runs per game, but with Maglie holding Brooklyn to 4 runs, this enabled the Giants to win the game (and the pennant) 5-4 on Thomson’s three-run bomb. In 1954, the Indians won a record 111 games and averaged 4.84 runs per game entering the World Series. With Maglie holding Cleveland to two runs in seven innings, New York won Game 1 in extra innings and went on to sweep the Indians.
When Maglie joined Brooklyn in 1956 he became part of history as he held the Yankees to five hits and two runs in eight innings in Game 5 of the World Series, but lost as Larsen pitched his perfect game. With Maglie having beaten the Yankees in Game 1, 6-3 with a 10-strikeout performance, Larsen helped New York to triumph in seven games. Maglie did Brooklyn a service in 1956 even by simply not playing against the team. Lifetime, The Barber went 23-11 against the Bums, and his record was even better at Ebbets Field, 11-3 in a ballpark known for being a hitters’ haven. From 1950-54, Maglie’s record against Brooklyn was a scintillating 22-6 while the Dodgers cumulative record was an NL-best 479-293.
Maglie out shined his own teams as well. In all, his .657 lifetime winning percentage was nearly 100 points higher than the combined .561 winning percentage for all the MLB teams he played for. The greatest team success enjoyed by Maglie occurred in 1954 when the Giants won their final World Series in New York. For all of 1954, the Giants allowed 550 runs or 3.57 runs per game, for a net ERA of -0.98. This meant that Giant pitchers were essentially one run lower than the National League average, fourth best all time, and Maglie went 14-6 with a 3.26 ERA.
Maglie’s 1-2 record in the 1951, ’54 and ’56 World Series understates how well he pitched. In four starts, Maglie posted a 3.41 ERA in 29 innings, with his team winning two of his four games. Considering that Maglie’s two losses were to the New York Yankees while they were in the midst of winning nine World Series titles in 14 appearances from 1948-64, and one of those losses was Larsen’s perfect game, Maglie battled tough odds while keeping his teams competitive. And he did every bit as well in the postseason as the regular season, this being best exemplified by Maglie posting recording a 2.65 ERA in the ’56 Series after compiling a 2.87 ERA during the regular season.
Passing the Art Along
Maglie achieved great pitching success. He also had enormous and positive influence on Cy Young winners Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Jim Lonborg.
During his time in Brooklyn late in his career, Maglie 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 helped the Dodgers win three World Series titles and four pennants between 1959 and 1966. It also helped earn them accolades, with Drysdale winning the Cy Young Award in 1962 and Koufax collecting the trophy in 1963, ’65, and ’66. Ultimately, both were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Gibson, a Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young winner, was also a Maglie protégé when “The Barber” finished his playing career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1958 and served as a pitching instructor. Gibson helped lead the Cardinals to two World Series Championships and three pennants between 1964 and 1968, while setting the modern day record for lowest
ERA with 1.12 in 1968 and posting a 7-2 record in World Series play.
Lonborg won the Cy Young Award in leading the Boston Red Sox to their fabled “Impossible Dream” season in 1967 and helping the team reach the seventh game of the World Series before losing to the Cardinals. Maglie was the Red Sox pitching coach during that period, and Lonborg has said “The Barber’s” lessons on pitching inside enabled him to lead the AL in wins with 22 and strikeouts with 246, while posting a 3.16 ERA. Also of note, Lonborg hit 19 batters that year, perhaps heeding Maglie’s message to pitch inside to keep hitters off balance.
The irony of Game 7 in the 1967 World Series was that the pitching match-up featured two Maglie protégés: Gibson versus Lonborg. Gibson won three games including Game 7 while Lonborg won two, including a one-hit shutout in Game 2. So less than a decade after his retirement from the mound, “The Barber” was still cutting a swath in the Fall Classic– having passed along the art of intimidation to top pitchers who carried on his legacy.
The Ball Four Portrayal: Truth, Hyperbole, or Both?
Despite such an impressive list of protégés, former Yankee 20-game winner and Ball Four author Jim Bouton strongly criticized Maglie as a pitching coach for the 1969 Seattle Pilots. Bouton‟s portrayal of Maglie implied both a lack of communication and knowledge on the art of pitching. Perhaps this perception resulted from both generational and stylistic differences. Bouton was at the end of his major league career and working to master a most difficult pitch– the knuckleball. Maglie, by his own admission, was a practical pitcher who did not engage in profound introspection on the game and was courteous but reserved with both players and coaches. His pitching philosophy was quite simply to shave the corners.
In her Sandy Koufax biography, Jane Leavy quoted him saying, “When a pupil is ready, a teacher will come.” This explained how All Star pitcher Al Leiter excelled working with Koufax, even though Leiter already had two World Series Championships and a no-hitter. Leiter simply wanted to get even better, and he was eager to learn from Koufax. On this basis, one may infer that players like Drysdale, Koufax, Gibson and Lonborg were ready for the type of instruction Maglie offered. Bouton, also eager to learn, was seeking instruction on a highly specialized pitch that few have ever mastered. Bouton desired to explore the game more deeply in terms of philosophy, mechanics and various nuances. Perhaps The Barber’s shop just wasn’t the right place for Bouton to do it.
Like Fine Wine, Maglie Improved With Age
In his short career, Maglie aged like fine wine and was appreciated as such. Like Ted Williams and Warren Spahn, he was an ageless wonder in 1956, finishing second place in voting for the NL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. At 39, Maglie went 13-5 with a 2.89 ERA and became the second-oldest pitcher behind Cy Young to toss a no-hitter. Of his no-no, 5-0 against the Phillies, Maglie claimed he was a much better pitcher than 1950-51 because he was more efficient and adaptable. Following his triumph Maglie observed he threw only 110 pitches and felt able to throw both the fast ball and curve as circumstances warranted.
Maglie played two more years, serving as a spot starter for the Yankees in 1957 and ’58 and completing the rare feat of having played for all three New York teams. He went 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA for the Yanks over parts of two seasons before closing out his career with a 2-6 stint in ’58 for the Cardinals.
Salvatore Anthony Maglie personified post-WWII baseball during the 1950s. His honorable wartime service and playing time in the Mexican League resulted in a late start to his big league career. But he had an uncanny ability to surmount difficult playing conditions from the mountains of Mexico to the snows of Canada. He beat the strongest teams of his era, played his best in clutch situations, and all the while overcame age and physical limitations. Terry Cashman immortalized Maglie in his song “Talkin’ Baseball” with his nickname “The Barber.” Be it in verse, with his stats, or in the memories of those who saw him play, Maglie still casts an intimidating presence. He is a legend of the game.
About the author
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. Published author of DOLLAR$ AND SENSE: A Workbook on the ABCs of Investments. Hobbyist – aviation, baseball, spaceflight and science fiction. Lifetime member of Strathmore’s Who’s Who
Registry of Business Leaders. Member of ordained clergy in Orthodox Church in America (rank/title of Reverend Protodeacon). E-mail: Haloulakos@gmail.com
Baseball: An Illustrated History, Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns, Alfred Knopf. 1994.
Charmed Circle: Twenty-Game-Winning Pitchers in Baseball’s 20th Century, Mel R. Freese, McFarland & Company, 1997.
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.
Kings of the Hill: An Irreverent Look at the Men on the Mound, Nolan Ryan with Mickey Herskowitz, Harper Collins, 1992.
Lost Summer: The ’67 Red Sox and the Impossible Dream, Bill Reynolds, Warner Books, 1992.
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. CDs, DVDs, scrapbook of news and magazine articles, baseball cards, game programs and books.
Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, Jane Leavy, Harper Collins, 2000.
The Best & Worst Baseball Teams of All Time, Harry Hollingsworth, S.P.I Books, 1994.
The Head Game: Baseball Seen From the Pitcher’s Mound, Roger Kahn, Harcourt, 2000.
Vassilios E. Haloulakos, Scientist, Engineer and Professor. Lecture notes on physics and applied mathematics.
1956 World Series, Game 5, October 8 at Yankee Stadium: Complete original radio broadcast with Bob Neal and Bob Wolff on CD (from The Miley Collection) – including all commercials plus the pre-game and post-game shows.
I am disappointed I missed the ad in all the major newspapers and baseball trade papers. It must have read something like this:
The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox have a position open for team manager at the major league level. No experience necessary at any level. First come, first served as the need is quite urgent. The Chicago Cubs have a vacancy as well. Applicants should have a few days of experience but not be considered a viable candidate by any other major league team. The Boston Red Sox wish to interview every potential candidate but are not seriously interested in hiring anyone at this time.
How could I have missed such an ad? Which of us hasn’t thought we could do a better job of running a baseball game than those currently employed in such a position? Finally I would have had an opportunity at the major league level for a position of authority in which my qualifications were perfect, except maybe for the Cub opening. What a chance I missed.
Only the manager’s chair in Boston seems to be still open to me. The only drawback for that position seems to be that I really wouldn’t be working or drawing a salary. But then again, I do have experience in both categories in the past. There have been times years ago where I was in just such a position. I believe, if memory serves, it was when I was unemployed. If I can find one of my old resumes, I am sure that the Boston Red Sox management would be quite impressed by my skillful adaptation to any unemployment situation which might have presented itself to me at the time. I will admit that it’s been quite some time since I have not worked in that particular field but I am sure I could quickly recall my experiences.
The city of Chicago had two openings, sadly only one of which I was qualified. The Cubs would not have hired my services as I have no experience managing at the major league level. But I do qualify as a person which no other team would want if I did indeed have that experience. I wonder if second-guessing managerial moves in front of my television screen could be counted and should be included on my resume. Through the beauty of hindsight, I have not made one mistake in managing a major league game for over 40 years now.
I was qualified, if not over-qualified, for the managerial openings on the Southside of Chicago and in St. Louis. I say over-qualified because many years ago, I coached a Little League game. The White Sox and Cardinals have concluded that the years of experience by their respective minor league coaches and managers are the wrong approach. These teams have decided that the years of experience by coaches at the major league levels and past insistence on knowing how to not only run a game properly but also dealing with 25 different personalities should have no place in baseball.
I should add that I won that Little League game, and I remain to this day undefeated. I proved then that experience can be a hindrance and an out-and-out undesirable qualification in the quest for a championship. If only I had seen the want ad in time. My wife and I might be planning a spring trip, all expenses paid, to Florida come March.