Vern Law recalls his 18 inning masterpiece from 1955

Today, I’m pleased to present a guest post from Joe Guzzardi, who recently attended a reunion for the 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates and had a chance to talk to former Bucs ace Vern Law.


On June 19, I was one of the 38,000 at PNC Park for Saturday night’s game that honored the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirate World Series champions. The veterans inspired the struggling 2010 Buccos who broke their 12-game losing streak by beating the Cleveland Indians 6-4.

Vern Law threw out the first pitch. And Law was the best choice for the honor. Law, even though he was hurt, started three of the seven World Series games and won two. Down the home stretch during that magical season, Law was the Pirates’ stopper and won the Cy Young Award for his valiant efforts. (Until 1967, baseball issued only one Cy Young Award that represented the best pitcher in both the American and National leagues.)

Although Law will always treasure his contributions to the 1960 team as his greatest baseball achievement, another of his individual pitching feats will never be matched.

On July 19, 1955 Law pitched an 18-inning gem against the Milwaukee Braves in front of 10,000 Forbes Field fans.

Surrounded by what would become the nucleus of the 1960 champs including MVP Dick Groat and rookie Roberto Clemente, Law held the Braves to one earned run while striking out twelve and walking only two during the equivalent of two full 9-inning contests.

Among the fearsome Braves batters were Hall of Famers Hank Aaron (at second base) and Eddie Matthews. The Braves line up was so strong that Joe Adcock batted seventh behind future Pirate manager Chuck Tanner who was then a rookie right fielder.

Yet, pitching on only two days rest, Law dominated the powerful Braves and held the big guns of Aaron, Matthews and Adcock to a mere three hits in 21 at bats.
Law’s heroic effort kept him on the mound for 4:44. But he did not pick up the win. Bob Friend, another Bucco stalwart, got the credit despite hurling a shaky 19th inning in the Pirates 4-3 victory.

I asked Law about his masterpiece.

As Law recalled, he had been named an emergency starter that evening for Joe Gibbon who had come up sick.

After 9 innings, Pirate manager Fred Haney asked Law how he felt. Then after the 12th inning, Haney indicated that he was going to pull Law.

But Law, who was still feeling fine, convinced Haney to leave him in.

By the end of the 15th inning, Haney was determined to give Law the hook. But Law was still able to hold his ground. Said Law to Haney: “Skip, after pitching this long, let me win or lose this darn thing!”

Looking back, Law sensed that Haney felt sorry for him. “Are you sure you’re all right?” Haney asked. When Law confirmed that he was, Haney said: “Okay, go get ‘em.”

After the 18th inning, Law had exhausted his powers of persuasion. Although he tried to talk Haney into one more inning, the Bucco manager told him: “That’s it, your done. Go take a shower.”

Although Law had great confidence in Friend, who relieved him in the top of the 19th, he said that in the 1950s and 1960s “no pitcher wants to leave a game. All of us back then wanted to finish what we started.”

To Law’s dismay, Friend immediately gave up a run on two hits and a walk. But the Pirates rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 19th to salt away the win.

Said Law: “I was grateful we came back. It would have been devastating to lose a game like that.”

Law’s amazing marathon July 19 has an interesting footnote. Four days later, Law started against the Chicago Cubs. This time he pitched another complete game that went ten innings. Law dominated the Cub, giving up only four hits while striking out eight and walking none in the Corsairs 3-2 victory.

Law’s pitching line for two starts against the Braves and Cubs: 28 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 2 BB and 20 SOs!

Since Law’s phenomenal outing fifty-five years ago, no pitcher has gone as long. And in this era of the pitch count that normally limits starters to 100 tosses, no pitcher ever will.


Joe Guzzardi is a writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Email him at

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Maury Wills

Claim to fame: Wills revolutionized baseball in the 1960s by the leading the National League in steals from 1960 through 1965. In his 1962 MVP season, Wills stole 104 bases, broke Ty Cobb’s 47-year-old Major League record, and personally accounted for 13 percent of the steals in the National League, a rare feat. Other players soon followed suit. By 1965, the stolen base total in the National League was nearly twice what it was the year before Wills began playing, setting the stage for speedsters like Lou Brock, Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Wills exhausted his 15 years of eligibility with the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1992 and can be enshrined through the Veterans Committee.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? This post was inspired a piece from Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray in January 1978, not long after Wills first fell short on the Hall of Fame ballot with the writers. Murray wrote:

It’s a good thing these guys aren’t on the gates of heaven. It’s all right to be selective, but will someone in the congregation please rise and tell me why Maury Wills only got 115 votes? Will someone please tell why Rabbit Maranville is in the Hall of Fame and Maury Wills isn’t?

Murray went on to point out Wills’ 1962 record (since broken multiple times), career marks and his impact on bringing back the steal. He added:

If Maury Wills doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, Babe Ruth doesn’t. He did the same thing Ruth did–change a national pastime, forever. For him to get only 115 votes and finish 11th behind a pack of journeymen players is a joke.

Murray was and remains one of the most respected sportswriters ever, nearly 12 years after his death, and in the three years after his column, Wills’ Cooperstown votes rose, to a peak of 40.6 percent in 1981, though he never again cracked 30 percent thereafter. Of the 11 men who finished in front of Wills on the 1978 ballot, all but one — Gil Hodges — is now in Cooperstown. Wills also finished 11 spots in front of future Veterans Committee pick Bill Mazeroski.

So the question is, does Wills belong in Cooperstown? Much as I respect Murray, one of my writing idols, my vote is no though I suspect the Veterans Committee may tab Wills before too long because of how he did on the writer’s ballot. Wills has also gotten sober since leaving the big leagues and turned his life around. As I wrote about another man who did this, Don Newcombe, the committee could do well to honor players who find recovery after falling short of greatness due to substance abuse.

For me, though, Wills’ career was too brief, his game didn’t offer much besides base running  (though he did win two Gold Gloves) and his career marks aren’t impressive. He ranks 19th all-time in career steals. Raines is fifth all-time and until he gets a plaque, I can’t support giving one to Wills. These days, Wills seems more like the Home Run Baker of base stealers than the Babe Ruth.

I’m not surprised at Murray’s piece. It’s common for sportswriters to lobby for local heroes. I recently watched a DVD compiled from 8 mm color footage shot by Washington Senators outfielder George Case and there’s a clip at the end from 1989, after Case’s death, where longtime Washington Post writer Shirley Povich says Case belongs in the Hall of Fame. And though it wasn’t a plug for Cooperstown, the last published words Red Smith ever wrote were, “Indeed, there was a longish period when my rapport with some who were less than great made me nervous. Maybe I was stuck on bad ballplayers. I told myself not to worry. Some day there would be another Joe DiMaggio.”

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

Book Review: The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time


A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a representative of a publishing company, Sourcebooks. The rep said New York Times bestselling author Len Berman has a new book due out this fall, The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. The rep wrote:

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on his list, which include Alex Rodriguez (preposterous if you ask me) and excludes names like Rod Carew, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr. and several other 90’s players that have proven themselves above and beyond many that made the list.

I welcome story ideas, and I’ll write about interesting topics that relate to this site. Berman’s book met those criteria, so I encouraged the rep to send me a copy. He obliged and also included Berman’s bestseller, The Greatest Moments in Sports, which I’ll review in the next few weeks, once I read it.

I finished Berman’s newer book yesterday, and it wasn’t bad. It’s meant for children, similar to many baseball books I had growing up. The book didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know, but it offers good information for children learning the history of the game. The 25 players are mostly fine ambassadors to baseball, offering kids a slice of America’s pastime at its best. In alphabetical order, Berman’s top 25 players are:

  • Hank Aaron
  • Johnny Bench
  • Ty Cobb
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Bob Feller
  • Jimmie Foxx
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Bob Gibson
  • Josh Gibson
  • Rogers Hornsby
  • Walter Johnson
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Christy Matthewson
  • Willie Mays
  • Stan Musial
  • Frank Robinson
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Pete Rose
  • Babe Ruth
  • Mike Schmidt
  • Warren Spahn
  • Honus Wagner
  • Ted Williams
  • Cy Young

(As I’ll make clear before the end of this post, my top 25 differ somewhat.)

Berman, an eight-time Emmy Award-winning sportscaster, determined picks with a Blue Ribbon Panel consisting of Ralph Branca, Frank Deford, Steve Fortunato, Roland Hemond, Jeffrey Lyons, Chris Russo, and Bernie Williams. The panel members apparently voted subjectively on who they considered worthy, with the 25 highest vote recipients making the book. Given how much baseball changes every generation, the panel’s unscientific look might have been the fairest selection method. Still, a quantifiable ranking system may have helped, too.

I have recently begun to pay more attention to one of the latest crazes in the baseball research community, a metric called Wins Above Replacement (WAR.) This rates the number of extra wins a player theoretically provides over an average replacement, incorporating both offense and defense and suggesting a player’s overall worth. Using, I found the 25 best players for career WAR. They are as follows, with players who didn’t make Berman’s list in boldface:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Ty Cobb
  3. Walter Johnson
  4. Honus Wagner
  5. Cy Young
  6. Barry Bonds
  7. Willie Mays
  8. Tris Speaker
  9. Stan Musial
  10. Ted Williams
  11. Hank Aaron
  12. Eddie Collins
  13. Mickey Mantle
  14. Roger Clemens
  15. Rogers Hornsby
  16. Christy Matthewson
  17. Grover Cleveland Alexander
  18. Lou Gehrig
  19. Rickey Henderson
  20. Mel Ott
  21. Frank Robinson
  22. Nap Lajoie
  23. Joe Morgan
  24. Greg Maddux
  25. Tim Keefe

WAR isn’t perfect, and in general, stats often don’t tell the whole story. No metric could fully measure the contributions to baseball of Jackie Robinson, who has an eternal spot in my top 25. Still, looking at WAR and other formulas popular within the Society for American Baseball Research can double-check for worthy old-timers like Speaker and Collins.

Berman notes in his postscript, “Who knows? Maybe this book will turn into a ‘doubleheader.'” That route offers plenty of material. I could list 50 great players who didn’t make the cut including Carew, Ripken and Griffey. I don’t know if they make my top 25, and I think if Rodriguez is on Berman’s list, Bonds should be there as well (personally, I don’t feel like honoring either man or Clemens.)

Here’s my top 25:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Willie Mays
  3. Ted Williams
  4. Ty Cobb
  5. Walter Johnson
  6. Hank Aaron
  7. Satchel Paige
  8. Lou Gehrig
  9. Cy Young
  10. Honus Wagner
  11. Jackie Robinson
  12. Stan Musial
  13. Christy Matthewson
  14. Tris Speaker
  15. Rogers Hornsby
  16. Eddie Collins
  17. Pete Rose
  18. Rickey Henderson
  19. Josh Gibson
  20. Joe DiMaggio
  21. Greg Maddux
  22. Roberto Clemente
  23. Mickey Mantle
  24. Sandy Koufax
  25. Joe Jackson

I encourage anyone who’s interested to post their top 25 in comment form here.

I periodically review baseball books. For a compilation of my reviews, go here.

My 2010 NL and AL All Star ballot

As regular readers may know, I joined the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America a few months ago. Duties for club members are fairly light, though one of the things we do is cast token votes on mid-season awards and All Star selections. I’m proud to offer my first ballots:

American League

First Base Morneau, Justin
Second Base Cano, Robinson
Third Base Beltre, Adrian
Shortstop Jeter, Derek
OF (vote for 3) Hamilton, Josh; Suzuki, Ichiro; Crawford, Carl
Catcher Mauer, Joe
DH Guerrero, Vladimir
Cy Young Lee, Cliff
MVP Morneau, Justin
Rookie Boesch, Brennan
Manager Maddon, Joe

National League

First Base Gonzalez, Adrian
Second Base Prado, Martin
Third Base Wright, David
Shortstop Ramirez, Hanley
OF (vote for 3) Ethier, Andre; Pujols, Albert; Holliday, Matt
Catcher Olivo, Miguel
DH Jones, Chipper
Cy Young Jiminez, Ubaldo
MVP Jiminez, Ubaldo
Rookie Heyward, Jason
Manager Black, Bud

Jones is a sentimental pick at National League DH, and with no third baseman doing anything especially noteworthy in that league, I was almost tempted to give the possibly-retiring Atlanta Brave the start. Beltre gets the nod for resurrecting himself, as does Guerrero, and I was tempted to tab Barry Zito for the same reason, but Jiminez has been simply too amazing, in this, the Year of the Pitcher. Lee may be a consensus choice as AL Cy Young, though if I was simply picking who’d make the All Star start, I’d tab Armando Galarraga to make a statement.

Mostly though, I went off of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) data to determine my picks. I used a Web site I recently learned of called, which allows any number of different WAR comparisons, including by position and league. I encourage any fellow baseball geeks to make use of it. It could be the new Baseball-Reference or Retrosheet for fanatical baseball researchers.

IBWAA All Star voting ends Wednesday, June 30, 2010, at 9:00 p.m. PST. Anyone who writes about baseball in any capacity on the Internet is eligible to join (yearly dues are $20) and cast a vote for this, as well as Hall of Fame selections at the end of the year. Email Howard Cole, for more information.

Any player/Any era: George Case

What he did: I’ve written a couple of times recently about Case, an outfielder for the Washington Senators and Cleveland Indians from 1937-1947 who shot 8 mm color footage of his career. I didn’t know of Case before first hearing from his son George Case III, but his stolen bases totals impressed me.

In an era before speedsters like Maury Wills, Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson helped revolutionize base stealing, Case averaged over 40 stolen bases in six seasons of leading the American League. Imagine what Case could have done in an era where stealing was encouraged and coached for.

Era he might have thrived in: The 1980s, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Why: Perhaps no team stole as well as the 1985 Cardinals, who swiped 314 bases and had five men with more than 30 steals. Case stole a career-high 61 bases for the Senators in 1943; the stat converter on Baseball-Reference says Case would have 70 steals on the ’85 Cardinals, second-most on the team behind rookie Vince Coleman who had 110.

Maybe there are certain intangibles a machine can’t compute. I ran track all four years of high school, and I remember that as our team attracted more good runners, I got better. I think a lot of things in life are like that. People thrive on competition. We learn from others who best us, receiving encouragement from their feats that the seemingly impossible can be done.

Case didn’t have many peers to draw from. Wally Moses finished just behind him in 1943 with 56 steals, though no other American League player had 30. In fact, Case fell just shy of stealing at least 10 percent of the bases in his league that year. Looking over Baseball-Reference, I found seven men in the modern era who have done this:

  • Luis Aparicio in 1959 and 1964
  • Lou Brock in 1966
  • Bill Bruton in 1954
  • Willie Mays in 1956
  • Jackie Robinson in 1949
  • Snuffy Stirnweiss in 1944
  • Maury Wills in 1962 and 1965

For reference, Ty Cobb didn’t steal 10 percent of the bases in his league when he swiped 96 bags in 1915, Brock fell short of the 10 percent mark when he had 118 in 1974, and Henderson’s record-setting 130 steals in 1982 accounted for 9.33% of the 1,394 stolen bases in the American League that year.

With the glut of expansion and nearly twice as many teams now playing in each league than they did in Case’s era, stealing 10 percent of the bases in one’s circuit has become almost impossible. Consider that Jose Reyes’ 78 steals in 2007 were less than 5 percent of the 1,564 steals in the National League that year. Still, I think Case’s totals for his era are impressive.

Curious, I emailed Case III. He wrote back, “My father often said, that if he had played in another era, he probably could have stolen at least 100 bases in a season.  My dad never ran when the team was behind by more than three runs and never tried to steal third with two outs – it just wasn’t done when my dad played.”

There’s one more thing worth mentioning. Case died in 1989 at 73 from emphysema. When I interviewed Case III by phone two weeks ago, I asked if his dad had smoked during his career. Case III told me his dad started smoking when he was 10. If he’d come of age in an era where this was frowned upon, who knows what his stolen base totals could have been.

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

Pitch count follies

This week’s guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday contributor here, looks at the practice in recent years of limiting pitch counts.


When Nolan Ryan took over as the Texas Rangers’ president, one of the first things he did was announce that throughout the organization he would banish the use of the pitch count to determine how long a pitcher stays in the game. Ryan wants his pitchers to go deep instead of being pulled when they reach an arbitrary number like 100.

At the start of the season, Ryan summed his philosophy up to the Dallas Morning News about what he expects to from starters: “The dedication and work ethic that it takes to pitch an entire season…as a starting pitcher and the discipline to continue to maintain his routine all year. And he wants the ball every fifth day, and he’s going to go out there with the intent of pitching late into games and not complaining.”

Speaking from his own experience, Ryan added that he “had to develop stamina because my intent was to pitch a lot of innings.” That message is being sent loud and clear to the Texas starters.

The pitch count debate has picked up over the last couple of years. And not a moment too soon, if you ask me. When you’re brought up as a baseball fan in the era of pitchers like Warren Spahn, Bob Friend and Robin Roberts who finished what they started, it’s hard to listen to a barrage of pitch count statistics from the broadcast booth.

During last night’s game in Arlington between the Rangers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, two divergent pitching philosophies went head-to-head with Ryan emerging as the clear winner—and not just on the scoreboard where Texas won 6-3.

At the center of it all is yesterday’s Pirate starter Ross Ohlendorf.

In August 2009, the Pirates manager John Russell (a former major league catcher) and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan (once a major league pitcher) decided to “shut down” Ohlendorf, their best starter, who had an 11-10 record in 176 innings. The premise was that the Pirates wanted to save Ohlendorf’s arm for the next season.

In an interview with Pirate announcer and former pitching great Steve Blass, Kerrigan justified his move by claiming that it’s a proven that once young pitchers go over a certain number of innings, their likelihood of injury increases dramatically.

But Ohlendorf isn’t young; he’s 27. And, at 6’5” and 245, he’s not a frail rookie. Like Ryan, he’s a Texas-born cattle rancher. And, finally, Olendorf wasn’t about to exert himself during the off-season. He’d committed to an internship at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. where he’d be in a coat and tie working in a cubicle all winter.

Things haven’t worked out as Russell and Kerrigan planned. Ohlendorf hasn’t won a game since he was yanked from the rotation. Last night, the Rangers shelled him in the fifth. Another Pirate announcer and one-time starting pitcher Bob Walk said that after four innings, Ohlendorf had “nothing.” Ohlendorf’s 2010 line: 0-6; 5.43 ERA

By the way, Blass, Walk and all-time relief great Kent Tekulve who does the Pirates post-game analysis are all pitch count skeptics.

Bob Feller, Tim McCarver and other pitchers and catchers with impeccable credentials are among the multitudes who agree with Ryan, Blass, Walk and Tekulve: let pitchers pitch.

By the way, during the 1946 season when Feller was Ohlendorf’s exact age of 27, he pitched 372 innings and won 26 games with a 2.18 ERA.

Then there’s Ryan’s case.

In his 26 year career, Ryan averaged 262 innings per year. In 19 of those years, Ryan exceeded Ohlendorf’s 170-180 inning “shut down” total. When he was 44, Ryan pitched 173 innings (and compiled a 12-6, 2.61 ERA season).

All of baseball is watching the Rangers. Baltimore Orioles’ president Lee MacPhail thinks it will take years to know if Ryan’s experiment works. Said MacPhail: “We need to see if the pitchers under the Texas system remain durable and how many more innings they pitch over an extended time. That’s how we will gauge the results.”

In the meantime, Ryan and MacPhail can point to Ohlendorf as Exhibit 1 of pitch count folly.


Joe Guzzardi is a writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Email him at

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Chipper Jones

Claim to fame: Jones rates among the greatest-hitting infielders, with 2,452 hits, 430 home runs and a .306 lifetime average. The 1999 National League Most Valuable Player, six-time All Star and longtime Atlanta Braves third baseman has declined since winning the 2008 batting title, though he’s wrapping an outstanding career.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Jones still plays and will be eligible for enshrinement through the Baseball Writers Association of America five years after he retires.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? The short answer is yes. Every eligible infielder with 400 home runs and a .300 lifetime batting average is in Cooperstown. The question is not if Jones will be enshrined but when.

I took part Friday in a forum discussion at Baseball Think Factory prompted by a blog post from Furman Bisher on news Jones may be retiring (Bisher’s a 91-year-old sportswriter who in 1949 conducted the only interview Joe Jackson granted about the 1919 World Series.) Bisher wrote of Jones:

I don’t care to get into a spitting fight over his ticket to Cooperstown, but I don’t foresee him as a first-ballot inductee. Nor a second, but somewhere down the line. If he had hit 500 home runs, that might have been the decider. Sorry, but he’ll come in somewhere behind Griffey Jr.

Several forum members objected, calling Jones a certain first or second-ballot pick. I side with Bisher, and I commented:

Five of the 10 batters that Jones compares most to on his Baseball-Reference page are in Cooperstown and only one, Mickey Mantle, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The others: Duke Snider (11th ballot), Billy Williams (6th ballot), Eddie Matthews (5th ballot) and Jim Rice (15th ballot.) Or, to put it another way, if you were filling out a Braves dream team and had a choice between Jones and Matthews at third, could you honestly take Chipper over Matthews? That’s what, in effect, would happen with making Jones a first-ballot inductee.

This attracted opposition. Some forum members suggested voting for worthy players regardless of their ballot and decried penalizing Jones for Matthews’ unjustly late enshrinement. I still wouldn’t give Jones a first ballot vote. To me, these votes are best rarely used, for immortals like Ken Griffey Jr. and Greg Maddux. Jones has fine numbers, but I doubt he’s considered immortal.

Few are. Of the 104 players the BBWAA has voted in (and 292 people elected total), just 44 made it on their first ballot, not counting Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente who were enshrined through special elections. Using Baseball-Reference, I compiled a list of the 44 first ballot inductees. They are:

  • Hank Aaron
  • Ernie Banks
  • Johnny Bench
  • Wade Boggs
  • George Brett
  • Lou Brock
  • Rod Carew
  • Steve Carlton
  • Ty Cobb
  • Dennis Eckersley
  • Bob Feller
  • Bob Gibson
  • Tony Gwynn
  • Rickey Henderson
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Walter Johnson
  • Al Kaline
  • Sandy Koufax
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Christy Matthewson
  • Willie Mays
  • Willie McCovey
  • Paul Molitor
  • Joe Morgan
  • Eddie Murray
  • Stan Musial
  • Jim Palmer
  • Kirby Puckett
  • Cal Ripken Jr.
  • Brooks Robinson
  • Frank Robinson
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Babe Ruth
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Mike Schmidt
  • Tom Seaver
  • Ozzie Smith
  • Warren Spahn
  • Willie Stargell
  • Honus Wagner
  • Ted Williams
  • Dave Winfield
  • Carl Yastrzemski
  • Robin Yount

Interestingly, Jones’ career Win Above Replacement (WAR) rating of 78.4 bests 19 first ballot Hall of Famers: Banks, Bench, Brock, Eckersley, Feller, Gwynn, Koufax, Jackson, McCovey, Molitor, Murray, Palmer, Puckett, Brooks Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Smith, Stargell, Winfield, Yount. It also ties Jones with Griffey, 59th all-time. But I don’t know if enough BBWAA members rely on sabermetrics yet for it to factor. I suspect more voters will employ a subjective sentiment that goes, Chipper was good but he should have been a little bit better… 500 home runs…

Even Roberto Alomar fell short his initial vote in January. Jones and Alomar each may rank among the best-hitting infielders in recent years, but Alomar nabbed 10 Gold Gloves while Jones hasn’t won any. Alomar’s reputation plummeted after he spit on an umpire in 1996, and he still got 73.7 percent of the Cooperstown vote. There are different ways to look at this. Some may suggest Jones, a player with arguably better offensive numbers (and, not that many writers care, better WAR) may receive a sufficient boost without Alomar’s personal baggage to garner the necessary 75 percent of the vote for Cooperstown. Maybe so. But I also think it shows when there’s doubt, the BBWAA votes conservatively.

For what it’s worth, most Hall of Famers needed multiple tries at induction, including Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx and Tris Speaker. Same goes for 14 of the 20 300-game winning pitchers in Cooperstown. And from 1937 until 1962, there were no first ballot selections. I could write more on how voting has changed over the years or what might make a first ballot Hall of Famer today. For now, I’ll close by saying there’s no shame if Jones joins the multitudes in Cooperstown without that distinction.

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

Update: There is now color footage from 1940 of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams online

A few weeks ago, I did a post here on a DVD, “Around The League: 1939-1946” compiled from 8 mm color footage shot by Washington Senators and Cleveland Indians outfielder George Case. I got a fun story with great anecdotes from Case’s son George Case III and good still shots from the film. The one thing I lacked when I posted my original piece was a good clip from the DVD.

However, with the help of Case III and the DVD production company, Delaware Digital Video Factory, there is now a two-minute, forty-eight second clip online. I encourage anyone who would like to see color footage of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams taking batting practice in 1940 to check out the guest post I wrote for, which is also running a podcast today with Case III.

Let me know what you think!

The 10 most durable position players in baseball history

1. Lou Gehrig: It took a fatal illness later named after him to end his consecutive games streak and drive him from the game. His nickname was the Iron Horse. If Gehrig’s not the standard for durability, I don’t know who is.

2. Cal Ripken Jr: Broke Gehrig’s record and for much of his career played every inning of every game until someone told him that Gehrig set his mark, in part, by playing a few innings some days and resting.

3. Pete Rose: Last played at 45; has the career marks for games played, plate appearances, at bats and hits. The year Rose broke the hits mark, 1985 when he was 44, he had a beefy .395 on-base percentage in 500 plate appearances.

4. Ty Cobb: Played until he was 41 in an era where most ballplayers didn’t last much beyond 35. Unlike another contemporary who cracked 40, Honus Wagner, Cobb was effective his final seasons. After playing most of his career with the Tigers, he spent his last two seasons with the Athletics, batting .357 in 490 at bats and .323 in 353 at bats.

5. Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe: A fine Sports Illustrated article in 2002 introduced me to Radcliffe, who was as durable in life as he was in his career. A Negro League legend, Radcliffe earned his nickname in 1932 from sportswriter Damon Runyon who watched him catch one game of a doubleheader and pitch another. Radcliffe played professionally as late as 1954 and died in 2005 at 103.

6. Rickey Henderson: He earns a spot here for playing in four different decades and, at the end, prolonging his career in the independent leagues and going on ESPN to ask any pro team to sign him, the only 40-something, future Hall of Famer I know of to do this. It worked, as the Dodgers signed Henderson in 2003, though he played just 30 games and hit .208.

7. Ted Williams: Unlike Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Mays or many others, Williams looked formidable his final season, 1960, hitting .316 with 29 home runs, 72 RBI and a .451 on-base percentage. Though Williams turned 42 in August that year, he made his final All Star appearance and finished 13th in American League Most Valuable Player voting, even though the Red Sox finished second-to-last.

8. Oscar Charleston: A reader told me recently that Bill James has Charleston rated higher in center field than Joe DiMaggio. Another Negro League immortal and, unlike Radcliffe, a baseball Hall of Famer, Charleston played from 1915 to 1941, in a circuit notorious for epic seasons, low pay and squalid travel conditions.

9. Jigger Statz: Played eight seasons in the majors and 18 in the Pacific Coast League, finishing out with Los Angeles in 1942 at 44. Statz had over 4,000 hits lifetime, including 3,356 in the PCL, and Lawrence Ritter wrote of him as “The Pete Rose of the Minors.”

10. Brooks Robinson: He has a feat of durability not as widely celebrated as that of fellow Baltimore great Ripken, though it could be equally hard to top. From 1960 to 1975, Robinson amassed 16 consecutive Gold Gloves. No other position player has that many Gold Gloves, period, let alone that many in a row.

Related post: All-time durable pitchers

More quotes from my interview with John Thorn

Last week, I posted a story on a forgotten Negro League/semi-pro great named John Donaldson, and in writing it, I faced a high class problem for a writer: I had more solid material than could fit. As I’ve since commented, this was an 800-word piece that could’ve gone 2,000.

A lot of good stuff didn’t make the final edit including several quotes from one of my interview subjects for the piece, John Thorn, a prolific baseball author and the senior creative consultant for the Ken Burns Baseball series that aired on PBS in 1994. Thorn said several things from our short phone conversation June 3 that deserve a wider audience, and I decided yesterday to compile them into a post here.

On his relationship with Donaldson’s lead researcher, Peter Gorton

“Peter and I are not in close contact, and I have not been keeping up with the state of his research. I just know it was pretty great that he did find some Donaldson footage.”

On how Donaldson would rate with other Negro League great hurlers

“By all accounts, he would be up there, but we’re in that strange land of anecdotal measurement. People have tried to remedy this by doing retroactive statistics and filling in gaps and doing some highly suspect things in terms of statistical theory, imagining at-bats, imagining innings pitched, trying to deduce from the slim evidence at hand what a full picture might have looked like. In fact, this is more archaeology than history, and I’m very familiar with that necessity because my specialty is baseball before the Major Leagues.” [Thorn clarified in a subsequent email that he wasn’t including Gorton among this type of researcher.]

On whether he thinks baseball’s done a good job honoring Negro League players before 1920

“Major League Baseball feels no responsibility to honor white players before 1920, let alone black ones. I think if there is no footage you can throw up on MLB television or on the Web site, they’re not particularly interested in the players…. If King Kelly can’t catch a cold with the MLB producers, you can be sure that Rube Foster won’t either.”

“It’s not a matter of discrimination against old Negro Leaguers, it’s a discrimination against old ballplayers. It’s not exactly discrimination. It’s that Major League Baseball has made the judgment that 1/10th of 1 percent of all baseball fans cares about anything that happened prior to World War II, and they’re not going to devote very much of their resources to pleasing that 1/10th of 1 percent. You can’t argue with it as a business decision. You can argue with it as a philosophical or historical question because if baseball is an important institution, then it ought to be important to learn where it came from and how it grew.”

On baseball history being a niche market for writers

“You have to do what you have to do. If this is where your interest lies, if you make it your specialty, you will find an audience. I have a book that I’ve been working on for years now that’s coming out next spring called Baseball in the Garden of Eden. It pretty much begins 1770, or so, and ends in 1939 but the real serious narrative runs, I guess, 1830 to 1908. Now, this book may be read by 12 people but actually, I suspect it’ll have a wider audience.”

On the myths of Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright — whose biography he recently wrote an introduction for — as the founders of baseball

“I think it’s safe to say that most of what baseball fans think about old-fashioned baseball, i.e. before their fathers were born is wrong. Whether they believe in Doubleday or Cartwright, they’re equally wrong.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s funny, I always thought I was smart for knowing Cartwright.”

“You are not alone in that position, and I believe that to this day, if you could interview all baseball fans, that 60-70 percent of them would still say that Doubleday invented the game. It’s pretty hard to kill Santa Claus.”

Some closing remarks

“One thing. In terms of the commentary that you extract from this interview for your blog, you’re free to use anything. There’s nothing off the record. I will add that I admire Peter Gorton’s tenacity and his inventiveness, and while I have no particular feelings for Donaldson this way or that or any notion of where he belongs in the pantheon, I think the man who merits celebration now is not so much Donaldson, but Gorton and you and people like you.”