Whatever happened to the doubleheader?

I’m pleased to present this post from Joe Guzzardi, who writes a guest column here every Wednesday. Today, he looks at the vanishing art of the doubleheader.


Another Independence Day has come and gone without the once traditional doubleheader. Since half a century has passed when baseball fans could watch two games for the price of one, you’d think I’d be used to it.

I’m not. Nearly two generations have grown up since baseball’s Golden Age ended. When I realize that the new wave of fans identify a double header as a dreary day-night affair requiring separate admissions, I’m seriously bummed.

Back in the 1950s, the Sunday and holiday doubleheaders were among the summer’s most anticipated events. Since teams scheduled doubleheaders instead of slapping them together as a result of rain outs, we all marked our calendars accordingly.

Managers planned ahead, too. A Brooklyn Dodger-New York Giant double dip might pit Preacher Roe and Don Newcombe against Sal Maglie and Larry Jansen. A Cleveland Indian-Chicago White Sox match up could send Bob Feller and Bob Lemon to face Billy Pierce and Dick Donovan.

But no two names struck more fear into their American League rivals than the New York Yankees’ Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi, the era’s dominant stoppers.

Reynolds was not only the Yankees number one starter but also the first man manager Casey Stengel called out of the bull pen. During Reynolds’ eight year Yankee career, he made 88 relief appearances.

On September 28, 1951 Reynolds and Raschi faced the Boston Red Sox in a late season double bill against Mel Parnell and Bill Wight. The Yankees took both ends, 8-0; 11-3, on (what else?) complete games.

But, although the Yankees clinched the pennant that late autumn day, the headlines weren’t about the Yankees sweep or the team’s third consecutive American League pennant.

In the opener, Reynolds (17-8) threw a no hitter, his second of the season—and one with a cliffhanger ending. To get his no-hitter, Reynolds would have to record twenty-eight outs.

With two gone in the bottom of the ninth, Reynolds had issued only four widely spread walks. At bat was the American League’s most feared hitter, Ted Williams who for the season would hit .318 with 30 HRs, 126 RBIs, OBP .464 and SLG .556.

Williams lofted a harmless foul ball behind the plate. Catcher Yogi Berra settled under the pop up but it squirted out of his glove.

The thought of Williams still alive at the plate when he should have been an easy out would have unnerved most pitchers. But Reynolds reassured Berra: “Don’t worry, Yogi. We’ll get him again.”

Sure enough, Williams sent another foul pop up that looked tougher than the first one. Yogi snared it in front of the Yankee dug out.

Reynolds’ line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 9 K.

In the nightcap, Vic Raschi dominated the Sox. Led by Phil Rizutto, Hank Bauer and Joe DiMaggio, the Yankees romped, 11-3. Rizutto and Bauer had three hits each while DiMaggio slammed a 3-run homer.

Never having to worry about run support, Raschi (21-10) coasted.

His line: 9 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks.

Here’s another oddity about those two games. The Yankees used the same position players without substituting in either contest—no pinch hitters, no pinch runners and no defensive replacements.

The line ups:
Phil Rizzuto, SS
Jerry Coleman, 2B
Hank Bauer, RF
Joe DiMaggio, CF
Gil MacDougald, 3B
Yogi Berra, C
Gene Woodling LF
Joe Collins, 1B

The game times were an efficient 2:12 and 2:33.

In case the double dip on the 28th didn’t provide enough baseball to satisfy fans, the Yanks and Sox returned on the 29th for two more! Again, the Yankees swept, 4-0 and 3-1.

In the opener the third of the Yankee ace, Eddie Lopat (21-9) hurled six shutout innings before giving way to lefty Bob Kuzava. The second game was another dreary affair for the lifeless Sox who would finish in third place, eleven games of the pace. Tom Morgan, 9-3, picked up the win.

With the pennant wrapped up, the Yankees let some of its second stringers play. Take a look at the bench depth: Billy Martin, Bobby Brown, Jackie Jensen and Clint Courtney.

Only a few days later, the Yankees were again baseball’s world champs when they bested the New York Giants in the World Series, 4-2. Lopat won two games; Reynolds and Raschi, one each.


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

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Steve Garvey

Claim to fame: Garvey had 2,599 hits, six seasons with at least 200 hits, and a .294 lifetime batting average in a 19-year career from 1969 to 1987. He shined most early on, making eight consecutive All Star appearances from 1974 through 1981, winning four straight Gold Gloves and the 1974 National League Most Valuable Player award in that stretch.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Garvey exhausted his 15 years of eligibility with the Baseball Writers Association of America in 2007 and can be enshrined by the Veterans Committee.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Months ago, a reader of my list of the 10 best players not in Cooperstown asked my opinion on Garvey, who didn’t make the list. I responded that if Garvey hadn’t declined after 1980, I think he would have been a Hall of Famer.

I stand by my opinion, though I was motivated to write more about Garvey after my piece on Maury Wills last week led to a forum discussion at Baseball Think Factory. One member noted how Wills’ Cooperstown votes fell, commenting:

Maury Wills had one of the steepest dropoffs in HoF support in history. Guys at 40% don’t fall to 20%. They just don’t – except for Wills and Steve Garvey.

It goes deeper than that. Dating back to the first Hall of Fame ballot in 1936, just seven players who received at least 30 percent of the vote in their first year of eligibility have not since been voted in by the writers. The seven players are as follows, with their first year of eligibility and vote totals in parentheses:

  • Roberto Alomar (73.7 percent, 2010)
  • Steve Garvey (41.6 percent, 1993)
  • Barry Larkin (51.6 percent, 2010)
  • Edgar Martinez (36.2 percent, 2010)
  • Lee Smith (42.3 percent, 2003)
  • Luis Tiant (30.9 percent, 1988)
  • Maury Wills (30.3 percent, 1978)

For our purposes, we can disregard Alomar and Larkin who will almost certainly be inducted by the writers sometime soon. No other player who has cracked 50 percent of the vote in their first year has failed to be enshrined. We can also set aside Martinez, who has another fourteen tries with the writers and may need several years to determine whether his Cooperstown stock will rise or fall.

That leaves Garvey, Smith, Tiant, and Wills. Smith has mostly hovered in the 40th percentile in eight years on the ballot. The other three men got their highest level of support in their early years and exhausted their eligibility with much fewer votes. Usually it’s the other way around, with players receiving modest vote totals initially and building momentum for enshrinement. Incidentally, Garvey, Tiant and Wills all got a higher percentage of the vote their first years on the ballot than Hall of Famers Don Drysdale, Jim Rice and Billy Williams, as well as every player enshrined by the Veterans Committee except for Jim Bunning, Pee Wee Reese and Enos Slaughter.

I suppose Garvey, Wills, and Tiant got many early votes because some writers figured that’s how everyone would be voting. Perhaps when these writers realized this wasn’t the case, they changed course. There are other factors to consider, of course. Wills lost votes after a drug bust, while Tiant’s first appearance on the Cooperstown ballot came in a weak year for it, 1988.

It’s harder to say what sunk Garvey. He had well-publicized extramarital affairs, but that was old news by the time he became Hall of Fame-eligible. It’s worth noting that Garvey had his first big drop in votes just months after a fellow first baseman, Mark McGwire set the single-season home run record with 70. Garvey hit more than 30 home runs just one season and had 272 lifetime. With the anti-steroid backlash now in effect against McGwire and others, it could make Garvey a prime candidate for the Veterans Committee when it reconvenes in less than six months. I wouldn’t vote for him if I could, but others might.

Garvey might get in regardless of McGwire. As I noted in a recent piece on Don Mattingly, the Veterans Committee historically has a better than 50 percent hit rate on enshrining players who peak between even 20 and 30 percent of the writers vote. Given that Garvey, Smith, Tiant, and Wills all fared better, two of them may eventually have plaques. Try to guess who.

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

Tom Cheney and his forgotten night of brilliance

I am pleased to present a bonus guest post this week from Joe Guzzardi, who writes a Wednesday column here.


Last week, I wrote about Vernon Law and his 1955 18-inning masterpiece that shackled the Milwaukee Braves superstars Henry Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Joe Adcock.

Law threw out the first pitch before the June 18th Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1960s reunion at PNC Park. Many of the living Pirates returned to Pittsburgh for the occasion. The public address announcer named those too ill to travel or the deceased.

Pitcher Tom Cheney, who died in 2001, was one of the missing. Cheney appeared in three of the seven World Series games for the Bucs. But he’s better known as the Washington Senator who in 1962 tossed a 16 inning complete game and struck out 21 Baltimore Orioles, a record that has never been matched. The Senators won the four-hour marathon, 2-1; Cheney threw 228 pitches.

The two former teammates, Law and Cheney, have pitched the longest games in recent American and National League history.

As cruel fate would have it, from the moment of their incredible feats, Law’s personal and professional life soared while Cheney’s fell into rapid descent and eventual obscurity.
By 1966 Cheney, 32, was out of baseball.

When Cheney died at age 67, he had suffered through several financial reversals, three divorces, alcoholism and eventually dementia. Cheney’s multiple hardships aside, for one glorious game he was untouchable.

Only 4,098 showed up at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium that late September evening. The Orioles were headed for eighth place in a ten team league. The Senators were worse; they were in the second of four consecutive 100-loss seasons.

Cheney was an enigma to his teammates, coaches and managers. Always on the brink of stardom, Cheney could never put it all together.

When he took the mound against the Orioles, Cheney’s record was a struggling 5-8. But three of his victories were complete game shutouts.

That evening, in a departure from form, the Senators staked Cheney to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Through the 5th, he’d struck out 8; by the 8th, eleven; at the end of regulation, 13; after 11, 17 and at the end of the 15th, 20.

According to Senator catcher Ken Retzer, Cheney was in the zone. Everything Retzer called, even Cheney’s hardest-to-control curve and knuckler, was working. Recalled Retzer: “Guys went back to the bench shaking their heads.”

Future Hall of Famer Brooks Robsinson, strike out number 14 the 10th, agreed. Robinson remembered that Cheney threw him “High fastballs, good, rising fastballs.” Added Robinson, “There were times I never saw the ball.”

A 15th inning strike out victim, pinch hitter Jackie Brandt, said “Cheney’s curve ball was falling out of the sky.”

In the bottom of the seventh, the Orioles tied the score after second baseman Marv Bredding doubled and pinch hitter Charlie Lau singled him home.

At that point, Cheney’s bore down. After giving up a single in the eighth, Cheney didn’t allow another Oriole hit until the fifteenth. During his six hitless innings, Cheney struck out eight.

In the sixteenth, the Senators scored the winning run on a home run by Bud Zipfel off relief pitcher Dick Hall. Fittingly, Cheney recorded the final out when he struck out pinch hitter Dick Williams on a called third strike.

Cheney’s pitching line: 16 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 21 SO

When the game ended, Cheney had broken the single-game strike out record of 19 that had been set in 1884 by Hugh Daily of the old Union Associations’ Pittsburgh Stogies.
After his record breaking performance, Chaney won only ten more games to finish his career at 19-29, including eight shutouts. Overall, he struck out 345 in 466 innings.

Years later, Cheney said: “I don’t know why it happened. It was just one of those odd things that happen. It kinda surprised me. I knew I had the guts to go out and battle. I never did like to come out of a ball game.”

Cheney briefly returned to the limelight. In 1993, the Orioles invited him back to celebrate his 21 strike out game. He did a few baseball card shows in Atlanta, close to his home in Rome. Then, ten years ago, Cheney made his last trip to Washington to participate in Nats Fest, an annual reunion of old Senators.

But by then, Cheney’s mind was gone. He couldn’t remember anything of his record breaking performance. But Cheney’s teammates, friends and family talked about that wonderful long ago night that no one has since matched.


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

10 players who might have hit .400 for the 1999 Colorado Rockies

At the end of yesterday’s post, I noted that the stat converter on Baseball-Reference says Home Run Baker would have .413 if his 1913 season was translated to the 1999 Colorado Rockies, and I wondered aloud how many other players would hit .400 there. The idea stuck in my head, and I started playing around with the converter Thursday evening. It turns out an astonishing number of players could theoretically have hit .400 if they’d played a prime season for Colorado in ’99.

As I noted yesterday, the converter’s far from perfect, though I had fun seeing how ridiculously well some of the all-time greats may have done. Here are how ten stars might have fared on ’99 Rockies, which could double as a list of Hall of Fame-caliber players who never hit .400:

Player What his numbers convert to for the ’99 Rockies
Hank Aaron His 1959 season where he led the majors with a .355 average translates to .418, with 53 home runs and 305 hits
George Brett His magical 1980 season where he flirted with .400 for much of the year and finished at .390 is good for .454
Rod Carew Another player, like Brett, who nearly hit .400 when he batted .388 in 1977, Carew’s numbers convert to .456. In fact, if Carew played his career on a team like the ’99 Rockies, he’d hit over .400 six straight years and his lifetime average would be .395
Joe DiMaggio He would twice hit over .400, for his 1939 and 1941 seasons, if he played on a team like the ’99 Rockies. Interestingly, he’d have the better average in 1939 — .414 to .403 in 1941, the year of his 56-game hitting streak.
Tony Gwynn Gwynn would hit over .400 eight seasons playing on a team like the ’99 Rockies, peaking at .440 in 1987 and finishing at a .396 lifetime clip (he and Carew have nothing, however, on Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Joe Jackson who would hit over .400 lifetime. Cobb finishes with an almost nauseating .431 career average, eclipsing .400 13 consecutive years.)
Derek Jeter This might be the most interesting name here, because Jeter’s ’99 season with the Yankees converts to .401 on the Rockies that year. Perhaps if Jeter had played for Colorado, we’d have had the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941.
Mickey Mantle His 1957 season, where hit .365 for the Yankees translates to .450. Mantle also would have 74 home runs in 1961, not that it matters for unseating Barry Bonds if Bonds gets hold of the converter (read three tabs down, try not to vomit.)
Willie Mays Mays would hit a converted .410 for his 1958 season, with 882 home runs lifetime. He’d also hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases three straight years and fall one home run shy of being the first 50-50 player.
Babe Ruth I mentioned this in yesterday’s post, but Ruth would hit over .400 six times playing his career on a team like the ’99 Rockies with 906 career home runs and a .386 lifetime average.
Barry Bonds I saved this one — both the best and the worst — for last. It has all the joy of watching any steroid-addled jerk triumph, but the conversion for Bonds’ 2001, 73-home-run season is too astonishing to exclude. Here’s how the year translates to the ’99 Rockies: 101 home runs, a .402 average and 200 RBI. Bonds also hits .461 in 2002.

To anyone wondering where to find the converter (I had to look around on Baseball-Reference), here’s what to do:

  1. On a player’s page, next to Standard Batting near the top, click More Stats
  2. Scroll down to Neutralized Batting
  3. Click on the drop down for year and select any of them, which will bring up a league tab. Repeat the process, which brings up a team drop down. After selecting a year, a league and a team, a player’s stats will automatically convert.

All of this is not to suggest anyone would hit .400 on the ’99 Rockies. Jackie Robinson fell just short in the converter, as did Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. (though Will Clark, Keith Hernandez and other lesser greats would have had .400 seasons.) And Ray Oyler would only hit .267 were his 1967 season converted to the ’99 Rockies, though it trounces his .175 lifetime batting average.

Any player/Any era: Home Run Baker


What he did: Before Babe Ruth, the closest thing to a fearsome slugger in baseball was Home Run Baker.

The Hall of Fame third baseman and Deadball Era star, born Frank Baker, earned his nickname a decade before Ruth essentially made a mockery of it. Where Ruth hit 40 or more home runs 11 times, out-homered entire clubs early on, and managed 60 homers in 1927, Baker never hit more than 12 long balls in a season. In fact, Baker led the American League in home runs from 1911 through 1914 with 42 combined.

Era he might have thrived in: Colorado Rockies, 1999

Why: This post is based around a simple question: Could Home Run Baker actually have hit home runs in a different era? I think so. Baker hit a softer ball than what Ruth faced in the 1920s and seemingly would have benefited playing his prime years in any generation past his own. Thus, I plugged Baker into a system to take him beyond his era.

Baseball-Reference has a tool that can factor how a player might have done for any team in any year. I first became aware of it after I devoted this column to Ken Griffey Jr. three weeks ago, and I’ve played around with it some since, using it for last week’s column. The tool’s a nifty feature for one of my favorite Web sites, even if I doubt it’s 100 percent accurate or that it can offer more than a simple numerical, formulaic look without any regard for the intangibles that make a baseball season what it is.

I checked how Baker’s numbers would rank for the 1999 Rockies, who had four men with more than 30 home runs. At least according to the stat converter, Baker wouldn’t have been one of those men, although his 1913 season translates to 18 home runs, 205 runs batted in, and a .413 batting average, all career highs. Regardless of what any algorithm says, though, my guess is that Baker could have topped 30 home runs playing in recent years, what with the livelier balls, diluted pitching, and chance to confer with Jose Canseco about steroids. It’s a long shot that Baker gets to keep his nickname, though.

Now of course, if Babe Ruth had played his entire career for the 1999 Rockies, the stat converter says he would have hit 75 home runs for his 1927 season, batted over .400 six seasons, and finished with 906 homers and a .386 lifetime average. There may be a related post of just how many players could have hit over .400 for the 1999 Rockies (I’m thinking somewhere in the hundreds), but I’ll save that for another time.

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