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.

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

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 guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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 guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

A major league day of brawls in the Pacific Coast League

Today I’m pleased to present a guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday contributor here, about an all-time memorable day of brawls in the Pacific Coast League in 1953.


At the Society for American Baseball Research Forbes Field Chapter’s May meeting, I spoke about what it was like to grow up as a baseball fan in Los Angeles during the pre-Dodger 1950s.

In a word: Great!

The PCL was designated as “Open” or “AAAA” classification, the highest minor league level. In all but its name, the PCL was a third major league with its own traditions and records. Accordingly, the play quality was excellent and the squads featured a large cast of future and former major leaguers.

Among the outstanding all time greats who worked their way through the PCL were Joe DiMaggio (who had a 61 game hitting streak his first year), Ted Williams, Mickey Cochrane, Luke Easter, Ferris Fain, Maury Wills, Billy Martin and managers Casey Stengel and Charlie Dressen.

During the exhibition season, the PCL scheduled games against the majors. Babe Ruth said that most of the teams he faced were as good as any in the American League. One of the PCL’s premier teams, the Los Angeles Angels, called themselves the “Yankees West.”

What the PCL meant to kids like me is that we rooted for one of the two local teams, the Hollywood Stars affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Angels, part of the Chicago Cubs’ organization.

The rivalry between the Stars and the Angels was intense. Think Brooklyn Dodger versus New York Giants. And even that comparison doesn’t do the Stars-Angels feud justice.

When the crosstown opponents took the field, anything could happen. On August 2, 1953 it did.

During a Sunday doubleheader, with the second game cut to seven innings as was the custom, three separate brawls broke out that were so savage that 50 uniformed Los Angeles Police Department officers were summoned to the scene.

Bad blood had been boiling between the Stars and the Angels during their week-long series. The previous Friday night a small scale free-for-all broke out. But it was nothing compared to what erupted during the first Sunday game.

The fighting, broadcast on a TV network, began in the sixth inning. Initially the umpires restored peace.

But the slug-fest promptly broke out again. As it happened, Police Chief William H. Parker was like most of Los Angeles watching the game on television. Parker promptly dispatched his officers to help the over-matched umpires.

By this time, the diamond has become a mob scene with six separate fights in progress at the same time. In one, the Angels’ Al Evans pummeled umpire Joe Iacovetti.

When the melee’s gouging, spiking and slugging finally ended, the injuries included black eyes, deep bloody cuts and several missing teeth.

Chief Parker didn’t trust the two teams to behave better in the second game so he ordered his troops to remain seated on the bench throughout the night cap. Only the nine active players on each team were allowed on the field. The reserves were kept under lock and key in the clubhouse.

The umpires and the cops, fearing that the 10,000 fans would join in any further fights, exercised maximum caution.

As for the games, Hollywood won the opener 4-1 while the Angels prevailed the in late game, 5-3. Hollywood went on to win the 1953 PCL pennant with an astounding 106-74 record finishing thirteen games ahead of the Angels.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the majors played plenty of games that involved fisticuffs. In that long ago era, a pitcher could throw inside or slide into a base with spikes flying without fear of getting tossed.

During the same 1953 as the Stars-Angels infamous dust up, the New York Yankees had a well publicized one of their own involving the former PCL Oakland Oaks’ firebrand Billy Martin and the quick-tempered St. Louis Brown catcher Clint “Scrap Iron” Courtney.

On a play at second base, Courtney spiked shortstop Phil Rizzuto. Martin jumped in and started pounding on Courtney.

When it was over, the Yankees and the Browns were fined an American League record $850. But when you compare Yankees-Browns tussle to the Stars-Angels donnybrook, it isn’t even close.

Such a scene is unimaginable in today’s baseball. A wrong look at an umpire or a brush-back pitch will get a player ejected on the spot.

Bring back the freewheeling days!


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

What’s the worst brawl you ever saw?

Perfectly rare occurrences in baseball

I’m pleased to present another guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a new Wednesday contributor here. Today, he looks at last week’s near-perfect game and other rare feats in baseball history.


When a bad call denied Detroit Tiger Armando Gallaraga a perfect game, the media made a big deal of how rare a baseball feat it is to face 27 batters and put all 27 down.

Given that there have been 18 perfect games during baseball’s modern era, a perfect game would be better labeled infrequent rather than rare.

Many other baseball oddities– too numerous to mention in this short space– are less common. For pitchers, among them are walks to the first four batters (only five times); six home runs surrendered by a starting pitcher (six times) and perfect games lost on the twenty-seventh batter (ten times).

It’s rarer then to have a perfect game spoiled by the twenty-seventh batter than it is for the pitcher to complete his flawless game!

Gallaraga’s isn’t even the most interesting of the (nearly) perfect games.

That award would go to Babe Ruth, then a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. On June 23, 1917, Ruth walked the Washington Senators’ first batter, Ray Morgan, on four straight pitches. Ruth, who had already been jawing with umpire Brick Owens about his first three “Ball” calls became enraged and was promptly ejected.

When Ruth charged Owens and swung at him, police led him off the field. Ernie Shore relieved Ruth.

On Shore’s first pitch, Sox catcher Pinch Thomas threw out Morgan trying to steal. Morgan retired the next twenty-six batters. Since all twenty-seven outs were recorded while Shore was on the mound, the game was considered perfect for decades until the Rules Committee changed its classification to combined no-hitter.

After analyzing all the data, I’ve concluded that baseball’s most interesting rare feat involves runs scored in a single game.

On only three occasions in modern baseball has a National League team scored in every one of its half innings during a nine-inning game. No American League team has ever done it. And no two teams in either an American or National League game have both scored in each of their nine half innings.

Think of it. Hundreds of thousands of baseball games have been played since 1900. Yet, in what seems virtually impossible, in only three of them has a team scored in each of their nine at bats.

In baseball’s highest scoring single game, August 25, 1922 when the Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies 26-23, the Cubs scored in four innings and the Cubs in six. How did the Cubs get to 26 runs by scoring in only four frames? In the second, they scored 10 and in the fourth, fourteen.

On August 12, 2008, when the Red Sox bested the Rangers 19-17 to set the American League record for most runs in a single game each team tallied in only five innings.

In a Texas-Baltimore double header on August 22, 2008 the Rangers won both games by scores of 30-3 and 9-7. In a total of thirty-six innings played, twenty-one of them were scoreless.

Earlier this season, when the Milwaukee Brewers thumped the Pirates 20-0 in the worst loss in Pittsburgh franchise history, the Brewers were held scoreless in three innings.

Not scoring runs isn’t as headline-grabbing as perfect games. Statistically however it’s far more difficult to put up at least one run in each half inning than it is to be perfect.


Joe Guzzardi is a fellow member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. He has agreed to contribute guest posts here every Wednesday through the baseball season.

Roberto Clemente: Could he have been bigger than a Yankee Clipper?

Today, I’m pleased to present a first-ever guest post for Baseball: Past and Present. A writer and fellow Society for American Baseball Research member, Joe Guzzardi recently mentioned my site in a column he wrote. He subsequently emailed me and volunteered to write for this site. His name and work will appear weekly, at least for the remainder of the baseball season.


In a post by Graham Womack about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Willie Stargell, a reader commented that Willie Mays once said that if Roberto Clemente had played in New York, he would have been more popular than Joe DiMaggio.

Although I can’t find the quote anywhere, Mays probably said it. Not only did Mays admire Clemente’s skills from the opposing Giant dugout but they were teammates on the 1954 Santurce Cangrejeros Caribbean League and played together on more than a dozen National League All-Star games including the 1961 contest. In that 5-4 NL victory, Clemente drove in two runners, one of them Mays.

To answer the question about whether a New York-based Clemente would have been more popular than DiMaggio, you first have to consider the magnitude of surpassing the level of admiration showered on the Yankee Clipper.

Such was DiMaggio’s popularity that during World War II, he was not sent into combat. The fear was that if DiMaggio were mortally wounded, the nation would be so psychologically scarred it would not recover. For three years, DiMaggio was stationed in Hawaii to coach baseball.

For the sake of today’s debate, let’s put Clemente in Yankee Stadium’s right field in his rookie year, 1955, through his final year, 1972. Since Giants and the Dodgers had one foot out of town by 1955, it makes more sense to speculate about Clemente as a Bronx Bomber.

As a Yankee, Clemente would have played in seven World Series, more than the two he participated in with the Pirates but fewer than DiMaggio’s ten.

What would have given Clemente’s popularity a big boost is the supportive press coverage he would have received in Manhattan during those seven championship seasons.

For most of his career, Clemente and the Pittsburgh print media had a contentious relationship. The press considered Clemente a constant complainer and malcontent. For his part, Clemente regarded the writers as racists who did not appreciate his many baseball skills and never missed a chance to belittle his accented English. Clemente said his image suffered in mostly white Pittsburgh because he was, in his words, a double minority: black and Latino.

Pittsburgh’s slanted media treatment of Clemente hurt him with the national press, too. Most Valuable Player voting reflects the writers’ indifference to Clemente, no matter what he accomplished on the field.

During his four National League batting championship seasons (1961, 1964, 1965 and 1967), Clemente won the MVP only once. In the others three years, he finished fourth, eighth and ninth.

His 1960 MVP slight particularly galled Clemente. During Pittsburgh’s World Series championship year, Clemente finished eighth on the MVP ballot behind Pirate captain Dick Groat despite having better statistics in almost every offensive category.

Consider, on the other hand, how a player of Clemente’s caliber would have been received in New York during the 1950s.

When Clemente broke into baseball, the great wave of Puerto Rican migration was underway. Affordable air travel enabled tens of thousands of islanders to uproot and move to New York.

His status as an All-Star player on the perennial champion Yankees would have made him a hero not only in the Puerto Rican community but among African Americans also. In 1955, Clemente would have joined Elston Howard as one of the Yankees’ two-first black players.

And in the ’50s, New York had six daily newspapers. Their Clemente coverage would have been glowing and his national reputation enhanced accordingly.

Would Clemente have been, as Mays speculated, “more popular” than DiMaggio?

Probably not. Ultimately, DiMaggio’s stats were better: 13 seasons (an All-Star in each of them, an achievement never matched); .325 BA, 325 HRs, 1305 RBIs, 3 MVPs versus Clemente’s 18 seasons, .317BA, 240 HRs, 1537 RBIs, 1 MVP.

During his career, DiMaggio had single seasons with 46 home runs and 167 RBIs (1937) and hit as high as .381 (1939). DiMaggio also holds the record that most analysts agree will never be matched, his 1941 56-game hitting streak.

But, if he had been a Yankee, Clemente would undeniably have been more popular nationally than he was in Pittsburgh, a parochial western Pennsylvania city that never created the media hype that automatically comes with super-stardom in New York.

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