Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Roberto Clemente's Best

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TRIVIA QUESTION:   When Roberto Clemente broke in with the Pirates in the 1955 season, who did he replace in right field from the 1954 season?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:  The three players mentioned in last week's column who became successful major league managers were Whitey Herzog, Yogi Berra and Dick Williams.

It is hard to imagine winning the National League MVP Award and NOT having that particular season be your best. It is arguable when it comes to Roberto Clemente. He won the NL MVP in 1966 leading the Pirates almost to the pennant in what was a "breakout" season for the future Hall of Famer. However, the 1966 season compares favorably to his years in 1961 and 1967.

Clemente was never a home run slugger, preferring to gap the alley's with triples and singles and average more than 200 hits per season. He hit averages above .350 three times in his career. He batted over. 300 in 13 of his 18 seasons, but only cracked the 20 home run mark three times. 
In 1966, he realized the Pirates needed him to drive in more runs with home runs and batting in front of Willie Stargell and Donn Clendenon, it was a natural thing for him to up the slugger totals. So he did. Clemente chose to hit more home runs and in the MVP season he banged 29 of them and drove in a career high 119 while still batting .317. The Pirates didn't win the NL Pennant but were not out of it until the final weekend.

But was it really his best season? He followed it up in 1967 when the rest of the sluggers on the Bucs struggled, by hitting 23 home runs and driving in 110. This time he won the batting title by upping his average to .357, another career high. Pittsburgh faltered in 1967 and Roberto finished third in the MVP voting, losing out to Orlando Cepeda and right behind Tim McCarver of the pennant winning Cardinals. 
 

 Even the 1967 season, while likely his overall best, could be compared to the 1961 season. The Pirates were coming off a World Series victory over the Yankees and were expected to compete again. They did not. They fell to just over .500 at 79-75, finishing in sixth place, 18 games behind the Reds. 

Clemente had a banner year. Following up on a .314 year with 16 home runs, he cranked it up when home runs were not as frequent as they are today. His 23 dingers (second on the team behind Dick Stuart's 35) and .351 batting average (to lead the NL) began to set the Puerto Rican star apart. Before the decade was over, he would win three more batting titles and hit heights of .345, .352 and .357. His only down year was the year of the Pitcher in 1968 and he still hit .291, finishing 10th in batting in the National League. It was the same year the American League winner batted only .301. 

In 1968, using a modern day statistic, he was number one in the NL in WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, at 8.1. He was well ahead of McCovey, Aaron and Mays. In 1967 he was second in WAR behind Ron Santo with 8.9, in 1966 he was third behind Mays and Santo at 8.2. In 1961 he was seventh at 6.2. 
 

It should be noted too, his outfield assists were amazing during this time. In his MVP season he recorded 17 followed by 18. In 1961 long before the amazing reputation about his arm, players chose to try and run on him more often. In 1961 he recorded 27 assists from right field. Now that is amazing. 


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Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues and leave a comment at the bottom of the blog if you have one. Thank YOU VERY MUCH!! Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at www.bobbrillbooks.com, or on Amazon.     

 


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

There are NO Ties in Baseball! Well, Yes there Are.

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TRIVIA QUESTION:   No fewer than three of the players in the game told about below became successful Major League Managers. Who were they?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: The pitcher with the most career home runs in the big leagues is American Leaguer, Wes Ferrell, who not only won 20 games or more in six different seasons (25 twice), he smashed 38 homers in his 15 year career. In 1931, while pitching for the Cleveland Indians he won 22 games, belted 9 homers and batted .319. In his career he hit .280.   

 The 1960 New York Yankees were known for scoring runs in bunches. With the likes of Maris, Mantle and the rest, they produced big time. Over the course of the season they scored in double figures 13 times and in the World Series in each of their three wins over Pittsburgh, they scored in double digits. However, it was in a mid-summer rainstorm the Yankees proved no match for mother nature; and the Kansas City Athletics.

Rain was in the forecast from the start on the night of June 15, 1960 at Kansas City's Municipal Stadium. And with a 28 mile per hour wind blowing and a light rain falling off and one and more promised, it is a wonder why the umpiring crew and home plate ump Joe Paparella chose to let this game go on. But go on it did.


Yankee ace Ralph Terry squared off against Dick Hall. Terry was his masterful self toiling more than eight innings and giving up four runs, only one earned. That coming on a Jerry Lumpe solo shot in the fourth. The unearned runs scored when relievers couldn't hold men on base after Manager Casey Stengel replaced Terry with one out in the eight.

The Yanks had scored on power as usual. In the first Yogi Berra blasted a two run shot and after Bill Skowron drove home a run with a single in the eighth,  Clete Boyer took Marty Kutyna deep in the ninth. New York had a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth when Terry gave way to Bobby Shantz with the bases loaded.
Norm Siebern hit a Sac Fly to drive in a run and Dick Williams drew a walk to load them up again. Shantz then walked Harry Chiti sending Russ Snyder home making it 4-3. Johnny James came in to relieve and couldn't find the plate either, walking Danny Kravitz in his final year in the big leagues, to bring home Whitey Herzog to tie the game at four-all. Andy Carey struck out to end the threat and with no one scoring in the ninth and the rain coming down, the game entered extra innings.

With only 14, 418 people in attendance few were left at this point. Neither team scored in the 10th or 11th, but come the 12th, New York broke out. Ken Johnson started the inning by walking lead-off man Kent Hadley. Mantle came up to pinch hit and drew a walk pushing pinch runner Gil McDougald to second base. When Tony Kubek tried to sacrafice them over and beat out the bunt for a single it looked like curtains for the A's.

Yogi Berra hit into a force play driving in the go ahead run making it 5-4 and Maris finished it off with a single, plating two more, before Skowron hit into an inning ending double play. Still New York had gone ahead 7-4 and the rain kept coming. The umpires looked to calling it but the A's had a final at bat. 

Ryne Duren took the mound for the Yanks and gave up a one out walk to Ken Hamlin. Pete Daley hammered a shot over the outfield wall and the A's were in business down a run 7-6. Duke Maas was brought into face Bill Tuttle and got him on a nearly game tying out to deep right. Lumpe singled to left and advanced to second when Berra's throw was off line.
The A's had the tying run in scoring position with two out in the bottom of the 12th in a game which had by now run 3:24 and with few fans in the stands, were probably wondering "what is the point?" as the rains came down. It was a wet and tired Russ Snyder who worked Maas at this point and he didn't disappoint, smacking a triple to drive in Lumpe. The A's could win it with a hit or an error.

Herzog drew a walk and Siebern was intentionally walked before Williams flied out to end the game. It was 7-7 and the umps had had enough. The game was called a tie and that was that. The Yankees would win the pennant by eight games so the tie did not matter. 

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Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. It has been appreciated. 

Also: Please check out our new Western Short Film. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/iron-gun-western-feature-film/#/

 
Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues and leave a comment at the bottom of the blog if you have one. Thank YOU VERY MUCH!! Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at www.bobbrillbooks.com, or on Amazon.      

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Best Hitting Pitcher of the 1960's

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TRIVIA QUESTION: Who holds the record for most home runs hit by a pitcher in a major league career?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Pete Cimino might be best known for scoring 114 points in a high school basketball game on January 22, 1960. The single-game shooting outburst occurred during a 134–86 win over Palisades High School, in a Lower Bucks County League game. Cimino hit on 44 of 79 shots from the field and was 26 of 29 from the charity stripe. He scored all 69 of his team's second half points. The 114-point total is still a Pennsylvania state record.

 When the words "good hitting pitcher" comes to mind, National League fans think of Don Drysdale. If you are an American League fan, the name Earl Wilson stands out and nowhere other than June 28, 1966, does it become more apparent Wilson was as good a hitting pitcher as there was.
The Detroit Tigers were playing good baseball riding high at 43-26. They invaded Anaheim Stadium on this Tuesday night to take on the Angels who were playing good ball themselves. The club was 38-34 and the 1966 season was decent for the Halo's. The season for Wilson actually started in Boston, before he was traded just two weeks before the game with the Angels.

The game opened quietly enough with Wilson facing Clyde Wright. Detroit began the scoring with Al Kaline's 13th homer of the year in the second. A solo shot. In the third Don Wert singled followed by a single from Wilson. A bunt put the runners in scoring position and Jake Wood drove them both home with a single giving Detroit a 3-0 lead. Norm Cash then blasted a two run shot chasing Wright and the Tigers led 5-0. 

Lew Burdette relieved and didn't do much better. While he was able to strike out Wilson in the fourth (the only time the pitcher didn't get on base that day) he didn't handle the rest of the Tigers very well. In the fifth he gave up four singles and a walk before leaving for Howie Reed, giving up four runs in the process.

In the sixth Wilson led off the inning with a single and came around to score later in the inning. In the seventh Wilson came up again with a man on and promptly tripled off Jim McGlothlin to drive in a run. 
Meanwhile, Wilson was masterful on the mound, limiting the Angels to two runs on five hits in seven solid innings. With the Tigers leading 15-2 at that point, manager Mayo Smith decided to save his ace and bring in aging Johnny Podres to close it out and the Tigers embarrassed the Angels 15-3. 

On the day Wilson won his seventh game, striking out five while not walking a batter. As a hitter that June 28th, he went three-for-four at the plate, driving in a run and scoring two. He also tripled. 

Wilson would finish the 1966 season with a combined BA of .240, which in itself was a strong showing for a pitcher. But his 7 home runs, two triples and 22 RBI only added to his hitting legend. He also drew eight walks and finished 14th in the AL MVP voting that season. 

For his career, the slugging pitcher would belt 35 home runs, drive in 111 while hitting .195. He slugged .369 and showing how much confidence his managers had in his hitting, he only recorded 22 sacrifice bunts over 11 years. Showing his respect from opposing pitcher, the 6'3" right-hander was hit by the pitch five times in his career.

By comparison, Drysdale, the 6'5" right-hander, hit 29 homers, drove in 113 and batted .186 while recording 69 sacrifice bunts and also got hit five times.
Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. It has been appreciated. You can click on the link above (my childhood photo) to see how to purchase this book; "Tales of My Baseball Youth; a child of the 60's."

Also: Please check out our new Western Short Film. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/iron-gun-western-feature-film/#/

 
Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues and leave a comment at the bottom of the blog if you have one. Thank YOU VERY MUCH!! Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at www.bobbrillbooks.com, or on Amazon.