Harry Caray’s rumored affair with the daughter-in-law of the Cardinals owner helped forge two Hall of Fame Careers

July 20th, 2018

By Jim Smiley, CooperstownExpert.com Famed announcer Harry Caray was the voice of the Cardinals for a quarter century. Beloved in St. Louis, he was known as a womanizing man-about-town. That penchant for sharing time with beautiful women just may have ended his career with his hometown team and solidified the career of Jack Buck. The unsubstantiated rumor – that Carey never denied – is that an affair with August Busch III’s wife led to the announcer’s dismissal. Proof of the affair supposedly came to light after Caray was hit by a car on November 3, 1968 and nearly lost his life. The Busch family phone bill for the month showed many calls to Caray’s hospital room. The charges were traced to Susan Busch, the young wife of August Busch III who was the son of the team owner. The story continues that the Busch family hired a private investigator who confirmed that Mrs. Busch was indeed romantically linked to Caray, who was then in his 50s. Whether the story is true or not, Susan and August Busch III were divorced in 1969, the same year the Cardinals opted not to renew the contract of the immensely popular Caray. On October […]

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Inducted into Cooperstown’s Honor Rolls of Baseball in 1946, Bill Carrigan managed Boston to back-to-back World Series titles

August 2nd, 2017

Every summer the baseball world pauses and takes notice as Hall of Fame induction weekend puts the village of Cooperstown on display. Players, managers, executives, owners, and umpires who are deemed worthy receive a plaque and along with it, baseball immortality. The election process during the Hall’s infancy bears little resemblance to today. For the first decade of induction, Cooperstown recognized only its players with the exception of pioneer Henry Chadwick. Wanting to recognize non-playing personnel, the Hall established the Honor Rolls of Baseball in 1946 as a second level of induction. That year the museum’s Permanent Committee voted to include 39 non-players into the Honor Rolls including 11 umpires, 11 executives, 12 sportswriters, and 5 managers. Of the five skippers, four have since gained full induction with plaques in Cooperstown. The lone manager not so recognized is former Red Sox pilot Bill Carrigan. Born in Maine in 1883, Carrigan broke in with Boston in 1906 as a backup catcher. In time he became a favorite of the pitching staff, catching the likes of Cy Young, Bill Dinneen and a young Babe Ruth for the Red Sox. Soon Carrigan was one of the game’s most respected players, earning votes in Most Valuable […]

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There was no champagne for Red Sox, Lonborg in ‘67

July 20th, 2017

World Series championships are won on the field, not in the newspapers, but the press might have given the Cardinals extra motivation in their epic seven-game battle against the Red Sox in 1967. Boston had to grind it out just to get to the post season. The battle for supremacy in the American League came down to the last day of the regular season with Boston clinging to a half-game lead over Detroit. The Tigers had a double header at home against the Angels while the Red Sox played the Twins at Fenway Park. Boston turned to ace Jim Lonborg for the regular season finale. The 1967 Cy Young Award winner, Gentleman Jim responded with a gutty performance on three days rest going the distance and allowing only one earned run before the sellout crowd at Fenway. The October 1st contest was his 15th complete game of the season. The Tigers, needing a sweep of California won the first game 6-4 but couldn’t contain the Angels in the 8-5 loss in the second game of the twin bill. With the Detroit loss, Boston earned a berth to the World Series against the National Champion St. Louis Cardinals. On only two […]

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Al Niemiec was a hero to WWII veterans returning to baseball

July 2nd, 2017

Al Niemiec

Al Niemiec played in only 78 big league games but made his presence felt with a landmark court case after the conclusion of World War II. Niemiec sued baseball and earned a win that sent ripples throughout the game. It is through the lens of the game that his impact is best understood. Niemiec played in 199 minor league contests before getting a September call up to the Red Sox for nine games in 1934. He spent the next year back in the bushes before being traded to the Athletics in a package that sent Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx to Boston. Though Niemiec spent the entire season with Philadelphia, it would be his last as a big leaguer. By 1938 Niemiec moved to the Pacific Coast League for a five-year run that included three consecutive championships with the Seattle Rainers from 1939-1941. The ’41 season was a good one for Niemiec who hit .297 while leading second basemen in fielding for the third straight season. For his efforts, he was named the PCL’s outstanding player at his position. At the end of the following season Niemiec was called to serve in the navy where he remained until his honorable discharge in January of 1946. When retired Lieutenant […]

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NL owners supported the designated hitter in 1928

July 1st, 2017

How times have changed. Today the National League remains one of few leagues above the high school level not to employ the designated hitter rule. The Senior Circuit continues to resist the rule that the AL has embraced for more than four decades. That wasn’t always the case. National League president John Heydler proposed the DH at the Winter Meetings in 1928, referring to it as the “Ten-Man Team Rule”. Heydler’s motivations seem clear; he was looking to capture some of the excitement the homer-happy AL harnessed with the emergence of Babe Ruth. From 1920-1928 the Bambino had seven seasons with 40 or more homers, including four of 50 or more, and one with 60. During the same span Heydler’s league had only two 40-homer seasons with totals of 15, 21, 23, and 27 leading the league. While the NL couldn’t match the AL in star power, Heydler felt keeping hurlers on the hill and out of the batters box might generate more offense. “Pitchers are absolutely useless as batters nowadays,” Heydler was quoted as saying in the Chicago papers. “The average pitcher not only is helpless at bat, but when they happen to get to base they are not […]

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Frankie Frisch’s Vets Committee selections defined and damaged the Hall

January 4th, 2017

Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, and Cy Young are in everyone’s Hall of Fame. Marginal players like the ones selected on Frankie Frisch’s watch on the Veterans Committee have helped define and damage the Hall of Fame.

His five most glaring selections — George Kelly, Jesse Haines, Dave Bancroft, Ross Youngs, and Chick Hafey have ignited many arguments. Here’s a big reason why: Imagine if your favorite player is Keith Hernandez and you think he should be in Cooperstown. He’s flat out a better first baseman than George Kelly. Hernandez was in fact a better player than any of the five Frisch selections. There are likely hundreds of players better than the Frisch Five.

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Trade of Ferguson Jenkins was one of the worst in Phillies franchise history

January 3rd, 2017

Imagine trading a 23-year old pitcher to your rival only to see him post six straight seasons of at least 20 wins. That’s just what the Philadelphia Phillies did when the shipped Fergie Jenkins to the Chicago Cubs in 1966. By the time his career was over, the 1971 Cy Young Award winner won 284 games and struck out 3,192 batters. In 1991 Jenkins became the first Canadian-born player to reach baseball immortality via induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In the CooperstownExpert.com collection is the document from the commissioner’s office that made official what many consider the worst trade in Phillies’ franchise history. This video tells the story of the fateful move made on April 21, 1966.

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Former Yankee Captain Don Mattingly reflects on Derek Jeter

July 30th, 2016

Miami manager Don Mattingly spent his first 23 years in professional baseball in the New York Yankee organization, first as a player, then as a coach. In 1995, his final year as a player, the team called up a 20-year old shortstop named Derek Jeter. Jeter went on to become the Yankee’s all-time hit king, the first in franchise history to eclipse the 3,000-hit mark. When Jeter went 5-for-5 on July 9th, 2011 to enter the exclusive club, Mattingly sent him a text to congratulate his former teammate. “I feel that special connection with him after watching come out of high school and seeing him progress,” Mattingly said. The Marlins skipper was asked if he could predict greatness for Jeter when the shortstop first came up. “Honestly, it was impossible to see when he broke in,” Mattingly admitted. “I did see a quick progression. It seemed like a short period of time, but it was like 2 ½ years and you’re like, ‘Wow, he’s made some big jumps!’.” Big jumps indeed. After his initial cup of coffee in the big leagues, Jeter began 1996 as New York’s regular shortstop, hitting .314 and winning the Rookie of the Year Award. From there, his career took off. Over […]

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MLB’s best record wasn’t enough to keep a selfish Barry Bonds happy

July 30th, 2016

Imagine the salary a free agent could demand coming off of an All-Star year in which he led the league in walks and on-base percentage while slugging 28 homers. Teams would line up for his services, hoping to add that rare combination of offense to their lineup. There was one such a free agent available in the off-season of 2008, but nobody signed him that winter. In fact he never played another inning in the major leagues. Such is the life when you’re Barry Bonds. Stories abound about of his black lounge chair and extra locker in his corner of the clubhouse at Pac Bell Park. His trial for obstruction and lying to a grand jury started last week with an admission of taking steroids and a far-fetched defense of never knowingly doing so. With his prickly personality, and prima donna attitude, Bonds can be a tough guy to like. He was no fan of the media. And as it turns out, he wasn’t always a fan of official scorers either. During his playing days, Bonds pulled the ball with such consistency that teams employed a defensive shift. The Dodgers adjusted by placing their second baseman in short right field, a position sometimes […]

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"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball…"

~Jacques Barzun, 1954