Vic Wertz did much more than fly out to Willie Mays in the ’54 World Series


Willie Mays catch

World Series heroics in a losing cause Vic Wertz played over 1,000 big league games by the time he reached his only World Series in 1954. Once he got to baseball’s biggest stage he was sensational. In Game 1 Wertz opened the scoring with a two-run triple to deep right. In his next two at bats, Wertz hit sharp singles. Then in the 8th inning and the score tied 2-2, Wertz came to bat with two runners on. The first baseman ripped a line drive to deep centerfield in New York’s cavernous Polo Grounds. Giants center fielder Willie Mays turned his back to the plate and sprinted toward the wall. Mays caught up to it and made a spectacular over-the-shoulder grab 450 feet from the plate. “The Catch” brought the 52,751 fans in attendance to their feet. The Giants won the game 5-2 in ten innings. Though his Indians were swept in the Series, Wertz went 8-for-16 with four extra-base hits. For Mays the Game 1 play was another memorable moment in a career filled with them. With 660 homers, 24 all star appearances, 12 straight Gold Gloves and four consecutive MVP Awards, he is regarded by many as the […]

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Tommy Bond was one of the best pitchers in the early days of baseball


Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond was one of the greatest pitchers at the start of professional baseball. Many believe he belongs in Cooperstown.
His 2.14 career ERA is bested by only 6 Hall of Fame Hurlers.
He had six seasons of 20 or more wins, four seasons of 30 or more wins, and three seasons of 40 or more.
Some criticize the brevity of his 10-year career but his 3,628 2/3 innings remains 60th all time.
His case is now in the hands of the Veterans Committee.

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Living on America’s frontier cost Deadball Era star Charles “Deacon” Phillippe a chance at Cooperstown


Pitcher Deacon Phillippe

A career worthy of Cooperstown review Deadball Era star Charles “Deacon” Phillippe pitched in more than 450 professional games in a career that almost never happened. Born less than a decade after the end of the US Civil War, Phillippe grew up on the outskirts of the American frontier, beyond the reach of pro baseball. His big league talent undiscovered, Phillippe had to wait until just before his 27th birthday to throw his first pitch in the majors. Once he reached baseball’s highest level, Phillippe made an immediate impact, topping the 20-win plateau in each of his first five seasons. A control artist, Phillippe’s career walk-per-nine-innings rate is the lowest since the pitching distance moved to 60’6″. Phillippe’s glove work was also top-tier. His career fielding percentage was 23 points above the league average. As a hitter, he topped the .200 mark 8 of his 13 seasons. In 1910 the 39-year old Phillippe became the first pitcher to hit an inside-the-park grand slam. More than a century later Mel Stottlemeyre is the only moundsman to match the feat. The forgotten Deadball Era star also has an impressive postseason pedigree. The winner of baseball’s first World Series game, his performance in […]

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The William J. Slocum Award is one of MLB’s most prestigious honors


Vin Scully was presented the prestigious Slocum Award in 1995

The oldest professional sport in the United States, baseball remains America’s National Pastime to this day. The game’s current leagues were flourishing soon after the end of the 1800s. Every city with a team had multiple newspapers reporting their games. Sportswriters worked from stadium press boxes describing their team’s contests in great detail. The widespread news coverage helped grow the game.
In 1908 writers banded together to form the Baseball Writers Association of America. The BBWAA’s founding mission was to “ensure professional working conditions for beat writers at all MLB ballparks and to promote uniformity of scoring methods.
Early in the 1900s New York City boasted three big league teams, the Giants and Dodgers of the National League, and the Highlanders – who later became the Yankees – in the American League. The Big Apple soon became the hub of the baseball world.
One of the writers who covered the New York teams was William J. Slocum. Respected for his baseball knowledge and writing ability, Slocum quickly rose to the top of his profession. Well-liked, he helped organize the New York chapter of the BBWAA.
The Bill Slocom Award is one of the most prestigious awards baseball has to offer. The little-known honor has been given to more than 50 members of the Hall of Fame.

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Baseball’s rule change kept pitcher Gus Weyhing from reaching Cooperstown


Pitcher Gus Weyhing

One of the best hurlers of the 1880s. When pitcher Gus Weyhing began playing professionally in 1887, baseball was a different game than the one we know today. According to the Major League Baseball’s Official Historian John Thorn, the pitching distance was 4 feet, 3–1/2 inches shorter than that of today. Fielders didn’t wear gloves. Playing under those circumstances for the first half of his career, Weyhing was dominant. In his rookie year he won 26 games. Gus was just getting started. Following a 28-win sophomore campaign in 1888, the man they called Rubber-Winged Gus then reeled off four straight 30-win seasons. From 1887 to 1893, Weyhing was consistently among the league leaders in wins, strikeouts, and shutouts. While throwing from the shorter distance, Weyhing was a star swing-and-miss hurler. By the end of his age-26 season Weyhing had 200 career wins. His numbers through his first seven seasons compare favorably to many Hall of Fame hurlers. Everything changed in 1893 Then everything changed. In March 1893, the National League voted to increase the pitching distance to the familiar modern mark of 60’6″. Though Weyhing managed 23 wins in his first year at the new distance, his path to greatness […]

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San Francisco grounds crew helped the Giants win the pennant in ’62


They tried and tried again. No matter what National League clubs did, they just couldn’t slow down Maury Wills in 1962. Wills’ Dodgers were in their fifth year in Los Angeles and thirsty for another World Series appearance. Winners of the 1959 Fall Classic, the team finished a disappointing fourth in 1960. They climbed to second place in ’61 and seemed poised for a post-season return in ’62. Wills did his part. The Dodger shortstop was historically great on the bases, swiping 104 bags. To put that into perspective, the last time a National Leaguer stole even half that many was in 1920. No big league team matched Wills’ total in ’62. The Dodger squad had one .300 hitter in batting champ Tommy Davis whose 153 runs batted in led the league. Davis got help from Frank Howard, the only other Dodger to tally 100 RBI. Together they counted on Wills to get aboard and make his way into scoring position. Dodgers and Giants vie for NL supremacy While Wills was on his way to the stolen base record, the Dodgers fought the Giants for the top spot in the NL. Behind Wills, Davis, and the pitching of Cy Young […]

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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


Every summer the baseball world pauses as the 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. The Hall establishes the Honor Rolls of Baseball 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. Eleven umpires, 11 executives, 12 sportswriters, and 5 managers were inducted. 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 […]

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


Lonborg and champagne

World Series championships are won on the field, not in the newspapers. In 1967 the press might’ve given the Cardinals extra motivation in their epic seven-game battle against the Red Sox. Boston wins the pennant on the last day Boston had to grind it out just to get to the postseason. The battle for supremacy in the American League came down to the last day of the regular season. Boston and second-place Detroit were separated by just a half-game. The Tigers had a doubleheader at home against the Angels. 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 he went the distance allowing one earned run before the sellout crowd at Fenway. The October 1st contest was his 15th complete game of the season. The Tigers needed a sweep of California. Detroit won the first game 6-4 but couldn’t contain the Angels in the second, losing 8-5. With the Detroit loss, Boston earned a berth to the World Series against the National Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The World Series begins On only […]

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NL owners supported the designated hitter in 1928


CooperstownExpert.com

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. NL owners approve the “ten-man team rule” National League president John Heydler proposed the DH at the Winter Meetings on December 11, 1928. It was originally referred to 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 was a one-man wrecking crew. The Babe 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. Totals of 15, 21, 23, and 27 led NL in the 20’s. 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 […]

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Dodgers pitch in $250,000, restore pride at Jackie Robinson’s high school


In what can only be described as a sad state of affairs, the baseball field at Jackie Robinson’s high school alma mater fell into severe disrepair. A sloping outfield, dusty infield full of pebbles, and poor dugout areas gave the field at John Muir High School in Pasadena, California a look of neglect and decay. It wasn’t always this way. Robinson and older brother Mack brought prestige and honor to John Muir. The elder Robinson was a track star there and eventually earned a silver medal in the 1936 Summer Olympics, while Jackie lettered in baseball, football, basketball, and track. Over the years Muir produced many professional baseball players including a member of the 400-home run club in Darrell Evans who graduated in 1965. Evans was selected in Major League Baseball’s inaugural first-year player draft upon graduation. Over the first five years of the draft, MLB franchises took six Muir Mustangs. Over the next three decades 14 more Mustang players were drafted. As the 1990s ended, so too did the Mustangs’ baseball success. With the school’s declining enrollment and the emergence of basketball and football as Muir’s best sports, baseball became an afterthought. Interest in the sport waned, the Mustang […]

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

~Jacques Barzun, 1954