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


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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Al Niemiec was a hero to WWII veterans returning to baseball


CooperstownExpert.com

A fine second baseman Al Niemiec played in just 78 big league games but made his presence felt throughout the game. Niemiec sued baseball in a landmark court case, earning a win that sent ripples throughout the game.  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 most of season with Connie Mack in 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 Rainiers. The ’41 season was a good one for Niemiec. He 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. Niemiec joins the war effort At the end of the following season Niemiec was called to serve in the US Navy.  He stayed in the military until his honorable discharge in January of 1946. When retired […]

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


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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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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Former Yankee Captain Don Mattingly reflects on Derek Jeter


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. Mattingly feels special connection “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. Jeter’s career takes […]

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


Production isn’t enough for a contract 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 Lamar 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. The early days of the defensive shift During his playing days, Bonds pulled the ball with such consistency that teams employed a defensive shift. The […]

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Lifetime passes were the brainchild of NL President Ford Frick; here’s a pictorial history


Lifetime pass

A newspaper man turned league publicist turned league president came up with a brilliant idea in 1934 — reward longtime National League players with a lifetime pass to all NL games. Senior Circuit owners approved Ford Frick’s proposal at the league meeting in December of ’34. A few months later, Frick sent out ornately decorated paper Lifetime Passes to the NL’s greatest players. He even sent one to Babe Ruth who appeared in all of 28 games for the Boston Braves in 1935. A 21-year veteran of the American League, the Babe was grateful if not surprised when he remarked, “At least the National League has a heart”. An image of the original paper pass presented to Hall of Fame outfielder Sliding Billy Hamilton can be seen below. A similar pass curiously issued to Stan Coveleski, a lifetime American Leaguer is also shown. Perhaps shamed by Ruth’s remarks, the American League joined forces in 1936 to issue a pass to all Major League contests. Players with twenty or more years of service received a solid gold pass. Seventeen men qualified for the true “golden ticket” — Ruth, Fred Clarke, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Bill Dahlen, Harry Davis, Red Faber, Walter Johnson, […]

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Jackie Robinson inspired future MLB player Ed Charles


Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” By that measurement, Robinson’s life may be the most important the game of baseball has ever known. Though it’s easy to see the cultural impact of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, the individual stories sometimes get lost in the bigger picture. For former Major Leaguer Ed Charles, Robinson emergence was a turning point, not only for the United States, but perhaps more importantly, for an entire segment of its population. “The emergence of Mr. Jackie Robinson as the first black to play modern day organized baseball had a monumental impact upon my life, and I’m sure, the lives of other Americans as well,” Charles wrote in a letter 1984. An eight-year big league veteran, Charles was aware of Robinson at an early age. Charles believed that Robinson’s impact was felt by the nation and its individuals. “Jackie represented to me, given the social climate of the nation at that time, hope, courage, and a new faith in a system that had been grossly neglectful of providing equal participation for its minority citizens,” Charles wrote. “His presence stirred me, as well as others, to redirect our goals […]

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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