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Happy B-day, Home Run Baker!

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On this day in 1886, John Franklin “Home Run” Baker was born in Trappe, Maryland, to this day a sleepy farm town not far from the Chesapeake Bay. 

Twenty-two and one-half years later, Frank would find himself playing with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics of the American League in Shibe Park – the first concrete-and-steel ballpark of the age – batting .290 and fielding thirdbase perfectly in nine late-season games in what would become the liftoff of a brilliant baseball career. 

His plaque in the Hall of Fame sums it up:

JOHN FRANKLIN BAKER
PHILADELPHIA A.L. 1908-1914
NEW YORK A.L. 1916-1922
MEMBER OF CONNIE MACK’S FAMOUS
$100,000 INFIELD. LED AMERICAN LEAGUE
IN HOME-RUNS 1911-12-13, TIED IN 1914.
WON TWO WORLD SERIES GAMES FROM
GIANTS IN 1911 WITH HOME-RUNS THUS
GETTING NAME “HOME RUN” BAKER. PLAYED
IN SIX WORLD SERIES 1910-11-13-14-21-22.

Frank earned the nickname “Home Run” after the 1911 World Series versus the New York Giants.  In game two, he slammed a two-run dinger off Rube Marquard to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning, capturing a lead that would not be given up that day and tying the series at 1-1.  The next game, Baker’s top-of-the-ninth solo shot off the great Christy Mathewson tied the game and sent it to extra innings.  The Athletics would win 2-1 in the eleventh, taking a lead in the series that would not be relinquished. 

Connie Mack and the other owners of the A’s would reward Frank’s great play in that series by making him a part of the “$100,000 Infield”.  That recipe of spectacular homeruns, high salaries, and marvelous concrete-and-steel ballparks would later become the big money formula for big money clubs in a game that, from its earliest time, was driven by speed, guile, stratagem, and glovework. 

Baker would lead the American League in homeruns in 1911 (11), and go on to capture that prize again in 1912 (10, tied with Texan slugger Tris Speaker), 1913 (12), and 1914 (9), always ranking highly in the major offensive categories.  Eventually, Connie Mack refused to sustain Baker’s salary;  his contract was purchased by none other than the New York Yankees in 1916, for $37,500.  In 1921, Baker, aggrieved by the passing of his wife, hobbled by age, and probably disinterested in the growing glamour of the game, was still present enough to pass the homerun baton to Babe Ruth – who hit an unheard-of 59 homeruns that year (from the Baseball Almanac):

“I hope he (Babe Ruth) lives to hit one-hundred homeruns in a season.  I wish him all the luck in the world.  He has everybody else, including myself, hopelessly outclassed.”

In 1922, Frank left the game for good, remarried, and reset himself in the farm town where he was born – and where he would eventually pass on at the age of seventy-seven.

For more reading on Frank “Home Run” Baker, hit the Baseball Almanac link above and be sure to also check out The Dead Ball Era’s obituary page on him.

Written by Ryan

March 13, 2010 at 7:00 am

On This Day in Yankee History…

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On this day in 1903, the leadership of the well-established National League and the three-year-old upstart American League met to talk unity and the reconciling of rules.  Two important outcomes of the meeting were the creation of the World Series and a 15-1 vote to install an American League franchise in New York (the lone dissenter was John T. Bush, whose National League New York Giants had enjoyed a near-monopoly over the city).

Shortly after, the flagging Baltimore Oriole franchise was purchased, uprooted, and imported to New York City by the (logical) duo of Frank Farrell, a pool-hall and gambling kingpin, and William Deverey, a former Police Chief.  A field (there were no stadiums yet) was hastily thrown together on Manhattan’s highest point, on Broadway between 165th and 168th Streets.  The local press dubbed the team “the Highlanders” and called the field “Hilltop Park”.  That neighborhood would eventually become Washington Heights, the birthplaces of Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.  The New York Highlanders would eventually become the New York Yankees.

Written by Ryan

March 12, 2010 at 7:00 am

Happy B-day, Aaron Boone!

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On this day 36 years ago, former Yankee infielder Aaron Boone was born in La Mesa, California.

Boone will always be remembered by Yankee fans for his walk-off homerun to clinch the ‘03 ALCS versus Boston.  Aaron led off the bottom of the 11th inning with the game tied 2-2 in a real nailbiter.  He launched the first offering from wiley knuckleballer Tim Wakefield into the leftfield seats, sending the home crowd into mania and the team to the World Series.

Aaron was born into a baseball family.  Grandfather Ray Boone (d. Oct. 17, 2004) was an infielder with Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago (he was traded there in a move that included Red Sox mgr. Terry Francona’s father Tito), Milwaukee, Kansas City, and finally Boston.  His 2-time All Star career spanned from 1948 to 1960.  Father Bob Boone was a 7-time Gold Glove catcher who spent 19 seasons with Philadelphia, California, and Kansas City, throwing out an impressive 40% of attempted steals over his career and earning 4 All Star selections.  Brother Bret Boone was a slugging secondbaseman by trade, leading all Boones with 252 career HRs.  The 4-time Gold Glover, 3-time All Star, and 2-time Silver Slugger led the American League with 141 RBIs in 2001. 

Aaron would later gain some fame as being the first player in MLB history to have open heart surgery and return to play within the same season, going under the knife on March 26th, 2009 to replace his bicuspid aortic valve and returning to the batter’s box on August 10th (he was 0-3).

Quote:  “”Just to have the opportunity, to be in that spot, get that chance, it’s humbling…This game humbles you all the time in good and bad ways. It’s been humbling a little bit lately in a bad way, and this is just the same. It’s humbling.”

Written by Ryan

March 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Posted in All, Birthdays

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Happy B-day, Myril Hoag!

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On this day in 1908, Myril Hoag (d. July 28, 1971) was born in Davis, California.

Hoag came up with the Yankees in 1931 after an outstanding season in the Pacific Coast League, where he batted .337.  An excellent article in Baseball in Wartime perfectly defines his career with the Yanks:

Hoag failed to live up to the hype his first two years with the Yankees and saw only limited duty as a back-up outfielder. He was back in the minors in 1933 playing a full season with Newark of the International League before returning to New York in 1934.

Hoag remained in a utility role with the Yankees and suffered serious head injuries when a collision in the outfield with Joe DiMaggio resulted in brain surgery. However, he apparently made a full recovery and played 106 games and batted .301 the following year.

Hoag was traded to the Browns in 1939 and enjoyed his best major league season playing a career-high 129 games and batting .295 with 75 RBIs as well as being an American League all-star selection.

Hoag also went 6-for-20 in the 1937 World Series versus the Giants.  In the fifth and final game, he hit a solo homer in the second inning to start the scoring.  That series is notable as the last series in which Lou Gehrig homered (that season was possibly the last that the “Iron Horse” was completely healthy before drifting into illness).

Myril was the last Yankee to get 6 hits in a single game until Johnny Damon matched it versus Kansas City on June 7th of last year.

Hoag is finally notable for having one of the smallest shoes in Major League history, size 4 (R) and 4 1/2 (L).

Written by Ryan

March 9, 2010 at 7:00 am

Posted in All, Birthdays

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Who’s At the Door? It’s Jrz!

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[by Jrz]:

As most of the people that will be reading this know I have been in the “Joba is a starter” camp from the get go. While I still believe he can be at worst a #2 starter at the Major League level I am starting to question it a bit. Maybe it is just because it has been going on for so long or maybe it is from watching him for almost 3 years now.

For the first time in his career he will have no limitations or ceilings put on his innings.He will not go through the 3 inning, 50 pitch, whichever comes first nonsense that he went through at the end of 2009. He will not have to be stretched out as he was when he started in the bullpen and was moved to the rotation in 2008 and in my opinion this can only be a good thing for his psyche. One would have to imagine when presented with a 3 inning 50 pitch limit that a pitcher would  be too fine or at least try to be in order to get the most out of his pitches. Chamberlain has had success in both roles, starter and reliever. If you throw out the “holding pattern” starts from Aug. 30th until he went to the pen in October of 09 ( 1-2 25.2IP 35H 21R 20ER 5HR 11BB and 17K) his career #s as a starter stand at 11-5 in 196IP 192H 96R 83ER 20HR 90BB and 189K. At the age of 24 these are numbers that make me wonder what he is capable of doing as a starter over a career.

He has had less bumps in the road as a reliever since he broke onto the scene in 2007. Out of the bullpen he has ridiculous stats. For his career in 50 appearances he is 3-2 with a 1.50ERA in 60IP giving up 39H 11R 10 earned surrendering 2HR while walking 20 and striking out 79. His ability out of the pen is undeniable he has been unhittable at times and strikes fear into opposing hitters. His demeanor is not unlike many closers, he can be surly and animated and he seems th thrive on the pressure that comes along with coming out of the bullpen. Though, after watching Mariano Rivera for the last 15 years I kind of like the calm, cool and collected persona he projects. That is not to say that a guy like Joba cant be successful as a reliever, just look at that jackass papelbon.

I guess the main reason I have always been in the “starter camp” is because top of the rotation guys dont grow on trees.Although as time goes on I am starting to get a little worried about his delivery. It seems to me that for a big kid there is not alot of leg thrust (think Tom Seaver) and that he throws with alot of arm. I dont believe that is very conducive to 15 years of 200 innings and 34 starts. In a perfect world Chamberlain would have spent 3 years in the minor leagues working on things like that but that isnt the world the Yankees reside in. The win now attitude surrounding the team and demanded for by the fans is the reason Joba came up to the pen in 07 and started the season there in 08.

I know this is filled with alot of stuff that has been said in alot of places. Guess what, it is going to keep being said in alot of places until Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and the Yankees orginization make a decision. Who knows, maybe the decision has already been made. One thing is for sure, we will know by the end of 2010….I hope.

Written by Ryan

March 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Posted in All, Odds & Ends

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Weekend Link Roundup

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It’s official.  Jerry Manuel has mental deficiencies.  Spring Training for Jason Bay and David Wright turns into Thunderdome with the loser starting the season protected by the ever-courageous Dan Murphy.  Meanwhile, the 500lb day-glo-colored gorilla in the room is why Manuel wouldn’t simply tool the lineup by simply place-saving for the return of Carlos Beltran.  There are three legitimate power hitters to stack behind Reyes and Castillo, in order they would be Wright, Bay, Francoeur, and you can hide Murphy in the six-hole without a second thought until Beltran comes back – which assumes that he’s coming back.  Beltran returns, and you slot him somewhere in the middle.  A lineup needs to gel, Bay is a new factor, not even considering Reyes’ clear place as one of the premier firestarter in the NL.  I’m not the only one scratching my head, I’ve found one more blogger who asks “Where’s Carlos?”

How long until a metric is invented that shows how Jose Reyes is best-suited for batting third?

Adrian Beltre is the owner of a stupefying 14.3 UZR, but can’t seem to field the baseball that stands still.  We’ll have keep a sharp eye on how many runs that Fenway hot corner swallows whole.

Looks like K-Rod isn’t the only Met with a fire in his eyes.  “Iggy” better away from those PSL campskanks, or else he’ll have a fire in his draws, too.

Phil Hughes is the latest changeup noodler on the Yankee staff, joining A.J. Burnett in experimenting with the easy-on-the-arm offspeed.

“I just tweaked it a little bit,” said Hughes, who is competing with Joba Chamberlain and three others for the final open spot in the rotation. “I’ve probably had about 29 different change-up grips in the last year and a half. It’s something that I’m constantly (experimenting) with…I feel like I have a good feel for it,” Hughes said. “It’s just a matter of consistently throwing it for strikes. It feels comfortable rolling off the fingers.”

I can’t wait for Opening Day.

Written by Ryan

February 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Why the Detroit Tiger Outfield Doesn’t Matter

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I’ve been accused on not understanding the Tigers and the AL Central on a FanLaughs thread.  OK, here goes my first try towards advanced divisional dynamic comprehension:

The “very touchable” Austin Jackson lines up atop the Detroit batting order, but manager Jim Leyland is understandably non-committal about the kid’s future:

“He’s hit everywhere he’s been,” Leyland said. “What’s going to happen up here, I don’t know, but his consistency in the minor leagues was pretty good. I’ve always believed that if he’s hit for four or five years in the minor leagues, he’s probably got a good chance to hit in the big leagues.”

Leyland is a card player.  And, for a team that’s as concerned with speed and defense as the article supposes, he hasn’t been dealt too many good cards to play.  Johnny Damon is a left-handed bat who can’t field, and possibly won’t run too often, while the speed “additions” take the form of two rookies (Jackson and solid-hitting Scott Sizemore).  Stealing in triple-A is a soft stat to rely on as, very often, runners aren’t even held on.  In any event, it is wise not to heap too much expectation and responsibility on young talent.  All kinds of crazy things can happen.  IMO if you’re trying not to s**t the bed a second year in a row, add neither the very old nor the very young, but the just right.

Unfortunately, the great Leyland is not getting the help from management like his rival Ron Gardenhire is.

Justin Morneau is taking things slow this spring training.  The Minnesota Twins spent last September politely and methodically showing Detroit the door, while down one of their biggest bats in Morneau’s back injury.  The team finished with winning records versus each of their division “rivals”.  This year, even as the great Joe Mauer reaches for eternity, just about the entire team (save Morneau, Joe Nathan, and Scott Baker) is either in free agency or faces a club option after the 2010 season and that’s a perfect storm for that division with an eye very perfectly centered.

In case you haven’t noticed, I really haven’t gone too far into depth regarding the Tigers’ outfield.  That’s because after September 30th, it won’t really matter.

Written by Ryan

February 27, 2010 at 10:47 am