Facts and whodathunkits from the world of baseball, September 19, 2021.

Triples hurt your Hall of Fame chances: The last player to lead the league in triples and earn eventual Hall of Fame induction was Paul Molitor, who tied Lance Johnson for the American League lead with 13 in 1991.

Thome was elected to the Hall of Fame with 89.8% of the vote. (Wikipedia).

The Hall is more amenable to strikeouts: With a league-leading 182 Ks in 2003, Jim Thome is the most recent player to pace the loop in strikeouts and make it to Cooperstown.

Speaking of Thome: Thome, who owns 612 career home runs, feasted on star pitchers. He hit four or more home runs off 16 hurlers. They included Roger Clemens (8 home runs), Justin Verlander (7), Mike Mussina (6), CC Sabathia (4), Johan Santana (4) and Tim Hudson (4).

Why’dya quit? Thirty-three players had 150 or more hits in their final big league season, with the most belonging to Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1920. That year, he had 218 knocks, but was soon banished from the game for his alleged involvement in the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal. Numbers 2 and 3 on the list were also Black Sox: Buck Weaver (208 H in 1920) and Happy Felsch (188 H in 1920). Number 4 was Irv Waldron, who had 186 hits, 102 runs scored and a league-leading 141 games played, 641 plate appearances and 598 at-bats between the old Milwaukee Brewers (who eventually became the Baltimore Orioles) and Washington Senators. And most incredibly—that was his only year in the big leagues! With 169 hits in 2016, David Ortiz is the most recent player to finish with 150-plus knocks in his final campaign.

No runs, no walks, no strikeouts: The last pitcher to throw a complete game shutout without walking a batter or setting one down on strikes was Detroit’s Rick Porcello, who blanked Oakland 3-0 on July 1, 2014. Before him, the last to do it was Baltimore’s Jeff Ballard on August 21, 1989. He beat Milwaukee 5-0.

What a Series: The 1946 World Series was the only postseason experience of Ted Williams’ career. He hit .200 in the losing effort, as Boston fell to St. Louis in seven games. It also featured Enos Slaughter’s famed Mad Dash, when the future Hall of Famer scored all the way from first on a Harry Walker single. It put St. Louis up 4-3 in the 8th inning; the game finished with that score and St. Louis finished with the World Series victory.

Gotta catch the fight: Bill Lange, a star centerfielder for the Cubs in the 1890s, had priorities other than spring training baseball on his mind in March 1897. Wanting to see a prize fight between boxers James Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons, he feigned injury, even having a friend in the media write a fake story about his malady. After the fight, he “recovered” and played a full season, batting .340 with a league-leading 73 stolen bases.

Scribe at the hot corner: Bo Durkac spent seven seasons in professional baseball, mostly in the indy leagues. And he was good—in 1999, with the Chico Outlaws, he batted .337 with a .441 on-base percentage in 90 games and the next year, he hit .331 with a .465 OBP. While he was playing, he contributed to Baseball America’s website and wrote 2001: A Baseball Odyssey, about his stint in the Taiwan Major League in 2001. In 2003, he wrote How to Become a Professional Baseball Player.


Facts and whodathunkits from the world of baseball, September 18, 2021.

Home run inflation: Before 1998, no team had ever had ten or more players hit ten-plus home runs in a season; that year, the Orioles and Yankees had exactly that many players do it. Since then, it’s occurred 38 times—with 14 of the instances happening in 2019 alone. Remember the powers that be were adamant that there totally was not a juiced ball that season. The 2019 Yankees hold the record for most players with ten-plus dingers with 14. Get ready, here’s the list: Gleyber Torres (38 home runs), Gary Sanchez (34), Brett Gardner (28), Aaron Judge (27),  DJ LeMahieu (26), Luke Voit (21), Gio Urshela (21), Didi Gregorius (16), Mike Tauchman (13), Edwin Encarnacion (13), Aaron Hicks (12), Clint Frazier (12), Mike Ford (12) and Cameron Maybin (11). The 1952 New York Giants were the first team to feature nine ten-dinger hitters.

Ten game winners: Which team’s pitching staff featured the most ten game winners? It’s a tie between three clubs with seven, each. The 1914 Philadelphia Athletics were the first, with men like future Hall of Famers Eddie Plank and Chief Bender toeing the rubber. They won the AL Pennant that year but lost the World Series to the Boston Braves. The 1939 Yankees, with the likes of Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez among their number, achieved the feat; they beat the Reds in the Fall Classic. The ’76 Reds did it without any future Hall of Famers or anyone winning 15 games. They avenged their 1939 loss to New York, beating them in the World Series.

Shipke hit just .177 against right handers. (Wikipedia).

The power of placebo: Bill Shipke was a weak-hitting third baseman who batted .199 in a career that spanned from 1906 to 1909. At one point in 1908, a fan gave Shipke, then of the Senators, a piece of paper with “magical properties” with instructions to tape it to his bat. Shipke did and had an excellent month after beginning the experiment. No date was specified for when he used the paper, however I surmise it was late May to late June. He rattled off a stretch in which he batted .300 in 42 at-bats.

Just one? The only woman to manage full-time in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was Bonnie Baker. She led the Kalamazoo Lassies to a 36-73 record in 1950. She was a more successful player, earning a couple All-Star selections.

Family affair: The AAGPBL’s Jean Faut pitched for the South Bend Blue Sox from 1946 to 1953. Her manager the final three seasons? Husband Karl Winsch. Faut was one of the best pitchers in the league’s history, tossing two perfect games and two no-hitters. Winsch played in the minors from 1942 to 1944. He managed the Blue Sox through 1954, leading them to a 232-187 record.

Grand slam for the old lady: From the Baseball-Reference.com Bullpen: “On September 14, with Bill Robinson and Ed Ott aboard, John Milner was intentionally walked by Bob Forsch to get to [Phil] Garner, who took him deep to center for a grand slam in the 7th inning. Phil’s wife rarely missed a home game but had not been there and got mad—’How could you hit the only grand slam of your career the one night I don’t come to the game?’ Garner told her he would hit one the next day. On September 15, Omar Moreno, Robinson and Willie Stargell were on base in the first inning, when Garner homered off of Woodie Fryman. It was the first time in 77 years, since Jimmy Sheckard, that a National Leaguer had hit grand slams in consecutive games; Brooks Robinson had done it in the AL in 1962.”

Won the most: The winningest manager in Negro league history was Candy Jim Taylor, who finished with 955 victories, three pennants and two league championships in 27 seasons.

Facts and whodathunkits from the world of baseball, September 17, 2021.

Cameron was a decent slugger, hitting 278 home runs in 17 seasons. (Wikipedia).

I’m going solo: There have been 18 four-home run games in major league history. Only one man clobbered all solo shots when he did it—Seattle’s Mike Cameron on May 2, 2002 against the White Sox. He victimized Sox hurler Jim Parque thrice and reliever Jon Rauch for one. It was a slugfest that day—second baseman Bret Boone walloped two homers, while Jeff Cirillo added one of his own.

Hit for the career cycle: The only player to finish his career with one single, one double, one triple and one home run was Jerry Brooks, who played briefly for the Dodgers and Marlins in 1993 and 1996, respectively. In 1993, he had a double and a home run and in 1996, he had a single and a triple.

Fear my mighty power? Bob Didier, a catcher who played from 1969 to 1974, didn’t hit a single home run in 751 career at-bats. That didn’t stop opposing pitchers from intentionally walking the .229 career hitter 16 times, the most ever among batsmen without a dinger. Thirteen of those instances came when he was batting eighth in the lineup. The pitchers behind him must have been really, really awful hitters … even for moundsmen.

Couldn’t get an out: The last time neither starter managed to get a single batter out before being yanked from the game was September 21, 1989. The Reds’ Jack Armstrong gave up a single, a walk, a run scoring-double, a two-run home run and a walk, in that order, before being replaced by reliever Tim Birtsas. The Padres Dennis Rasmussen allowed a single, a single, a three-run home run, a single and a double before relief pitcher Mark Grant took over. The Padres ended up winning 11-7. What’s especially odd about the game is both Armstrong and Rasmussen were good pitchers. Armstrong would be an All-Star the next year and Rasmussen won 16 games with a 3.43 ERA the year before.

Got carried away: The White Sox Pat Caraway was a hard luck pitcher. On July 23, 1931, he surrendered 11 runs against Boston, then allowed 13 against the Yankees in his next start, July 26. And after that—9 runs against New York the next day. Though he carried an ERA under 3 into June, he finished the year with a league-leading 24 losses and a 6.22 ERA.

Black was out of the major leagues by the time he was 33. (Wikipedia).

Leave well enough alone: Joe Black was an excellent pitcher who, in his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952, went 15-4 with a 2.15 ERA, 171 ERA+ and league-leading 41 games finished. He won the Rookie of the Year Award and finished third in MVP voting. But he was a two-pitch pitcher and manager Chuck Dressen wanted him to learn a changeup. Bad idea—Black messed up his mechanics (and mindset) in the process. After 1952, he had a 4.84 ERA in 116 games.

That’s a lot of hits: On May 13, 1958, against Los Angeles, the Giants had five players collect four or more hits: Orlando Cepeda, Bob Schmidt, Daryl Spencer and Danny O’Connell had four each, while Willie Mays had five. The Giants won 16-9. Since 1901, no other team has had that many batters with four-plus hits in a game; the last time a team had four players with that many knocks was July 13, 2019. Facing the Rockies, the Reds’ Nick Senzel, Yasiel Puig and Jose Peraza whacked four hits each, while Phil Ervin had six. Cincinnati won, 17-9.

World leader in sacrifice hits: Who holds the record for most sacrifice hits among all major professional baseball leagues? Japan’s Masahiro Kawai, who had 533 in 23 seasons from 1984 to 2006. The Major League Baseball leader is Hall of Famer Eddie Collins with 512; the active major leaguer is Clayton Kershaw with 110. He has a way to go.