Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bobby Thomson 1923-2010

The impact of Bobby Thomson's passing was recently felt throughout the baseball world. The iconic call of "The Giants Win the Pennant" by former New York Giants announcer Russ Hodges during the even known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" will forever be linked to the scenes of an excited crowd at the Polo Grounds of Upper Manhattan as the Giants defeated their hated rivals: The Brooklyn Dodgers. The game was the third game of a best 2 out of 3 playoff series that was to decide who would represent the National League in the 1951 World Series. What was significant about that series was that it was the first playoff series to ever be played to decide who would represent the National League in the World Series. Even more impressive was that the Giants were 13.5 games behind the Dodgers by mid-August and rolled off a 16-game winning streak forcing a tie for first place with the Dodgers to end the 1951 regular season. after splitting the first two games, the game came down to the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers leading 4-2 with two runners on base for the Giants.

The game was decided by Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca delivering a pitch to Bobby Thomson which in turn was transformed by Thomson into a game winning three-run homer landing in the left-field seats as the Giants won 5-4. Click on the video below to see the footage off the homerun with commentary from legenadary announcers Ernie Harwell and Red Barber:

I have to admit, aside from the sounds and the images of that game I didn't really know much about Bobby Thomson. I decided to look into his playing career and so here goes.

Thomson, who was known as the Staten Island Scot (you gotta love the old school nicknames) was born Robert Brown Thomson on October 25, 1923 in the town of Glasgow, Scotland. His family emigrated to the United States when Thompson was two years old and settled in Staten Island, New York. Thomson was signed as a free-agent by the New York Giants in 1942. Thompson made the major leagues in 1946 and played for a total of 14 years (New York Giants, Milwaukee Braves, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles) retiring with the Baltimore Orioles in 1960. For his career, Thomson batted .270 with 1705 Hits (267 2B, 74 3B, 264 HR) and 1026 RBI. Thomson walked a total of 559 times and struck out 804 times while stealng 38 bases in 58 attempts. Defensively, Thomson played all three outfield positions while also spending time at third-base and first-base. He was a three-time All Star for the New York Giants (1948, 1949, 1952).

Thomson's best season came in 1949 when he batted .309 with 198 hits (35 2B, 9 3B, 27 HR) and 109 RBI. He walked 44 times while strikong out 45 times and stealing 10 bases.

In the years that followed, Thomson was always humble when talking about his famous homerun often referring to it as "just another homer" and he was always conscious of the effect the homerun had on his adversary during that at-bat. Always the gentleman, Thomson and Ralph Branca became very close friends after that at-bat, always being linked together in the history of Baseball.

Thomson's death was annouced by his daughter Megan Thomson Armstrong. Thank you Mr. Thomson for the amazing images of an era of baseball that is lost to the sands of time. Thank you for your grace and humility in life and now in death. May You Rest Forever in Peace.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here for the Obituary listing for Bobby Thomson from the New York Times dated August 17, 2010
- Click Here for the career statistics for Bobby Thomson from
- Click Here for images of the New York Times October 4, 1951 edition with the headline "GIANTS CAPTURE PENNANT, BEATING DODGERS 5-4 IN 9TH ON THOMSON’S 3-RUN HOMER." from the Mitchell
- Click Here for the Box Score of the game from Baseball

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cy Young Races are Hot

While the NL Cy Young race is ablaze with viable contenders, the AL Cy Young race is a bit more subdued. For sake of the post, I'll profile the AL first then the NL.

Currently the AL has three frontrunners each with 15 wins. The AL's All-Star Game opening pitcher David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays is 15-5 with a 2.24 ERA in 22 starts with 2 complete games and 1 shutout. He has given up 122 hits, 53 runs (46 earned), struck out 133 while walking 53 for a WHIP of 1.24 in 145.2 innings pitched.

C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees is next with a 15-5 record with a 3.14 ERA in 25 starts with 2 complete games. He has given up 168 hits, 68 runs (61 earned), struck out 134 while walking 58 for a WHIP of 1.25 in 174.2 innings pitched.

As much as it pains me to say this, the third pitcher is Carl Pavano of the Minnesota Twins. Pavano is 15-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 24 starts with 5 complete games and 2 shutouts. He has given up 158 hits, 63 runs (61 earned), struck out 97 while walking only 29 for a WHIP of 1.11 in 168 innings pitched.

Rounding out the pack is Boston's Clay Buchholz at 13-5 2.49 ERA, New York's Phil Hughes at 13-5 3.92 ERA, Detroit's Justin Verlander at 13-7 3.72. There is one pitcher that I would consider a dark horse in this year's AL Cy Young Race and that is Oakland A's All-Star Trevor Cahill.

Cahill is currently 12-4 with a 2.56 ERA in 20 starts with 1 complete game and 1 shutout. He has given up 90 hits, 46 runs (38 earned), struck out 76 while walking 46 for a WHIP of 0.98 in 133.2 innings pitched. His consistent starting is one of the main reasons that the Oakland A's are 57-57, 9 games behind the AL West leading Texas Rangers. If last year's selections of Kansas City's Zack Greinke as the AL Cy Young with a 16-8 record and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum with 15-7 recotd for the NL Cy Young show that the voters for the Cy Young don't just look at wins and losses. It used to be that the Cy Young award winner consistently had 20-win seasons but the trend has been changed to looking at a myriad of metrics. This is why I say that Cahill is a legit contender to win the Al Cy Young. Now on to the NL.

A few weeks ago I had discussed the NL ERA Race and said that the three contenders for the ERA title (Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright) were the top contenders for the NL Cy Young. Well folks, the field has truly gotten wider since then.

I would still consider Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez to be at the top of the list. After a little slump, Jimenez has seemed to recharge himself. He is currently 17-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 23 starts with 3 complete games and 2 shutouts. Jimenez has given up 108 hits, 46 runs (44 earned) while striking out 143 while walking 64 for a WHIP of 1.11 with 155.1 innings pitched.

Next is the St. Louis Cardinals Adam Wainwright with a record of 17-6 with a 1.99 ERA in 25 starts with 5 complete games and 2 shutouts. He has given up 149 hits, 42 runs (39 earned), striking out 158 and walking 42 for a WHIP of 0.97 in 176.1.

Philadelphia's Roy Halladay has overcome some tough starts in his first season with the Phillies to put himself back in the thick of the Cy Young discussion. Halladay is 14-8 with a 2.34 ERA in 24 starts with 8 complete games (yes, that is correct 8 Complete games) and 3 shutouts. He has allowed 169 hits, 54 runs (48 earned) while striking out 168 and walking an amazing 22 for a WHIP of 1.03 in 185 innings pitched.

Overcoming a string of serious injuries is the Atlanta Braves' Tim Hudson who is currently 14-5 with a 2.13 ERA in 24 starts with 1 complete game. He has allowed 128 hits, 40 runs (39 earned) while striking out 89 while walking 54 for a WHIP of 1.07 in 164.2 innings pitched.

Rounding out the field is St. Louis' Chris Carpenter at 13-3 2.89 ERA, San Diego's Matt Latos 12-5 2.36 ERA and Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto 11-3 3.38 ERA.

A pitcher that has been serious derailed by his team's lack of offensive production is Florida's Josh Johnson. At the time of my last post, Johnson was 10-3 with a league leading 1.62 ERA. Now Johnson is still at 10 wins with a 10-5 records and a 2.27 ERA. I wouldn't discount his Cy Young chances if he makes a late season push getting his win totals near the 15 or 16 win mark. I can't see the voters selecting a pitcher with under 15 wins. I think 15 wins is even too low when you have pitchers winning 19 and in some cases winning 20 or more games. I still say that this year's Cy Young award winners in both leagues will win the award with 20 or more wins. There is still alot of baseball to be played so we'll see how those I profiled pitch down the stretch and I'll see if anyone sneaks up on them.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jim Moore Rants on Ken Griffey Jr., and Chone Figgins

For those of you who personally know me have seen me rant and rave about something or another at some point. But today I read an article that I had to sit back and say "Now That's a Rant". Thanks to the fine people at Bleacher Reports for this little nugget of information called Finger of blame in Wak firing pointed right at Junior. Written by Jim Moore on the Seattle Post Intelligencer website, Moore says that they main reasons that former Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu was fired was due to future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., and current Mariner Chone Figgins.

Here is some of what Moore has to say about Griffey:

Junior struggled and slept in the clubhouse and was ultimately benched and got upset because he thought that Wakamatsu planted the whole Sleep-gate story with Larry LaRue, which is completely preposterous. And then he got even madder when Wakamatsu didn't communicate with him for two weeks after his benching or something like that.

I understand Griffey's place in the game, but was he so clueless that he needed Wakamatsu to continually explain why he was benched? Wakamatsu gave him more than enough time to produce, and when it didn't happen, what was the manager supposed to do? Keep putting him in the lineup? Wakamatsu, if I'm not mistaken, was trying to win games, and he couldn't do it with a powerless, sub-.200 designated hitter.

Griffey could have been a reasonably mature adult and hashed out his differences with Wakamatsu and stuck around as a part-time DH and full-time pinch-hitter who still would have wielded considerable clout in the clubhouse.

But no, Junior had to take his toys and go home. He said he left because he didn't want to be a distraction. Please. He left because he was in a full-on hissy-fit, mistakenly at odds with Wakamatsu.

Wow! That alone puts anything I could have said to shame. Period! But it doesn't end there. Here are a few more words from Moore about Griffey:

Last year, when things were going well, Griffey was a clubhouse enhancer who everyone loved. He was also the congenial conduit between Ichiro and the rest of the team.

Then of course, you know what's happened this year -- everything goes to hell and Griffey goes to Orlando, driving off in a huff in one of the biggest chump moves ever.

This isn't coming from a Ken Griffey Jr., hater. In the beginning of his article Moore describes how he nearly teared up listening to the pre-game ceremony that was held for Griffey upon his return with the Cincinnati Reds during an inter-league series three years ago. Moore acknowledges how the standing ovation that Junior received was well deserved for the man who helped keep the Mariners in Seattle. Now let's shift gears towards Chone Figgins.

Arguably, Figgins has to be the biggest offseason acquisition bust for any team this season. Though the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim miss him dearly, his performance has not been the same in Seattle. Moore gives his two-cents on Figgins and Wakamatsu:

Then we had the Chone Figgins dust-up in the dugout two weeks ago when the second baseman nearly came to blows with Wakamatsu, and I wish he had - I would have thoroughly enjoyed watching that bout, fully expecting Wak, with his size and reach advantage, to floor Figgy with a roundhouse right. That would have been more fun to see than the triple play against the A's Monday night.

Let's see if I have this straight - Figgins makes $9 million a year and dogs it and gets justifiably benched and goes nuts, and Wakamatsu blows it by not suspending him and continuing to put him in the lineup.

Then when approached by Gregg Bell of the Associated Press for a comment on Wakamatsu's firing, Figgins said: "I'm not talking, man, I'm not talking." Figgins is not a stand-up guy and, frankly, neither is Junior, evidenced by his sudden departure. Why Figgins isn't roundly booed every time he steps to the plate is hard to figure.

Enough said? Nope, Moore has more to say about Figgins on his website post called I wish Wakamatsu had decked Figgins. To add insult to injury towards Wakamatsu, he had the misfortune of being fired on the day of the Seattle Mariners Japanese Heritage Night at Safeco Field. In case you didn't already know, Don Wakamatsu was the first Japanese-American manager in the history of Major League Baseball. Ouch.

Whether you agree with Moore or not, I have to give it to him. That is one impressive rant. What do you think.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here for the entire article written by Jim Moore on the Seattle Post Intelligencer website
- Click Here for Jim Moore's Website called Jim Moore: The Go2Guy

Monday, August 9, 2010

Derek Jeter the All-Time Yankees Hit Leader

With his second inning single against Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox this past Sunday night, New York Yankees Captain Derek Jeter passed Hall of Famer Babe Ruth on the all-time Yankees hit list for the number one spot. With his accomplishment, Jeter is in prime position to reach the 3,000-hit plateau next season which would put the proverbial rubber stamp on his induction to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Congratulations to Derek Jeter on his achievement. But I get the feeling that others are not so eager to give the man his due.

I just finished reading Filip Bondy's article in today's (August 9th) New York Daily News titled Celebrate the captain but his feat is far from Ruthian and it left me with a nasty taste in my mouth. Here's a glimpse of one such paragraph:

You don't measure Ruth in singles or doubles. It just diminishes the legend. And you don't measure Jeter, the steady captain, against Ruth, the eclectic, magnificent Sultan of Swat. You measure him against Phil Rizzuto, Maury Wills, Luis Aparicio and maybe Cal Ripken Jr.

I'm sure Derek Jeter would humbly say that even he would not be up to par with those players Bondy measured but we aren't talking about some scrub. This is a player that day in and day out plays with the determination that we, as fans, wish all baseball players played in. Even the most die-hard Boston Red Sox fan respects him for his leadership, his poise and his accomplishments. Even I haven't been the biggest Jeter fan in the world, but I know that even though he isn't the best player at his position offensively and defensively, he has something that most players wished they had: fortitude, consistency, respect, clutch timing...should I go on? But to disrespect Jeter by basically undermining his passing of Ruth on the list by saying that comparing Jeter to Ruth is like comparing "Apples to Apple IPods " is just wrong.

No one can compare them since both players are different kind of players who played in different eras. For Bondy to say that even though Jeter has one more championship than Ruth he trails the Babe by 481 homers and 94 pitching victories shows how much of a jackass he really is. Ruth doesn't need anyone to defend his place in the game of Baseball. He was a giant among men during his days on the field. Ruth's effect on the game is still felt today and will always be felt but Bondy should not sweep aside Jeter because of it.

Barring any major injury, Jeter will reach and surpass the 3,000-hit mark and be in position to challenge Pete Rose's all-time hit mark of 4,256. Will that mean that Jeter is better than Rose? No, it means that Jeter played the game to the point that he felt he was still productive enough to reach Rose. Is he a failure or less of a player if he doesn't surpass Rose? Not at all. Which is why I believe that Bondy's attempt to prop up Babe Ruth is asinine since Babe Ruth only needs that massive piece of lumber that he used to knock 714 homers out of the park to prop him up. His place is never in doubt no matter how many players pass him on the homers list and the Yankees all-time hit list. Bondy can have his opinion like anyone else. Baseball and the comparison between players and eras can bring these opinions out in a rabid fashion time and time again. I think that in this case, since there is no point to compare there is also no point for insult since Jeter is a quality and unselfish player and has been so for his entire career.

Celebrate Jeter for his loyalty in an era of loyalty-less free agency. Celebrate him for his consistency in an era tainted by the shroud of steroid abuse. Celebrate him for his poise and character in an era of selfishness, boorishness and egotism. Celebrate Captain Derek Jeter as the all-time New York Yankees hit leader without strings and conditions. Don't undermine him by comparing him to the closest thing Baseball has to a deity. It is just not fair. Jeter gives it his all for his team and their fans. We owe him the same in return.


Lost No-Hitter with 2-Outs in the 9th

The Tampa Bay Rays were almost bit by the no-hit bug once again. Brendan Morrow of the Toronto Blue Jays carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the ninth inning. After getting the first two outs in the inning, the no-no was lost on a base hit by Evan Longoria who just got the ball past a diving Adam Lind. Morrow got the complete game victory by giving up just one hit while striking out 17 and walking only 2. As impressive and disappointing this performance was, Morrow is one in the long line of pitchers to lose a no-hitter in the ninth. Stew Thornley on his webpage highlights the perfect games and no-hitters that have been lost in the ninth inning since 1961. Click here to see the list.

While there have been many pitchers to lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning, I believe that there is one out of them all who was the most impressive than the rest. Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays was a workhorse of a pitcher who lost three no-hitters with two outs in the bottom of the ninth (Stieb also lost a no-hitter in the ninth with no outs in 1985). What I believe to be most impressive is the last two that Stieb lost were done in back-to-back starts. Stieb had no-hit the Cleveland Indians on September 24, 1988 until giving up a hit to Julio Franco. During his next start on September 30, 1988, Stieb lost another no-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This time the lost no-no came at the hands of Jim Traber of the Baltimore Orioles. Stieb finally achieved his long overdue goal of pitching a no-hitter by defeating the Cleveland Indians on September 2, 1990.

Only one pitcher in the history of the game has thrown two consecutive no-hitters. That fortunate fellow was Johnny Vander Meer who no-hit the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers whle pitching for the Cincinnati Reds in 1938. What makes his achievement more impressive is that he threw the no-hitters four days apart: June 11, 1938 and June 15, 1938.

In a related article Wayne Graczyk of the Japan Times writes the following article: Rash of MLB no-hitters recalls NPB gems from past. I have always been fascinated by the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB)and look to find out any new information on the league. The league's roots can be traced back to 1934 and was re-organized in 1950. Graczyk's article notes that there have been 17 perfect games in the history of the NPB and he describes some of the more unique ones. Check it out for an interesting read.