Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Joltin' Joe DiMaggio and the 56-Game Hit Streak

Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio has always been an intriguing figure to me. From my early recollections of his being the spokesperson of Mr. Coffee and the Bowery Savings Bank to his marriage to Marylin Monroe to the rumors of his being standoffish to fans looking for autographs ($100 dollars or a steak dinner was rumored to be his line to autograph seekers) DiMaggio was always shrouded in mystery. So when I read that May 15th marked the 70th anniversary of the beginning of his still untouchable 56-game hit streak, I decided to look into how DiMaggio hit during the streak. (Image credit goes to James Fiorentino of JamesFiorentino.com. Check his site out for other beautiful sports images available for sale)

The streak lasted for a period of two months and two days from May 15, 1941 to July 16, 1941 and the Yankees played a total of seven doubleheaders during that span (May 30, June 1, June 8, June 29, July 1, July 6, July 13). Unlike today's day/night doubleheaders which provide a few hours of rest for players in between games, these games were played with a small break in between treating fans to two games for the price of one. In addition, travel during those days differed from today with traveling coming in the form of cross country trains and city to city buses. Keep in mind that St. Louis was the Westernmost city in the majors so train travel to or from New York City took some time. No five or six hours flights via first-class in those days or first-class accommodations either. So life for a ballplayer was a little harsher. Given those details, here is how DiMaggio's production during the streak breaks down.

DiMaggio went 91 for 223 for a batting average of .408. The 91 hits were made up of 53 singles, 15 doubles, 8 triples and 15 homeruns. DiMaggio drove in 55 runs and crossed home plate 50 times. He also drew 22 walks and struck out an amazing 5 times during the streak. His plate discipline is what I find truly amazing since DiMaggio struck out only 13 times during the entire 1941 season. Keep in mind that some current players will strike out 13 times in a month if not a few weeks.

For the 1941 season, DiMaggio hit .357 with 30 HRs and 125 RBI and 122 runs scored. In 541 at-bats, DiMaggio had 193 hits (43 2B/11 3B/30 HR) with 76 walks and the aforementioned 13 strikeouts. His OPS was 1.083 (.440 OBP%/.643 SLG%). DiMaggio led the Yankees to a 101-54 record winning the American League pennant and defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers in six games in the World Series. For his accomplishments, DiMaggio won the 1941 American League Most Valuable Player award over such stiff competition as Ted Williams who batted .406 for the season, as well as leading the league in runs, home runs, walks, on base and slugging percentages and Bob Feller who went 25-13 with 2 saves and a 3.15 ERA in 44 games (40 started) with 343 innings pitched with 260 strikeouts and 194 walks and 284 hits for a WHIP of 1.394.

When I hear about records that will stand the test of time, I have to agree that Joe DiMaggio's 56-game streak is going to be one of those that does stand up against time.

On a side note, I would like to thank the fine people over at BaseballReference.com for their invaluable work. Checking out statistics, box scores and details for games 70 years ago and later is made easier due to their continued efforts. Thank you very much.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Joe DiMaggio's career statistics from BaseballReference.com
- Click Here to access Zell's Pinstripe Blog for an article named DiMaggio, Mr. Coffee and The Bowery Savings Bank dated July 3, 2010 for links to various commercials made by Joe DiMaggio for Mr. Coffee and Bowery Savings Bank.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Current State of Jorge Posada

It was announced during tonight's Red Sox-Yankees game that Jorge Posada had taken himself out of the lineup due to being lowered in the lineup to the 9th position. Upon doing so, Posada asked for some media time after the game to make an announcement. This set up a flurry of assumptions on whether or not Posada was going to retire. The act of taking himself out of the game without an apparent injury added an additional angle of Posada being a selfish player who took offense to being dropped to 9th in the lineup. It was later revealed that Posada took himself out due to a stiff lower back. We won't know for sure until he says something. I personally believe that his .165 batting average with 6 HRs and 15 RBI are the reasons for his being placed in the 9th spot in the lineup. The team is playing poorly and something needs to be done to wake-up the bats. As it stands, Posada has made it be known that he hates DH'ing but where else is he going to play on this Yankees team. To make matters worse, free agent signing Russell Martin has been a godsend for the team both at bat and behind the plate and AAA prospect Jesus Montero is tearing up minor league pitching at Trenton. The Yankees are a better team with Posada's bat in the lineup and Martin behind the plate. Period.

What does any team do about their veteran players when the time might come to move on. Reality has a way of hitting hard when the talent dims and the body starts to slow down. Factor in the Yankee mystique when it comes to Posada and his place in the Yankee pantheon of legendary players. He's a pivotal member of five world championship teams (1996/1998/1999/2000/2009) but the team historically has moved on without legends like Ruth, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle and Mattingly to name a few. Maybe Posada needs to look at his catching counterpart in the visitor's dugout. Jason Varitek is also in a similar position to Posada and has taken his demotion in stride during the last few seasons. I can only imagine how hard it is for any professional to be told that he can no longer perform at a particular level and that he needs to move to another job with no opportunity to show his worth behind the plate.

Based on Bryan Hoch's twitter feed, he says that "Posada said he had a stiff back and saw a chiropractor today. Also needed a mental day off". If that was the case and it was not presented in that manner then it was a miscommunication on the part of Posada and the issue should be closed. Cashman talking during the game seemed to irk Posada who according to Hoch said he was "a little bit" upset at Cashman for talking during the game. Said you're not supposed to do that.

In the end time will tell if the team can move on from this latest drama. Maybe this will be the motivating factor to Posada and the team breaking out of their doldrums. We will see.


For Further Reading:

- Click Here for Brian MacPherson's blogpost Circus at Yankee Stadium shows a stark contrast between two franchise icons for an interesting take on Posada and Varitek from soxblog.projo.com dated May 14, 2011
- Click Here for Peter Botte's article Yankees' Jorge Posada refuses to play vs. Red Sox; Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez key 6-0 Boston win from the New York Daily News website dated May 14, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy 80th Birthday Willie Mays

If ever there was a reason to use a time machine to go back in time is to watch Baseball players from prior eras in person and in glorious color. Granted, we have news reels and newspaper clippings to refer back to the exploits of many former players. But nothing comes close to saying that I saw so and so hit that massive homerun, steal that pivotal base, throw that no-hitter or make that amazing catch. Speaking of amazing catches, today is the Birthday of arguably the best Baseball player there has ever been. Willie Howard Mays, Jr was born on May 6, 1931 in the town of Westfield, Alabama. From his teenage years, the exploits of Mays' speed and baserunning were known throughout the Negro Leagues. Mays played with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League while he was still a high school student in 1948. After signing with the New York Giants in 1950, Mays played minor league ball with class B Trenton, New Jersey and the AAA Minneapolis Miners of the American Association. Nays made his big league debut for the New York Giants on May 24, 1951 against the Philadephia Phillies. After a slow start and some self doubt, Mays' career picked up and he never looked back.

Playing in the same Golden Era of New York City Baseball as the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, the New York Giants made the World Series in 1951 and 1954 winning the 1954 series against the heavily favored 111-43 Cleveland Indians. In arguably the most famous catch in a World Series game, Mays made an unbelievable over the head catch to rob Vic Werth of an extra base-hit and keeping the two runners on base from scoring keeping the game tied. The Giants would eventually win Game 1 and sweep the Indians to win the 1954 World Series. Mays would never play in the World Series again. Until the Giants moved to San Francisco, the New York Baseball seen was dominated by the trio of great outfielders of Mays, Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees and Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Mays would play for the Giants until 1972 when he returned to New York City playing for the New York Mets for one season before retiring at the end of the 1973 season. His final career line is a so:

.302 Batting average with 660 HRs and 1903 RBI. Mays had 3208 hits (523 2B/140 3B/660 HR) with 338 stolen bases (in 441 attempts), 1526 strikeouts with 1464 walks. His career OPS was .941 (.384 OBP%/.557 SLG%). Mays was also a defensive marvel finishing with a .981 fielding percentage making only 141 errors in 7095 career putouts in the outfield. Mays won the Rookie of the Year award in 1951, won two National League MVP awards (1954, 1965) finishing in the top ten in MVP voting 12 times. Mays was a 20-time All-Star and won 12 consecutive Gold Glove awards. Willie Mays was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility in 1979 with 94.7 percent of the vote (409 of 432 votes).

As hard as it is to me to believe that he would not get the other remaining 23 votes, Mays was only the 14th person at that time to be elected to the Hall of Fame in his 1st year of eligibility. I would just like to thank Wille Mays for all he has done for the game of Baseball and for the generations of Baseball fans who grew up reading and watching footage of his exploits. I wish I was able to see him play live but at least I can say that I had the privilege of seeing Mays in any way shape or form. Maybe I'll get lucky and someone will invent that time machine so I can sit down in the Polo Grounds and watch the marvel that is Willie Mays. Thank you and Happy Birthday


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Willie Mays' career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to access Willie Mays' page from the National Baseball Hall of Fame website
- Click Here for a blogpost that I wrote on April 30, 2007 on Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente and the 1954 Puerto Rican Winter League season that they played together in the outfield from my Latinoball blogpage