Monthly Archives: July 2013

Where are Some of the Pine Tar Participants Now?

On this day 30 years ago, July 24, 1983, Kansas City and New York played a seemingly normal game for eight innings at Yankee Stadium.

But the top of the ninth featured one of the most bizarre incidents in baseball history.

In case you don’t remember, Royals third baseman George Brett hit a go-ahead home run off Yankees closer Goose Gossage. As he was rounding the bases, Yankees manager Billy Martin emerged from the dugout to argue that Brett used an illegal bat because the pine tar was too close to the barrel.

After measuring the bat for the amount of pine tar, home plate umpire Tim McClelland pointed at Brett in the dugout and called him out, ending the game and giving the Yankees an apparent 4-3 win.

George Brett just having a friendly conversation with home plate umpire Tim McClelland.

George Brett just having a friendly conversation with home plate umpire Tim McClelland.

An enraged Brett ran from the dugout and had to be physically restrained by umpire Joe Brinkman. The Royals played the game under protest and AL president Lee MacPhail eventually upheld the protest by stating the illegal bat “did not violate the spirit of the rules.”

So on Aug. 18, 25 days after the game started, the game was resumed with two outs in the top of the ninth. The Royals eventually completed a 5-4 win after closer Dan Quisenberry pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth.

Now there are a lot of players in the league today who either don’t remember or were not born when the Pine Tar Game occurred. These players could chat with one of the following players from the game who are still involved in organized baseball:

Kansas City Royals
UL Washington – SS – It was Washington’s two-out single in the top of the ninth off reliever Dale Murray that brought Brett to the plate. He is currently a coach with the Single-A Greenville (SC) Drive, an affiliate of the Red Sox.

George Brett – 3B – Brett’s home run was his third hit of the game. It continued a trend of being a Yankee-killer. Brett hit 22 home runs at Yankee Stadium, including five in the postseason. He currently serves as the Royals hitting coach.

John Wathan – 1B/LF – Wathan scored two of the Royals five runs. He was Kansas City manager from 1987 to 1991 and the Angels interim manager in 1992. Currently, Wathan is a Royals Special Assistant to Player Development.

Leon Roberts – LF – Roberts finished with a pair of hits and threw out Dave Winfield at second base. He currently coaches with the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Houston Astros AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.

Willie Aikens – PH/1B – Aikens flied out in a pinch-hitting appearance. He now coaches with the Royals Arizona League club.

Joe Simpson – LF – Simpson played left field for the bottom of the ninth in the resumption of the game on Aug. 18. Since 1992, he has been a color commentator for Atlanta Braves broadcasts.

Frank White – 2B – White finished with a pair of RBI and also told Brett the umpires were measuring for illegal pine tar use just before the Royals third baseman went crazy. He is the first base coach for the Kansas City T-Bones of the Independent Northern League.

Bud Black – SP – Black started the game and allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings. He was in line for the loss before Brett’s home run gave Kansas City the lead. Since 2007, he has been the Padres manager.

New York Yankees
Butch Wynegar – C – Wynegar entered the game in the top of the ninth in the Aug. 18 resumed game. He is still with the Yankees organization as the hitting coach for the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRaiders.

Don Mattingly – 1B/2B – Mattingly pinch-hit for first baseman Steve Balboni in the seventh inning. When the game resumed on Aug. 18, he moved to second base, which had to be the only time in his career Mattingly played that position. Mattingly was 0-for-2 with a pair of flyouts. Since 2011, Mattingly has been the Dodgers manager. His rookie sensation, Yasiel Puig, was born seven years after the Pine Tar Game in 1990.

George Frazier – RP – Twenty-five days after the game started, Frazier relieved Gossage on Aug. 18 with two outs in the top of the ninth. He struck out Hal MacRae to end the inning. Frazier is currently in his 15th season as a Colorado Rockies color commentator.


Norm Cash: Break a (Table) Leg

Norm Cash shown with a bat, not a table leg.

Norm Cash shown with a bat, not a table leg.

Actors are often told to “break a leg” as they go on stage. Detroit Tiger Norm Cash took this literally but it involved a table leg.

On Sunday, July 15, 1973, Cash and the Tigers hosted the California Angels. Nolan Ryan started for the Angels and was opposed by Tigers hurler Jim Perry. By the end of the afternoon, the 41,411 at Tiger Stadium not only witnessed history, but one of baseball’s great comical moments as well.

Through seven innings, Ryan held the Tigers hitless with 16 strikeouts and four walks as the Angels held a 1-0 lead. However, California broke the game open with a five-run top of the eighth inning on three run-scoring singles.

In the bottom half of the inning, Ryan retired the Tigers in order, which included his 17th strikeout.

Three outs away from his second career no-hitter, Ryan retired Mickey Stanley and Gates Brown. The popular Cash became the final hope for Detroit. Like the rest of the Tigers, he couldn’t figure out Ryan, striking out twice and grounding out.

Cash then showed that professional athletes can never take themselves too seriously. He strolled to the plate with not a bat, but a leg that he broke off from a locker room table. Home plate umpire Ron Luciano told Cash he couldn’t use the leg. The Tigers slugger apparently responded that he had as much chance hitting Ryan with the leg than a bat.

I wonder if Ryan was more upset than humored at Cash’s antics. Pitchers prefer to be in a routine, and Cash upset the rhythm. But Ryan was not phased and induced Cash to pop up for the final out and Ryan’s no-hitter in the Angels 6-0 victory.

Cash was known as a prankster throughout his career, but his humor reached an apex on that Sunday afternoon in Detroit. Since Ryan threw a record seven no-hitters, Cash may have come up with a good idea: Using any tools available to try to hit the Ryan Express.

Streakin: Forgotten NL All-Star Moments (1972-82)

The annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game is tonight at Citi Field in New York. The National League is looking to extend a three-game winning streak and once again claim home field advantage for the World Series.

But the National League’s winning streak in the Mid-Summer Classic pales in comparison to the senior circuit’s 11-game winning streak from 1972 to 1982. Let’s take a look at some of the moments during that streak that may be easily forgettable.

1972: Cincinnati’s Joe Morgan delivered the walk-off single in the bottom of 10th inning of the 4-3 win in Atlanta. But if not for an RBI fielder’s choice by Houston’s Lee May in the bottom of the ninth, the AL would have won their second straight All-Star Game. The AL entered the bottom of the ninth leading 3-2 with the White Sox’s Wilbur Wood on the mound trying to seal the victory.

1974: Dodgers Steve Garvey earned game MVP honors despite not being listed on the ballot. He was added to the starting lineup by a write-in vote and finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored in the 7-2 win in Pittsburgh.

1975: For the first time in All-Star Game history, honorary captains were named for each league. Former Yankee Mickey Mantle represented the AL squad, while Cardinals great Stan Musial represented the NL. The NL broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the ninth inning with a two-run single by Cub Bill Madlock and a sacrifice fly by Red Pete Rose for a 6-3 triumph.

1976: Five Reds (Bench, Morgan, Rose, Dave Concepcion and George Foster) elected by the fans and two Cincinnati reserves (Tony Perez, Ken Griffey) combined for seven hits and four RBI in a 7-1 triumph in Philadelphia.

1977: Fans may remember Morgan’s lead off home run off of Baltimore’s Jim Palmer at Yankee Stadium. But a two-run home run by Philadelphia’s Greg Luzinski later in the inning gave the NL a 4-0 lead. Even with an AL comeback attempt, the senior circuit held on for a 7-5 victory.

1979: Despite his phenomenal career, this was the only All-Star Game start for California’s Nolan Ryan. This was the second of five Mid-Summer Classic appearances for Ryan.

1980: Griffey’s fifth inning home run off of Yankee Tommy John was not only the NL’s first run, it was also their first hit. The NL went on to win, 4-2, at Dodger Stadium as Griffey earned MVP honors. His son, Ken Griffey Jr., won the All-Star Game MVP Award in 1992.

1981: Future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia hit a game winning, two-run home run in the eighth inning off of another future Hall of Famer, Milwaukee’s Rollie Fingers. The NL won, 5-4, in Cleveland.

1982: With the All-Star Game in Montreal, two Expos were responsible for the final run of the game in the NL’s 4-1 win. After Al Oliver doubled, he scored on a Gary Carter single in the sixth inning.

After the AL ended an 11-game losing streak with a 13-3 win in 1983 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the NL quickly responded with three All-Star wins in the next four years.

Enjoy tonight’s game!

Hollywood Star: Babe Ruth

The one and only Bambino, Babe Ruth.

The one and only Bambino, Babe Ruth.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth made his debut on this day 99 years ago. Ruth earned the victory in a 4-3 triumph over Cleveland, and a legend was born.

Ruth would leave pitching and Boston to become arguably the greatest slugger in baseball history with the Yankees. But did you also know that Ruth became popular on the big screen?

Ruth signed a film contract in 1920 and appeared in nine films, mostly as himself. Also in 1920, Ruth starred in the silent movie “Headin’ Home.” Ruth was a country boy who didn’t quite understand baseball. But after hitting a home run, he begins his path to stardom in the major leagues.

According to the website, Ruth received $25,000 for the film, a large amount at the time. Instead of cashing the check, Ruth kept it to show it off to friends. By the time he finally decided to receive his cash, the check bounded due to poor box office results.

In 1927, the same year Ruth was a member of the vaunted “Murderer’s Row” with the Yankees, he appeared in another silent film, “Speedy.” The movie starred famous silent movie actor Harold Lloyd. In the film, Lloyd plays a taxi driver who delivers Ruth to Yankee Stadium and then stays for the game.

But Ruth’s most noted performance came as himself in the 1942 biopic “The Pride of the Yankees.” Gary Cooper starred in the movie about the life story of the “Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig. According to Ruth’s biographer Robert Creamer, he had become overweight after retiring in 1935. Ruth had to lose 40 pounds for the part.

In addition, Ruth was the subject of two biopics. “The Babe Ruth Story” was released on Sept. 6, 1948, three weeks after Ruth’s death. William Bendix portrayed Ruth, but I wouldn’t suggest watching it unless you really have nothing to do. Most people would use some words such as fictionalized, over exaggerated and melodramatic to describe the film. That’s how bad it is.

Forty-four years later in 1992, another movie on Ruth’s life was released. “The Babe” starred John Goodman as the Bambino, but the movie was criticized for errors and historical inaccuracies.

I actually enjoyed how director Barry Levinson used a Ruth-like character in the 1984 movie “The Natural.” Actor Joe Don Baker, who bears a striking resemblance to Ruth, portrayed “The Whammer” and appeared to be the most popular player at the time. The movie heroine Roy Hobbs and “The Whammer” are on the same train in the beginning of the movie, and Hobbs strikes him out on three pitches during a stop.

Ruth dominated on the diamond over three decades. Hollywood was smart to bring him onto the silver screen and take advantage of his larger-than-life popularity.

For the First Time: Nolan Reimold


Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold

By the end of this season, Baltimore outfielder Nolan Reimold may be the only major league player to claim an impressive accomplishment.

On May 20, 2009, at Yankee Stadium, Reimold became the first and thus far only player to hit his first major league home run off of future Yankees Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. Reimold’s blast wasn’t one of the cheap home runs that just barely clears the fence in shallow right field. His home run was a legit shot over the center field wall, more than 400 feet away from home plate.

Even if Reimold does nothing else in his career, he’ll always have that one night at Yankee Stadium against a legend. And that evening, Reimold defeated Rivera.

On a personal note, Reimold is one of two major league players that I have a personal connection (Don Kelly of the Detroit Tigers is the other). When I worked for tiny WEXC FM 107/WGRP AM 940 in Greenville, Pa., I had the opportunity to broadcast Greenville Little League games.

Reimold was arguably the best player in the league. Not only could he hit to all fields, but he also possessed the best curve ball I’ve ever seen a 13-year old throw. I knew Nolan would play in college, but I never thought I would see him play in a Baltimore Orioles uniform some 10 years later.

Curt Young: Near-Misses and Lucky #13

The name Curt Young probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of great pitchers of

Curt Young as pitching coach for the Athletics.

Curt Young is currently in his second stint as Oakland pitching coach.

the 1980s. He finished his 11-year career (1983-1993) with a fairly ordinary 69-53 record with Oakland, New York Yankees and Kansas City.

But it was in 1986 and 1987 that Young pitched two of the best games of each season.

Usually the no. 13 is bad luck, but it was a great number for Young. He finished 13-9 in 1986 followed by a 13-7 mark in 1987 for Oakland. But since this blog is about going beyond the stats, let’s take a look at two of his wins in particular.

Few pitchers have thrown no-hitters in consecutive seasons. However, Young nearly turned the trick in the late 1980s.

On the final day of the 1986 season, Young ended the campaign in style by tossing a one-hitter in a 6-0 win over Kansas City. Young retired the first 20 batters with two outs in the seventh inning. But Kevin Seitzer’s single ended his bid for perfection. No other Royal reached base as Young settled for a one-hitter. His performance followed a hard-luck, 3-0, loss at Texas after Young allowed three runs on only three hits over eight innings.

On June 9, 1987, Young faced the White Sox. While not as sharp as his performance a year earlier against the Royals, he took a no-hitter to the eighth inning despite allowing a sixth inning run. Ozzie Guillen had collected an RBI ground out following a walk and error.

A walk to Fred Manrique was sandwiched between a fly out and ground out. But just when it appeared Young would only need three outs for a no-hitter, Ken Williams disappointed the 12.505 in attendance at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with a two-run home run. Oakland won the game, 8-3, but Young had to settle for another one-hitter.

Thirteen wins and one-hitters in consecutive seasons were good accomplishments for Young. But if two pitches had been outs instead of hits, more baseball fans might remember Curt Young.

Welcome to “Baseball History: Beyond the Stats”

I have always enjoyed baseball. From my first New York Yankees game I attended on June 29, 1980 to today, baseball has always been my favorite sport.

History was always my best class in high school. While I struggled with math, I always aced tests and enjoyed learning more about American and world history.

So what better way to combine two of my interests than start a blog about baseball history? I enjoy today’s players and watching games on TV or in person. But there’s a part of me that will never forgot the players and moments of the past.

“Baseball History: Beyond the Stats” is just what the name implies. You can find a player’s home run, RBI and wins/losses total in any baseball history book or website. My blog focuses on more than just stats. It’s about the facts, streaks, connections and more that may not appear in box scores or season stat lines. This blog attempts to find the often humorous, embarrassing and mind-blowing moments in baseball history.

Below are some of the topics that will be discussed. Since I enjoy music, I’ve added a little musical inspiration to each topic.

Isn’t It Ironic: Baseball is full of ironic moments. Sometimes things happen on the diamond for no reason except to shake your head and say “Isn’t it ironic.”

The Forgotten: Certain players and events in baseball history are forgotten for one reason or another. For example, New York Yankee Bobby Richardson and San Francisco Giant Jeffrey Leonard each earned postseason MVP honors. However, their accomplishments are often forgotten since they were on the losing team. I’ll make sure some of baseball’s forgotten moments will always be remembered.

Some Guys (Don’t) Have All the Luck: Statistics don’t always tell the story. Sometimes a pitcher’s lack of run support might explain a losing record. This is one of the hard-luck subjects that will be examined

For the First Time: A statistic may not tell the whole story. Looking further into statistics, it may be the first occurrence for a player or franchise. Some firsts are pretty well-known, such as Babe Ruth hitting the first home run at old Yankee Stadium. Others may not be as famous.

Workin’ for a Living: Long before the minimum salary was nearly $500,000, major league players often needed to work full-time during the off-season. Some even worked part-time during the regular season. Find out who worked in the medical, legal and other fields before, during and after their careers.

This is only a short list of topics that will be discussed in “Baseball History: Beyond the Stats.” If you want to learn more about baseball history that may not be discussed in books or websites, this is the blog for you. Enjoy!