the Mahatma

Branch Rickey 1915 Cracker JackNow there’s a great nickname!

I’d never thought about Branch Rickey as a ball player until I saw this 1915 Cracker Jack card. And it made me wonder about his career as a player.

BaseballReference.com to the rescue, of course. It looks like Branch played a couple of years for the St. Louis Browns, ’05 and ’06, and then was with the Yankees in ’07. In ’05 he only had 3 at bats, and an 0fer. In ’06, his best season, he had 201 at bats and hit .284, with 3 home runs and 24 rbis.

In ’07 with the Yankees, 137 at bats, and .182 average, with no home runs and 15 rbis. Rickey was a marginal player, an outfielder and a catcher, who came down with a sore shoulder in ’06 and that basically was it. On June 28, 1907, the Washington Senators stole 13 consecutive bases against Rickey, and he reportedly stopped even bothering to throw to second by the end of the game, though I didn’t see any note about that in the press report I found.

29 June 1907 Ricky 13 sb

Seems like the sports writer covering the game was awful generous to the Mahatma; he just needs to see more playing time, is all. “How can one expect anything else?”

There is, of course, a nice bio of Rickey on the SABR website. Rickey was a character. He was very religious and conservative, wouldn’t play ball on Sundays, and was also known as “El Cheapo” after coming to the Dodgers in ’43 and discarding aging players. He invented the farm system with the Cardinals and the spring training complex with the Dodgers.

And of course, he signed Jackie Robinson. 

Branch Rickey - Jackie-Robinson - Hall of Fame

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the end of the Duke Welker era

Sad to say, the Twins have traded Duke Welker back to the Pirates, from whence he came as a part of the Morneau trade, in exchange for the more prosaically named Kris Johnson. Not a trade I would have made; I think Welker’s a better pitcher and two years younger. Johnson’s a starter at AAA — and Lord, the Twins need starters — but he’s 29. His ERA was 2.39 at AAA, but 6.10 in four big league appearances.

Ahh well. Say it again. The Twins need starters. And perhaps Kris Johnson will earn himself a nickname this year.

a little taste of the minors…

nine billion g webNot long ago, looking at the card of Roman Mejias, I noted that he lead the Pony League in swipes in 53, and the Big State League in doubles in ”54. Pony League? Big State League?

Looking for more information on these, I came across Mike McCann’s Minor League Baseball Page, One Man’s Quest to Visit Every Major and Minor League Baseball Team. And on that website there is a complete list of minor leagues.

Here I find that the Pony League was maybe more correctly written as the PONY League, for Pennsylvania, Ontario, and New York. The PONY League was a class D League, and existed from 1939-1956. The original teams included the Niagara Falls Rainbows, the Batavia Clippers, the Jamestown Jaguars, the Olean Oilers, the Bradford Bees, and the Hamilton Red Wings. This League went away in ’56, but was replaced in ’57 by the New York – Pennsylvania League, which still exists today. Batavia’s team is now called the MuckDogs, and Jamestown’s team is now the Jammers. Those are the only two remaining clubs of the original set. I like the name MuckDogs, but their logo was pretty bad. There’s now a team called the Vermont Lake Monsters — which I wonder how they got Lake-Monsters-logothat name — and they had the best logo that I saw of the bunch. It’s not that great, really, but I do like the name Lake Monsters.

The Big State League was a class B league from 1947 – ’57. This League was exclusively Texas, with teams originally in Sherman-Denison, Gainesville, Wichita Falls, Paris, Austin, Texarkana, Greenville and Waco. Favorite name: Wichita Falls Spudders. (Second favorite: Paris Red Peppers.) ParisRedPeppers45The Big State League’s Spudders were about the third Spudder team; others existed in earlier leagues. The name, incidentally, comes from a term used in the oil industry – a person who prepares and operates a drilling rig for oil wells.

wichita falls spudders

There are a lot of defunct baseball leagues out there. They are generally named by geographic territory they used to play in, like the Alabama Florida League, or the East Dixie League. Baseball Reference.com lists over 30,000 current and former minor league teams, and they say “this list is not exhaustive…” (I guess that depends upon your point of view.) I think it must be hard to tell when a club is an old club or a new club with an old name, because what they are doing here is listing every season for every team in a location. For example, they list 64 teams in Duluth, Minnesota, but that means there is 64 seasons of minor league play in Duluth, split up between the Duluth-Superior Dukes, Duluth-Superior White Sox, Duluth Dukes, Duluth Marine Iron, Duluth Heralds, Duluth Cardinals, St. Paul Apostles/Duluth Whalebacks, (one season, in the Western League – I wonder what the story was there. I like “Apostles” for a team name…) the Duluth Freezers, and the Duluth Jayhawks.

There is some confusion about those St. Paul Apostles. At least, I’m confused. Wikipedia says that the Apostles played in 1889, and were apparently managed  by an Irish immigrant named John Barnes. In 1886, Wikipedia says, he was associated with the St. Paul Freezers, and in 1887 the St. Paul Saints. In ’88 he took a year off, apparently, but in 1889 he was back at it, with the St. Paul Apostles. Barnes is kind of an interesting character; he apparently spent ten years in China promoting physical fitness?

Anyway… Baseball Reference.com says the St. Paul Apostles existed in just 1884, were also known as the St. Paul White Caps, had a 2-6-1 record and finished 9th out of 12. Apparently this was a “short season” league.

St. Paul Apostles logo round

Meanwhile, back on the Duluth/St.Paul team, there were a few great names: Kid Baldwin, Scrappy Carroll, Bones Ely, Bill Goodenough, Jouett Meekin, Rasty Wright, and Crazy Schmidt. I’d love to have baseball cards for Bones Ely and Crazy Schmidt. Bill Goodenough sounds familiar; perhaps he went on to other adventures in professional baseball.

He was, after all, certainly Goodenough.

wichita-falls-spudders-1930

today’s baseball birthdays…

Podge Weihe, Ezra Midkiff, Ernie Neitzke, Moose Clabaugh, Bob Garbark, and Nick Goulish; Happy Birthday all.

Yes, the Nick Goulish.

Twelve at-bats, four runs, three hits, 2 rbi, and 1 walk for the 1944 and 1945 Phillies.

From the Lewiston Daily Sun, 9 April 1945:

goulish stars

And then from the Toledo Blade, 18 October 1945:

Goulish article

That’s the way baseball go, as they say.

Baseball Reference.com does a great job of providing information on little known ball players. Nick was born in Punxsutawney, PA, in 1916. He played pro ball for six years, and hit .332 for the Greenburg Green Sox, in the Pennsylvania State Association (Class D), in ’38. With the Utica Blue Sox in the Class A Eastern League he hit .299 in 1944. Nick served in the army in WWII and owned the Goulish Insurance Agency in Boardman Ohio from 1950 to 1976, when he retired. Nick passed away in 1984, age 67.

Good game, Nick.

Twins updates…

Joe “no nickname yet” Mauer is moving to first base next year, rather than risk further injuries behind the plate. Joe’s 2013 season was shortened when he sustained a concussion from a foul tip off the catcher’s ffirstbasemask, and they figure that putting Mauer at first will keep him healthy and in the line up. Well, hard to argue with that. The downside of this is that while Mauer ranks very highly as an offensive force at catcher, he has lacked the home-run swing you traditionally like to see in a first baseman. However his OPS numbers are plenty respectable as a first baseman, and perhaps he’ll hit with more power since he won’t be banged-up from catching.

Mauer’s move to first makes it even more unlikely that the Twins will sign free agent first baseman Justin Morneau, who some might remember as having played first base a bit for the Twins in the past. At catcher the Twins have high hopes for young Josmil Pinto, who hit .342 with four home runs for the Twins in 21 games in 2013. There’s also Ryan Doumit — who also suffered a concussion that kept him from behind the plate at the end of last season.

I wonder if Doumit can play short?

While Morneau is now unlikely to return, (even more unlikely,) former Twins shortstop Jason Bartlett has returned, signing a minor league deal with the club. Bartlett is 34 now (how did jason bartlettthat happen?) and last played in the majors in 2012 with the San Diego club. He had a knee injury that limited his play in 2012, and he spent 2013 trying to heal up. As you recall, Bartlett was traded to Tampa Bay along with the pitcher Matt Garza for Delmon Young, who now happens to be back with the Rays. Garza is a free agent currently, and certainly the Twins could use him. Is it crazy to think that the Twins will sign Santana, Santana, and Garza? Yep. It is.

It would be nice to see Bartlett regain some of his old form. With Florimon’s limited offense, perhaps there might be a place for Bartlett, if he’s healthy and capable and regains some significant portion of his misspent youth.

Okay, seriously, Bartlett’s a long shot. And I like Florimon in the field. Bartlett has sentimental value, but he’s a long shot.

There was a great comment on the Twins Daily website about Bartlett’s signing:

“This is the kind of serious move I think we all have been waiting for.”

Well said, jctwins, well said. Funny, but I think not serious criticism.

 

Joe “The Tower of Power” Mauer? I’m sure somebody’s suggested that all ready. No good.

Nickname Damur?

The other day I was thinking about baseball nicknames. I’ve been buying some old cards on eBay, and noticing of course that players back then were called Duke, Pee Wee, Pinky, Babe, Campy, Pepper, Ducky, Preacher, and the Mechanical Man. And Handsome Lou Boudreau, of course. Which started me to thinking, do any of the Twins have a nickname, and if not, why not?

Well, no, the Twins are not much for nicknames. Not that I know of, anyway. In fact, major league baseball seems nickname-short. Not that I’m that knowledgeable about the names of all the players, (which makes this baseball blog perhaps a bit… lacking?) but the only nicknames I could come up with were Big Papi — which is a great nickname, I think — and The Hebrew Hammer (Ryan Braun – and also a pretty great nickname.) ESPN put together a list of “top” nicknames in April of 2012. There’s not much there of interest, really. Their Top Ten is not so great. King Felix? Kung Fu Panda?

Well, then I saw that the Twins completed their trade of Justin “No Known Nickname” Morneau, and got pitcher Mathew Scott Welker — who goes by the name of Duke!Pittsburgh Pirates v Seattle Mariners

Duke Welker!

So there’s one.

Looking over the roster, I don’t see many others, which is kind of a shame. Baseball without nicknames is like oatmeal without walnuts. Still pretty good, but why not have the nuts?

Perhaps they do have nicknames, but they are not generally bruited about in the press? In any case, as a public service, I’m going to suggest — and use — a few.

Last season I came up with “Sudden” Sam Deduno, which, while not very original, I grant you, still has a nice ring to it.

sudden sam deduno a

Brian Dozier surely ought to be called “Bull” – that’s just common sense, Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twinsain’t it? Probably his mother calls him that.

So who else do we have? Mauer ought to have a nickname, but so far I’ve got nothin’ for him. Chris Parmelee could steal an old nickname – seems like there was a pitcher some years back who was called “The Vaunted.” At the moment I can’t remember that guy’s name, but “The Vaunted” Parmelee does have a nice sound. Echoes of Camelot.

Chris Parmelee

The Twins seem to have quite a few outfielders with nickname potential. Darin “Maestro” Mastroianni?

Darin Maestro Mastronianni 476bsmc

I see that ESPN says that Josh Willingham is known as “The Hammer” –I’ve never heard that before. Willingham is from Alabama, which is also known as “The Yellowhammer state.” (I didn’t know that either.) Yellowhammer doesn’t quite have the right ring to it for a nickname. How about The Willinghammer? Or, better yet, The Alabama Hamma?

Josh the alabama hamma Willingham 476bsmc

Well, I’ll be working on this. (Well, somebody’s got to.) Mauer needs an appellation. And what about Albers? And Tonkin? Worley? Hicks? There’s work to be done there, and I’m just the guy to do it.

On a side note, I saw an article last week that talked about the possibility (the very slight possibility) of the Twins going after free agents Johann and Ervin Santana. I think that would be worth doing. Johann has some good innings left, I think, and Twins fans are the sentimental sort that would love to see him come back home after spending time in the big city. Ervin is a quality starting pitcher, and the Twins could use — and will probably not want to shell out the money for — a quality starting pitcher. And, most of all, the Twins already have a player named Santana, shortstop Danny, and the idea of having Los Tres Santanas on the team is just too good to pass up. If only there was another Presley, to go with Ryan (Pressly) and Alex (Presley).

The title of this post is, of course, a tip o’ the cap to Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel. Oliver Damur is a skinny, fleet, fourteen-year-old second baseman for the Rupert Mundys, who came to the club desperately wanting to be called something other than Oliver. He tried everything – tugging on his cap so that somebody might call him Cappy, walking in an odd manner, so that he might be called Ducky, talking incessantly so that someone might call him Gabby. But no. Instead they called him Nickname, which, of course, he hated. He comes to a bad end, as I recall.

Predictions!

I found this post in my “drafts” folder.

Apparently I thought it might be a good idea to post some season predictions, but then never got around to putting it online.

Well, I thought, better late than never. So here it is.

It looks like a challenging season ahead for the Twins. There pitchers are questionable and their hitters are unpredictable. Morneau is closing in on free agency, so he will probably be trade bait by the season’s end. Look for them to trade Justing to a contender, for whatever we can get. The trade value will probably not be very high. The Twins may be better than the White Sox this season, but that’s about it.

As for the rest of the teams, call me crazy, but I think the Red Sox will be in the Series, and Big Papi will be a Big Reason why. Boston Strong! In the senior circuit, I see a few surprises ahead. Did someone say the Padres? No. Not the Padres. But I see the St. Louis Cardinals, surprise, taking the pennant. They’ve got a stockpile of young talent that will carry them over the Dodgers and into the Series.

As far as the Boston-St. Louis Series goes, it’s anybody’s guess. But I’m picking the Red Sox. Boston will be the 2013 champs, and you heard it here first.

But look out for those Twins in 2015!

fortune-teller-c