comings and goings

First, Happy Birthday to Robert Moses Grove, born on this date in 1900.

lefty-grove-3c-fr-txt

Well, what can you say about Lefty Grove? One of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game, if not THE greatest. (I am partial to Walter Johnson, but I grant that an argument could be made for Lefty.) 300 wins. 3.06 lifetime ERA. Nine ERA titles. Seven strikeout titles. Two triple crowns. An MVP award. Those are all pretty good marks. And then consider that Grove didn’t pitch in the majors till he was 25 — he pitched five seasons for the old Baltimore club in the International League, from 1920 – 24. He went 108 – 36 with the Orioles before joining Connie Mack’s Athletics in Philly in 1925.

lefty-grove-mechanics

From 1928 to 1933 Grove played with some pretty good Athletics clubs, and fairly dominated the league:

(League leading marks in bold.)
1928 – 24 wins, 8 losses, 2.58 ERA, 183 K
1929 – 20 wins, 6 losses, 2.81 ERA, 170 K
1930 – 28 wins, 5 losses, 2.54 ERA, 209 K
1931 – 31 wins, 4 losses, 2.06 ERA, 175 K
1932 – 25 wins, 10 losses, 2.84 ERA, 188 K
1933 – 24 wins, 8 losses, 3.20 ERA, 114 K

I guess it doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. Happy Birthday, Lefty!

On the flip side, Kirby Puckett passed away on this date in 2006.

kirby-pucket-3d-fr-txt

It just seems totally wrong that Kirby Puckett is gone already. It seems like he was just out there in center field, just yesterday. Damn.

Seems like everyone loved Kirby from day one. (Day one was May 8th, 1984. Kirby started the game batting lead-off, playing centerfield (replacing Darrell Brown) and went 4 for 5, with a stolen base and scoring a run.) He was the sparkplug on those World Champion teams. He loved the game and he had fun out there. And we had fun watching him play.

We got to watch Kirby-ball for 12 seasons before his career was cut short by glaucoma. In those 12 seasons Kirby got 2304 hits, received MVP votes 9 times, played in 10 all-star games, and finished with a career .318 batting average. He also earned 6 gold gloves in centerfield, and also has the Twins’ second longest string of plate appearances without hitting a home run – 583 plate appearances in 1984, no home runs. (The longest string is by Rod Carew: 591 plate appearances in 1972, no home runs.)

On top of everything else, there was the ’91 World Series. Game 6 was Kirby, game 7, Jack. One for the ages.

Finally, Kirby also had one of the top all-time best baseball names. Kirby Puckett. Almost too good to be true.

Kirby was just 45 years old when he passed away.

Hey, Kirby, good game. Touch ’em all.

kirby-puckett-1987-c-fg-fr

The Big Train Leaves the Station…

Happy Birthday to Walter Johnson, the Big Train, born on 6 November 1887. We get to Walter Johnsonclaim him as an ex-Twin, since he played his entire career, 21 years, with the old Washington Senators.

Johnson’s accomplishments are legendary, and far too numerous to mention. His 417 wins are second most in baseball history (Cy Young – 511), and his 3,508 strikeouts stood as the top career mark for 55+ years. His record of 110 career shutouts is still the high-water mark. He had 12 twenty win seasons, including a string of ten in a row, and twice won more than 30 games. The Senators of Johnson’s time were generally not a very good club, finishing in the second division about half the time.They finished second in 1912 and 1913, when Johnson had his 30 win seasons, but they finally made it to the World Series in 1924 and 1925, Johnson’s 18th and 19th seasons.

I could go on talking about his accomplishments, but I’ll wrap up by pointing to Johnson’s reputation as a kind and gentle man.

walter-johnson

You’ll note the wicked side-arm motion he had there. The Twins could use a guy like this right about now. Yes, indeed. More about Johnson from SABR, of course…

Johnson was one of the first five players elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. He died at age 59, on 10 December 1946.

Good game, Barney.

Two good Walter Johnson quotes:

“Can I throw harder than  Joe Wood? Listen mister, no man alive can throw any harder than Smoky Joe Wood.”

 

“I throw as hard as I can when I think I have to throw as hard as I can.”

And Ty Cobb said,

“His fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed and it hissed at you as it passed.”

Spring Training Update – 1 April 1904, Friday evening

Usually it’s April showers bringing May flowers, but spring is early in the southerly climes of Champaign, Illinois, where everything is coming up roses.

The members of the team are a little stiff and sore as a result of their first few days practice, but they are in a cheerful mood and good fellowship prevails all around.

Frank J McNichols c - Salt Lake Herald - 1 Sept 1901

Lally is apparently quite stylish covering first base, and McNichol, “the coast player,” is doing some great work over at third base. The guy has an arm like a cannon, apparently. (I found a nice shot of Mr. McNichol in the Chronicling America collection, from 1901, the Salt Lake Herald.)

Out in the garden, the outfielders are frolicking, covering a lot of ground out there, even with muddy conditions, and pitchers Thomas and Owens are impressing the manager:

 

Both are now ready to go into a championship game and it seems certain that they will do better than ever this season… Minneapolis can be expected to have the best pitching staff of the association this year… in fact there will not be a weak spot on the team…

Also, Watkins tutelage around the batting cage seems to be having some effect:

All the men are stepping in to meet the ball, and all have their eye on the ball.

I imagine that Watkins stressed that point, as every manager does. Keep Your Eye On The Ball. I can remember my dad telling me that. KYEOTB. It’s that simple. I suppose you could generalize from this point, and think for a moment how important that is in the big picture, the game of Life. How can you expect to hit anything if you don’t keep your eye on the ball?

All you kids out there, reading this: Keep Your Eye On The Ball. It’s a simple game, really.

baseball

Comings and Goings…

Happy birthday to ol’ Diz.

dizzy-dean

Dizzy Dean, born on January 16th, in 1910. I remember watching the game of the week on TV in the 60s, with Dizzy and Pee Wee Reese calling the game. Everyone loved Dizzy Dean.

dizzy-dean-and-pee-wee-reese-2

But ol’ Diz could pitch a bit too. He came up in 1932 with the Cardinals, at age 22, and won 18 games, leading the league in strikeouts. The next year he went 20-18 and led the league in strikeouts again. In his third year he went 30-7 – the last National Leaguer to win 30 – and led the league in wins and strikeouts. In 1935 he went 28-12, and lead the NL in wins and strikeouts again. In 1936 he went 24-13, and in 1937 he went 13-10. What happened in ’37? In the ’37 all-star game Earl Averill hit a ball off Dean’s foot. Reportedly, when told that his toe was fractured, Dean replied, “Fractured, hell, the damn things broken!”

Dean reportedly tried to come back too soon after his injury, and changed his pitching motion to avoid landing on his injured toe. He hurt his arm, lost his blazing fastball, and was pretty much done as a pitcher.

The Cubs bought his contract in 1938, and he went 7-1 for them, helping them win the pennant over the Pirates, and winning a crucial 2-1 game against the Pirates on the 27th of September.

dizzy_dean

Diz pitched a bit for the Cubs till 1941, when he retired at age 31.

And, on the other side of the coin, stepping out on the 16th was Rudy Hulswitt.

Born in 1877, he passed away in 1950. The only reason I know anything about Rudy Hulswitt is because I noticed him on his T-206 baseball card, from back in the day, when he played with St. Louis, in ’09 or ’10. He played shortstop and hit about .253 lifetime.

Rudy Hulswitt - t206(Okay, he hit exactly .253 lifetime.)

I like his card, his cap pulled down low. He looks like he means business.

Hulswitt led the league in put-outs by a shortstop in 1902 and ’03, he was also third in the league with assists in ’03, but he also led the league that year in errors, with 81. That’s a lot of errors. Sounds like the guy might have had great range.

After his playing career was over, Rudy did a bit of coaching. I saw one picture of him coaching with one of the Boston clubs.

Good game, Rudy.

ex-Twins watch, part II

Another little peek at how some former Twins are faring out in the real world.

Ben Revere - Twins

Ben Revere
Ben was traded away in the off season and has been playing with the Phillies this year, and he’s had a pretty decent year, hitting .305 in 88 games. Unfortunately Ben suffered a broken ankle July 15 – he fouled a ball off it just before the all-star game – and he was scheduled to be out 6 to 8 weeks, after surgery.

Tyler Robertson
Tyler pitched in 40 games for the Twins in 2012 and 2 games in 2013 when he got sent down. Washington picked him up off waivers, and he’s gone 2-2 for them in AAA, with a 3.63 ERA. I thought the Twins dumped him a bit quickly.

dickey twinsR.A. Dickey
Well, now, there’s a tale. The Twins had Robert Allen Dickey (why does no one call him Bob Dickey? Or Rob Dickey? Or Robert? I wonder how long he’s gone by R.A., and why?) in 2007. He signed as a free agent, and then, a week later, was drafted by the Mariners in the Rule 5 draft. On March 29th of 2008 the Mariners sent him back to the Twins, and then traded Jair Fernanadez to the Twins to get Dickey back. And then, in November of 2008, he was a free agent again. And the Twins signed him again. In 2009 he was a 34 year old knuckleballer, and pitched in 35 ball games, going 1-1 with a 4.62 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. He had one start and pitched 64 innings. And then, at the end of the season, he was a free agent again, and this time the Mets signed him.
2010, with the Mets, he was 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA.
2011, with the Mets again, he was 8-13, with a 3.28 ERA.
And in 2012, still with the Mets, he went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA. He had 33 starts, threw five complete games, three shutouts, and 233 innings. And won the Cy Young award.
The Mets traded Dickey to the Blue Jays in the off-season, and this year Dickey is 10-12 with a 4.39 ERA. So what was the deal in New York? I can’t blame the Twins for cutting him loose, and yet, at the same time, I sorta do. Couldn’t they have stuck with him a bit, especially after all the haggling to get him here in the first place?
Well, in any case, this gives me cause to post that great animated gif of Dickey’s knuckleball. I kind of hope the Twins bring him back the next time he’s a free agent.

r-a-dickey-knuckleball (1)

Jesse Crain
Jesse was a big loss for the Twins. He fell out of favor with the fans after taking some tough losses, but I thought he was the Twins closer of the future. He pitched with the Jesse CrainTwins from 2004-10, going 33-21 with a 3.42 ERA. With the White Sox he’s gone 12-10, with a 2.10 ERA. His ERA this year? 0.74. With the White Sox sitting down there in the cellar (for some reason I always love it when the White Sox are worse than us) there’s some talk of Crain being traded. Would seem to make sense.

[Later that same day…] I find that Crain was dealt. A month ago. To Tampa Bay. For Players to Be Named or Cash. Where was I? But, to be fair, he hasn’t pitched for them yet – hasn’t pitched since he was injured June 29th.