Happy Birthday McKinley Wheat

Yup. Zach’s younger half-brother Mack was born on 9 June 1893. Mack was a catcher, played a bit with Zach on the Brooklyn Robins, and also played for the Phillies. He finished out his career in 1922 with LA in the Pacific Coast League, where it looks like he played in three games, going 0 for 2 at the plate. Still, he got a pretty nice baseball card out of the deal.

Mack was not quite as good a hitter as Zach, finishing up with a batting average of .204 in just over 600 plate appearances over 7 seasons in the majors. Still: seven years in the majors. Perhaps he was an excellent windpaddist.

Also of note in baseball history today, the Twins hit five home runs in the seventh inning against the Angels in 1966, the first time in the American League there was ever a five home run inning. Rollins, Versalles, Oliva, Mincher, and then, finishing up, the fat kid, Harmon Killebrew. True Twins fans know that the game was never in the bag, but the Twins did manage to hang on somehow to win it, 9-4.

And then, some years later, the great Zoilo Casanova Versalles passed away on 9 June, 1995. American League MVP in 1965, leading the Twins to the World Series. Good game, Zoilo.

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Happy Birthday Van Lingle Mungo

Born on this day in 1911.

I thought that worth mentioning.

Mungo was a bit of a character, a bit pugnacious, I guess. He finished his career with a 120-115 record, playing with Brooklyn from 1931-41, and with the Giants in 1942 and ’43. He was a hard-thrower. His card (a “Batter-up” card from about 1934) makes it look like he was a bit of a sidewinder.

Happy Birthday, Van Lingle Mungo.

Zach Wheat

Happy Birthday Zach Wheat! Born 23 May, 1888.

Lifetime batting average, .317, with 2884 hits. Played for the Millers a bit, in 1928. One of the best baseball names ever.

“One of the grandest guys ever to wear a baseball uniform, one of the greatest batting teachers I have seen, one of the truest pals a man ever (had) and one of the kindliest men God ever created.”

– Casey Stengel

Passed away 11 May, 1972.

Good game, Zach!

It is good to be in first…

And it’s good to be alone in first place.

The Twins continue to play good ball to start the season, winning a nice one tonight, 3-1 in Chicago. First four games, Twins have given up 6 total runs. A nice change from last season. First time the Twins have won four in a row to start a season since 1987. (Yikes! 30 years ago!) I like how Molitor is getting everyone in the games. Our new back up catcher, Gimenez, goes 2 for 4 tonight, knocks in a run. Buxton makes some pretty nice catches in center, but had a brutal day at the plate, 0 for 4, four strikeouts. Well, tomorrow’s another day. I also like to see Sano at first base. Kintzler made it a bit too interesting in the ninth, giving up a couple of walks. But he persevered, and the Twins get another one in the win column.

Nice.

April 8th marks the birthday of Catfish Hunter, born in 1946.

Catfish broke into the big leagues in 1965 with the then KC Athletics. He was a huge part of all the great Oakland A’s clubs of the early 70s. He then was able to leave the A’s because of a contract violation, and became baseball’s first “big money” free agent. He ended up playing for one of those east coast teams, don’t remember which one. I believe he did pretty well there too.

A’s owner Charlie Finley gave him the nickname “Catfish.” Probably a marketing thing. Catfish never played in the minors. I wonder if that’s happened since? He also pitched a perfect game against the Twins in May of ’68, a night game out on the west coast. It was a wednesday night, so I probably caught just the beginning of the game on the radio. It being a school night.

Catfish passed away on 9 September 1999, age 53, from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Good game, Catfish.

 

 

 

comings and goings

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

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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.

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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.

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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

Happy Birthday to The Authentic Rabbitt

Nope.

Not Rabbit Maranville.

Today is the birthday of The Authentic Rabbitt, Joe Rabbitt, born on 16 January in 1900. A Tuesday, for those who are keeping track of these things.

Joe appeared in just two games in his major league career, what’s known as “a cup of coffee.” According to Wikipedia (do I ever cite anything else) Joe was one of a group of players, young prospects all, that Manager Tris Speaker sent into the game on 21 September 1922. “An opportunity for the fans to see various minor league prospects.”

As Joe appeared in only two games, he apparently did not quite live up to his “prospect” status. Sad to say.

Joe played in two games, with three at bats, a run and a hit. Lifetime batting average: .333. Not bad.

You might think, oh, Joe Rabbitt, two games, three at bats, not a very good player. Well I found some old statistics from the 1927 Western League that show that Joe Rabbitt could play some ball.

Joe Rabbitt led the league in hits, runs and stolen bases. He tended the garden and averaged .361 in 155 games…In 1928 and 29 he led the International League in stolen bases with 42 and 46 while playing for Toronto.

Arkansas Travellers, 1925 - Joe Rabbitt, front right

The 1925 Arkanasas Travellers. They finished last in the Western League that year. But that’s Joe Rabbitt sitting front row, far right, next to the mascot. The Mascot just happened to be a young kid named Brooks Robinson. (Nah, I’m kidding.)

Apparently Joe lived up to his name. He had some speed going there. Joe racked up 251 hits for the ’27 Omaha Buffaloes, and 172 runs, according to Nebraska Minor League Baseball History.

Joe died in 1969; I haven’t seen anything yet about his life outside of baseball. But here’s to Joe Rabbitt, major league ball player, a kid with some speed and talent. Why he didn’t make it in the big leagues is probably a story. The kid had all the tools, but perhaps life took an unexpected turn for him. Perhaps he hated Cleveland, or perhaps he fell in love with a gal down there in Arkansas. Perhaps he couldn’t hit the curve, or maybe he had to attend to family matters and the game just passed him by. It’s likely we’ll never know. I wonder if he looked back at his .333 lifetime batting average and was glad that he made it up to the majors for a couple games, a hit and a run. Or was he sad that he only had those two games, those three at bats.

Happy birthday Joe Rabbitt. Good game.

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