comings and goings

Just wanted to note that Bombo Rivera was born on this date in 1952.

Not a bad ball player, played for the Twins in ’78, ’79, and ’80, when he fractured his knee-cap and then missed a couple months, and maybe came back to play before he was ready. He hit .271, .281, and then .221 for the Twins, and then never really got another shot at the show.

I wonder if he was held back by his nickname? Did it make him more of a novelty than a ballplayer with some talent? They say he was a pretty good fielder, and had some speed. But I don’t know. Was it hard for baseball to take him seriously? The fans loved him, loved his name, used to chant Bombo Bombo when he played. According to his bio on the SABR website, he got his nickname when he was a kid in Puerto Rico, from one of his father’s friends. Wikipedia says that Bombo means “fly ball,” but I’m not sure about that. But Bombo used the hit the ball high and far when he was a kid, especially high, and pretty soon everyone started chanting Bombo when he came up to bat. (His real name is Jesus, by the way.)

Well, Bombo had a short career in the bigs, but he played for a long time in minor league ball, playing in various minor and minor minor and senior minor leagues up till 1990. Nice thing about baseball: even your average players can leave a mark. Baseball fans across the country remember Bombo fondly. Happy Birthday, Bombo! Good game!

And then there was Thurmon Munson, who passed away today in 1979, when the plane he was piloting crashed in Canton, Ohio.

Thurmon Munson looked like he was a big league catcher for the Yankees. The New York press always makes a big deal out of the player who is the “captain” of the Yanquis. Who’s the captain of the Twins? The Cubs? The Marlins? Nobody knows. It’s maybe an inside secret. Maybe they don’t have one? The Yanquis haven’t had one since Derek Jeter, so, I guess, it’s not exactly a Very Important Position with a Lot of Responsibility. More of an honorific, I guess. Anyway, Munson was Captain of the Yanquis, and it seems like he might be a good one, if you like a hard-nosed s.o.b. for your Captain.

I always liked Munson, ever since he was Rookie of the Year in 1970. It seemed like, back then, you were either a Fisk guy or a Munson guy. I was a Munson guy. Which maybe leads to the question, who was better? Maybe hard to say, since Munson’s career ended at age 32. Another blog post for another time, I guess. But I think I’d take Munson.

The Yanquis were 10 over .500 after Munson’s last game, and they finished the season at 18 games over .500, 13 and a half games behind the Orioles. It would be tough to lose a guy like that mid-season. I would think it would add some perspective, maybe, to the game.

Good game, Thurman.

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Happy Birthday, Pythagoras!

Yes. It’s true.

First baseman and first baseball sabermetrician Pythagoras was born on this very day, 13 May, 570 BC. It was a Tuesday. Pythagoras’s father was out at a ball game at the time, a double-header, and his mother swore that things would be different with young Pythagoras. No baseball for him. It would be art and poetry and philosophy.

But such was not the case. Baseball apparently ran in the family bloodstream, on the father’s side of the family, at any rate.

Pythagoras grew up loving baseball, and he played first base for the Samos Philosophers, in the Cycladian Association, back in the 550’s. He could hit the ball a long way, and was known at the time for calculating just exactly how far the ball had gone.

After his playing days were over, Pyth practically invented sabermetrics, and his famous “Pythagorean Standings” are still used to this very day in hot-stove leagues and bars all across America.

Pyth passed away in 495 BC, from a severe case of indigestion, at the age of -75.

After Pythagoras passed away Samos built a baseball park in his honor. There was a Pythagoras Park in Samos from roughly 480 – 440 BC.

The site is now just an empty lot, but the pitcher’s mound has been preserved, with a round marble stone on top of it, etched with “Pythagoras Park: Pitcher’s Mound.”

Some say that Pythagoras is buried beneath that stone. But I happen to think that that’s pretty far-fetched.

Good game, Pythagoras!

 

Not a Great Cup of Coffee

In fact, I’ll say it.

A bad cup of coffee.

Mike Palagyi was 21 years old when came up with the Senators for his shot at the majors on 18 August 1939. He had a bit of a rough outing. But I’m sure it wasn’t helped by the fact that three of the four batters he faced were future Hall-of-Famers: Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams, and Joe Cronin. Probably most rookies would have been a bit intimidated by that, and Mike was a little wild that day.

He came into the game for the top of the 9th inning, with the Senators down 3-1 against the Red Sox. He walked Doc Cramer, to lead off the inning, and then hit Foxx. I’m sure Foxx let him hear about it. He then walked Williams, to load the bases, and then walked Cronin to force in a run. At that point, the manager made the walk to the mound and pulled him. And that was it for Mike. Fifteen pitches. Two strikes. And his career ERA is infinite, as he did not get an out. Wikipedia says he is one of 19 players with a career infinite ERA. Nice to have company in that regard, I guess. I suspect he is the only one of the lot that found three Hall-of-Famers in his cup of coffee. Ouch. Bad enough just having to pitch to Ted Williams. “It was a real nightmare,” Mike said later.

I’m not entirely clear why the Senators called Mike up. He was playing B level ball for Cleveland at Spartenburg in the Sally league that season. Baseball Reference.com says he went 7-6, with a 4.07 ERA. It looks like the Senators acquired his contract and brought him up immediately to see what he looked like. The Senators finished the season with a 67-85 record, 6th place. It seems like they might have been able to run Palagyi out there another time, given him another opportunity, without hurting their chances a lot.

But they didn’t.

Mike played for Greenville in the Sally League the next season, 1940, for Washington, and went 13-15 with a 5.14 ERA. After that Mike was in the military, and after that I see that he played again in 1946 for Montgomery, 2 innings. But his arm “just didn’t have it,” and Mike left organized ball.

And after that? Mike returned to Ohio, where he worked as a plumber and maintenance man until he retired in 1982. He passed away 21 November 2013, age 96.

Good game, Mike.

Good ol’ Halsey Hall

 

Halsey Hall, for those not in the know, was a newspaper reporter and broadcast journalist in the Twin Cities, and covered the Twins on radio with WCCO and Herb Carneal from 1961 to 1972. He passed away in 1977 at age 79, but the legend lives on, and the local branch for SABR is named the Halsey Hall chapter.

They’ve put a nice little bio of Halsey on line, it’s practically mandatory reading for all true fans of the Minnesota Twins.

Holy cow!

Halsey said it first, and he said it best.

Hall Carneal and Scott

Good game, Halsey

A Morning Cup of Coffee

(4/25/19)

Happy (belated) Birthday Red Bird!

Bird1 - WashTimes9-18-21

James Edward “Red” Bird was born on this date in 1890. He pitched for the Washington Senators back in 1921, at age 31. One game. Saturday, Sept 17, 1921. Relief. Five innings pitched, five hits, 3 runs, a walk, 2 strikeouts. One at bat. One Strike out.

The Washington Times was there to cover the action, and reports that Bird was “well received by the fans,” whatever that means. Perhaps fans then were more discerning, and sometimes booed the new guys coming up from the minors? That seems hard to believe.

The independent minor leagues of the day made baseball ownership a bit more entrepreneurial back then. Or something. Mercantile?  This article, (below,) from the same Times, 13 September, reports that Griffith went out and got some new players at the behest of the fans. (Really?) In any case, for whatever reason, Griffith went out shopping in the minor leagues, and came back with a number of “prospects” for the club. Besides Red Bird, “a southpaw from Shreveport in the Texas League,” there were a couple of pretty good players in that shopping cart: fella name of Goose Goslin, from Columbia in the Sally League, fella name of Ossie Bluege from Peoria in the Three I League.

Bird5 - WashTimes 9-13-21

Also a guy named McIree, a northpaw from Virginia Minnesota (no league.) I wonder if McIree ever made it to the bigs?

All told, Griffith harvests 12 new players from the hinterlands. Nothing like a little new blood to motivate your players and stir a little fan interest at the end of a long season.

Anyway, Bird gets his cup of coffee in the bigs. The reporter is fairly positive about his performance, but perhaps for 31-year-old rookies trying to make it big, you cut them some slack.

He calls Bird “a well put-up southpaw from the Texas League…” I wonder what he meant by that. Was Bird highly touted? A prize catch? A sturdy lad?

Bird comes in in the 5th and does as well as anyone could ask, the reporter says, except for the 7th inning. I guess one bad inning out of five isn’t so bad. Bird gives up a single in the fifth, and hits a batter, but nobody scores. Sixth inning, nobody scores. Then in the 7th, with one out, a walk, a single, and Sewell nails a well-hit triple to left-center. Rice was apparently playing over in right center with Sewell at bat, and couldn’t flag it down. But the hit was a hummer, maybe Rice couldn’t have got it in any case, so what can you do? A sacrifice fly brings Sewell home, and three runs are on the board against Mr. Bird.

“Bird disposed of the foe in good style in the remaining two innings.”

So. Not so bad. One rocky inning. One good hit, really. If Sewell flies out to Rice, maybe nobody scores. Maybe Bird plays a few more games, settles down, has himself a major league career, instead of a cup of coffee. But that’s the way baseball go. I wonder what became of Red Bird after his cup of coffee. Did he stick with the club for the rest of the season? Was he let go the next day?

Baseball Reference.com tells us that Bird went 17-12 with Shreveport in 1921, with a 3.76 ERA. In 1922 he was back with Shreveport, but had less fun, going 9-13, with a 4.59 ERA. In 1923 he started the year with the Shreveport club, then went to Memphis in the Southern League, where he went 11-11, and then on to Mobile. In 1924 he started at Galveston, back in the Texas League, then went back to the Southern League, to Mobile and Nashville. In 1925, Texas league, Waco and then Houston. His record was 19-11 in ’25, but more detail than that is lacking. In ’26 and ’27 the peripatetic Red Bird landed in Fort Worth, and he finished out his career there in the Texas League. Red Bird

I looked around a bit in old newspapers for a picture of Red, but found nothing. Baseball Reference has an old picture, looks like from a newspaper, not very good quality, but the best available.

Red passed away 23 March 1972 in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, at age 81, and he’s buried in Stephenville, Texas, where he was born. Back in the Texas League again.

Good game, Red.

Bird3 - WashTimes9-18-21 (1)

 

Frenchy Bordagaray

…passed away on this date in 2000, age 90.

Frenchy was the guy who raced a horse in a hundred yard dash. He lost by a few feet. I wonder if more than one guy has done that. That was probably the measure of pure speed back then. Are you faster than a horse? A lot of baseball clubs probably kept a horse around, just for measuring player speed. Oh, those were the days.

He also got fined one time for spitting on an ump, (I’m sure it was accidental,) and said something like “The fine was a bit more than I expectorated.”

When he showed up to training camp in ’36 sporting a mustache and goatee, it was a pretty big deal. Ball players were clean-shaven in those days. Probably most guys were. It was a clean-shaven era. (Our era: the “anything-goes” era. Interesting cultural shift, where facial hair just isn’t very interesting any more, not for more than a few seconds.) Anyway, it was a pretty big deal. Wikipedia reports that it was due to a bit-part in a movie, but I haven’t tracked that down. I did find this article, (Washington Evening Star, 17 March 1936) though:

Boy, they don’t write ’em like that anymore!

However, it was too good to last, I guess. Here’s from the Star, just six days later.

I had read elsewhere that ol’ Casey made him shave off the ‘stache, saying “if anyone’s going to be a clown around here, it’s me.” Sounds like something Casey would say, but I didn’t find the quote in the papers. Could have been made up by a sportswriter. It may have been more fun being a sportswriter back then.

Other than the mustache incident, Bordagaray had a pretty nice career. Eleven years in the bigs, a .283 lifetime average.

I bought an old card of Frenchy a while back, because his name was Frenchy and I thought he looked like a philosophical chap.

Good game, Frenchy. Way to make the game fun.

Also, I love the old graphics in newspapers.