Zack Davis Wheat

Zack D.Wheat passed away on this date in 1972 at the age of 83.

A heck of a ball player. Batted left, threw right. Seems like he was initially known for his fielding skills, and developed as a hitter. Led the league in hitting only once, 1918, at .335. In both 1923 and ’24 he hit .375, and then hit .359 in 1925 at age 37. Played in the 1916 and 1920 World Series, losses to Boston and Cleveland. He finished up with 2884 hits in his major league career. Looking at the Dodgers career statistics leaders, Wheat is still tops in games played, plate appearances, hits, singles, doubles, triples, total bases,runs created, times on base, and hit-by-pitch. He’s number 3 in RBIs, behind Duke Snider and Gil Hodges. Number 2 in runs scored, behind Pee Wee Reese, and number 2 in extra base hits, behind the Duke.

Yep, one heck of a ball player. 

Wheat started playing ball in 1906 for Enterprise, and played for Wichita, Shreveport, and Mobile in the minors. In 1909 Wheat signed with the Brooklyn Superbas, and played with them and the Brooklyn Robins til 1926. He played in ’27 with the A’s, then in 1928 he played for the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association, where he hit .309 in 82 games. An injury to his heel ended his season and career.

After baseball he went back to his farm. He always went back to his farm in the off-season, and always maintained that he would happily farm if his baseball contract fell short of what he felt he deserved. He lost his farm in the Great Depression, operated a bowling alley for a bit, and then became a police officer. After almost losing his life in a car accident during a police chase in 1936, Wheat spent five months in the hospital recuperating, then moved down to Sunrise Beach, Missouri, where he opened up a hunting and fishing resort. He lived there for the rest of his days. It looks like beautiful country.

“He (Zack Wheat) was the most graceful left-handed hitter I ever saw. With the dead ball, many of his line drives were caught, but they were just shot out of a cannon almost every time up.” – Casey Stengel


“Zack Wheat was 165 pounds of scrap iron, rawhide, and guts.” – Buck O’Neil


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

That card up on top is a 1921 exhibits card. What a classic shot. I wonder who the photographer was?


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!

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.


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.”

Hall of Fame

This Sunday’s paper had two major stories – the 50 game suspension of Twins prospect Eddie Rosario for a second failure on a drug test, and coincidentally, the Hall of Fame election, where people (or at least the Baseball Writers Association of America) are trying to figure out what to do about all the Big Stars from the Steroid Era. Bobby Bonds? Roger Clemens? Mike Piazza? Will any of them get into the Hall?

There was a nice article by La Velle E. Neal III in the Star Tribune last Sunday, looking at this year’s candidates. As no one was elected last year, there’s also a few strong carryover candidates, muddying the waters.

Here’s my ballot for 2014:

1. Greg Maddux *
2. Tom Glavine*
3. Jeff Bagwell
4. Tim Raines
5. Jack Morris
6. Frank Thomas*
7. Larry Walker
8. Lee Smith

It’s the first year on the ballot for Maddux, Glavine and Thomas, 4th year for Bagwell and Walker, 7th year for Raines,  12th for Smith, and 15th for Morris. (fifteen years already for Morris? That seems hard to believe.) I guess I’m holding off on letting the tainted players in. Perhaps the expansion era committee will vote them in, and maybe it would be best to let the players decide if these players are beyond the pale or not.

Jack Morris was a bull. He was a great pitcher for 14 years with the Tigers, had one famous year with the Twins, another great year with Toronto (21-6 at age 37), and then two not so good years at the end,with Toronto and Cleveland. All those years at Detroit, he was a pitcher you did not want to face. And then in ’91, game seven, there was no one you’d rather have on the mound for you.

Jack Morris - 1991 World Series

Good luck, Jack.