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

Ralph Branca

I suppose as a professional baseball player you have to get used to losing. Year after year, all the teams go at it, only one team gets to walk away as winners. What is that? About 3% of the players can think of them selves as winners in a given year? (roughly?)

So there’s the run-of-the-mill losing, that bad ball clubs, the mediocre ball clubs, day-in day-out losing. I suppose that becomes less stressful in some ways. Then there are the teams that are actually in contention. I suppose losing would be harder on them, because there was more of an opportunity to win in the first place. When there’s a decent chance to win, then you might think more about the bad call, the dropped ball, the extra base, the cut-off throw. The woulda-coulda -shoulda. That sort of second-guessing would be harder to deal with and take awhile to get past.

And then there’s Ralph Branca. October 3rd, 1951. Coming into the deciding game of the playoff, pitching for the Dodgers with a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the 9th. There’s a couple of runners on, one out, and Bobby Thomson coming up to the plate.

Branca pitches.

Thomson swings.

There’s a long drive.

The Giants win the Pennant.

The Giants win the Pennant.

This takes losing to a whole other level.

Of course it’s a team game and there were a lot of other plays made and not made in the game that might have made a difference. But Ralph threw the pitch that lost the game.

The picture of the aftermath is probably the best picture of baseball ever.

bobby-thompson-and-ralph-branca-b-fr-sm

There you have it. That’s what the game is all about. That’s what life is all about.

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Branca was a pretty good pitcher for the Dodgers, winning 21 games for them in 1947. He made the all-star team in ’47, ’48, and ’49. Then he got hurt in a clubhouse accident in ’52, hurt his back, and never regained his pitching form. He used to go around to the old timer’s games with Thomson, who passed away in 2010 at 86. They became friends, and donated some money from joint appearances to charities.

Ralph Branca passed away today, in Rye Brook, NY, at age 90. Three time all-star, 21-game winner for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Good game, Ralph.

April: 7-17

The Twins wrap up April (the Cruelest Month)  with a 7-17 mark, which puts them 9 1/2 games off the pace for the Central Division Gonfalon. May – the Month of Rejuvenation or Recrimination, depending upon how it goes – has started off with a loss.

Last year the Twins went 20-7 in May, getting themselves back in contention. 20-7 is a lot to hope for, and not very likely, either. However, if the Twins can get back to within five or six by June, than the season is not yet lost.

Haiku for a Disruptive April:

a lengthy cold snap

frosts the grass, yet birds still sing,

and lilacs sparkle

It’s been an interesting (bad) April. Byung Ho Park gives us hope, leading the club with 6 HR, showing a lot of poise.

Byung Ho Park 2016

Ervin Santana, Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins, and Kyle Gibson, all on the disabled list already. Several of these guys are what is known as “key” players. Heralded youngster Jose Berrios is already up and already made his major league debut. (Tonight he is going for his first win, with the Twins ahead in the 9th.) Heralded youngster Byron Buxton is sent down. (Currently hitting .219 after 7 games at AAA Rochester.) Everyone is talking about the comeback of the Legendary Joe Mauer, hitting .337 with a .920 OPS. Miguel Sano is holding down right field and trying to get himself established. Eduardo Nunez hitting .373.

No, things aren’t going as expected. Which just makes for a better story later on.

Here’s a tip o’ the cap to Jose Berrios, first major league win tonight, as the Twins beat the “Astros” of Houston, 6-2.

8-18 now, for those keeping track at home.

Worst April record by a pennant-winning baseball club? Unknown. Does anybody track this sort of thing? Well, the answer in the future might be 7-17.

 

Los Tres Santanas: Update

Hey, I just saw this on the Twins.com:

There’s no such thing as having too much pitching, so there still remains a chance the Twins add another arm this offseason. They’ve been recently monitoring former Twins ace Johan Santana, who made his debut with Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League on Tuesday. Santana is coming off a torn left Achilles’ tendon suffered last June after signing with the Orioles, but he has recently been throwing in front of teams, including Minnesota.

 

What’s the line on the Original Johan so far?

The Original Johan

The Original Johan

1 game, 2 innings pitched, no hits, runs, walks, or strikeouts. The Rotoworld NBC site has reports that he tossed 17 pitches in the two innings, and hit 90 mph with his fastball.

The Original Johan is on his way back.

26 April 1904, Tuesday Evening, rain

No action today; rain all around the association.

Given a spare moment, an industrious scribe will analyze, and so our scribe does.

The millers, he sez,  have been “larruping” the ball – over ten and a half hits per game, which is a lot more than anyone would have predicted.

(Of course, too early to tell.)

Most of the fielding errors we’ve seen so far are on account of the weather, he sez — numbed fingers making it difficult to hang onto the ball.

Captain Fox

Captain Fox

Also: these boys are as fast as lightning.

Also: Captain Fox was confined to bed yesterday, but is expected to play today.

“Change of water was responsible for his indisposition.”

Seriously.

Meanwhile… back in 2014….

stove - loc e

So the Twins have finally taken my advice — or at least the most expensive part of it – and signed Ervin Santana to pitch for them next year. With Danny Santana at shortstop (or center field,) we are only one short, easy, inexpensive step away from seeing Los Tres Santanas. And the last I heard (an internet search mere seconds ago) The Original Johan is still out there, a free agent, ripe for the plucking.

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Looks like The Original Johan is planning on pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League this January, working on his comeback from a torn Achilles tendon. If he does okay down there in Venezuela, I won’t be surprised to see him in spring training with the Twins. Because the Twins are crazy for veterans with moxie and can-do attitude (see: Hunter, Torii.) (Add “damaged goods” and “inexpensive gamble” into the mix…)

Is Every Day Eddie Guardado available?

How about Senor Smoke, Juan Beranguer?

Who’d you rather see at first base this year, Justin (.319) Morneau or Joe Mauer?

Can Joe play third?

Put Trevor Plouffe back in the outfield?

Ahhhhh. Hot stove league. The snow is blowing out there, but in here there’s a little taste of summer going on.

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25 April 1904; Monday Evening

No Sunday paper, so we wait till Monday to get results of both Saturday and Sunday’s games.

Lee Demontreville

Lee Demontreville

On Saturday, the millers whupped the mudhens again, 8-7. Baily was pitching and was hit hard, eventually being relieved by Owens. The millers kept plugging away at Reisling, and won it by scoring one in the eighth to knot it up and one in the ninth for the win.

The BIG shocker of the report, which is a very small report, being “yesterday’s game” – “Demontreville is said to be slated for the axe by Watkins.”

Demontreville?

Seriously?

04-26-04 - Demontreville slated for the axe

Okay, I know he’s been hurt, but it looks like he played on Saturday, and got a hit (and, okay, made an error.) It seemed like Demontreville was locked in! Slated for the Axe? He showed all the signs of being a very very clever third baseman! perhaps his arm trouble is worse than we’d been led to believe. It makes me wonder about that whole “water polo” story. Seriously? Is that still their story? Has Watkins got someone waiting in the wings? It seems like McNichols might be the new third baseman. But I suppose we should wait and see; perhaps this is just a rumor latched onto by a desperate reporter.

Oh, it looks like Fox pasted one during the game, a three run shot that put the boys up in the second, 5-2. Baily couldn’t hold the lead, but who says these boys can’t hit?

Sunday’s game: We Wuz Robbed!

The score stood 7-2 in favor of the millers in the fifth, when the rain came pouring down, and Umpire Holiday called the game. Frosty Thomas pitched well for the Minneapolitans. Watkins protested, but the game will be played over. The millers will still get half of the gate, so perhaps a moral victory.

Other News Around Town

Well, the Prunes are in:

04-26-04 - Prunes

Also, just like today, 1904 Minneapolis has its gang problem:

04-26-04 - Western Avenue Gang