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.

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.

 

 

 

the 2069 NPBL Champion, the Louisiana Blaze

Well, as I said, the 19-year plan for world domination worked perfectly, and the lowly Louisiana Blaze became champions of the (NPBL) world this last season.

“How did you do it?” everyone wants to know. Well, I won’t go into all the details of that long and ultimately vindifying season. (Take note, brand new word there.) But there are a couple of stories that are worth telling.

First, as you all know, the Blaze finished third in their division in 2069, 11 and a half games out. This was good enough to get us into the playoffs as the wild card, and we opened the playoffs against the Wisconsin Lumberjacks.

This brings us to the number 1 reason for our championship. Blaze first baseman Thornton Swackhammer just rocked the playoffs.

Thornton Swackhammer – 2069

The Blaze edged Wisconsin in the opening series, 4 games to 3, and Mr. Swackhammer was the series MVP, hitting .379, with 2 HR, 6 rbi, and 5 runs scored.

The Blaze then tipped Kansas in 7 games, and Mr. Swackhammer was the series MVP, hitting .414, with 7 HR, 13 rbi, and 10 runs scored.

In the GEL Championship series, the Blaze rocked the New Mexico Dukes, taking the series 4 games to 1, and Mr. Swackhammer was again the MVP, hitting .313, with 4 HR, 8 rbi, and 5 runs scored.

Finally, in the National Cup series, the Blaze beat the Illinois Jethawks, 4 games to 3, and Mr. Swackhammer was NOT the series MVP. In the final series Thornton only hit .222, with 1 HR, 2 rbi, and 5 runs scored. Left fielder Jimmy Bangs was the Blaze hitting star in the Cup series, hitting .407 with 5 rbi and 3 runs scored. (He wasn’t the series MVP either.) Swackhammer was perhaps tired from all the running around the bases he’d been doing in the previous three series. Overall, Swackhammer hit .337 in the post season, with 14 HR in 26 games, 29 rbis, and an OPS of 1.295. He set new post season marks for runs (25), total bases (85), and home runs (14). Doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you Thornton Swackhammer!

The other big story of the playoffs is the Blaze closer, Babe Glumak. Babe was 35 years old when the season opened, and has been with the Blaze since we drafted him in round one in 2054, a lefty with great potential. Babe came up to the big league in 2055 for a cup of coffee, and joined the club for good in 56, going 12-12 as a starter with a 3.87 ERA. He won the Rookie of the Year title that year. He should have been on his way, but somehow he wasn’t. Something didn’t click. He had all the tools to be a top flight starter, but it never came together. He went 12-9 with a 2.88 ERA in ’57, but then 2-12 with a 7.65 ERA in ’58. 2059, 10-15. 2060, 0-3, and he was out most of the season with a sore shoulder. Sweet Mother of Mercy: was this the end of Babe Glumak? So it seemed. In 2061 he went 7-9 with a 3.66 ERA. He only started 15 games, pitched mostly in low leverage relief. In 2062 he went 9-5, only started 5 games, made 60 relief appearances and had a 4.00 ERA. In 2063 he’s 29 years old, and he only gets into 48 ball games. No starts. A 1 and 2 record. But something else happened. His knuckle-curve suddenly started to drop through the floor. His ERA dropped to 2.20.

In 2064 he’s 30 years old. His knuckle-curve becomes even more vicious, practically illegal, and his sinker bounces off opponent bats as though filled with sand. He goes 12-3, takes over the closer role, racks up 14 saves with a 1.94 ERA, while the Blaze go 71 – 91, and finish in 6th place, 28 games back. Glumak is named reliever of the year.

2065 through 2068, Glumak rules:

2065: 6-4, 45 saves, 1. 49 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, GEL Relief Pitcher of the Year
2066: 6-3, 36 saves, 1.32 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, finishes 2nd in Relief Pitcher of the Year
2067: 8-3, 40 saves, 1.29 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, GEL Relief Pitcher of the Year
2068: 6-3, 34 saves, 1.64 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, finishes 2nd in Relief Pitcher of the Year

This brings us to 2069. The Blaze have a better than expected year. Each month finds them doing a little better than the previous month, and though they finish in 3rd place, they make the playoffs easily as a wild-card, and our starting three pitchers, Boone, Lopez, and Danich, give us reason for optimism. Our hitting has been consistently good throughout the year, our defense is above average, and our bullpen is strong.

Babe Glumak

While the Blaze are improving month after month, Babe Glumak is 35 years old and not the same Babe Glumak as in the recent past. His ball doesn’t have the same zip. His control is off. But he’s a wily vet, he knows what he’s doing out there, and he finishes the season with a 4-6 mark and 44 saves, despite a 4.37 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP.

At the end of the season Glumak has a couple of terrible outings, and it’s obvious that he’s in trouble out there. Probably I should use somebody else as closer. I’ve got two or three guys that could do the job. Xavier Cerda was my AAA closer, earned 31 saves during the season. James Hummer, coming back from an injury, throws 100 mph. Shangoya maybe. Or Smith, who had a great year, with a 1.81 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

And yet, how can you take Glumak out? He’s been THE GUY for five years. Rock solid. And now, with the playoffs here, you’re going to use someone else as closer? In what will probably be his last shot at the big deal?

Couldn’t do it. Glumak deserved his shot.

Well, Glumak hung on through the playoffs, on guts and moxie. He lost one game in the first round, I believe, but after that he… he managed. And of course it all came down to the championship, the National Cup, the seventh game, and the ninth inning.

Glumak comes in to start the inning, relieving Tim Littlewolf. The Blaze are ahead 3-1, scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Three outs away from the championship champagne. And old Babe Glumak is on the mound.

First guy up, An-yi Pei, right fielder, right-handed batter. He works a full count, then grounds out, an easier grounder to Kawakami at third. One down.

Pinch hitter Juan Gomez comes up, batting for the pitcher. Switch-hitter. He takes a ball, then rolls a grounder past Glumak, right to Dino Pinch at second. Easy toss to first. Two down. One out away from the title. Glumak looks deadly serious out there. The Illinois crowd is on its feet.

Centerfielder Bennett McIntyre is up, lead off batter, lefty, hit .317 on the year and he’s 2 for 4 today. He reaches down for a sinker on the first pitch and loops it just over shortstop Ernie Seppi’s outstretched glove. A single. The crowd roars. There is hope.

Second baseman Jake Young steps up to the plate. He’s a righty. Hit .363 during the season, and he’s hit .380 in the playoffs. McIntyre’s taking his lead, he’s got good speed, 13 stolen bases this year. Glumak pitches to Young. Gets a called strike, then tosses one wide, then gets another called strike, nobody like the call, the crowd roars, it looked low. Glumak throws another one wide to even the count, 2-2. Then a low one, and it’s a full count. And then another low one, ball four, runners on first and second.

Two outs, bottom of the ninth, third baseman Diego Santana is up. Another righty. Hit .276 for the year with a dozen HR. The crowd is roaring. Ball one. Ball two. A called strike, inside corner, tough pitch. Ball three, way outside. Another one comes inside, Santana swings, pops it up behind the plate, into the crowd. Full count. Glumak steps off the mound a bit, rubs the new baseball down. Climbs back up to the rubber. Takes the call from Buck behind the plate. Throws. Wide. Ball four.

Bases loaded. Ben Buck gets up from behind the plate to talk things over with Glumak.

Josh Hoffman: Dangerous

Stepping up to the plate is the clean-up hitter, a lefty, Josh Hoffman. Hit .267 on the year, with 24 HR and 96 RBI. Hitting .297 in the post-season. Buck crouches again behind the plate, and Glumak checks the runners, then peers in for the sign. First pitch, inside, Hoffman rips at it, and it shoots back to the backstop, foul ball, strike one.

Crowd on its feet. Deafening. Glumak checks the runners and gets the sign. Hoffman steps out of the box. Glumak takes the sign again. Pitches. A sinker, low and away, and Hoffman can’t lay off. He stretches for it, the ball scoots off his bat, and past Glumak’s glove. Dino Pinch glides over, scoops it up oh so carefully, and then gracefully touches second. Fielder’s choice. Three outs. Game over. The Blaze are champions, and Glumak picks up probably the last save of his career.

Glumak went 0-1 in the playoffs, with 8 saves, a 2.63 ERA, and a 1.83 WHIP.

This spring, 36 years old, he went 0-1, with 2 saves and a 5.87 ERA, and a 2.22 WHIP. He’s pitching down in AAA Baton Rouge to start the year, to see if he can work things out. So far he’s got 1 save in 6 games, 4 innings pitched, 4 earned runs, a couple of HR. I’ve got Xavier Cerda working now as my closer. Picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2063. He keeps on surprising and improving. I’ve also got young Jon Church in Baton Rouge. Drafted him in 2065, round two. He picked up 41 saves in AA Shreveport last year, with a 2.02 ERA. I’m hoping he might learn a few things from Babe Glumak.

 

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