Friday, September 30, 2011



My father said this anytime we wailed and moaned as kids and didn’t have any basis for it.


I do have friends who are Red Sox fans around here. They are pretty much over the “Red Sox Collapse” of 2011, but apparently Boston isn’t, and now reports of Terry Francona’s outage are rampant on the internet.


Good for you, Boston. Can his butt. I can think of a couple of very fine teams who would LOVE to have your record for the last 10 years (regular season as well as postseason appearances alone…not to mention the 2 rings Boston earned during that timeframe, 8 of those years under Francona’s leadership.

Here’s what the simplified big picture looks like:

So, if you really believe that Francona let your team down this year (or even in the past 10 years), then you can sit and spin on this chart.

Needless to say, millions of fans of franchises such as the Cubs and the Royals could really, really learn to love numbers even close to being this good. We would even deeply appreciate 10 years overall winning season percentage.

Don’t even bring up the Red Sox slide in September…in many ways, that looks better on paper than September being the only good month you’re having all year!

One of my biggest fears in being a diehard Cubs fan is really being justified this week…if we DID win the World Series, let’s say TWICE, and a few years later came within one game of the Wild Card and didn’t make it…would we suddenly turn into the wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth Red Sox fans that flooded the call-in lines at WEEI yesterday??

Yesterday, I would have suggested that fans in Boston should ‘lighten up’…now I am only making one suggestion.

SOMEONE PLEASE HIRE TERRY FRANCONA, and I don’t need to even begin to write where I think he should go, but I have two ideas. You may have your own, there are several teams who could stand for even 5 years of results like this.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The (duPont Manual High School) Hall of Fame (Part 2)

Be sure and read the first part of this post here before you go on…featuring brief write-ups of Pee Wee Reese, Ferdie Schupp, Irv Jeffries, and Moe Thacker…plus photos of their plaques…

Here is “the rest of the story”…8 more Manual Alumni who did, indeed, go on to become professional baseball players, and who are featured in the duPont Manual High School Hall of Fame.

There are quite a few folks on these walls that went on to brief careers in amateur baseball only, but this writing will only focus on professional types…most of this second group featured never made it out of the Minor Leagues, some did…but Minor League Baseball is professional, as true now as it was nearly a hundred years ago…

As I was unable to get photos of their plaques, the pictures featured here are from the Manual Hall of Fame online, plus additional pictures from other sources. Since most of this list never saw the Major Leagues, it was much more difficult to find additional information…one player wasn’t even listed on Baseball Reference (where I started most of my research). A few birthdates were hard to find, and just because it may seem as if the players featured may still be alive, this may not be the case.

Edward Kenneth “Kenny” Braun (also known as “Weasel”) (b. 1926) Inducted 2004
A teammate of Ray Holton’s (see below), “Weasel” was listed as one of 66 Manual players that legendary coach Ralph Kimmel moved into professional baseball…I’m not sure if Manual’s definition of professional baseball includes amateur leagues or not, but nevertheless Braun (and Holton) both reportedly signed professional contracts as juniors. Kenny was the captain of the team as a senior in 1944, upon graduation he headed straight for the Baltimore Orioles of the International League (a Cleveland AA franchise, in case you didn’t know), playing in 36 games that year and a full season in 1945, ending the year with an unspectacular .228/.321/.298 line and 10 stolen bases (caught 3 times), still a marked improvement over his 1944 short season. In 1946, Cleveland sent him to the AA Oklahoma City Indians, where his BA barely kicked up to .230, and he was demoted to the A affiliate Wilkes-Barre Barons for the 1947 season. He ended 1947 with a .272 BA, but starting 1948 regressed back down to .213…just enough to get moved back to the AAA Baltimore club once more. With his BA staying low, he was released to the Binghamton (CT) Barons, the New York Yankees Class A affiliate of the Eastern League. He spent 1949 in Binghamton, moved on to the Muskegon (MI) Clippers of the Central League for the Yankees in 1950; his career ended there with a lifetime .238/.260/.280 line in 7 seasons. He became a Firefighter upon his return to Louisville and retired as a District Chief with 30 years of distinguished service. ”Weasel” with the Muskegon Clippers at the end of his baseball daze in 1950

Earl James “Snitz” Browne (1911-1993) Inducted 2010
Earl Browne was one of only 9 Manual baseball players who made it to the Major Leagues, the origin of his nickname “Snitz” came from the fact that he hailed from the Louisville neighborhood of Schnitzelburg (famous for the “Dainty” and other peculiar business). Browne was a considered a very large fellow in the 20s (at 6 feet, 175 pounds) and domineered his peers in football and basketball as well as baseball. He was the captain of the Crimsons his senior year in 1928, and signed with the non-affiliated AA Louisville Colonels of the American Association that same year, appearing in only 3 games, that started a professional baseball career that spanned 22 seasons, 3 of those spent in the Major Leagues. The late 20s and early 30s saw Snitz on rosters for Louisville, the Dayton (OH) Aviators, the Huntington (WV) Boosters, the Mobile (AL) Marines, the Knoxville Smokies, the Asheville Tourists, and ultimately the Little Rock Travelers. The Southern Association Class A level Travelers became an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934, when Browne was hitting .257 with a SLG of .373. In 1935 Browne played 9 games for the Pirates at 1B and OF, spending the majority of his playing time in Little Rock. In 1936 he only played 6 games for the Pirates before he was sent to the Minneapolis Millers (AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians) where he played 155 games and ended the season with a BA of .328 and SLG of .591. In April of 1937, Snitz was traded by the Pirates to the Phillies for Joe Bowman; he spent the entire season on the Phillies major league roster and finished the season at .257/.304/.311, hitting 6 home runs and striking out 41 times in 332 AB. After beginning 1938 as a Phillie, he was purchased by the St Louis Cardinals in May of 1938 but never appeared on the club roster, instead spending 2 seasons with the Columbus (OH) Red Birds in AA and hitting .305 (17 HR) and .268 (12 HR) respectively. This wasn’t enough for the Cardinals as Browne was moved to the Class A New Orleans Pelicans in 1940, then became a minor league Washington Senator in Chattanooga with the Class A Lookouts in 1941. Browne then moved on to the non-affiliated American Association Atlanta Crackers for the majority of the 1942 season yet ended up back at the AA Louisville Colonels (now a Boston Red Sox franchise) for 11 games. Browne remained in Louisville until 1946, spending the last few years of his professional career with the Boston Braves organization, spending 2 years with the Owensboro Oilers as a player-manager (he is a member of the Kitty League Hall of Fame for his two consecutive over-.400 seasons) and 2 years, also as a player-manager, with the Hartford Chiefs. With only 1 professional game played under his belt in 1949, Browne retired as a player (yet continued for part of the Chiefs’ season) at the age of 38 and spent the latter part of 1949 and through 1950 as the manager for the American Association Denver Bears. Browne’s major league career numbers were .286/.335/.401, he was 8th in the NL in HBP in 1937; his minor league numbers were .305/.321/.459. Snitz’s post-baseball career was that of a fire-rating inspector for Insurance Services of Arkansas and died in 1993 at the age of 81 after a long battle with cancer. ”Snitz” as a Pirate, c.1935-1936

Edgar Raymond “Ray” Holton (1925-2007) Inducted 2006
Ray Holton may be better-known in some baseball lore circles as a local boy who became a war hero. Ray earned nine letters at Manual for football, basketball, and baseball but left school at 18 prior to graduating to register for the draft and was inducted into the armed forces in August 1944. Two weeks prior to the end of the war, Holton was wounded by the German enemy while in France and received the Purple Heart. Upon his discharge in 1946, Ray returned to Manual to finish high school (scoring two touchdowns against Male in a famous 45-7 victory in that year’s celebrated Thanksgiving game) yet never completed his diploma requirements, leaving yet again after being drafted by the Cleveland Indians (not the Orioles, who weren’t yet a Major League franchise, as noted on his Manual Hall of Fame bio) and spending 3 years with that organization on the rosters at the Centreville (MD) Orioles, Meridian (MS) Peps, and Dayton (OH) Indians. Ray began 1949 as part of the Boston Braves’ Class A affiliate Hartford Chiefs (11 games), and finished the season with the Baltimore Orioles, a triple-A franchise of the St Louis Browns at that time (and probably the disconnect in his Manual HOF bio, two different “Orioles” teams in 4 years of service). Holton’s performance in 1949 was rather dismal (.195/.321/.212 in 53 games for Baltimore), leading to his release. He played 19 games with the Portsmouth Cubs of the non-affiliated Piedmont League in 1950 and returned to Parkway Field in Louisville with the Boston Red Sox organization as a Louisville Colonel in 1951 for 13 games at 3rd base, again with depressing .195/.267/.220 stats. He was demoted to the Class-A Albany Senators of the Eastern League, appearing in 82 games in 1952 as a Catcher (his longest playing record since Dayton in 1948) and improving his BA to .242, enough to find him back with the AAA Colonels for the following season. Ray experienced 3 great seasons in Louisville, still as a Catcher (albeit the backup party to Pete Daley in 1953-54, as #3 for 1955), particularly during the 1954 campaign when the Colonels finished 85-68 and Holton finished with .321/.379/.429 and a .991 Fld% in 40 games. In 1956 the Colonels became a Washington Senators affiliate, and Holton played for both Louisville (64 games) and the Miami Marlins, a Class AAA Phillies affiliate (55 games), returning there to start 1957 then moving on to the Milwaukee Braves AAA affiliate Wichita Braves for 2 games and 3 AB (apparently, as a pinch hitter only). Holton stayed in Wichita until his transfer to the Kansas City Athletics Class-AAA club Buffalo Bisons for 35 games and his best ever .373/.488/.373 in 67 PA. 1959 was Ray’s busiest year in professional baseball with a single team, the Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League affiliate of the Washington Senators), as their #1 Catcher, with 321 AB in 102 games. Holton’s once-again dismal offensive stats that year (.246/.306/.293, 3 HR, 24K, 25BB) found him packing his bags after the season for two brief appearances with 2 different Milwaukee Braves clubs in 1960; 2 games with the Austin (TX) Senators and one hitless game with the new Braves affiliate Louisville Colonels, who won the Junior World Series that year. This Colonels team also featured future well-known baseball names such as Tommie Aaron and Bob Uecker (yes, that Bob Uecker!). Following the 1960 season, Ray officially retired from pro baseball after 15 less-than-glorious seasons and became a scout for the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves. Ray returned to Louisville to raise his family (his son Roxie graduated from Manual in 1968), enjoyed a round of golf now and then, and died in 2007 at the age of 81. I took this photo in 2009 of the 1954 Louisville Colonels, originally featured in this post, Ray Holton is second from right in the middle row.

Robert George “Bobby” Marr (b. 1941) Inducted 2003
Bobby’s brief professional career consisted of 4 seasons that ended abruptly due to a shoulder injury. He was at his ‘most legendary’ as a baseball player during his high school years, helping Manual achieve state championships in both 1957 and 1959 (during the years 1957-1959, the Manual Crimsons posted a whopping 88-12 record). In 1960, Marr attended Indiana University and joined the baseball team as a pitcher, with a 6-3 W-L record, 1.50 ERA and 72K in 66IP during his only year there. His performance for the Hoosiers led to a contract with the Boston Red Sox; in 1961 he posted a 9-5, 3.49 ERA record with the Olean (NY) Red Sox in the New York-Penn League and was promoted to Class B with the Winston-Salem Red Sox in the Carolina league in 1962, finishing the season with a 7-7 W-L, 3.8 ERA record with 129K (8.2 K/9), 11 complete games, 1 shut-out in 28 games (16 games started). Beginning in 1963, after being promoted to Class-A Wellsville Red Sox, his minor league decline began as his injuries kept him down to appearances in 17 games (only 1 start) and an ERA of 7/07. He only started one game for Wellsville in 1964, and had only appeared in 4 games with an ERA of 2.25 until his shoulder injury finished his career and he retired with a lifetime 17-13 W-L and 3.94 ERA. He returned to Louisville and resumed his college education at the University of Louisville, graduating in 1965, and returning to Manual for 6 years as a History teacher and cross-country coach. In the fall of 1971, Bobby moved to Winter Park, Florida, where he joined the faculty at Winter Park High School and coached 6 different sports, serving as Athletic Director for 10 years. Marr is a member of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame and was still teaching History in Winter Park in 1997.

Leland Melear (19??- ??) Inducted 2001
Leland Melear, I’m sorry to report, is somewhat of an enigma. His Manual Hall of Fame bio speaks to his brief career with the San Francisco Giants organization after his graduation in 1963, but Baseball-Reference and other sources don’t have him listed anywhere, in any form. Perhaps he appeared in some instructional league play, did poorly, and was released quickly. He was a team-mate of Bobby Marr’s during the 1957 and 1959 Manual championship baseball teams, and was co-captain with Marr in 1959. After his brief and un-confirmed pro baseball career, he returned to Louisville and worked at Ford for two years. His bio claims he was considered the second-best basketball player in Kentucky (behind Pat Doyle) and was captain of both the basketball and baseball teams at Virginia Tech, where he was elected to the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. Back in Louisville, he worked at GE for 16 years before moving to Chicago in 1985. In 1994 he became the plant manager at the Manchester, MO facility of the Dana Corporation.

Donald L. “Donnie” Noel (19??- ??) Inducted 2003
Another enigmatic player, Donnie is at Baseball-Reference, but there are lots of unknowns…for example, we know he throws right but we don’t know how he bats and we don’t know his height, weight, or age. Donnie lettered in baseball and, like Kenny Braun, was a Ralph Kimmel protégé in 1944 and 1945. His senior year he pitched the first ever perfect game for Manual, against Memorial High School of Evansville, IN, and subsequently signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles (Cleveland Indians AA affiliate of the International League) along with Crimson teammates Jack West and twin brother Gene West…who also are unknown by Baseball-Reference. He only played with the Orioles for that lone summer in 1945, appearing in 3 games, pitching 16 innings with a 1.7K/9 and 0-1 W-L record. He returned to Louisville in the fall to graduate with “the Class of 45-1/2.” Donnie joined the Coast Guard in 1946, attended the University of Louisville in 1947-1949, where he was best known as a track star, setting a long-standing 2-mile record. He was a “star” in the LABF (Louisville Amateur Baseball Federation, an organization for which I am hereby challenged to find out more about, as the only references on the internet are found in obituaries and a few Manual Hall of Fame biographies) and went on to a 33-year career with Louisville Gas and Electric, from where he retired, and was still alive in 2003 upon his induction into the Manual Hall of Fame.

John Francis “Jack” Speier (1931-2005) Inducted 2003
Like many of his Manual Hall of Fame contemporaries, Jack lettered in 3 sports at Manual and was also the co-captain of the 1948 undefeated State Championship football team. For the Crimson baseball squad, he was a third baseman as a sophomore in 1947 when Manual won their first ever State Championship. He went to Centre College on a scholarship in 1949, playing both football and baseball, was a letterman all 4 years in both, and graduated with a degree in business. During his tenure at Centre College, Speier spent his summers with 3 different Class-C and Class-D affiliates of the Philadelphia Phillies; 87 games with the Lima (OH) Phillies of the Ohio-Indiana League in 1951, 94 games in 1952 with the Bradford (PA) Phillies of the Philadelphia-Ontario-New York League, and 46 games with the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pioneer League in 1953. Service called Jack away from pro baseball, as he enlisted in the Army in 1954, playing baseball at Fort Knox during his 2-year tour. He was employed by Owens Corning Fiberglass in Louisville in 1955, was a member of management in several of the company’s locations over the years, promoted to division manager at the home office in Toledo, and retired from Owens Corning after 31 years of service. He retired to Florida, and died in 2005 at the age of 73.

Louis William “Lou” Vassie (b. 1936) Inducted 1997
Lou appears to be one of the more successful minor leaguers amongst this group; according to his Manual HOF bio he was a 6-time MiLB All-Star, tied 3 MiLB hitting records and played 2nd base on the rosters of 3 AAA Championship teams. For the record, here’s what really happened: the 1961 Buffalo Bisons won the Junior World Series, the 1962 Indianapolis Indians finished 1st in their division but were eliminated in the 1st round of tournament play, and the 1963 Indianapolis Indians were the International League champs. Lou’s professional career began in 1955 with the Philadelphia Phillies organization as 2nd baseman for the Class-D Bradford (PA) Phillies, continued the following year with the Olean Oilers, and in 1957 with the Salt Lake City Bees. In 1958 Lou was promoted to the Class-A Williamsport (PA) Grays, where his average .254 BA found him called up to the AAA Buffalo Bisons for the 1959 season. He stayed in Buffalo for 2 seasons but saw no improvement in his numbers (I’m hard pressed to determine what hitting records he actually tied!), sinking to a .223/.333/.339 at the end of 1960. He spent 1961 with the AA Chattanooga Lookouts (111 games, .244/.354/.293) as well as back at Class-A Williamsport Grays, where his offense improved (25 games, .308/.420/.471), no surprise for someone returning to Class-A after a few seasons in AA and AAA. In 1961 he was named to the Topps National All-Star Team. He was sent to the Chicago White Sox organization in 1962, spending 2 seasons with the AAA Indianapolis Indians with moderate, but still less than extraordinary numbers and ended his career after the 1963 season with a lifetime .271/.327/.402 with 76 HR, 271 BB, and 251 strikeouts in 257 AB. Lou Vassie’s autograph is part of Hillerich & Bradsby’s Wall of Autographs at the Louisville Slugger Museum.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

9/26/11 Chicago Cubs 0, San Diego Padres 2

Petco Park, San Diego, CA
Game 1 of 3

Casey Coleman is a GREAT pitcher. I believe in Casey Coleman.

The final series of the 2011 season finds the wayward Cubs in Petco Park to face the Padres, who very much like the Cubs are looking at a losing season with barely 70 wins and nearly 90 losses apiece. When I hear the baseball pundits complain about teams who “aren’t in the race” at the end of the season and how this may or may not affect their performance on the field, I think about games like this and I’m glad that I don’t subscribe to this way of thinking. The Cubs and the Padres both played as if they had a chance; especially Casey Coleman and his opponent Mat Latos.

Pretend for a moment that you are not aware that both of these teams are mathematically and metaphysically out of the running for a postseason appearance. The Cubs need Casey Coleman to continue his 2011 performance in the years to come…the same goes for Mat Latos, whose 2011 wasn’t quite as stellar as his 2010 campaign, but he (as well as Coleman) are damn good pitchers, and are both young enough to improve. Perhaps that’s what is driving them to excellence tonight, where they stare each other down for 5 straight innings of scoreless baseball; the greatest tangible advantage being the no-hitter that Latos has going on through those 5.

I fly my “Pitchers who can hit are sexy” flag fairly high and prominently, and I can’t imagine a day, time, year, or dissertation that could ever persuade me otherwise. That being said, Coleman breaks up Latos’ no-hitter with a 1-out triple in the top of the 6th. That’s just plain down and dirty awesome. As you may be able to tell from this photo, Coleman looks a bit peaked standing at 3rd after a run like that. Pitchers who hit well, I love it and I promote it. The same may not be said for pitchers who are aggressive baserunners…most Cubs fans still have a wince on their face from when Carlos Zambrano yanked a leg muscle a few years ago running to first to beat out a grounder and missed several starts. Here, the impact is more immediate; as soon as you can say “wow, did he really just do that??” Len Kasper and Bob Brenly immediately speculate on how Coleman’s hard drive to 3rd may affect his work on the mound in the bottom of the 6th. After all, they could be wrong…but there’s a point to be made there, couldn’t he have kept it to a double and be done with it?

Bottom of the 6th, Coleman yields a solo HR to Will Venable on a 0-1 pitch. Jason Bartlett grounds out to Coleman right after, but it seems as if the Padres have found his sweet spot as Jesus Guzman reaches on a ground-rule double that was nearly another HR. Nick Hundley strikes out swinging, but Cameron Maybin doesn’t, with a seeing-eye line drive down the left field line for a run-scoring double. The Padres are on the board, Coleman’s triple run seems to have revealed the truth in Kasper and Brenly’s statement, and Rafael Dolis gets the final out of the inning in his MLB debut.

Casey…please…next time, buddy, make it a DOUBLE.

Latos, in the meantime, stays in through the 7th inning and finishes with 9K and 1BB. Chad Qualls and Heath Bell administer 2 perfect innings and the Cubs are done for the evening.

Carlos Peña earns his 100th free pass of the season and is the 1st Cub since the 1900s to walk this many times in one season. Starlin Castro extends his hitting streak to 9 games and his on-base streak to 38 games. In addition to Dolis, Steve Clevenger makes his MLB debut.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

9/20/11 Omaha Storm Chasers 3, Columbus Clippers 9

Isotopes Park, Albuquerque, NM
Triple-A National Championship Game

Who has the power to silence the Storm Chasers? …you’re looking at him!

One of the strongest teams in Minor League Baseball that features some of the finest prospect talent in any organization, the Omaha Storm Chasers making it to the AAA Playoffs certainly didn’t surprise me. That being said, this year’s Columbus Clippers team is a lot like last year’s team…also strong, also from a decent farm system, and last year’s returning champions.

In a one-game playoff, the principles of “Tournament Baseball” are key to success. I won’t sugar-coat my ham-handed analysis one single bit: Mike Jirschele didn’t demonstrate a respect for the Clippers’ ability to rally exponentially, and left his hand-picked SP (the well-baked Sean O’Sullivan) in for one inning too many.

The Storm Chasers got on the board in clever fashion in the first inning, fueled by a 2-RBI triple off the bat of Lorenzo Cain. They scored 3 in that frame against Martinez, but ended their pre-emptive rally right there; Martinez demonstrated an amazing command performance, handcuffing the Storm Chasers for his remaining 6 innings of work and turning Omaha’s finest into chicken feed for the formidable Clippers.

O’Sullivan’s career has been a decidedly rocky one…he hasn’t been able to perform that well in the Majors, as many Royals fans are well aware of. Is O’Sullivan nothing more than a AAAA pitcher? Let’s consult Baseball-Reference and see if there’s an answer hiding somewhere…

Here are some key pitching stats (flush the W-L and ERA down the toilet for now):

SOS Career (MLB and MiLB)
This certainly isn’t überstatistical breaking news, but yes, O’Sullivan seems to pitch better in the Minors than in the Majors. Most of us would agree that 6.6 SO/9 and 1.271 WHIP isn’t really horrible, even if it is in the Minors. In fact, these numbers are really close to Joe Martinez’ 7.4 SO/9 and 1.244 WHIP in his 7 seasons in MiLB. So, what’s happening to Sean O’Sullivan?

Let’s look at O’Sullivan’s MiLB career, year-by-year:
Here, we can see some regression in the Minors…improved WHIP and SO/BB in 2011 from 2010, but overall SO/9 is somewhat stagnant, WHIP overall is increasing. Martinez’ WHIP by comparison is holding steady overall, as is his SO/9. Comparison to Martinez is only valid in that this is who O’Sullivan is facing; the bigger question is: how can we expect O’Sullivan to be a Major League ready pitcher anytime soon? He’s choking at the MLB level and MiLB hitters are figuring him out, and it shows.

Here’s my point: Mike Jirschele is a very good manager; we’re talking about Tournament Baseball here, O’Sullivan had a great 3 groundout 1st inning…after the Clippers’ 3-run 2nd inning, he should have given O’Sullivan the hook when he had the chance and brought in some of the Storm Chasers stellar relief. The bullpen allowed 2 runs after O’Sullivan’s 3IP, 6ER exit; would the Clippers have still won? Probably, yes. Would the Storm Chasers have been working so hard to make up for a 3-run deficit to start the 4th inning? Not at all. The formula is simple: 1 game playoff = don’t let questionable pitchers stay in the game…it just isn’t necessary. Particularly with Sean O’Sullivan on the mound and failing so early.

It’s more than stingingly ironic that in this single playoff game, starting pitching helped bury the Storm Chasers…just as it did for the Royals all season long!

As for Joe Martinez…let’s hope this isn’t the game of his career (which isn’t over yet, by any means), but this certainly was a definitive highlight of his MiLB career so far. I was fortunate enough to meet Joe after a Clippers/Bats game here in Louisville this past summer, and the Storm Chasers loss aside, it was great to see him pull through in this game and not only lead the Clippers to a Triple-A Championship victory, but also end up as the recipient of the esteemed Bobby Murcer Memorial MVP Award after the game…something I’d much rather remember him for than a Mike Cameron line drive in 2009 that nearly took his head off.

I watched this game on MLB Network, courtesy of a feed from Versus (the game was called by Robert Portnoy and former Omaha Royals manager Bucky Dent, who is also known for a few other baseball moments). The folks at Versus were apparently mesmerized by Lance Zawadzki; not so much by his performance as a player, but moreso by his interesting last name.

For starters, Versus spelled his name accurately upon his appearance in the Storm Chasers’ starting lineup:

Zawadzki’s first plate appearance, in the 1st inning…his name is still spelled correctly:

5 innings later, Lance is suddenly “Zwadski” without realizing it:

Someone sends a text message to the Versus folks operating the character generator (Cheech and Chong, perhaps?) and they do their best to correct the error…but don’t quite make it right; Lance is now “Zawadski” in the 8th inning:

The Clippers win the championship; Lance Zawadzki and Kila Ka’aihue were released by the Royals soon after this game. Sean O’Sullivan remains with the Royals and as of December 2011 is still on their 40-man roster.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

9/18/11 Chicago White Sox 10, Kansas City Royals 5

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Game 4 of 4

He is: Royals Nemesis A.J.Pierzynski

A.J. wasn’t really the difference in this game, he had some excellent help from Paul Konerko…but he sure did make quite a statement against the Royals.

The White Sox enter the game with a 7-game losing streak, dropping 3 of this series so far to the Royals. The Royals enter the game with a 7-game winning streak. Hopes were high for a Royals 4-game sweep of the series, but you don’t have to roll the dice to see what the tendencies would tell you: The White Sox are not that bad of a team, and despite the talent the Royals aren’t that great of a team. Streaks tend to break, under the circumstances.

The White Sox strike first against Bruce Chen, with a Brent Morel 2-run double in the 2nd, followed by a rare Adam Dunn RBI double and a Gordon Beckham SAC Fly in the 4th. The Royals make a fighting go at it with 4 runs scored in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings but the White Sox slam the door on their ‘go’ with back-to-back solo HRs by Konerko and Pierzynski in the 7th (courtesy of Louis Coleman).

The door is locked in the 8th when a 4-run inning ensues, highlighted by Pierzynski’s 2nd consecutive HR that brings 3 runs across the plate.

This was my first time seeing Johnny Giavotella in action with the Royals (is there a clinic for those of us who never spell his last name right on the first try?)…I am impressed. Johnny G custom 1983 Topps card courtesy of A Hair Off Square, a great blog you should definitely check out.


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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

9/6/11 Cincinnati Reds 4, Chicago Cubs 2

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 2 of 3

I will suspend the shoplifting jokes…as if I had ever participated in them in the first place…but this was Mike Leake’s gem that wasn’t a gem…

Rodrigo Lopez was pretty impressive tonight, and considering the circumstances might have been remembered for a “fairly decent outing”…however, former Reds pitching phenom Mike Leake was decidedly on his way to Reds history, pitching 8 scoreless innings of 1-hit 6K baseball (he threw only 91 pitches, 65 for strikes...that's HUGE), until a 2-out 2 RBI Homer by Bryan LaHair tied the game, forced extra innings, and shut the door on what would have been the outing of Leake’s career.

It was also Bryan LaHair’s first HR as a Cub.

Dave Sappelt and Chris Valaika make their 1st MLB starts; Sappelt goes 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored, Valaika goes 0-for-2 with a walk and leaves the game in the 9th, replaced by Paul Janish.

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The (duPont Manual High School) Hall of Fame

Well…here’s a quite unusual light Baseball History post o’ the day for all my readers.

I don’t play the ‘roving reporter’ part very well, but as I attended an Open House at duPont Manual High School in Louisville the other day, I passed through the central hallway (as I often do when visiting there) to admire the “Manual Hall of Fame.” This is essentially a hallway of plaques with ‘metal etched’ portraits of many famous Manual alumnus over the years that have been inducted into the school’s alumni Hall of Fame.

Manual High School is rich in history…currently #62 in the top 100 high schools in the U.S., and their famous Football Stadium (built in 1919, renovated since then, but still standing) is a delightfully creepy, yet historic place to visit. Also unusual as the Stadium is a few miles away from the high school itself.

You can read more about Manual and the oldest rivalry in Kentucky high school history on Wikipedia…I could write more about that, but this post is about baseball…and the (Manual High School) Hall of Fame…

When I enjoy my time reading the plaques, I typically pick out the really famous people (Mitch McConnell, Nicole Scherzinger, etc.) but also typically focus on the baseball players

This time around, I thought I’d snap some pictures of the baseball players’ plaques, and share with you their achievements and such.

Photography was, indeed, a challenge…the plaques are mounted on the wall just above eye level, and many subsequent levels higher…so I was a “Manual Dad” on his tippy-toes, snapping shots in the dark hallway with his cell-phone camera.

According to Wiki, there have been at least ten Manual players (not all technically ‘graduates’) who have played Major League Baseball, but not all of them are in the Manual Hall of Fame – I’m only focusing on the fellas with plaques.

Harold Henry “Pee Wee” Reese (1918-1999) Inducted 1994
Arguably the most famous and well-known amongst baseball players in the MHS Hall of Fame, Pee Wee was so small we wasn’t able to play for Manual until his senior year. Clocking in at just 120 pounds, Reese only played 6 games as a second baseman. Upon graduating from Manual in 1937 (according to Wiki, that is…the plaque says 1935), he went on to amateur church league baseball until his skills there helped earn him a spot on the roster of the minor league Louisville Colonels (then, a Red Sox farm system affiliate) as their regular shortstop in 1938. In 1939, the Red Sox performed a famous lopsided transaction that sent Reese to the Brooklyn Dodgers for $35K and 4 PTBNL. The rest is truly baseball history…from 1940-1943, and 1946-1958 Reese was a high-quality fixture for the Dodgers, recognized more today for his ‘open embrace’ of Jackie Robinson in the squad than for his WAR or BABIP. Reese was always a fixture in the Louisville area during and after his baseball and broadcasting career, he died here in 1999. You can find a street here named after him, and his statue in front of Louisville Slugger Field is a well known place to meet before a Louisville Bats game. It is still and has always been a superstitious practice of mine to ‘touch his cleats (on the statue)’ for good luck whenever leaving a Bats game.He was a Dodger...

Ferdinand Maurice “Ferdie” Schupp (1891-1971) Inducted 2011
Ferdie was one of Manual Baseball’s first ‘stars,’ even though he left the school two months before graduating. Schupp started his professional career pitching for the Decatur (Illinois) Commodores of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League in 1912. The following year, at age 22, he signed with the New York Giants (and John McGraw) and the southpaw saw regular starts in 1916, leading up to his appearances in the 1917 World Series (and posting a 21-7 W-L record with a 1.95 ERA during the 1917 season). His prime achievement during the series was his 5-0 shutout of the White Sox in Game 4. Schupp was sent to the Cardinals in 1919, then to the Brooklyn Robins in 1921 and the Chicago White Sox in 1922, ending his career in the Major Leagues with a 61-39 W-L record and 3.32 ERA. From there, he spent 1922-1930 in the Minor Leagues for the likes of the Kansas City Blues, the Seattle Indians, the Indianapolis Indians, the Fort Worth Panthers, and the Minneapolis Millers (never appearing any higher than AA). Schupp died in Los Angeles, CA at the age of 80.Ferdie with the Brooklyn Robins, c. 1921

Irvine Franklin “Irv” Jeffries (1905-1982) Inducted 1998
There have been several baseball players with the surname “Irvine,” and plenty of those named “Irvin” but Irv Jeffries is the only “Irvine” in the major or minor leagues, according to Baseball Reference. Irv Jeffries was one of the first of Manual’s athletes to earn national recognition of any sort…for the sake of this tour, yes, it was for Baseball. He was an All-State performer in all 3 ‘big sports’ during his day; football, baseball, and basketball (being the captain of Manual’s squad in 1925). Jeffries spent a couple of years on a big league roster, but spent most of his career as a minor leaguer. After high school he attended University of Kentucky for a couple of years and got his professional career started in squads for the Akron Tyrites and Dallas Steers (1928-1929) and the Toledo Mud Hens in 1930, Irv was called up to the Chicago White Sox as a 3B and SS from 1930-1931, after which he returned to minor league ball with the American Association St Paul Saints from 1932-1933. In October 1933, he was drafted by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft and was traded 2 months later to the Phillies, where he remained on the active roster until July 1934 when he was traded to the minor league Baltimore Orioles (then of the International League). Irv spent the next 3 years in Baltimore, in 1937 he went to the Montreal Royals (IL Pirates affiliate at the time) for one season only, then to the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League from 1938-1939. Jeffries ended his career with the Fort Worth Cats in the Texas League in 1940, retiring with a major league triple slash of .234/.284/.321 in 544 plate appearances over 3 seasons and minor league triple slash of .302/.302/.434 in 6,124 plate appearances over 12 seasons. During the 1940s, Irv was a scout for the White Sox and managed the Kingsport Cherokees of the Appalachian League for part of 1949. Irv was born in Louisville and along the way came back here, where he died at the age of 76.The one and only Irvine, with his million dollar smile...

Morris Benton “Moe” Thacker (1934-1997) Inducted 1998
Last but not least, featured in these hallowed halls is our own beloved former Chicago Cub Moe Thacker. Moe was a beast during his school days; he lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. He was the Captain of Manual’s State Championship Baseball team in 1952 and would be the last Manual alumnus to make it to the major leagues. Thacker was best known as a catcher, avoiding college and heading to professional baseball right out of high school; signing with the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent. His career in their system began with the Fond du Lac Panthers of the Wisconsin State League in 1952, then the Joplin Miners of the Western Association in 1953 and the Norfolk Tars of the Piedmont League in 1954. 1955 saw Thacker debuting in AA ball on the roster with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association, then breaking out in 1956 with AAA clubs Richmond Virginians (International League) and the Denver Bears (American Association) before returning to AA in 1957 with the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association. Thacker would never make the major league Yankees as an “unknown transaction” sent him to the Chicago Cubs in 1958, where he spent time in the minors with the Fort Worth Cats before playing 11 games with the Cubs. 1959 started with Moe back in Fort Worth (by this time a AAA affiliate) for the entire year. He spent 1960 in both the Houston Buffs (American Association, AAA level) and the Cubs (54 games), and again in 1961 with Houston and the Cubs (25 games). 1962 would be Moe’s only all Cubs season, playing 65 games and boasting a less-than-formidable .187/.287/.234, something much less than solid numbers. In October of 1962 Moe was traded to the St Louis Cardinals in a 6-player deal and only played 3 games with 4 plate appearances for the birds, compiling 3 strikeouts. He spent the rest of his professional career in the minors for St Louis, retiring after the 1964 season with a lifetime .177/.290/.227 in the major leagues. Moe was a successful businessman in the fast food industry and died in Louisville at the age of 63. For me, May 21st will always be “Moe Thacker Day,” a personal reminder that being a Cub just ain’t easy…for Moe it was less easy than most.My favorite picture of Moe, whatta set o' chompers...the true face of a Catcher!

I will have to keep up with future inductions, but judging from the range of talent expressed here, I’m not sure if any baseball players will ever make their debut in the Hall of Fame…at least, not until another new talent appears.

UPDATE (9/13/11) - since posting this, I've done some additional research and have identified 8 additional Manual alumni who have played professional baseball, that is to say that they, for the most part, at least spent time on minor league rosters. I will continue research soon and post a follow-up to this one, as an addendum.

UPDATE #2 (9/29/11) - the second part of this post is up NOW, please check it out! More obscure and essential Baseball mayhem!

Monday, September 5, 2011

9/5/11 Cincinnati Reds 3, Chicago Cubs 4

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 1 of 3


The overall tone and tenacity of the Cubs/Reds contests this season has changed considerably compared to last season. As most Cubs fans know, the Dusty Baker Tendency Chart has always revealed what we already know: his window for baseball success only comes once every few years or so, once it’s closed, it’s closed for quite some time. I know it’s hard to explain this to your favorite Reds fan, but all you have to do is draw a chart of Dusty’s postseason success on a napkin for each year and this will tell the story just fine. Where it seems the Reds’ roster has indeed improved a bit, leave it to the toothpick guy to make decisions at critical points that don’t add up on a regular basis…they only add up once in a while.

But, I must digress. Let’s get to the game. Hell, yes, Matt Garza. This guy on a Cubs team with more precision and fundamental offense would have been stellar by the general population’s statistical basis (can you imagine him as a member of the Cubs’ 2008 rotation? MY GOODNESS!) but he’s on this team, this year, and for every outing where his performance is de-ballooned by the offense (and even defense), he seems to pull a magical outing once in a while. Today’s game was one of those once-in-a-whiles. 7.2 IP, 6H, 3R (only one earned, the other two due to errors by Reed Johnson and Starlin Castro), 8 flaming strikeouts, 3 walks.

It was the Cubs’ 5th inning that made the difference in offensive support of Garza; with 2 outs Castro and Johnson reach safely and are driven in by a shocking opposite field Aramis Ramirez single . Jeff Baker (HEY!) responds with a double, Ramirez scores on a wild pitch. The Cubs have the lead for the rest of the game, despite the error-capitalization by the Reds in the 7th and 8th innings.

The truly unfortunate side of this story is Dontrelle Willis’ great outings for the Reds with no W recorded in a decision to date. Unlike some other players, Willis is the guy everybody loves, no matter who he’s pitching for, myself included. He was fantastic in the minors this year, but he has been unable to bring this fantastic to the Reds, and baseball fans around the world are profoundly confused by this. He began the game with a remarkable set of 1st through 3rd inning, 29 pitches worth of “3 up, 3 down” outs. When he started issuing passes in the 4th, yes, even I held my head in my hands and murmured the same thing everybody else was…”This guy just can’t get a break at the Major League level.”

But, hey…not so sad because it’s the Reds!

This was Devin Mesoraco’s first MLB start, in the 7th he gets his first MLB RBI on a groundout to short, scoring AAA teammate Yonder Alonso…whose Wrigley woes in 2011 continued as he lost a Reed Johnson ball in the ivy for a Ground Rule Double.

Joey Votto Flies into a Double Play, the second time in a week I’ve seen this happen (see this game for the other one. Earlier this season, I saw not one, but two PIDP (popped into double play) for the first time ever. This season has been a boon for oddball firsts (and in waves) for my scorebook.

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