Thursday, December 31, 2009

PTWSW #31: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals

Manager: Frankie Frisch
Record: 95-58
Ballpark: Sportsman's Park
Owner: Sam Breadon
GM: Branch Rickey
Coaches: Mike Gonzalez, Buzzy Wares

Future Hall of Famers: Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Frankie Frisch, Burleigh Grimes, Jesse Haines, Joe Medwick, Dazzy Vance

All-Stars: Dizzy Dean, Frankie Frisch, Pepper Martin, Joe Medwick

Team Leaders, Batting

Ripper Collins, .333
OBP: Ripper Collins, .393
SLG: Ripper Collins, .615 (NL leader)
OPS: Ripper Collins, 1.008 (NL leader)
2B: Ripper Collins, Joe Medwick, 40
3B: Joe Medwick, 18 (NL leader)
HR: Ripper Collins, 35 (NL leader)
RBI: Ripper Collins, 128
BB: Ripper Collins, 57
SB: Pepper Martin, 23 (NL leader)

Team Leaders, Pitching

Dizzy Dean, 30 (NL leader)
SO: Dizzy Dean, 195 (NL leader)
ERA: Dizzy Dean, 2.66
IP: Dizzy Dean, 311.2
CG: Dizzy Dean, 24
SHO: Dizzy Dean, 7 (NL leader)
K/BB: Paul Dean, 2.88
SV: Dizzy Dean, 7

(You think Ol' Diz might have been their ace?)


Oldest Player:
Dazzy Vance (b. March 4, 1891)

Youngest Player: Paul Dean (b. August 14, 1912)

First to Leave Us: Chick Fullis (d. March 28, 1946)

Last Survivor: Clarence Heise (d. May 30, 1999)

First in Majors: Dazzy Vance (debut April 16, 1915)

Last in Majors: Joe Medwick (final game July 25, 1948)

First to Play For the Franchise: Jesse Haines (April 14, 1920)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Joe Medwick (July 25, 1948)

Pre-union Team: The 1930-32 Giants had four each: Pat Crawford (1930), Chick Fullis, Francis Healy, Jim Mooney (1931-32) and Bill Walker.

Reunion Team: Like the previous two Cardinal champs, the reunion team was in Cincinnati. The 1937 Reds had four: Kiddo Davis, Spud Davis, Bill Hallahan and Lew Riggs. They were tied with the 1940 Dodgers, however. In addition to player-manager Leo Durocher, Brooklyn had Tex Carleton, Joe Medwick and Gene Moore that year.


Paul Dean, no-hitter on September 21
Dizzy Dean, NL MVP

Season Summary

When you think of the Cardinals these days you probably think of a quiet, unassuming Midwestern franchise rich with tradition and class. Back in the mid-'30s it was a different story. This group was a dirty, scrappy, raggedy bunch that fought and clawed its way to victory. That reputation earned them the nickname "The Gashouse Gang," since their lack of decorum resembled a bunch of kids from the wrong side of the tracks.

For two seasons Dizzy Dean had been the ace of some pretty average Cardinal staffs; in 1934 his younger brother Paul came onboard and gave St. Louis a formidable 1-2 punch. With a supporting cast of Tex Carleton, Bill Walker and Bill Hallahan, the Cards' pitching finished second in ERA+ and first in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Dizzy won the MVP based on his 30-7 record and 2.66 ERA, while simultaneously embodying the team's free-spirited everyman personality. On offense they led the NL in batting average, slugging average, doubles and stolen bases, while they were second in triples, homers and OPS+. All told, they scored the most runs in the Senior Circuit. Their fielding percentage and DER were both exactly league average.

The Cardinals' road to the World Series wasn't an easy one. They spent less than two weeks total in first place during the season, and they were stuck behind the Giants and Cubs most of the way. The final month was key. The Cardinals went 21-7 in September while their rivals both had losing records. Particularly damaging was the Giants' losing six of their last seven, a run which allowed the Cardinals to reach first place at just the right time. They won the pennant by only two games.

The Cards' World Series opponent was the Detroit Tigers, whom they beat in seven games. The Dean brothers were credited with all four St. Louis victories. Game 7 was an 11-0 Cardinal rout, but in one last display of Gashouse behavior, Joe Medwick spiked Tiger third baseman Marv Owen in the sixth, causing a fight and angering the Detroit crowd. The Motor City fans pelted him with debris after he returned to left field, and the scene was so bad that Medwick had to be removed from the game for his own safety.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

PTWSW #30: The 1933 New York Giants

Manager: Bill Terry
Record: 91-61
Ballpark: Polo Grounds
Owner: Charles Stoneham
Coaches: Tommy Clarke, Al Smith, Frank Snyder (Interesting fact: Smith was a 25-year-old pitcher who made his Major League debut the next season. In 1933 his role was throwing for batting practice.)

Future Hall of Famers: Carl Hubbell, Travis Jackson, Mel Ott, Bill Terry

All-Stars: Carl Hubbell, Lefty O'Doul, Hal Schumacher, Bill Terry

Team Leaders, Batting

Bill Terry, .322
OBP: Bill Terry, .375
SLG: Mel Ott, .467
OPS: Mel Ott, .834
2B: Mel Ott, 36
3B: Johnny Vergez, 6
HR: Mel Ott, 23
RBI: Mel Ott, 103
BB: Mel Ott, 75 (NL leader)
SB: Kiddo Davis, 10

Team Leaders, Pitching

Carl Hubbell, 23 (NL leader)
SO: Carl Hubbell, 156
ERA: Carl Hubbell, 1.66 (NL leader)
IP: Carl Hubbell, 308.2 (NL leader)
CG: Carl Hubbell, 22
SHO: Carl Hubbell, 10 (NL leader)
K/BB: Carl Hubbell, 3.32 (NL leader)
SV: Hi Bell, Carl Hubbell, 5

(They didn't call Hubbell "The Meal Ticket" for nothing.)


Oldest Player:
Dolf Luque (b. August 4, 1890)

Youngest Player: Jack Salveson (b. January 5, 1914)

First to Leave Us: Hi Bell (d. June 7, 1949)

Last Survivor: Harry Danning (d. November 29, 2004)

First in Majors: Dolf Luque (debut May 20, 1914)

Last in Majors: Mel Ott (final game July 11, 1947)

First to Play For the Franchise: Travis Jackson (September 27, 1922)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Mel Ott (July 11, 1947)

Pre-union Team: The 1925-29 Reds had Hughie Critz, Chuck Dressen and Dolf Luque; the 1930 Cardinals had Hi Bell, Gus Mancuso and Homer Peel; and the 1931-32 Robins/Dodgers had Watty Clark, Dolf Luque (1931), Lefty O'Doul and Paul Richards (1932).

Reunion Team: Many had two, none had more.


Carl Hubbell, NL MVP

Season Summary

1932 had been a season of change for the Giants. John McGraw, their iconic manager, had resigned in June amidst health problems shortly after his team fell into last place. Managerial duties were then bestowed upon first baseman Bill Terry, a future Hall of Famer and by then a veteran star. When sixth place was the best finish the Giants could muster, Terry knew he had to clean house for 1933. His philosophy? Improve the defense. With several talented pitchers already on the roster (their team strikeout-to-walk ratio was second-best in 1932), a little aid in the field was sure to put them over the top. Gone were poor fielders like catcher Shanty Hogan, shortstop Doc Marshall and center fielder Freddie Lindstrom. Replacing them were superior glovemen Gus Mancuso, Blondy Ryan and Kiddo Davis, respectively. To say that the strategy worked would be an understatement. The team DER jumped from fifth-best to number one. Their ERA+ jumped from a second-worst 97 to a league-leading 118. Their offense took a slight hit, with their team OPS+ decreasing by four points (96 to 92), but the improved run prevention more than made up for it.

The Giants didn't run away with the pennant. They were never out of first after June 4, but the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates all made them sweat at various points. The Giants made a spectacular trade on June 16 when they sent backup first baseman Sam Leslie (who wasn't going to unseat Terry) to Brooklyn for Watty Clark and Lefty O'Doul. Clark didn't do much, but O'Doul added valuable outfield depth with a 146 OPS+ after the trade. New York spent the last month and a half with a fairly comfortable lead, and they won the pennant by five games.

The Giants hadn't been in the World Series since 1924, when they fell to the Washington Senators. The 1933 Fall Classic rematched them with those same Senators. This time the Giants would have their revenge, beating the Nats in five games. Carl Hubbell, who'd been awarded the NL MVP for his 23-12 record and 1.66 ERA, validated the voters' decision by pitching masterfully in both his starts. Washington scored three runs off him in the 20 innings he pitched, but none was earned. The Giants won both games. New York won Games 4 and 5 in extra innings, with Blondy Ryan's eleventh-inning single and Mel Ott's tenth-inning homer the victorious blows. 43-year-old Dolf Luque, the troop's eldest soldier, pitched out of a jam in the bottom of the tenth in Game 5 to seal the Giants' world championship.


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Baseball Between the Numbers

Monday, December 28, 2009

PTWSW #29: The 1932 New York Yankees

Manager: Joe McCarthy
Record: 107-47
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Owner: Col. Jacob Ruppert
GM: Ed Barrow
Coaches: Jimmy Burke, Art Fletcher, Cy Perkins

Future Hall of Famers: Earle Combs, Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Red Ruffing, Babe Ruth, Joe Sewell

Team Leaders, Batting

Lou Gehrig, .349
OBP: Babe Ruth, .489 (AL leader)
SLG: Babe Ruth, .661
OPS: Babe Ruth, 1.150
2B: Lou Gehrig, 42
3B: Tony Lazzeri, 16
HR: Babe Ruth, 41
RBI: Lou Gehrig, 151
BB: Babe Ruth, 130 (AL leader)
SB: Ben Chapman, 38 (AL leader)

Team Leaders, Pitching

Lefty Gomez, 24
SO: Red Ruffing, 190 (AL leader)
ERA: Red Ruffing, 3.09
CG: Red Ruffing, 22
SHO: Johnny Allen, Red Ruffing, 3
K/BB: Lefty Gomez, 1.68
IP: Lefty Gomez, 265.1
SV: Johnny Allen, Wilcy Moore, 4


Oldest Player:
Herb Pennock (b. February 10, 1894)

Youngest Player: Frankie Crosetti (b. October 4, 1910)

First to Leave Us: Lou Gehrig (d. June 2, 1941)

Last Survivor: Charlie Devens (d. August 13, 2003)

First in Majors: Herb Pennock (debut May 14, 1912)

Last in Majors: Frankie Crosetti (final game October 3, 1948)

First to Play For the Franchise: Babe Ruth (April 14, 1920)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Frankie Crosetti (October 3, 1948)

Pre-union Team: There were three Red Sox teams with two: 1915-17, 1919 with Herb Pennock and Babe Ruth, 1926-30 with Danny MacFayden and Red Ruffing, and 1931 with Danny MacFayden and Wilcy Moore. Also included are the 1927-28 Indians with Jumbo Brown and Joe Sewell.

Reunion Team: The 1934 Red Sox had six: Dusty Cooke, Hank Johnson, Lyn Lary, Herb Pennock, George Pipgras and Gordon Rhodes.


Lou Gehrig, four home runs in one game on June 3
Tony Lazzeri, cycle on June 3

Season Summary

Like so many great Yankee teams, the 1932 team was known for its offense. Despite playing in a park that vastly favored pitchers, the Yankee hitters scored the most runs in the American League. Their batting and slugging averages were second-best to the Athletics, but they made up for it by drawing 105 more walks than the White Elephants. The Yanks' team ERA+ was a middle-of-the-pack 102, mainly due to that pitcher's park they played in. Still, they allowed the AL's fewest runs per game and led in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Their defense was nothing special, with only a fifth-best DER.

Like so many teams that win 107 games, there was a significant gap between the Yankees and the next-best team. They were never out of first place after May 20, and their lead was never smaller than four games after June 11. They acquired two talented-but-struggling Red Sox pitchers, Danny MacFayden and Wilcy Moore, in separate midseason trades; both moves paid off when the hurlers' fortunes improved in New York. In the end, the Yankees won the pennant by 13 games.

Like so many teams that win the pennant by a double-digit margin and face a comparatively weak team in the World Series, it only took four games for the Yankees to vanquish the Cubs. The Bronx Bombers outscored them 37-19 for the Series, led by Lou Gehrig's three homers and 1.718 OPS. The most famous home run of the Series though, belonged to Babe Ruth. In the fifth inning of Game 3, with two strikes on him, Ruth pointed a finger toward the field; he delivered a round-tripper on the next pitch. The incident became known as the Babe's "Called Shot," though it's a source of debate to this day whether Ruth intended to predict his homer or if he meant something else by his pointing. Either way, the ambiguous gesture has gone down in history as one of baseball's legendary moments.


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

PTWSW #28: The 1931 St. Louis Cardinals

Manager: Gabby Street
Record: 101-53
Ballpark: Sportsman's Park
Owner: Sam Breadon
GM: Branch Rickey
Coaches: Ray Blades, Buzzy Wares

Future Hall of Famers: Jim Bottomley, Frankie Frisch, Burleigh Grimes, Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines

Team Leaders, Batting

Chick Hafey, .349 (NL leader)
OBP: Chick Hafey, .404
SLG: Chick Hafey, .569
OPS: Chick Hafey, .973
2B: Sparky Adams, 46 (NL leader)
3B: George Watkins, 13
HR: Chick Hafey, 16
RBI: Chick Hafey, 95
BB: Charlie Gelbert, 54
SB: Frankie Frisch, 28 (NL leader)

Team Leaders, Pitching

Bill Hallahan, 19 (NL leader)
SO: Bill Hallahan, 159 (NL leader)
ERA: Syl Johnson, 3.00
IP: Bill Hallahan, 248.2
CG: Burleigh Grimes, 17
SHO: Paul Derringer, 4
K/BB: Syl Johnson, 2.83
SV: Jim Lindsey, 7


Oldest Player:
Technically it was manager Gabby Street (b. September 30, 1882), but his only playing time came when he inserted himself at catcher for the first three innings of a game against Brooklyn. Among regulars it was third-string catcher Mike Gonzalez (b. September 24, 1890).

Youngest Player: Paul Derringer (b. October 17, 1906)

First to Leave Us: Jimmie Wilson (d. May 31, 1947)

Last Survivor: Ray Cunningham (d. July 30, 2005). Centenarian Cunningham was the oldest living former Major Leaguer at the time of his death.

First in Majors: Once again it was manager Street on September 13, 1904, but among regulars it was Mike Gonzalez on September 28, 1912.

Last in Majors: Paul Derringer (final game September 27, 1945)

First to Play For the Franchise: Mike Gonzalez (1915)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Pepper Martin (October 1, 1944)

Pre-union Team: The 1925-27 Cubs had three: Sparky Adams, Mike Gonzalez and Tony Kaufmann.

Reunion Team: The 1933-34 Reds had eight each, and eleven overall between them: Sparky Adams, Jim Bottomley, Paul Derringer, Taylor Douthit (1933), Jake Flowers (1934), Chick Hafey, Andy High (1933), Syl Johnson (1934), Jim Lindsey (1934), Wally Roettger (1933) and Allyn Stout. You might assume it was because the Reds hired Larry MacPhail out of the Cards' minor league system to be their GM around this time, but in fact, MacPhail didn't join the Reds until December of 1933. Also, MacPhail's Columbus team wasn't part of the Cardinals' minor league system until 1931, by which point these players (obviously) had all reached the majors. As far as I can tell, Branch Rickey simply had a good relationship with the Cincinnati franchise.


Jim Bottomley, six-hit game on August 5
Frankie Frisch, NL MVP

Season Summary

The Cardinals' biggest strength was their pitching staff, which led the NL with a 114 ERA+, was second in strikeout-to-walk ratio and allowed the second-fewest runs. Their Defensive Efficiency Ratio was slightly below-average, which made those punchouts especially valuable. Their offense was built on speed; they led the league in doubles and stolen bases, and were second in triples. MVP Frankie Frisch led the circuit with 28 swipes, and four of the NL's top five in that category were Redbirds. Only George Watkins and Chick Hafey reached double digits in homers, with 13 and 16, respectively. It all worked, as St. Louis' offense was a close second to the Cubs' in runs scored. The pennant race wasn't especially eventful, as the Cardinals nearly led wire-to-wire, falling behind only briefly in April and May. Their final lead over the second-place Giants was 13 games.

The World Series gave the Cardinals a rematch with the Athletics, who'd beaten them in last year's Fall Classic. St. Louis would emerge victorious in seven games this time. The talk of the Series was center fielder Pepper Martin, who batted .500 (12-for-24), hit four doubles and a home run, drew two walks and stole five bases in the septet. On the pitching side the star was "Wild Bill" Hallahan, who allowed only one earned run in 18.1 innings. When the Athletics threatened in the final inning of Game 7, manager Street called on Hallahan, who retired Max Bishop for the final out.


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

PTWSW #27: The 1930 Philadelphia Athletics

Manager: Connie Mack
Record: 102-52
Ballpark: Shibe Park
Owner: Connie Mack and The Shibe Family
Coaches: Eddie Collins, Kid Gleason, Earle Mack

Future Hall of Famers: Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons

Team Leaders, Batting

Al Simmons, .381 (AL leader)
OBP: Jimmie Foxx, .429
SLG: Al Simmons, .708
OPS: Al Simmons, 1.130
2B: Mickey Cochrane, 42
3B: Al Simmons, 16
HR: Jimmie Foxx, 37
RBI: Al Simmons, 165
BB: Max Bishop, 128
SB: Bing Miller, 13

Team Leaders, Pitching

Lefty Grove, 28 (AL leader)
SO: Lefty Grove, 209 (AL leader)
ERA: Lefty Grove, 2.54 (AL leader)
IP: George Earnshaw, 296
CG: Lefty Grove, 22
SHO: George Earnshaw, 3 (AL leader)
K/BB: Lefty Grove, 3.48 (AL leader)
SV: Lefty Grove, 9 (AL leader)


Oldest Player: Jack Quinn (b. July 1, 1883)

Youngest Player: Glenn Liebhardt (b. July 31, 1910)

First to Leave Us: Jack Quinn (d. April 17, 1946). Not exactly a shocker, as he was the oldest guy on the team.

Last Survivor: Dib Williams (d. April 2, 1992). Williams, the second-youngest player on the team, died less than a month after Liebhardt, the youngest player.

First in Majors: Technically it was player-coach Eddie Collins on September 17, 1906. For guys who had a more significant on-field contribution than three measly pinch-hitting appearances it was Jack Quinn on April 15, 1909.

Last in Majors: Doc Cramer (final game May 12, 1948)

First to Play For the Franchise: Collins again on the same date as before, but excepting him it was Wally Schang on May 9, 1913.

Last to Play For the Franchise: Al Simmons (July 1, 1944)

Pre-union Team: None had more than two. The ones with two include the 1918 White Sox, 1921 Yankees, 1923-25 Red Sox, 1925-26 White Sox and 1926-27 Browns.

Reunion Team: The 1936-37 Red Sox had six each: Doc Cramer, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Pinky Higgins (1937), Eric McNair, Bing Miller (1936) and Rube Walberg. Like the previous A's dynasty, Connie Mack had to dismantle the team after a few years. Also like last time, the Red Sox were happy to load up on his players. The White Sox were a prominent buyer too, with Jimmie Dykes, George Earnshaw, Mule Haas and Al Simmons playing for the 1934-35 Pale Hose.


Lefty Grove, Pitching Triple Crown

Season Summary

Like the previous year, the Athletics led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio. It was the only statistic where they dominated; however, they had no real weaknesses elsewhere. Their ERA+ was second in the AL and they also allowed the second-fewest runs. Lefty Grove was the undisputed ace of staff, leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Their offensive picture looked strikingly similar; they were second-best in both team OPS+ and runs scored, with Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx once again serving as the main power sources. Mickey Cochrane also made a significant contribution with his bat, while Jimmie Dykes and Max Bishop utilized their on-base skills to keep the machine rolling. Defensively they were strong too, with the third-best DER and the top fielding percentage. While they spent the first half battling the Indians and Senators for first place, an eight-game winning streak in July put them on top for good. They won the pennant by eight games.

The A's beat the Cardinals in six games to win their second straight World Series. If they'd awarded the World Series MVP in those days it surely would've gone to George Earnshaw. The tall right-hander pitched a complete game victory in Game 2, threw seven shutout innings in Game 5 (which the A's later won) and came back on only a day's rest to pitch another complete game victory in the clinching Game 6. In 25 World Series innings he struck out 19, walked seven and allowed only two earned runs.


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Monday, December 21, 2009

PTWSW #26: The 1929 Philadelphia Athletics

Manager: Connie Mack
Record: 104-46
Ballpark: Shibe Park
Owner: Connie Mack and The Shibe Family
Coaches: Eddie Collins, Kid Gleason, Earle Mack

Future Hall of Famers: Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons

Team Leaders, Batting

Al Simmons, .365
OBP: Jimmie Foxx, .463 (AL leader)
SLG: Al Simmons, .642
OPS: Jimmie Foxx, 1.088
2B: Mule Haas, Al Simmons, 41
3B: Bing Miller, 16
HR: Al Simmons, 34
RBI: Al Simmons, 157 (AL leader)
BB: Max Bishop, 128 (AL leader)
SB: Bing Miller, 24

Team Leaders, Pitching

George Earnshaw, 24 (AL leader)
SO: Lefty Grove, 170 (AL leader)
ERA: Lefty Grove, 2.81 (AL leader)
IP: Lefty Grove, 275.1
CG: Rube Walberg, 20
SHO: George Earnshaw, Rube Walberg, 3
K/BB: Lefty Grove, 2.10 (AL leader)
SV: Bill Shores, 7


Oldest Player: Jack Quinn (b. July 1, 1883)

Youngest Player: Eric McNair (b. April 12, 1909)

First to Leave Us: Jack Quinn (d. April 17, 1946)

Last Survivor: Rudy Miller (d. January 22, 1994)

First in Majors: Eddie Collins debuted on September 17, 1906, but he was a player-coach who saw a much heavier emphasis on the second half of that title. Among regulars it was Jack Quinn, whose debut came on April 15, 1909.

Last in Majors: Doc Cramer (final game May 12, 1948)

First to Play For the Franchise: Once again it's Collins, who began his career under Connie Mack in 1906, but if you want to count only regulars it was Cy Perkins, who debuted with the A's on September 25, 1915.

Last to Play For the Franchise: Al Simmons (final game July 1, 1944). Simmons came on as a player-coach during World War II hoping he could help the team with his bat and reach 3,000 hits. He only got into four games that year.

Pre-union Team: The 1923 Red Sox had George Burns, Howard Ehmke and Jack Quinn.

Reunion Team: Red Sox again! The 1936 team had six of these guys: Doc Cramer, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Eric McNair, Bing Miller and Rube Walberg.

Season Summary

On offense it was all about a league-leading .365 on-base percentage and the powerful 1-2 punch of Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons. Mack's boys scored the second-most runs in the league and hit the second-most homers. Their biggest strength, however, was the pitching staff. Led by Lefty Grove, Rube Walberg and George Earnshaw, the Athletics put up an ERA+ of 123 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.18, both of which led the AL handily. Their DER of .703 was also tops in the Junior Circuit.

The A's had come up just short in the 1928 pennant race; this time they wouldn't be denied. After a month they'd worked their way into first place, then they began a 39-9 run that catapulted them far ahead of the pack. It wasn't even close the rest of the way, and by season's end they would have an 18-game lead over the second-place Yankees.

Instead of one of his aces, Mack started little-used veteran Howard Ehmke in Game 1 of the World Series against the Cubs. Ehmke had gotten time off to scout the Cubs at the end of the season, and he made the most of his opportunity by striking out 13 batters (then a World Series record) and delivering a Philadelphia victory. They'd split the next two games. In Game 4 the A's entered the bottom of the seventh trailing 8-0 and exited leading 10-8, the same score by which they'd win. It remains the largest deficit overcome in a postseason game. The Cubs didn't seem demoralized in Game 5, as they took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. The Athletics never gave up though, scoring three runs that frame (capped by Bing Miller's two-out RBI double) to win the game and the Series.


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Sunday, December 20, 2009

New York's Finest

It seems almost unthinkable in today's sports landscape; at one time, just a little over 50 years ago, New York City was home to not just two, but three Major League Baseball teams. As most fans know (well, the ones with a sense of history, anyway), between 1903 and 1957 the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers were all based in the Big Apple. There was no shortage of fans eager to support the American Pastime in the state where much of baseball as we know it today originated.

Back in the 1950's New Yorkers used to debate who was the best center fielder in town: Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider? When I was compiling the data for my Best by Position 1954-2008 series I discovered that they were more than a trio of fine ballplayers, they were the three best center fielders in baseball during that era. Each one is in the Hall of Fame today, and rightfully so. It got me thinking: What are the odds that the three best players at one position all played in the same city? Was there ever a time when New York was stacked at another position? Which seasons featured the strongest groupings at any position?

I figured the best way to get some answers was to turn to Sean Smith's incredible WAR Database. I used Baseball Reference to find out who each team's starters were each year, then added up the WAR totals to determine when New York was strongest and weakest at each position.

I'll admit right away that this method isn't perfect. For instance, certain players' values may be distorted by time spent at other positions. In other cases there may have been no established starter at a position, costing a team some value in that season slot because their games played leader didn't see as much action as a full-time player would (Jack Lelivelt's 36 games in center field were the most on the 1912 Highlanders (Yankees), for instance). That's to say nothing of the incomplete fielding and baserunning information for pre-Retrosheet years, which makes WAR less comprehensive for seasons before 1954. Still, WAR is better than any other stat of its kind, and great players shine through even with missing data. For our purposes it'll do just fine.

Anyway, enough talk! You want to see how each position fared! Let's go!


Best Season: 1951 (15.5 WAR)

1951 was a magical summer in New York; the Yankees won the AL pennant while the Dodgers and Giants went to a three-game playoff over the NL flag. What made these teams so great? Great catching, obviously! Roy Campanella (7 WAR) won the MVP with the Dodgers, Yogi Berra (5.1) won the same award for the Yankees and Wes Westrum (3.4), while not as big a star as the other two, certainly made the Giants strong behind the plate. In fact, the years 1950 through 1953 make up the top four seasons on the catcher list.

Worst Season: 1904 (-2 WAR)

Bill Bergen, a fascinatingly bad hitter, contributed -1.8 WAR for the Superbas (Dodgers) while Deacon McGuire and John Warner each contributed -0.1 for the Highlanders (Yankees) and Giants, respectively. In fact, the 1904 catchers are the only group in this study where every single player has a negative value. Surprising then, that the Giants won the pennant, the Highlanders narrowly missed theirs and only the Superbas were a loser.

First Base

Best Season: 1934 (20.9 WAR)

The Pride of the Yankees, the Iron Horse himself, Lou Gehrig led the way here with 10.7 WAR. Fellow Hall of Famer Bill Terry was second with 6.2 and the Dodgers' Sam Leslie turned in a very good 4. Of course, this was the year Terry sarcastically asked if Brooklyn was still in the league during the preseason. The Dodgers got the last laugh by defeating the Giants in the final two games to cost them the pennant. Terry's bat and glove may have been worth 6.2 on the field, but his mouth was worth -2 off it.

Worst Season: 1950 (3.3 WAR)

As they usually did in that era, the Yankees won the pennant. Joe Collins' 0.2 WAR wasn't a big reason why. This isn't entirely fair though, as backups Johnny Mize and Tommy Henrich provided plenty of value at first base. Tookie Gilbert's -0.5 for the Giants took a chunk out of Gil Hodges' 3.6 for the Dodgers.

Second Base

Best Season: 1950 (18.5 WAR)

1950 may not have been great for New York first basemen, but the keystoners found it much to their liking. The best of the three? Eddie Stanky with 8 for the Giants. Second-best? Jackie Robinson, with 7.5. Who would've thought that the guy who supposedly couldn't hit, run or throw was actually more valuable than the great Jackie Robinson for one season? The Yankees' Jerry Coleman was worth 3, which wasn't too shabby either.

Worst Season: 1917 (1.6 WAR)

The Giants' Buck Herzog was worth 1.9, Brooklyn's George Cutshaw was worth 0.4 and the Yankees' Fritz Maisel was worth -0.7. Nothing much to see here.

Third Base

Best Season: 1938 (15.2 WAR)

The only reason this season made it is because the Giants played Mel Ott (8.7) at the hot corner for most of the year. Red Rolfe (4.3) was an established star for the Yankees, and Cookie Lavagetto (2.2) was solid for Brooklyn.

Worst Season: 1925, 1937 (0.6 WAR)

Strangely enough, the year just before the best one tied for the worst one. Rolfe (3) was his usual good self, but the Giants' Lou Chiozza and the Dodgers' Joe Stripp both put up WAR values of -1.2, signaling a need for both teams to upgrade at the position. 1925 saw three third basemen who were all hovering around replacement level, with Joe Dugan (0.5 for the Yankees), Freddie Lindstrom (0.4 for the Giants) and Jimmy Johnston (-0.3 for the Robins).


Best Season: 1950 (15.7 WAR)

There's that year again, 1950! Yankee Phil Rizzuto had the best year of his career and won the MVP with a 7.1 WAR. The Giants' Alvin Dark (4.7) and the Dodgers' Pee Wee Reese (3.9) turned in strong seasons of their own. Like catcher, the top four seasons on this list are 1950 through 1953, with the same three players representing each team each year.

Worst Season: 1925 (-1.8 WAR)

Travis Jackson contributed 0.9 WAR for the Giants. It wasn't great, but hey, the Giants finished in second place. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, Johnny Mitchell was WARing -0.6 for Brooklyn and Pee-Wee Wanninger was dragging down the Yankees with a feeble -2.1. Both teams finished with losing records.

Left Field

Best Season: 1921 (20.2 WAR)

OK, so most of it is Babe Ruth's 14. This was the year the Bambino set a record with 59 home runs, more than twice as many as the next-best guy. George Burns' 3.6 for the Giants and Zack Wheat's 2.6 for the Robins were both respectable.

Worst Season: 1908 (1 WAR)

More not-much-to-see-here: Jake Stahl did 0.9 for the Highlanders, John Hummel did 0.3 for the Superbas and Spike Shannon did -0.2 for the Giants. The Giants got rid of Shannon and picked up the much better Moose McCormick that July, after which point they surged ahead in the pennant race. Perhaps if they'd jettisoned Shannon earlier in the season "Merkle's Boner" wouldn't have become an issue.

Center Field

Best Season: 1955 (27.7 WAR)

Was there ever any doubt it'd be these three? Willie (9.3), Mickey (9.5) and the Duke (8.9) all turned in outstanding seasons in 1955, earning not only the highest total position score for any year, but the most balanced of any top season. 1954 to 1957 were the top four seasons on the center field table, with these three representing their teams each of those years. Ya know, I think it's safe to say that the 1950's was something of a golden era for New York baseball. Has anyone ever noticed that?

Worst Season: 1910, 1915 (0.9 WAR)

The Highlanders/Yankees were propping up the sorry Giants and Superbas/Robins both seasons. Birdie Cree's 3 in 1910 and Hugh High's 2.1 in 1915 were the best marks. Cy Seymour (-0.2 in 1910) and Fred Snodgrass (-0.4 in 1915) inspired few cheers at the Polo Grounds, while the fans at Washington and Ebbets suffered through Bill Davidson (-1.9 in 1910) and Hy Myers (-0.8 in 1915).

Right Field

Best Season: 1930 (24.1 WAR)

Once again it's Babe Ruth on top of the pack, with 10.7 WAR. This time though, his counterparts in the National League contributed more to the cause. Babe Herman's 6.8 for the Robins and Mel Ott's 6.6 for the Giants make the 1930 right fielders much more balanced than the 1921 left fielders.

Worst Season: 1913 (1.4 WAR)

Red Murray's 0.9 for the Giants led the way, followed closely by Bert Daniels' 0.7 for the Yankees. Herbie Moran's -0.2 for Brooklyn wasn't appreciably worse, though that whole "being negative" thing is certainly a strike against it.

This study pretty much confirms what we already knew: the 1950's was the greatest era across the board for all three New York teams. Perhaps it was a fitting last hurrah, as the Dodgers and Giants famously abandoned their fans for the West Coast in 1958. The 1930's would have to be second-best, though the Dodgers didn't do anything distinguished during those Depression days (nice alliteration, huh?).

The first two decades of the century were the weakest, though part of that may be due to the dead ball allowing less divergence from replacement level. 1925 was notably weak for the left side of the infield, and the two best decades each produced a year of turkeys at one position.

If you want to see all the data from this study in spreadsheet form you can click on this link here. You can view it sorted either by year or by total value.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PTWSW #25: The 1928 New York Yankees

Manager: Miller Huggins
Record: 101-53
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Owner: Col. Jacob Ruppert
GM: Ed Barrow
Coaches: Art Fletcher, Harry Matthews, Charley O'Leary

Future Hall of Famers: Earle Combs, Stan Coveleski, Bill Dickey, Leo Durocher, Lou Gehrig, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Babe Ruth

Team Leaders, Batting

Lou Gehrig, .374
OBP: Lou Gehrig, .467 (AL leader)
SLG: Babe Ruth, .709 (AL leader)
OPS: Babe Ruth, 1.172 (AL leader)
2B: Lou Gehrig, 47 (AL leader)
3B: Earle Combs, 21 (AL leader)
HR: Babe Ruth, 54 (AL leader)
RBI: Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, 142 (AL leaders)
BB: Babe Ruth, 137 (AL leader)
SB: Tony Lazzeri, 15

Team Leaders, Pitching

George Pipgras, 24 (AL leader)
SO: George Pipgras, 139
ERA: Herb Pennock, 2.56
IP: George Pipgras, 300.2 (AL leader)
CG: George Pipgras, 22
SHO: Herb Pennock, 5 (AL leader)
K/BB: George Pipgras, 1.35
SV: Waite Hoyt, 8 (AL leader)


Oldest Player:
Stan Coveleski (b. July 13, 1889)

Youngest Player: Bill Dickey (b. June 6, 1907). Young Dickey's Hall of Fame career began as a minor league callup during the "Murderer's Row" era.

First to Leave Us: Urban Shocker (d. September 9, 1928). Shocker retired before the season began, but he came back to pitch one game in May before being released in July. In August he fell ill with pneumonia, which claimed his life about a month later. It made him the second member of a World Series champion to die before the end of the season.

Last Survivor: Bill Dickey (d. November 12, 1993)

First in Majors: Herb Pennock (debut May 14, 1912)

Last in Majors: Bill Dickey (final game September 8, 1946)

First to Play For the Franchise: Urban Shocker (April 24, 1916)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Bill Dickey (September 8, 1946). Old Dickey's Hall of Fame career ended as Yankee player-manager just after World War II. He resigned in the season's final month, only a year prior to the team's legendary 1947-64 run.

Pre-union Team: The 1922-23 Browns had four: Pat Collins, Cedric Durst, Gene Robertson and Urban Shocker.

Reunion Team: Like the 1927 team, it was the 1931 Tigers with Joe Dugan, Johnny Grabowski, Waite Hoyt and Mark Koenig.


Bob Meusel, cycle on July 26

Season Summary

After an utterly dominating performance in 1927 the Yankees had to be content with mere greatness in 1928. Their 116 team OPS+ wasn't the previous year's 128, but it still led the AL by 10 points. Their ERA+ and DER both fell around the middle of the pack, though they remained slightly above average in both departments. Thanks to a park that favored pitchers, they were still second in fewest runs allowed. Who allowed the fewest, you ask? As a matter of fact, it was a team that emerged as a serious threat to New York's pennant hopes.

At first it looked to be a repeat of last year; the Yankees got off to a hot start and had a double-digit lead in the pennant race by June, which they held onto for most of July. The Bronx Bombers coasted in late July and most of August, which was just about the time the Philadelphia Athletics started heating up. The Yankees' lead shrunk little by little until they suddenly found themselves a half-game behind the A's on September 8. Fortunately for the pinstripers, the next stop on the White Elephants' schedule was New York for a four-game series. The Yankees won three of four to take back first place, where they'd remain the rest of the year. The A's would finish 2.5 back.

The World Series set them up for a rematch with the Cardinals, who'd defeated them in 1926. This time it wasn't even close; the Yankees swept St. Louis and outscored them 27-10 for the Series. The slimmest margin of victory in any game was three runs. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig combined to hit .593 with seven home runs in the four contests.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Something For You American Idol Fans

I'll admit it: I'm a fan of FOX's nationally-televised karaoke contest. I like it for many of the same reasons I love baseball; it's an exciting competition that also lends itself to analysis. You can make predictions about who'll go home the next night by studying past trends about song choices, performance order, previous trips to the Bottom 3, judges' comments, etc. There's even an entire website dedicated to studying these trends. I highly recommend it to all fans of the show.

So you're probably wondering how I could possibly find something that's related to both baseball and American Idol. Well, it's a stretch. Hey, there's a reason I call my blog a "junk drawer." If you watched Season 6 of Idol you know that the winner was a girl named Jordin Sparks, who's currently enjoying a pretty good career as a pop star (no, it wasn't that kid with the hair). Sparks was born on December 22, 1989, and before you say anything, the only reason I know her birthdate is because I know she's exactly ten years to the day younger than a high school friend of mine. Come on, give me some credit.

Anyway, while I was compiling my World Series winner profile for the 1928 Yankees I found that they had a player named Archie Campbell. His date of death? December 22, 1989. His place of death? Sparks, Nevada. Isn't that an odd coincidence?

You may now return to your regularly-scheduled...whatever it is you do that's more worthwhile than reading American Idol-related baseball tidbits.

PTWSW #24: The 1927 New York Yankees

Manager: Miller Huggins
Record: 110-44
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Owner: Col. Jacob Ruppert
GM: Ed Barrow
Coaches: Art Fletcher, Charley O'Leary

Future Hall of Famers: Earle Combs, Lou Gehrig, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Babe Ruth

Team Leaders, Batting

Lou Gehrig, .373
OBP: Babe Ruth, .486 (AL leader)
SLG: Babe Ruth, .772 (AL leader)
OPS: Babe Ruth, 1.258 (AL leader)
2B: Lou Gehrig, 52 (AL leader)
3B: Earle Combs, 23 (AL leader)
HR: Babe Ruth, 60 (AL leader)
RBI: Lou Gehrig, 175 (AL leader)
BB: Babe Ruth, 137 (AL leader)
SB: Bob Meusel, 24

Team Leaders, Pitching

Waite Hoyt, 22 (AL leader)
SO: Waite Hoyt, 86
ERA: Wilcy Moore, 2.28 (AL leader)
IP: Waite Hoyt, 256.1
CG: Waite Hoyt, 23
SHO: Waite Hoyt, Dutch Ruether, 3
K/BB: Waite Hoyt, 1.59
SV: Wilcy Moore, 13 (AL leader)


Oldest Player:
Urban Shocker (b. August 22, 1890)

Youngest Player: Mark Koenig (b. July 19, 1904)

First to Leave Us: Urban Shocker (d. September 9, 1928)

Last Survivor: Mark Koenig (d. April 22, 1993). Huh. The oldest player was the first to die and the youngest was the last. That works out nicely.

First in Majors: Herb Pennock (debut May 14, 1912)

Last in Majors: Tony Lazzeri (final game June 7, 1939)

First to Play For the Franchise: Bob Shawkey (July 1915)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Lou Gehrig (April 30, 1939)

Pre-union Team: The 1920-21 Red Sox (Waite Hoyt, Ben Paschal (1920), Herb Pennock, Babe Ruth (1919)) and 1922-23 Browns (Pat Collins, Cedric Durst, Urban Shocker) each had three.

Reunion Team: The 1931 Tigers had four: Joe Dugan, Johnny Grabowski, Waite Hoyt and Mark Koenig.


Babe Ruth, 60 home runs, new Major League record
Lou Gehrig, 175 RBI, new Major League record
Babe Ruth, 400 career home runs
Lou Gehrig, AL MVP
110 wins, new AL record
158 home runs, new Major League record
976 runs, new AL record

Season Summary

What can be said about this team that hasn't been said before? They set an AL record with 110 victories and led wire-to-wire. The pennant race wasn't even close after mid-June, and the Yanks ended up winning it by 18 and a half games. Babe Ruth set a single-season record that stood for 34 years with 60 home runs. The only reason Lou Gehrig won the MVP instead of The Babe was because the rules at the time prevented Ruth, who'd won the award in 1923, from winning twice. It was hardly a travesty of justice, as Gehrig's OPS+ was 221 to Ruth's 226.

Their lineup was nicknamed "Murderer's Row" because it contained so many dangerous hitters. Their team OPS+ was an unheard-of 128. The next-best mark in the AL was 99. They were no one-dimensional all-offense club either. Their team ERA+ was 120, league tops by far, and their strikeout-to-walk ratio was second only to the Athletics. Their DER made up the difference on batted balls, as it was the Junior Circuit's best ratio.

After demoralizing their opponents all season long the World Series was pretty much a foregone conclusion. The Yankees swept the Pirates while outscoring them 23-10 for the Series.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Monday, December 14, 2009

PTWSW #23: The 1926 St. Louis Cardinals

Manager: Rogers Hornsby
Record: 89-65
Ballpark: Sportsman's Park
Owner: Sam Breadon
GM: Branch Rickey
Coaches: Bill Killefer, Otto Williams

Future Hall of Famers: Pete Alexander, Jim Bottomley, Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines, Rogers Hornsby, Billy Southworth

Team Leaders, Batting

Les Bell, .325
OBP: Ray Blades, .409
SLG: Les Bell, .518
OPS: Les Bell, .901
2B: Jim Bottomley, 40 (NL leader)
3B: Les Bell, Jim Bottomley, 14
HR: Jim Bottomley, 19
RBI: Jim Bottomley, 120 (NL leader)
BB: Ray Blades, 62
SB: Taylor Douthit, 23

Team Leaders, Pitching

Flint Rhem, 20 (NL leader)
SO: Flint Rhem, 72
ERA: Flint Rhem, 3.21
IP: Flint Rhem, 258
CG: Flint Rhem, 20
SHO: Jesse Haines, Bill Sherdel, 3
K/BB: Bill Sherdel, 1.20
SV: Pete Alexander, Hi Bell, 2


Oldest Player: Pete Alexander (b. February 26, 1887)

Youngest Player: Ed Clough (b. October 28, 1906)

First to Leave Us: Allen Sothoron (d. June 17, 1939)

Last Survivor: Specs Toporczer (d. May 17, 1989). Wow. If Toporczer had survived one month longer he'd have made it to the 50th anniversary of Sothoron's death.

First in Majors: Pete Alexander (debut April 15, 1911)

Last in Majors: Syl Johnson (final game September 26, 1940)

First to Play For the Franchise: Rogers Hornsby (September 10, 1915)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Jesse Haines (September 10, 1937)

Pre-union Team: The 1921-25 Cubs had three: Pete Alexander, Vic Keen and Bob O'Farrell.

Reunion Team: The 1934 Reds had five: Jim Bottomley, Jake Flowers, Chick Hafey, Syl Johnson and Bob O'Farrell. O'Farrell also served as player-manager for half the season.


Bob O'Farrell, NL MVP

Season Summary

In 1924 and 1925 the Cardinals had three hitting stars and little else: Rogers Hornsby, Jim Bottomley and Ray Blades. In 1926 they had offensive strength at every position but shortstop, where Tommy Thevenow's 59 OPS+ was tolerated due to his fine glovework. Player-manager Hornsby's OPS+ was 124, the worst of his career to that point (mainly due to a back injury he sustained in May), but the rest of the lineup picked up the slack. A career year from third baseman Les Bell and an MVP season from catcher Bob O'Farrell were chief among this newfound balanced attack. The Cardinals led the league in home runs and finished second in OPS+, and their run prevention was pretty good too; their DER was best in the NL, and their ERA+ was third-best.

The Cardinals got off to a poor start, bouncing around the second division for most of the first month and a half. It wasn't until they swept a June 5 doubleheader in Philadelphia that they pulled above .500 for good. On June 14 they acquired Billy Southworth from the Giants to fill their hole in right, a move which paid off when Southworth delivered an OPS+ of 124 along with several clutch hits. On August 17 they lost left fielder Blades to a knee injury, which pressed young Chick Hafey and his 94 OPS+ into duty. Two days later they finally climbed their way into a tie for first place. September was no cakewalk. The Cards were in first most of the month, but the Pirates and Reds were right in the thick of things, with the Cubs lurking in the shadows. It wasn't until they defeated the Giants on September 24 that they could rest easy knowing they were finally National League champs.

Three days before the World Series began, and less than a week after the Cardinals clinched, Rogers Hornsby's ailing mother passed away. Though Hornsby was grief-stricken, he honored his mother's wishes to play in the World Series. It took seven games, but the Cardinals defeated the Yankees to win the franchise's first world championship. The pitching and hitting stars of the Series were both somewhat unlikely. The Redbirds' best offensive weapon was none other than Tommy Thevenow, who hit .417 with a home run and an OPS of 1.023. Their star hurler was Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander, who'd been claimed off waivers in June from the Cubs. He'd been a top-notch addition to their staff during the season, but at the age of 39 many wondered if he still had enough in the tank to beat the powerful Yankee lineup. In fact, he pitched complete game victories in Games 2 and 6, and his relief appearance in Game 7 proved to be the Series' highlight. With the bases loaded and two out in the seventh the Cardinals held a one-run lead. Alexander entered the game and struck out Tony Lazzeri to end the inning, then held the Yanks hitless for the final two innings to nail down the victory.

After the season ended Hornsby was traded to the Giants over a contract dispute. O'Farrell would become the new player-manager.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Second Place Award Winners

Looking through the past winners of major awards can be an interesting excursion. Sure, you'll see plenty of superstars, but mixed in will be guys that time seems to have forgotten. How many people today know anything about 1974 AL MVP Jeff Burroughs, essentially the Pat Burrell of his day? With winners that obscure, I wondered what forgotten players and seasons would turn up second in the writers' voting? Thanks to Baseball Reference we can see what the voting looked like each year. I thought it'd be fun to look at all the second-place finishers for three major awards: the MVP, the Cy Young and the Rookie of the Year.

Most Valuable Player

Let's start with the big one, which goes to the league's most productive player (ideally, at least). Quick rundown: there were no MVP's awarded between 1915-1921 or in 1930, only the AL awarded it in 1922 and 1923, and only the NL awarded it in 1929. If you see a gap in those regions, that's what it means. An asterisk signifies that the player's vote share (vote points received divided by the maximum number of vote points possible) came within ten percent of the winner.

As expected, this is one star-studded chart. There are some guys I wouldn't have expected to see here though, namely Eddie Rommel, Hughie Critz, Johnny Mostil, Lon Warneke, Bill Lee, Dizzy Trout, Eddie Mayo, Billy Goodman, Ned Garver, Sal Maglie, Don Hoak, Johnny Callison, John Mayberry, Al Cowens, Lonnie Smith, Kent Hrbek, Glenn Davis, Mike Greenwell and Tino Martinez. Of that bunch, only Trout and Garver have asterisks next to their names. I guess Garver's 20-win season for a 100-loss team didn't go unnoticed in his day. Trout's 1944 season was incredible, though often forgotten because it came during the war years. Stan Musial finished as runner-up three years in a row from 1949-51, which probably wasn't so bad considering he'd already won the award three times at that point. Would you have believed that Joe Rudi and Greg Luzinski were both two-time runners-up?

Cy Young

Once again, there's a rule to note: there was only one award given for both leagues until 1967. I put the runner-up under the column for the league he played in. If it says "n/a" it means the voting was unanimous and there was no second-place hopeful.

Once again, the names I wouldn't have expected: Dick Donovan, Wilbur Wood, Burt Hooton, Mike Caldwell, Joe Niekro, Jerry Reuss, Mike Norris, Steve McCatty (those A's really did have a great young staff), Steve Rogers, Mario Soto, Teddy Higuera, Jimmy Key (twice!), Scott Erickson, Pete Schourek and Jose Mesa. Did you know Dan Quisenberry was runner-up two years in a row? It's a shame so many people don't remember how highly-regarded he was. Someday, when their great seasons are a distant memory, Chien-Ming Wang, Esteban Loaiza and Dontrelle Willis will probably surprise a few back-lookers too. Steve Blass' sudden decline seems all the more tragic when you know he was Cy Young runner-up the year before.

Rookie of the Year

Like the Cy Young, the Rookie of the Year was given for both leagues combined in the beginning. That rule only lasted two years, and I handled that situation in my charts the same way I did the CY.

OK, be honest: have you ever heard of Chet Nichols, Tom Umphlett, Jim Finigan, Jack Meyer, Marcelino Lopez, Mike Nagy, Roy Foster, Bill Parsons or Pedro Garcia? Heck, even John Hudek and Rolando Arrojo are all but forgotten these days. The Rookie of the Year has more flashes-in-the-pan among its winners than any of the other major awards, but some of these second place guys were pretty good. Eight are Hall of Famers: Whitey Ford, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ernie Banks, Joe Morgan, Gary Carter, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith and Paul Molitor. Surprisingly, none of them got an asterisk. The guys who finished ahead of them? Respectively, Walt Dropo, Joe Black, Wally Moon, Jim Lefebvre, John Montefusco, Fred Lynn, Bob Horner and Lou Whitaker. Not a Hall of Famer in the bunch, though Whitaker has his supporters. They may not have achieved immortality, but at least they got bragging rights for one year.

No one remembers who came in second, they say. After looking at these lists I think "they" may have a point. But for one man whose season was better (or at least appeared to be), each of these guys would've had their names etched in baseball history. For those who never won anything else, to come so close is especially unfortunate. It's probably not much consolation, but they'll never be forgotten as long as we nerds who dig through the archives keep their legacies alive.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

PTWSW #22: The 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates

Manager: Bill McKechnie
Record: 95-58
Ballpark: Forbes Field
Owner: Barney Dreyfuss
Coaches: Fred Clarke, Jack Onslow

Future Hall of Famers: Max Carey, Kiki Cuyler, Pie Traynor

Team Leaders, Batting

Kiki Cuyler, .357
OBP: Kiki Cuyler, .423
SLG: Kiki Cuyler, .598
OPS: Kiki Cuyler, 1.021
2B: Kiki Cuyler, 43
3B: Kiki Cuyler, 26 (NL leader)
HR: Kiki Cuyler, Glenn Wright, 18
RBI: Glenn Wright, 121
BB: Eddie Moore, 73
SB: Max Carey, 46 (NL leader)

Team Leaders, Pitching

Lee Meadows, 19
SO: Vic Aldridge, 88
ERA: Vic Aldridge, 3.63
IP: Lee Meadows, 255.1
CG: Lee Meadows, 20
SHO: Vic Aldridge, Lee Meadows, 1
K/BB: Ray Kremer, 1.32
SV: Johnny Morrison, 4 (NL leader)


Oldest Player: Babe Adams (b. May 18, 1882). Adams was the oldest player in the National League at the time, as well as the only man remaining from the 1909 champions.

Youngest Player: Mule Haas (b. October 15, 1903)

First to Leave Us: Al Niehaus (d. October 14, 1931). Pneumonia claimed Niehaus' life at the age of 32.

Last Survivor: Glenn Wright (d. April 6, 1984)

First in Majors: Babe Adams (April 18, 1906)

Last in Majors: Kiki Cuyler (September 14, 1938)

First to Play For the Franchise: Babe Adams (1907)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Pie Traynor (August 14, 1937)

Pre-union Team: Several teams had two of these guys, but none more.

Reunion Team: The 1929 Brooklyn Robins had six: Max Carey, Johnny Gooch, Lou Koupal, Eddie Moore, Johnny Morrison and Glenn Wright. I'm not sure what the connection is between these two franchises. Perhaps Max Carey, a respected veteran, recommended these guys to Wilbert Robinson?


Glenn Wright, unassisted triple play on May 7
Kiki Cuyler, cycle on June 4
Max Carey, cycle on June 20

Season Summary

Just a few weeks after the 1924 World Series ended the Pirates made a blockbuster trade: all-time franchise pitching wins leader Wilbur Cooper, future Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville (serving as second baseman) and first baseman Charlie Grimm went to the Cubs for Vic Aldridge, George Grantham and Al Niehaus. It worked out well for Pittsburgh; Aldridge provided a strong arm in the rotation while Cooper was never the same, Grantham was an upgrade at first over Grimm, and Niehaus was used as capital to land ace reliever Tom Sheehan in a May trade.

The Pirates in 1924 had been strong on pitching and defense but lacking on offense. In 1925 they were strong in all three areas. They had a higher OPS+ from their regulars at each position and led the NL in that category overall as well. They also had the circuit's best baserunning by far. Their 159 steals dwarfed the second-best Reds' 108, and they were caught only 59 times for an overall percentage of 71.6, also league-best. They averaged better than half a run more per game than their closest competitor. Their second-best 115 team ERA+ and third-best .680 DER combined to make them a force on run prevention as well.

The season wasn't looking especially rosy through the first two months. The Pirates got off to a slow start while the New York Giants raced to first, apparently on their way to a fifth straight pennant. Pittsburgh didn't pull above .500 for good until May 27, and it wasn't until they swept a four-game June series with the Giants that they looked like a true contender. On June 29 they finally tasted first place, though they remained tied with New York.

Making headlines midseason was former Pirates manager Fred Clarke. Clarke hadn't managed since 1915, but he'd found himself unable to stay away from the game in retirement. In June he returned as a member of the Pittsburgh front office and it wasn't long before he had a spot on the Pirates' bench as an assistant manager.

August 20 was when the Pirates really began to pull away in the pennant race. They won the first game of an eventual 17-3 run, and by the time it ended they had an 8.5-game lead. About a month later they'd finish the season with that same lead and find themselves in a World Series matchup with Washington. It didn't look good for Pittsburgh after the Senators went up 3 games to 1, as no team had ever come back from such a deficit in a best-of-seven World Series. The Pirates became the first team to do it, and they won Game 7 on Kiki Cuyler's tie-breaking two-run double in the eighth.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pitchers Who Didn't Pitch

Continuing my recent theme of statistical oddities from the World Series, this one also stems from my days reading the postseason summaries in MacMillan's Baseball Encyclopedia. The composite box scores in those summaries would show only a player's first initial, his last name and any positions played during the series. I would often flip over to the Batter and Pitcher Registries to find out what an unknown guy's first name was and see what else he did during his Major League career.

One day I was looking at the 1960 World Series and noticed a player down at the bottom of the Yankees' batting stats named "E. Grba." No position was given, meaning that he must've pinch-hit or pinch-ran. "Interesting name," I thought to myself. "This guy sure could use a vowel. I wonder what that E stands for?" I flipped over to the Batter Registry and to my surprise...he didn't have an entry! "How can that be?" I wondered. Since pitchers' batting stats weren't listed in the Batter Registry unless they were frequently used as pinch-hitters or batted during a season in which they didn't pitch, I figured there was a possibility I could find this Grba guy in the Pitcher Registry. Sure enough, that's just where he was. That E stood for Eli, and he went 6-4 for the 1960 Yankees. He didn't pitch in the World Series though, so there weren't any postseason stats under his regular season numbers.

It struck me as unusual that there was a small bit of World Series participation that you couldn't find in either registry, only the series summary. As I looked through the summaries some more I found out that Eli Grba was hardly the only pitcher ever used solely in a non-pitching capacity during a Fall Classic. In one case, there was even a pitcher who filled in at first base! All told, there have been eleven pitchers who played in a World Series without stepping onto the mound:

What were they doing? Oh, pinch-hitting and pinch-running mostly. Like all players though, they each have a story, and what kind of writer would I be if I didn't tell you more about them?

1. Hooks Wiltse, 1913 Giants

This guy was the substitute first baseman I mentioned above. In fact, he did it not once, but twice during the 1913 Series. Wiltse was a 34-year-old veteran left-hander who'd played three games at first base during the regular season. When regular Giant first-sacker Fred Merkle had to miss Game 2 with a sprained ankle John McGraw started outfielder Fred Snodgrass in his place. Unfortunately, Snodgrass wasn't at 100% either. After he singled and painfully advanced to third on another single, Snodgrass was lifted for pinch-runner Wiltse, who stayed in as first baseman (and in case you were wondering, no, Hooks' real name wasn't Fred, it was George). Wiltse not only handled the position capably, he was one of the game's defensive stars.

In the bottom of the ninth it was still scoreless, but the Athletics had runners at second and third with nobody out. The next batter hit a chopper that Wiltse fielded perfectly, and his throw just barely beat the runner at home plate. The next batter also hit it to Wiltse, who once again handled it cleanly and got the runner out at home. The final batter grounded out, and the Giants would win the game in the 10th.

Merkle was back in the lineup for Game 3. When Merkle drew a walk in the seventh inning McGraw had enough confidence in his new hero that he pinch-ran with Wiltse and left him in the game at first once again.

2. Babe Ruth, 1915 Red Sox

I don't think this guy needs any introduction, does he? The Bambino became a superstar for his hitting prowess, but the only fielding position he'd ever played up to that point was pitcher. Even at this early stage of his career though, it was clear that this guy could wield the lumber. So great was his hitting (.315/.376/.576, 189 OPS+) that the Red Sox often used him as a pinch-hitter. In Game 1 of the World Series Ruth came to the plate for starter Ernie Shore representing the tying run in the ninth. Instead of letting loose with one of his not-yet-trademark blasts, the Babe grounded to first for the penultimate out. Harry Hooper followed him with a game-ending pop fly.

3. Jean Dubuc, 1918 Red Sox

Dubuc's story is similar to Ruth's; he was a pitcher who was well-known as a decent hitter. He spent five years with the Tigers from 1912 to 1916, and his OPS+ during that time was 81. He was batting .303 in the minors when the Red Sox acquired him. He played in five games for Boston, only two as a pitcher. The similarities to Ruth continue with his World Series appearance. In Game 2 Dubuc pinch-hit for third baseman Fred Thomas with one out in the ninth, only he represented the winning, not the tying run. He struck out, and the game ended with the next batter.

Dubuc would later become famous for testifying at the Black Sox trial. He was alleged to have been in contact with Bill Burns, one of the men behind the fix. To avoid banishment he left the country in 1921, and when the fervor over the scandal had died down he was able to return to baseball. He later managed in the minors and worked as a scout, with Hank Greenberg his most notable signing.

4. Dinty Gearin, 1923 Giants

Gearin was a diminutive Rhode Island left-hander, standing only 5'4". His minor league career was more noteworthy than his time in the Majors, as he won 142 career games in the bushes. His World Series appearance came in the third inning of Game 1. Pinch-hitter Jack Bentley singled to load the bases, and Gearin was sent in to run for him. Gearin was forced out at second on the next play, but the Giants would score four runs that inning to take the lead in a game they'd later win.

5. Dutch Ruether, 1925 Senators

One of the most obscure members of the "World Series With Three Different Franchises" club, Ruether was yet another famously good-hitting pitcher. In fact, of his seven career World Series appearances three were as a pitcher and four were as a pinch-hitter. His appearance in the 1925 World Series followed in the footsteps of Ruth's and Dubuc's. In the ninth inning of Game 2 he pinch-hit for pitcher Stan Coveleski with one out, only this time the tying and winning runs were both on base. Like Dubuc, he struck out, and the game ended one batter later.

6. Emil Yde, 1927 Pirates

Yde's first three seasons were pretty good. He went 41-19 with a 115 ERA+ during that span. His fourth season, 1927, was where he started to struggle. He appeared in only nine games, going 1-3 with a 9.71 ERA. Still, he was among the eligibles for the World Series, and in Game 4, with his Pirates on the verge of being swept, he pinch-ran after catcher Earl Smith reached on an error in the seventh. He later came around to score on Clyde Barnhart's single, and by the time the inning was over the Pirates had tied it. Unfortunately, the Pirates later lost the game on a wild pitch in the ninth.

7. Ernie White, 1943 Cardinals

In the seventh inning of Game 4 the Cardinals tied it on Yankee third baseman Billy Johnson's error, which allowed pinch-hitter Frank Demaree to reach safely. White was sent in to pinch-run for Demaree, and he was forced out at second to end the inning on the very next batter. The Yankees took the lead right back in the eighth, and they held on to win the game as well as take a 3-1 series lead. White had been a hero for the Cardinals in the previous year's World Series, pitching a shutout against those same Yankees in Game 3.

8. Zeb Eaton, 1945 Tigers

Eaton's two years in the Majors came during World War II, and even for that weak era he was mediocre, posting an ERA+ of 80. His hitting may have been what kept him around, as in 1945 he hit .250 with two homers in 32 plate appearances, good for a 102 OPS+. He played in 26 games that year, pitching in only 17 of them. In Game 1 of the World Series, with his team trailing 7-0, Eaton struck out pinch-hitting for pitcher Al Benton. He wasn't used again in the Series, which Detroit won in seven games.

9. Dan Bankhead, 1947 Dodgers

Everyone knows that the 1947 Dodgers were the team Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with. Fewer people know that that team also brought the first black pitcher into the Majors, Dan Bankhead. Bankhead's contract was purchased by the Dodgers that August, though he wasn't used much in the thick of the pennant race.

He didn't get to play in the World Series until the sixth inning of Game 6. Pinch-hitter Bobby Bragan hit an RBI double that gave the Dodgers a 6-5 lead, and Bankhead went over to second to pinch-run for him. Standing 6'1" and weighing 184 lbs., Bankhead wasn't exactly the picture of grace as a runner. When the next batter singled to right field, Bankhead had trouble putting on the brakes at third and fell down into the dirt. He later scored on Pee Wee Reese's two-run single, and the Dodgers would hold on to force Game 7.

10. Ken Johnson, 1950 Phillies

A little-used pitcher acquired by the Whiz Kids early in the season, Johnson didn't see World Series action until the final inning of the fourth and final game. Down 5-0, Dick Sisler reached on a fielder's choice and Johnson went in to run for him. He came around to score on Gene Woodling's two-out, two-run error, but it was too little too late. The Phillies' offense was unable to get anything else and the Yankees completed the sweep. Johnson's run was Philly's final tally of the season.

11. Eli Grba, 1960 Yankees

49 of the 50 eligible players had made an appearance by the time Game 6 of the 1960 World Series rolled around. In the second inning Yankee catcher Elston Howard was hit by a pitch and had to be taken out. That 50th man, Eli Grba, pinch-ran for Howard, and his journey ended at second base three batters later. It would turn out to be his last game with the Yankees. The Los Angeles Angels took Grba with the first pick of the 1960 Expansion Draft that December.

Why is 1960 the last time we've seen this happen? My guess is that so many more pitchers are used per game these days that the manager can't afford to waste them as pinch-runners, pinch-hitters or first basemen. If by some chance he does, it's more likely that that pitcher will be used on the mound at some point in the series.

One interesting thing I noticed is that seven of these eleven pitchers were left-handed. In fact, six of the first seven were southpaws, with Dubuc the exception (Johnson is the only lefty of the last four). Is there a reason for this, or is it just a coincidence? Perhaps left-handed pitchers were less valuable because more batters were right-handed in those days? Thanks to Baseball Reference's Handedness Reports we can find out. Let's look at the batting handedness percentages during the years in which these pitchers became pinchers. "B" stands for switch-hitters and "U" stands for those whose batting hand was unknown.

Hmmm. The 1910's seasons had fewer left-handed batters than all the other years here except 1943. Still, 1923 had a higher percentage of left-handers than did 1960, so I'm not sure if there's any real difference worth noting. Perhaps then, it was because the teams they were facing in the World Series had more players of a specific batting hand? Let's look at the position players who batted in the World Series for their opponents. The fifth column (OHPB%) represents the number of players with the opposite batting hand plus switch-hitters. A higher number makes it more likely that some sort of platoon effect was a factor.

Hmmm again. Fewer than half these teams had an OHPB% above 50. It seems unlikely that the platoon advantage was on most of these managers' minds.

A case-by-case basis may be the best way to come to a conclusion. Let's look at the stats of these guys during those seasons:

Well, now we're getting somewhere. Not that it comes as much surprise, but most of these guys were marginal or little-used pitchers who weren't likely to be called upon in a big moment like the World Series. Eight of these guys pitched in fewer than 20 games. Only Ruth, Ruether and Grba pitched more, and Grba only barely. Grba pitched primarily in relief, so 24 games indicates that he wasn't exactly a key guy on their staff. Ruth had an impressive season, but the Red Sox' pitching was so good that year that he simply wasn't needed in the World Series. I don't think the platoon was a big factor, as the Red Sox started left-hander Dutch Leonard in that Series, who wasn't especially better.

That leaves us with Ruether. He had the second-highest OHPB% of anyone on this list. Was the platoon actually a factor in this case? Looking at the circumstances, I think it was. The Senators had two good left-handers on their staff in Ruether and Tom Zachary. Ruether, as we know, didn't pitch at all, and Zachary was used in relief in only one game. In that same Series the Senators gave two starts to right-hander Alex Ferguson, who'd gone 5-1 with a 131 ERA+ in seven games after being acquired from the Yankees (though his overall season record was 9-5 with a pathetic 69 ERA+). It appears that Washington decided not to gamble by throwing a lefty against the Pirates' mostly right-handed lineup, and that Ferguson's success in a small sample made him a worthwhile risk.

It does seem surprising at first that Hooks Wiltse never pitched against the Athletics' lefty-heavy lineup, but bear in mind that it was a year before George Stallings' Miracle Braves won the World Series using platooning to their advantage. It was a different game back then, and handedness wasn't as much a factor in managerial decisions as it is today. Besides, being left-handed didn't help Rube Marquard any in that Series.

I think it's safe to say that most of these guys were lucky to be on the playoff roster, and it's a coincidence that so many of them were lefties. If you think that high percentage of southpaws is astounding, you might be even more amazed by this fact: eight of these eleven played for the losing side. Dubuc and Eaton are doubly in the minority, being both right-handed and on the winning team. Now there's an obscure fact you can impress your friends with.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Playing in the World Series Every Year

Last time I wrote about players who homered in their only at-bat of a World Series. This time I want to look at something a little more common but also a little more luck-based: players who played in the World Series every year of their careers. This list is twice as long as the previous one, with twelve men who can claim to have done it.

You probably haven't heard of any of these players unless you're a diehard, and even then it's still highly possible that you haven't. When I looked at the B-R Bullpen to learn more about them though, I was surprised at how interesting so many of these guys were. Would you like to meet them? Allow me to introduce you.

1. Babe Towne, 1906 Chicago White Sox

There isn't much information out there about Towne. He was a catcher purchased from the minor leagues mid-season, and his 14 games played are the fewest of anyone on this list. In only 43 plate appearances he put up an OPS+ of 113, best of anyone on this list. He was one of five catchers employed by the Hitless Wonders.

2. Hinkey Haines, 1923 New York Yankees

Outfielder Haines was on the Yankees' roster all year but only got into 28 games. The interesting about him is that he was also an NFL running back who won a league championship with the Giants in 1927, making him the only player to win a national championship in both baseball and football.

3. Joe Martina, 1924 Washington Senators

"Oyster Joe" played 21 seasons in the minors and spent only 1924 in the Majors. He was 34 by the time he finally reached the bigs and 42 by the time he finally pitched his last professional game. He's second in minor league history in both wins and strikeouts.

4. Tommy Taylor, 1924 Washington Senators

Taylor, like his teammate Martina, had a long minor league career. I'm not sure what the story is, but he didn't get his start in professional baseball until 1920, when he was 27 years old, and he was 31 when Washington acquired him as their backup third baseman. Also like Martina, he hung around in the minors until his 40's.

5. Jimmy Moore, 1930-31 Philadelphia Athletics

Moore, whose Baseball Reference page was once proudly sponsored by this blog, is the only player on this list to play more than one year in the Majors. I'm actually surprised. With all the consecutive pennant streaks enjoyed by various teams I would've thought it'd be a more common occurrence. He's also the only one to play for multiple Major League teams, as he began 1930 with the White Sox. The Sox sent him back to the minors early in the season, but the Athletics picked him up in September and he hit .380 for them down the stretch in a backup outfielder role. He spent most of 1931 with the big club, and according to the Bullpen, he misplayed a Ski Melillo flyball that season which turned into a run-scoring double and cost Lefty Grove his 17th straight victory (August 23 appears to be the date). I haven't been able to find out much else about Moore, but what little I have found suggests that he was a flashy character. There are references to him buying fancy clothes and being a particularly handsome fellow, and the nickname "Hollywood Jim Moore" is occasionally used.

6. Johnny Sturm, 1941 New York Yankees

Sturm spent most of his lone season as the Yankees' regular first baseman. His 58 OPS+, however, didn't make anyone forget Lou Gehrig. Sturm enlisted in the military for 1942, and various injuries kept him from returning to the Majors after World War II ended. Sturm's biggest contribution to the Yankees actually came off the field; scout Tom Greenwade was unimpressed the first time he saw Mickey Mantle, but Sturm convinced Greenwade to give The Mick a second look. The rest was history: Hall-of-Fame, 18-year-career, 172-OPS+ history.

7. Bob Maier, 1945 Detroit Tigers

Maier started out as the Tigers' regular third baseman, but he lost his starting job after Hank Greenberg returned from the war and left fielder Jimmy Outlaw was moved to the hot corner to accommodate him. Though he was only 30 years old, 1945 proved to be Maier's final season in professional baseball; he held out next year in Spring Training and never resurfaced.

8. Johnny Rutherford, 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers

"Doc" Rutherford spent the entire 1952 season in the bigs, where he was used as both a starter and a relief pitcher. Arm troubles forced him to retire at the age of 30, and he devoted his post-playing days to a career as an actual doctor (an osteopathic surgeon to be precise).

9. Ken Hunt, 1961 Cincinnati Reds

This one's interesting. Hunt's career minor league ERA was 5.21, and he was done by the age of 26. It seems he only reached the Majors on the strength of a 16-6, 2.86 ERA 1960 season. He didn't do too badly in the Majors, putting up a 103 ERA+ as a fourth starter for the Reds and being named NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News. It seems he was truly at the peak of his abilities for his lone year in the bigs.

10. Don LeJohn, 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers

He was a 31-year-old minor league veteran third baseman when the Dodgers called him up midseason. Sounds awfully similar to Tommy Taylor, doesn't it? LeJohn entered the Dodger organization in 1954, when they were still in Brooklyn, and he remained in their employ as a minor league manager for almost 20 years after his playing career ended.

11. Jim Barbieri, 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers

Barbieri holds a cool distinction: He was the first player to play in both the Little League and Major League World Series. As captain of his Little League team, he even got to throw out the first pitch at Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. The outfielder was having a career year in 1966 when the Dodgers called him up for his only Major League action, and his OPS+ in 92 plate appearances was 101. He played in the minors for three more years before moving to Japan for one season in 1970.

12. Willie Canate, 1993 Toronto Blue Jays

The speedy Venezuelan Canate was used mainly as a pinch runner and backup outfielder in his brief stint with the Jays. His minor league stats end in 1995, when his given age was 23, though he may in fact have been five years older. He moved on to the Mexican League after his minor league career ended.

Note the Gap

This phenomenon has occurred only once in the last 40 years. Why is that? My theory is expansion. With more organizations in the mix, borderline players have more opportunities to catch on somewhere. Will we ever see it happen again? Your guess is as good as mine. It's rare that a player with no staying power in the bigs makes it to a postseason roster these days, and it's even rarer for that player to get off the bench in the World Series. I won't be surprised if we do see another player join this group one day, but it might take a perfect storm of circumstances.

This post was updated on November 6, 2011.