Stan Musial, Hall of Fame outfielder-first baseman with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1941-1963, passed away on Saturday, January 19, 2013; he was 92. The following post originally was published as my “The Way the Ball Bounces” column in the September 5, 2005 edition of the I-24 Exchange, the weekly newspaper of Pleasant View, Tennessee.
During a recent broadcast of a game between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, announcer Chip Caray suggested that the ballpark under construction in St. Louis be called Jack Buck Stadium. Buck was the longtime voice of the Cardinals, broadcasting their games from 1954 up until 2002. He was the 1987 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, which means he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Caray, son of Skip Caray and grandson of Harry Caray, grew up in St. Louis listening to Buck’s play-by-play of the Cardinals, so he can be forgiven for his exuberant campaign on Buck’s behalf. After all, most fans love their hometown broadcasters. But when Caray asked fellow Braves announcer Don Sutton what he thought about naming the new stadium after Buck, Sutton set Caray straight by saying, “I’d think you would have to drive past Stan the Man Stadium first.”
Sutton’s response was right on the mark. He made no disparaging remarks about Buck, but obviously he feels that the players are more important to the game of baseball than are the broadcasters. Sutton, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, also knows that Stan “the Man” Musial wasn’t just any player.
As a big Henry Aaron fan, I’ve always felt that, despite being baseball’s all-time home run king, Aaron’s accomplishments have never received the recognition they deserve. But compared to Musial, Aaron has gotten the Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods treatment.
Stan Musial joined the Cardinals in 1941, two months shy of his 21st birthday. He hit .426 in 12 games that year and then hit well over .300 every year through 1958. Musial won seven National League batting titles, including a career high .376 in 1948. His career batting average is .331. Musial was the National League’s Most Valuable Player three times. These accomplishments alone would make a strong case for naming the new stadium in St. Louis after Musial, but they don’t even begin to illustrate how great a player he was.
Players moving up the all-time home run list generate lots of headlines, causing the media to dredge up the names of sluggers like Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson. Although Musial hit 475 home runs, he rarely is mentioned in any discussion about sluggers. But Musial ranks fourth all-time behind Aaron, Ruth, and Lou Gehrig with 1,951 runs batted in. Musial’s 3,630 hits rank him fourth all-time behind only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, and Aaron.
Musial had 725 doubles, which put him third all-time behind only Tris Speaker and Rose. Musial had 177 triples and his 1,377 extra base hits rank him behind only Aaron, who had 100 more.
Musial played every one of his 22 seasons with the Cardinals. He was in the World Series four times and the Cardinals won the Series three of those times; he played in 24 All-Star Games. When he retired after the 1963 season, he was the all-time National League leader in hits; he still ranks second.
The current trend in naming sports arenas is to sell the rights to the highest-bidding corporation. I hope the Cardinals resist the temptation of easy money and refrain from hanging a corporate logo at the entrance of their new ballpark. As nice as it would be, I don’t expect the new stadium to be named after Musial, but in any event, it shouldn’t be named after Jack Buck. After all, they didn’t name the airport in Washington, D.C. after press secretary, Larry Speakes; they named it after Ronald Reagan. Cardinals fans may idolize Jack Buck, but in St. Louis Stan Musial is The Man.
Due to less than impressive traffic on my blog, I am suspending, at least temporarily, the posting of new articles.
I appreciate those of you who have visited my blog, read my posts, contributed comments, and offered feedback.
I especially enjoyed my conversation with former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder, Tommy Davis, when writing my post, “Talking Baseball with Tommy Davis.”
I apparently broke the story that the publishers of Sporting News would no longer release their annual sports yearbooks in my post, ”Talk on the Street and Smith’s.” That was, by far, my most visited, read, and commented on post.
I had hits on the blog from as far away as Alaska and Australia and had several visitors from folks in the U.K.
While it may not have been evident in the quality of the posts I produced, it took me several hours each week to produce an article I felt confident enough about to launch into cyberspace. Therefore, I have decided that I can use the time I have been spending on this blog more wisely on other, more worthy endeavors.
The link to this blog will remain active and all of my posts will be available through the archives link. The links to baseball-reference.com, retrosheet.org, and “Sweetness and Light” also will remain active.
P.S. Go Braves!
Major League Baseball suffered another black eye this week with the suspension of Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Cabrera will miss 50 games, which means he will not play another regular season game this year.
At the time of his suspension, Cabrera was hitting .346 with 25 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs, and 60 runs batted in. He led the league in runs scored with 84 and hits with 159. He was the Most Valuable Player in this summer’s All-Star Game.
Cabrera’s .346 batting average currently is second in the National League behind Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose average stood at .360 after Friday night’s action. If McCutchen’s production falls off, he could finish the season with a lower average than Cabrera. That may force Commissioner Bud Selig to decide whether Major League Baseball can live with a batting champion who is serving a suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Cabrera has 159 hits in 459 at-bats; he has 36 walks, one sacrifice, and five sacrifice flies. That adds up to 501 plate appearances. It takes 502 plate appearances for a player to qualify for the batting title. However, if at the end of the season Cabrera’s average is the highest in the league, they will add one at-bat to his total and refigure his average as if he went hitless in that plate appearance. Cabrera’s average with the one missing plate appearance factored in would be .3456, which rounds up to .346. So it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Cabrera could finish the season with the highest average in the NL.
Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres won the National League batting title in 1996 with the help of this rule. He finished the season at .353, but had only 498 plate appearances. Adding four hitless at-bats to his total left him at .349, which was five points better than Ellis Burks of the Colorado Rockies. Gwynn is the only player to win a batting title in this manner since the rule went into effect in 1967.
With Ryan Braun and Melky Cabrera testing positive for testosterone, it means that Major League Baseball still hasn’t solved its performance-enhancing drug problem and that’s bad news for baseball fans everywhere.
I will say this. At least Cabrera owned up to his mistake and took responsibility for his actions. According to USA Today, he released a statement through the players’ association, in which he took full responsibility for his actions:
“My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down.”
It at least is refreshing for a player testing positive not to blame everyone but himself for his troubles. Even if Braun were truly innocent, he attacked the integrity of the person collecting the samples and never was held accountable for the statements he made. I do not expect Braun, or any player, to admit to something he did not do, but destroying the reputation of the person who merely collected the sample was uncalled for.
A month ago I dedicated a post on this blog to how Cabrera spent a three-game series in Atlanta acting like a Giant jackass. While I am certainly no fan of Melky Cabrera, I take no joy in the fact that he got caught using performance-enhancing drugs.
I wanted the Braves to get their revenge on the baseball field when they travel to San Francisco next month. Besides that, I find it difficult to rejoice in someone else’s misfortune–unless, of course, that someone else is Barry Bonds.
A Couple of Good Baseball Links
Writer Frank Deford gave his take on the extra Wild Card teams that will show up in baseball’s postseason this year in his “Sweetness and Light” segment on National Public Radio this week. You can click on the “Sweetness and Light” link on the right side of this page (under “On the Links”) to access Deford’s essay entitled “Feeling Just Wild About Wild Cards.” I must say I never looked at it from his perspective. I recommend you click on the link to the audio version of the segment. Deford is a delight to hear.
Last Saturday’s version of “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor was all about America’s Pastime. The show featured a compilation of segments about baseball from previous shows. You can hear the entire show by clicking on the following link:
A couple of brothers made baseball history when each of them hit the 100th home run of their major league careers on Friday, August 3.
Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks hit his 100th homer in the second inning of his game against the Phillies in Philadelphia. Big brother B.J. Upton followed with number 100 in a home game against the Baltimore Orioles about an hour later.
The Uptons are the sixth set of brothers in major league history to each hit at least 100 home runs. The other brother duos are Bob Meusel (156) and Irish Meusel (106), Joe DiMaggio (361) and Vince DiMaggio (125) (brother Dom DiMaggio hit 87), Ken Boyer (282) and Clete Boyer (162), Roberto Alomar (210) and Sandy Alomar, Jr. (112), and Brett Boone (252) and Aaron Boone (126).
Each Upton brother also hit his 99th career home run on the same night–July 2o. By hitting their 100th homers on the same night, the Upton brothers can lay claim to the most amazing accomplishment by brothers on the same day in major league history. Or can they?
The aforementioned Brothers Boyer may have done something even more amazing. Older brother Ken, was an all-star third baseman with the St. Louis Cardinals and led them to the 1964 World Series. He had a great season that year, hitting .295 with 24 home runs and he led the National League with 119 runs batted in; he was the NL Valuable Player. He was a fine fielder, winning five Gold Gove Awards in his career.
Clete Boyer was the third baseman on the dominant New York Yankee teams of the early 1960s. In 1964 his Yankees squared off against Ken’s Cardinals in the World Series. Clete hit but .218 that season with eight homers and 52 RBIs. Even though Clete was a clutch hitter, he was known more for his glove than his bat. He was a better fielder than Ken, but he never won a Gold Glove in the American League; Brooks Robinson had a monopoly on that award. Clete finally got one with the Atlanta Braves in 1969.
Going into Game 4 of the 1964 World Series, the Yankees were up two games to one; they were leading 3-0 going into the sixth inning. Ken Boyer hit a grandslam off left-hander Al Downing and the Cardinals held on for a 4-3 win, evening the Series at two games each.
The Cardinals won Game 5 and the Yankees won Game 6, setting up a finale in St. Louis on October 15.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 6-0 lead with three runs in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth, but the Yankees scored three in the top of the sixth to make a game of it. Ken tacked on another run in the bottom of the seventh inning with his second home run of the Series.
The Yankees trailed 7-3 with one out in the ninth inning when Clete launched a solo home run. The Boyers remain the only brothers to hit home runs in the same World Series game.
By the way, with two outs in the ninth inning, Phil Linz hit a home run for the Yankees, but the Bronx Bombers fell short 7-5 and lost the Series to the Cardinals. Ken Boyer’s grandslam turned the Series around for the Cardinals; without it, the Redbirds likely would have been down three games to one.
The 1964 World Series was the last gasp for the Yankee dynasty. It would be 12 years before they would return to the Fall Classic.
Baseball history is full of brothers who played against each other or played for the same team, so it is not that uncommon for brothers to compete against one another or for each brother to accomplish a great feat. If the Brothers Upton hang around long enough, then they just might match the Brothers Boyer by hitting home runs in the same World Series game.
Until that time, Ken and Clete Boyer will hold the ultimate one-day accomplishment by brothers in baseball history.
The Atkins clan flew to the Windy City and visited the Friendly Confines earlier this week. My wife attended a conference; our son, Sean, and I tagged along for some touristy activity.
Sean and I walked one and a half miles from our hotel to Navy Pier on Tuesday morning. We rode the Ferris Wheel and got a great view of downtown Chicago and the lakefront. The Ferris Wheel rises 150 feet into the sky and supposedly is modeled after the original Ferris Wheel introduced at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
After the seven-minute ride on the Ferris Wheel, we walked to the end of the pier and back before slipping into Harry Caray’s Tavern for lunch.
We then caught a trolley up to Michigan Avenue and walked along the Miraculous Mile back to our hotel. After a brief rest, the three of us hiked about a half mile over to State Street and caught the Chicago Red Line El train to the Addison stop at Wrigley Field.
The Chicago Cubs were taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates and right-hander A.J. Burnett was on the mound for the Bucs. The Pirates jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead on a grandslam by second baseman Neil Walker in the top of the first inning. Burnett then went to work mowing down Cubs batters.
Andrew McCutchen, the terrific center fielder for the Pirates, came into the game leading the majors in hitting at .368 and he went three for five to raise his average to .371. McCutchen looks like a batting champion and he sounds like one, too. The sound of his bat striking the baseball clearly indicates how solidly he is hitting the ball these days. Around the fifth inning, it became apparent that Burnett had not allowed a hit. The no-hitter looked like it was over with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Alfonso Soriano lined a shot to left-center field that looked like a sure double. But McCutchen raced over from center field to make a fine running catch, preserving the no-hitter for Burnett.
By the bottom of the eighth inning, the Pirates were up 5-0 and the Cubs fans appeared to be cheering for Burnett to complete the no-hitter; there were plenty of Pirates fans in attendance, as well. With two outs, Burnett got ahead of pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas with a count of one ball and two strikes. The next pitch looked close, but plate umpire Jeff Nelson ruled it a ball. The crowd moaned.
With the count now 2-2, Burnett fired another close pitch; Nelson again ruled it a ball. The crowd actually booed. On the 3-2 pitch, Cardenas lined a clean single to right field to break up the no-hitter. The Cubs faithful cheered the hit and then the applause grew in appreciation for Burnett’s effort. Burnett struck out the next batter and retired the Cubs in order in the ninth to complete the one-hit shutout.
On Wednesday, Sean and I packed up for the trip home and then headed next door to the John Hancock Tower. We rode the fastest elevator in North America–94 floors in 39 seconds–up to the observatory.
We were in Chicago a couple of years ago and went to the top of the Willis Tower, the Tower Formerly Know as Sears. But we were more impressed with the view from the top of the Hancock Tower.
We were handed a couple of iPods, which gave us an auditory tour of downtown Chicago, narrated by David Schwimmer. We could see Navy Pier, the Willis Tower, Soldier Field, Wrigley Field (in the distance), and all the way up Michigan Avenue; we made several good photos. We even purchased the pictures they made of us in the lobby before we got on the elevator. (They took a shot of us in front of a green screen and superimposed us in front of the Chicago skyline.)
After dropping back down to street level at 26 miles an hour, we headed back to the hotel to catch a cab to Midway Airport. We put in two full days and had a grand time.
Like a lot of folks who take summer vacations, it seems that every year we leave our chosen destination vowing to make a return trip sometime in the future. Chicago is the only place we have actually made the effort to revisit. (Atlanta doesn’t count.)
Chicago is home to two major league baseball teams and some of the most interesting architecture in America; as Sinatra sang, “It’s my kind of town.” With the relatively inexpensive fares to the Windy City offered by Southwest Airlines, it’s hard to beat a trip to Chicago.
Earlier this week it looked as if the Atlanta Braves had gotten the jump on the rest of the teams by acquiring right-handed pitcher Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs a week before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.
The Braves were to send right-hander Randall Delgado to the Cubs in exchange for Dempster. But Dempster, as a 10 and five guy (at least 10 years in the major leagues with the last five being with the same team), had the right to veto the deal. Dempster apparently wanted to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers so he hesitated on approving the trade to the point that the Braves finally gave up on getting him. I believe Dempster bailed the Braves out of a bad deal.
At the time of the trade Dempster led the major leagues in earned run average at 2.11; but his record was only 5-5 in 15 starts. He is 35 years old and has been a mediocre pitcher in his career, with a 117-121 record and a 4.31 E.R.A.
While Delgado is 4-9 with a 4.49 E.R.A., he is only 22 years old. He has the potential to be an outstanding pitcher if he can get better control of his pitches; he has 42 walks in 92 2/3 innings pitches.
Before even considering such a trade, the Braves should have asked themselves how many more wins Dempster would have given them this season than Delgado would and whether that handful of wins would be worth giving up a pitcher who good be a big winner for years to come.
This deal had the potential to be the Doyle-Alexander-for-John-Smoltz trade all over again, but with the Braves being on the wrong side of the table this time.
Win Some, Lose Some
Perhaps the best in-season deal the Braves ever made was the 1993 trade that brought first baseman Fred McGriff to Atlanta. The Braves were nine games behind the San Francisco Giants by the time McGriff joined the team.
The night of his debut with the Braves, a fire in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium delayed the start of the game. When the game finally got under way, the Braves fell behind the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0. McGriff tied the game with a two-run home run in the fifth inning and the Braves eventually won the game 8-5.
McGriff batted .310 with 19 home runs and 55 RBIs after the trade. The Braves went 51-17 the rest of the way, finished the season with 104 wins, and won the National League West by one game over the Giants.
The Braves had to give up their top prospect to get McGriff, sending outfielder Melvin Nieves to the San Diego Padres. Nieves spent parts of seven seasons in the major leagues, hitting just .231 with 63 home runs. He was out of baseball by the age of 26. But the Braves got several good seasons from McGriff, including 1995 when they won the World Series.
On the other side of the ledger, the worst in-season deal the Braves ever made was the 2007 trade that brought first baseman Mark Teixeira and relief pitcher Ron Mahay to Atlanta from the Texas Rangers for top catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia, top infielder prospect Elvis Andrus, and pitching prospects Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones.
The Braves were in third place at the time of the trade and that’s just where they finished the season, though it certainly was not because Teixeira did not produce. He hit .317 with 17 home runs and drove in 56 runs in just 54 games after joining Atlanta that year. Mahay was 1-0 with a 2.25 E.R.A. as a left-handed relief specialist.
At the trade deadline in 2008 the Braves were in fourth place and were sellers rather than buyers. Teixeira was hitting .283 with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs, but faced with the prospect of losing him as a free agent at the end of the season, the Braves traded him to the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman Kasey Kotchmann and pitcher Stephen Marek.
Kotchmann was a great defensive first baseman but he hit only .237 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 43 games after joining the Braves. He was hitting .282 with six home runs and 41 RBIs at the trade deadline in 2009 when the Braves traded him to the Boston Red Sox for first baseman Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche hit .325 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs with the Braves, who failed to make the playoffs that year. He left the Braves as a free agent at the end of the season.
Marek never made it to the major leagues and is no longer in the Braves’ organization. While Teixeira played well in his days in Atlanta, the Braves did not make it to the postseason while he was there. And by the end of the 2009 season the Braves had absolutely nothing to show for the five prospects they sent to Texas.
On the other hand, the deal worked out very well for the Rangers. Feliz was an all-star and the American League Rookie of the Year in 2010. Andrus was an all-star and finished second to Feliz in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2010; he was an all-star again this season. Harrison was 14-9 in 2011 and is 12-5 this year; he also was on this year’s all-star team.
Saltalamacchia never really got going in Texas and they traded him to the Red Sox in 2010. He hit 16 home runs last season and has 20 this season.
The Rangers have been to the World Series in each of the past two seasons and they currently have a healthy lead in the American League West. Much of their recent success is due to the players they received from the Braves in the Teixeira deal.
Desperation can cause general managers to make some bad deals; some work out, while others don’t. The process will heat up again when the August 31 deadline for adding postseason-eligible players approaches. I am hopeful that the Braves will not be feeling quite so desperate at that time.
What is the deal with Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants? The switch-hitting left fielder had a huge three-game series against the Atlanta Braves earlier this week, going 6-13 (.462) with a double, a triple, a home run, five runs scored, and three runs batted in.
But Cabrera also spent the whole series acting like a Giant jackass. When he hit the home run Wednesday night, he stood in the batter’s box watching the flight of the baseball and then walked about five or six steps toward first base before finally beginning his trot around the bases.
After catching a flyball in left field, he taunted Jason Heyward, daring him to try to advance to third base. On a couple of occasions, he caught flyballs for the third out of the inning and acted as if he were going to toss the ball to a fan in the stands only to hang onto it and carry it to the dugout.
After teammate Gregor Blanco hit a three-run homer in the 11th inning of Wednesday’s game, Cabrera came out of the dugout and skipped along the warning track. He mocked the tomahawk chop with a particularly rude gesture after hitting a triple Thursday afternoon.
While Cabrera is not in the same league with the biggest Giant jackass of them all, Barry Bonds, his behavior in the series with the Braves was confounding. Perhaps Cabrera holds a grudge against the Braves for releasing him after the 2010 season.
The Braves obtained Cabrera, along with pitchers Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaíno, in a trade that sent pitchers Javier Vázquez and Boone Logan to the New York Yankees in December 2009. Cabrera was coming off his best season with the Yankees; he hit .274 with 13 home runs and 68 RBIs in 2009.
But Cabrera hit just .255 with only four home runs and a measly 42 RBIs for the Braves in 2010, apparently stopping at every all-you-can-eat buffet, pizza parlor, hamburger joint, hotdog stand, tavern, ratskeller, and hog trough along the way. The Braves paid him $3.1 million and released him after one season.
The Kansas City Royals picked up Cabrera for the 2011 season and he decided to play ball; he hit .305 with 201 hits, 18 homers, and 87 RBIs. Despite such a big offensive year, the Royals traded him to the San Francisco Giants this past off-season. Cabrera is having an even better season this year. After Friday night’s game in Philadelphia, he was second in the National League in hitting at .354, leading the league in hits with 129, and had nine home runs and 48 RBIs. He was the most valuable player in this year’s All-Star Game. Cabrera certainly has developed into quite a player.
But after watching Cabrera’s performance during the three-game series against the Braves, I can understand why there are teams that don’t want him around. One has to wonder why the Royals would trade a 27-year-old outfielder who banged out 200 hits in his first season with the team. One thing is for sure: no team will put up with such nonsense if his hitting falls off.
Cabrera is sadly mistaken if he thinks the Braves mistreated him when they handed him his walking papers after one season. If he is looking for someone to blame for getting his release from the Braves, he should look no further than the nearest mirror.
Baseball’s unwritten rules seem to dictate that pitcher Tim Hudson of the Braves should have drilled Cabrera in the ribs with a fastball during Thursday afternoon’s series finale. But I was glad the Braves did not sink to Cabrera’s level by throwing one under his chin, no matter how tempting it may have been to do so. Had they retaliated and the action resulted in the suspension of a Braves’ pitcher, then Cabrera would have had the last laugh. And he would have been braying like the jackass he is.