Pale Hose FINALLY win it ALL! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Carl Mitchell   
Sunday, 18 December 2011 17:52

Its been a long 43 seasons for owner Carl Mitchell, but in the unlikeliest of seasons, the White Sox finally got over the hump and won the BB2F/BOY World Series Title! In a year where the team wasn't expected to play better than .500 baseball, nor be able to win the AL West over the mighty Detroit Tigers, with their stars Stan Musial and Yogi Berra, the Southsiders showed incredible fortitude and did what nobody could have foreseen.

The credit for the team's success is widespread amongst the players, but nobody would argue the addition of future Hall of Fame Catcher Josh Gibson back in April in a trade with the only team he had ever played for, the Boston Braves, was the major catalyst for everything the Team accomplished.

The 35 year old Gibson didn't have his best statistical season, but still hit .321 with 23 HR and 84 RBI after joining the Sox, good for a VORP of 52.1 while with the team. He provided the leadership that was sorely needed on the squad. Gibson had been to the playoffs 4 times with Boston, and to the World Series once, but had never won. His hunger for the Championship Ring drove the team. He was joined by 36 year old veteran Hank Greenberg, who knocked in 99 while hammering 20 HR to provide the majority of offensive punch. Greenberg had never been to the playoffs in his long, great career. Young 3B Gil Hodges was the 3rd point in the power trio, and despite a late season injury, he was able to come back for The Series and provide much needed help against the vaunted Cubs. Gibson and Greenberg were both inked to extensions during the season, so the three will be together at least 3 more seasons barring injury or retirement.

I would be remiss to mention that All-Time great White Sox, 39 year old Ray Brown, will indeed get his Ring, despite missing the majority of the season injured after messing up his arm on May 30th. He did have a winning season for the Sox, going 5-4. He started every game he pitched in, and all 5 victories were needed! He is expected to be released by the White Sox, who will eat the final year of his contract to make room for younger players. There is no doubt now that his career is complete.

The Sox pitching was definitely a surprise this season. The team featured no Ace, yet was steady across the rotation of starters and relievers. Their combined ERA of 3.64 was good for 2nd in the AL. Washington had former Sox Bob Lemon, and Detroit traded for Lefty LaMarque, both of whom had amazing seasons, yet it was the Sox rag-tag 5 man rotation that led to the AL pennant! By playoff time, the team pared down to 3 starters and relied on the Pen. Those starters were fantastic, though.

Former National Lefty Wilkie, a Canadian, was definitely the MVP of the playoffs for the White Sox. The Sox got him in the Lemon trade back in 1945. He has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen in his Sox career, even starting in the pen this season. He was moved to the rotation on August 30 to replace the injured Elmer Singleton. He immediately caught fire and never cooled down. His performance forced the Blue Eyed Japanese, Vic Starffin, to the bullpen for the playoffs! Wilkie then went 3-0 in the playoffs, with a 1.13 ERA and 0.78 whip, including 2-0 in the World Series where he gave up only 1 run in 15 innings pitched. He earned the Win in the Title-winning game, with a save by the displaced Starffin for good measure. Pretty good for a one and a half star swingman.

Fellow starters Andy Lapihuska and Paul "Lefty" Minner were also spectacular in the postseason. In fact, Lapihuska did not allow an earned run in 3 playoff starts, and was the winner in the clinching game over Washington in the ALCS. Minner, pitching in only his 2nd major league season, had the honor of facing the other team's Ace in the Opening Games of both the ALCS and the World Series. That tough assignment led to a post-season record of 2-2, but his ERA was a meager 0.86 and he had a whip of 0.99! You cannot ask any more of 3 starting pitchers than what the White Sox got in the Playoffs! Just goes to show that in baseball, anything can happen if your players get hot at the right time. It was magical.

One other player to mention is 32 year old 2B John Antonelli, who nearly claimed the World Series MVP for himself. Antonelli somehow managed to hit 2 HRs and knock in 5 runs in the World Series, with a total playoff batting average of .341 with a .943 OPS! Completely unexpected! He was signed in the preseason with the intention of being a backup infielder, but ended up manning 2B for most of the season as the starter despite his offensive woes. He found himself an important role player on the team which decided not to re-sign long-time 2B Stan Sperry after 1946 (who ended his season on the Cubs' World Series roster, oddly enough). He is a lifetime .197 hitter in 3 regular seasons, with only 8 HRs to his name. Again, it was magical.

So the off-season begins, with another World Series Title for the Great City of Chicago, but this time its home is on the South Side for the next year! There will be changes to the team, including a hard good-bye to a loyal long-time friend in Ray Brown, but standing still gets you passed by in today's game. I just want to say I LOVE this League, and I cannot be happier than I am at this moment. And its good to finally beat Mike!

 
Twice is Nice for NY Giants PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Rackow   
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 18:29
The celebration in New York got kicked off for another 12 months with the World Champion Giants enjoying a ticker-tape parade through the Big Apple for a second straight year. The storybook ending to the season was far from a certainty, though.
The 1946 campaign seemed destined for mediocrity for the Giants when starter Monty Stratton went down with a season-ending injury towards the end of a sub-.500 three month period from May through July.  With their ace gone for the stretch run for the second straight year, and trailing the Boston Braves six games at the end of July, the Giant's faithful had to hope that the potent lineup could cover for a sub-par staff and pen.
Boy, did they ever rise to the challenge, finishing at or near the top of most offensive categories. They managed to overtake the Braves when they stumbled in August and September, but still had to sweat out a season-closing series against their division rival. They won the division, but the doubters would remain. How would the Giants, winners of a mere 83 games (7 MLB teams finished the 1946 season with more wins, 4 of them watching the playoffs from their living rooms) fare against a balanced Cincinnati Red team that bested both the 89-win Cubs and 86-win Pirates in an NL Central dogfight that went down to the wire?
They would struggle, returning to Crosley Field in Cincinnati after a 16-2 drubbing in Game 5, down 3 games to 2. But pitching, of all things, would provide the salvation they needed: Wilmer Fields posting a complete-game victory in Game 6, and Warren Spahn combining with several relievers for a dramatic, extra-inning, Game 7 shutout against the Red's rookie-of-the-year winner, starter Russ Meyer.
The ALCS featured the Giant's AL counterparts, the hated Yankees, a 96-win juggernaut who led wire-to-wire in the East (but still found themselves fending off the noble, upstart Washington Nationals (no bias here!) as the season wound down) and the defending AL pennant winners, the Detroit Tigers, who had to hold off the St. Louis Browns' furious 12-5 finish that saw them pull to within a single game in the standings. With the Tigers dispatching the Yankees in 5 games, a rematch of last year's Series was set.
With neither team's pitching staff very well regarded, most observers anticipated a slugfest...and that's what they got. Almost 15 runs-per-game were scored in the Giant's 4 games to 2 victory, and none of the many hitting stars in either lineup came up as big as Series MVP Danny Gardella. Danny torched the Tigers for a .619 batting average, blasting 7 homers, scoring 9 runs, and driving in 15!
There was some concern that in the time owner/GM Zach Deuel spent away from the game from 1939 to 1942, the game may have passed him by. But raising a moribund Giants franchise (they lost 200 games from 1941-1942) to consecutive championships in 5 short years seems to show that, on the contrary, it's the game that has some catching up to do with Zach. The Giants payroll may ultimately provide the next challenge for him, though that doesn't look to be a major concern until 1948. And what of the Tigers? Three straight World Series appearances, but missing out on the ultimate prize the last two years means they will return even more hungry next season.
As always, we will have to wait to see which team will have that necessary combination of strategy, talent, and luck that results in the ultimate prize: the 1947 World Series Championship. Congrats to the New York Giants, and good luck to all the teams in 1947!
 
Tigers Back Atop Baseball In Workman-Like 1942 Season PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dave Schwaller   
Saturday, 26 February 2011 09:53

05-06-07-10-33-34-42.  Are those the lotto numbers that Joe Tiger Fan would play? You bet. How better to honor the championship seasons for the home town team?  Although winning the World Series may not be an unfamiliar thing for Tiger Fans, doing it this way just might be.  Used to season win totals well into the 90s, this years club won only 82 in the regular season and needed 7 games in both post-season matchups against the Red Sox and Cubs.  The Red Sox were a juggernaut, going 99-55, and had 3 top-tier pitchers in rookie Starffin, Barrett, and Hallett.  As for the Cubs, 44 of their 91 wins came from the Dean brothers, as did 44% of the team’s innings.  Talk about workhorses.

 So as David slew Goliath, so did the Tigers slay the giants that were the Red Sox an Cubs.  What was the team’s strategy?  How did they have success in the face of such improbable odds?  Well, the Tigers have never been afraid to trot out power before average.  This year, even though they hit 125 homers, was not that simple formula.  Old met young, homegrown talent welcomed new acquisition.  Joe ‘Ducky’ Medwick tacked on another stellar year to a Hall-of-Fame career.  Gene Hasson batted 0.324 and seemed to always deliver that clutch hit.  But it is new blood that has energized the bats in Detroit.  Stan Musial weighs in on the skeptic side of the ‘Sophmore Slump’ debate with a 0.317 / 20 HR / 95 RBI effort.  Oh yeah, he also stole 15 bases and had 107 walks.  Arguably the team leader was new to Detroit, Willard Brown came over in an off-season trade with the Pirates and fit in like that last puzzle piece you just found under the coaster on the table after a half hour of looking everywhere, swearing at the dog, cracking your head on the cabinet as you reached between there and the fridge, and had to be physically restrained from pitching the whole table over because you couldn’t have gotten those 5 hours back had you not found that piece.  Always tallying solid offensive stats, Brown is indispensible up the middle.  How many guys in the league would be able to start at both centerfield and shortstop?  So yes, the Tigers are an offensive club first, but don’t dismiss their pitching staff before closer inspection.  Ace Verdell Mathis won 21 games and put up 345 critical innings at a 2.90 ERA and 1.07 WHIP clip.  Behind him Johnny Beazley and Fred Hutchinson put in innings and gave the team chances to win.  But maybe the key move was the acquisition of Cocania Garcia mid-season.  After Early Wynn went down with a shoulder injury and minor leager Connie Johnson couldn’t step up GM Rodney McBride went and did something few would have.  He traded inside the division to get Garcia and was instantly rewarded.  The affable Cuban went 10-4 the second half of the season and helped launch the Tigers into the playoffs.

 When we look back at the near history of the Tigers we see dismal teams.  Win totals around 60 for the previous three years with little promise.  Between the draft, wise trades, and free agency they have rebuilt and are hungry for more.  Seems to me that they are only on the upstroke of this curve, having fortune before they have peaked.  So look out Chicago, New York, and Boston, it’ll be tougher than ever to bring home a Tiger pelt for the foreseeable future.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 February 2011 10:00
 
Yankees (David) top (slays) Cubs (Goliath) in nailbiting 1943 series PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dave Schwaller   
Sunday, 10 April 2011 13:10
Yankees GM Vance Violante has delivered to New York what none of his predicesors had, a World Series Title.  Oh wait, he did that in 1938, that’s right.  Oops, forgot about 1931 too.  Like delivering offerings of sacrifice to an angry, lava spewing volcano, these titles have been laid before ravenous Yankee fans – and they are satisfied.

Sacrifice is what it took this year for a team vastly different from most of the elite baseball clubs.  The Yankees were setup as a scrappy, station to station lineup with a mixture of veteran and young pitchers.  They’d need to play solid, mistake free ball and avoid injuries to have a chance.  Or at least that was the common opinion before the season, because injuries were one thing the Yankees had in excess.  Ace Leroy Matlock started the season on the DL from an elbow injury suffered the previous September.  Second year starter Eiji Sawamura wend down in April after a hot 4-1 start.  Jake Wade’s glass elbow blew up in May along with Joe Dobson’s finger.  This meant that the equivalent of a major league staff would be out the majority of the first half of the season.  Add Orie Arntzen as an August scratch and it was like 3 of the 4 starters were out the entire season.  If the pitching was held together with duct tape and bailing wire, the field positions needed only the occasional oil change.  All eight field positions were manned by the same player all year, with those players all taking the field for 130+ games.  Without huge power, they depended on leadoff man George Myatt to generate runs.  Team speed along with getting on base however possible made up for any lack of power and then some.  The Yankees had a major league leading 162 steals with Myatt chalking up 68 of those.  Opposing pitchers felt like they were swatting at hornets trying to survive those long innings on the mound.  How else could a team at the bottom of the list for homers, slugging, and extra base hits win it all?

The Yankees season started off hot.  After they went 17-11 in April, they followed with an 18-10 May to lead the AL East by nine games.  Tough to imagine that they’d be up only one game going into the last series against the Nationals, but winning the first two of that series handily crushed any doubt who was going to represent the AL East in the post season.  This momentum continued into the post season against the defending champion Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers are the anthisis of the Yankees, leading the league with 185 home runs, only three times the Yankees total.  Pitching is where the Tigers were vulnerable, but that was not why the Yankees won the AL pennant 4-2.  The Tigers outscored them 26-24 in the series.  After dropping the first two by wide margins, the Yankees came back and won the next four, two of them by 1 run, one of them a two run game and the fourth by three.  On the other side of the page, the NLCS was a see-saw battle.  Opening with a 6 hit shutout, Boston Braves ace Lefty LaMarque set the tone for the first four games.  Trailing three games to one, the Cubs pinned back their ears and finished with wins of 8-1, 6-1, and 10-1 to get to the World Series.

And all of this has been the prologue to what many are calling the best World Series played.  It started in Chicago, home of the 99-55 Cubs.  By record alone this should have been a 4-1 or 4-2 series win for the Cubs, but the Yanks had been through wars all year.  Game 1 featured 31 game and 6-time Joe Wood Award winner Dizzy Dean against Leroy Matlock.  Starting the series with a run in the first inning was a good sign for the Yankees, but they were hard to come by for both teams the entire series.  Matlock won this contest scattering 7 hits for the complete game shutout, 2-0.  Game 2 only had one more run than game 1, but this time it was the Cubs winning 2-1 on a Joe Greene solo shot in the 4th.  As a quick aside, home runs were quite the story in Chicago this year as the Cubs led the NL with 159.  The power combo of Hal Trosky and Hank Sauer circled the bases 83 times, Sauer 46 of those.  That’s right, we have a new single season home run leader, and his name is Hank Sauer.  The third year left-fielder now has 115, and his eyes are squarely on John Beckwith’s trophy.

The series then moved to the Bronx, where it was Dizzy’s turn for a shutout, also a 7-hitter for a 3-0 win.  Offense has been hard to come by for these clubs so accurate and mistake free play has become all that more important.  Down 2-1 in the series the Yanks now faced the younger Dean Paul for the second time.  Only tallying one run against him in game 2 and down 3-0 in the 5th is where the club needed some clutch performances.  After two walks and a flyout, Matlock came through with a hustle play to make Shoeless Joe proud.  He squeaked out a bunt single to load the bases to the cheers of the Yankee faithful.  Two pitches later Myatt laced a single to right field to score two and get the club back into the game.  They would get to Dean again in the 6th, with back-to-back doubles by George Benson (who the club got from the opposing Cubs last offseason, can you say payback?) and Ken Sears to tie the score at 3.  This roller coaster of a game continued to excite as the Cubs put together a patchwork run in the 7th.  All was quiet until the bottom of the 8th when Benson walked followed by a 2-run pinch-hit home run by Elmer Valo.  The 1939 first round draft pick of the Phillies made the most of the opportunity putting the Yanks up 5-4.  Fans never left their feet afterwards and a creshendo came from the stands when the 1943 AL Fireman Award winner Joe Haynes toed the mound in the 9th.  Haynes collected 21 saves in his 4th season for the pinstripes.  Piper Davis had something to say about what he thought the series outcome would be as he rifled a grounder past one of the all time great Yankees and future Hall-of-Famer Perucho Cepeda.  He was sacrificed to second by Patterson on the first pitch he saw and the tone of the crowd became anxious at best as they realized the top of the Cubs order was up.  After an Ethan Allen groundout failed to move Davis, Ted Petoskey took a 2-1 fastball and ripped it into left field.  Cubs rookie third base coack Don Zimmer did his best impression of a windmill and sent Davis.  Freshly inserted into the lineup at the top of the inning, defensive specialist Tommy Thompson scooped up the ball and fired an absolute laser to backup catcher Mike Guerra, who absorbed a vicious blow from Piper Davis, knowing it was his only chance at scoring.  The crowd was made to wait an excruciating 5 seconds as the home plate umpire circled the prone bodies before him searching for the ball.  Everyone exploded in unison as Guerra raised the ball in his right hand and Davis was punched out, finishing the game.  The Yankees stormed the field, Guerra, and Thompson and it was pandemonium in the crowd.  Quite possibly the best game in World Series history was over, but the series was not.  Premature celebration has been the bane of runner-ups since the time of the gladiators, and Violante was going to do everything he could to make sure that wouldn’t happen to his club.

Another nail biter was on tap for the following day, with the clubs trading the lead multiple times in another 5-4 gem that Tommy Thompson this time won with his bat, an 8th inning double to score Pennington.  Going back to Chicago with a day off in their back pocket was just what the doctor ordered for the Cubs.  Dizzy Dean took the ball and fired his second shutout of the World Series, this time a 5-hit performance that took him 10 innings.  Nick Strincevich matched Dean for nine innings, but after loading the bases in the 10th without getting an out, Haynes threw a wild pitch with Dean at the plate to allow Dixie Walker to cross the plate and even the series at 3.  It was the Cub faithful’s turn to go crazy, knowing that the deciding game would be at their house the next day.  Game 7 was a matchup between the younger Dean and Matlock, even though the rumors that the Cubs would start Dizzy even a day after a 10 inning shutout were confirmed by GM Mike Giovacchini.  Calmer heads prevailed and Dizzy was sent to the pen.  On this day it would be Matlock who was the story, both with his arm and his bat.  Four shutout innings and a 2-run homer are all Leroy put up before leaving the game in the 5th with a finger injury.  In the end the game was not much closer than the final 11-3 score, even with the Yankees exploding for 5 runs in the 9th.

The 1943 season is over, and a gritty Yankee club without a bonafide star is your champion.  Celebrations will go on throughout the weekend until the team parade on Monday, followed shortly by the expectation of another championship.  Looking at the players and the GM who put them in the position to succeed, who can doubt their ability to do it again next year.

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 April 2011 13:12
 
Nationals Return To Glory PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 November 2010 14:25

With a thrilling 7-game World Series victory, the nation's capital is abuzz once again about their ball club. Baseball fans around the country, not just in the Northeast, were treated to an instant classic in this matchup, the Washington Nationals and the NL champ Brooklyn Dodgers.


After exchanging wins for the first 4 games, Brooklyn turned to late season call-up Ossie Judd. A 3rd round pick in the 1940 draft, Judd had only 6 games under his belt when he found himself on the mound in the decisive Game 5 of a tied World Series. Just like in his few starts in the regular season, though, Judd dominated, hurling a complete game, 2-hit shutout.

The series headed back to Washington with the Nat'ls trailing 3-2; they were to be facing Brooklyn ace Joe Gonzales (who was 5-0 in the post-season coming into the game, and only had allowed 2 earned runs in his 39 innings) and that their own ace, Lefty Gomez, had come up on the short end of this matchup twice already in the series. As might have been predicted, Smokey Joe Gonzales went right through the weak Nationals lineup, holding them hitless through 6, and giving up only a leadoff double to Frank McCormick in the last of his 7 innings. But when you're the 7th-ranked offense in the AL, you get used to scoring scrappy runs, or you don't score at all. That one hit was turned into a run with two subsequent sacrifices. Lefty Gomez shook off a sub-par playoff run by shining brightest when the pressure was highest, in a World Series elimination game. His 8 innings of scoreless ball allowed Washington's closer, Wayne LaMaster, to finish off the Game 6 gem, a 1-0 Washington victory.

“Game Seven,” the most exciting two words in sports, featured a red-hot Ad Liska (5-1 in the playoffs, despite of only going 17-15 in the regular season for the Nat'ls) against a struggling Tex Hughson (who would win only 1 of his 5 playoff starts). The Washington offense erupted for 5 runs in the 3rd inning (this represents more than a third of the runs they scored all series, by the way), and the score stood at 5-2 when Liska was lifted in the 7th. This left Brooklyn with a seemingly insurmountable 3-run deficit against the elite bullpen in the majors (2.88 regular season ERA), and only 2 innings to do it. But an error on Washington's young centerfielder, Wally Judnich, allowed the Dodgers to plate a run in the 8th, and when LaMaster surrendered a solo homerun in the 9th to Frank Reiber, that put Brooklyn's homerun leader, Danny Litwhiler, at the plate as the tying run with two outs. Never one to do things the easy way, LaMaster allowed Litwhiler to lay into one, but when it settled into 35-year-old rightfielder Randy Moore's glove, it was the Washington Nationals, not the Brooklyn Dodgers, who poured out onto the field to celebrate their World Series victory.


That these two teams with solid pitching but weak lineups would square off in the Series was rather unexpected. Washington had to first dispose of the powerhouse Cleveland Indians, a 98-win team, who not only scored the most runs in the majors (820) but also was second only to Washington runs allowed in the AL (600). Like Washington, Brooklyn ranked in the bottom 2 in their league in runs scored, and had to face a giant of their own: the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates won 93 games, and were 3rd in the majors leagues in runs scored, and 2nd in runs allowed. While both 90+ win teams had impressive resumes, they proved unable to overcome teams that could counter their strengths and muster timely hitting.


After almost a decade without a title, the National's 3rd straight division title, coupled with the World Series title this season, has even reserved fans giddy at the prospect of the return to a Washington National's dynasty. Not since their incredible run through the 1920's (10 straight WS appearances from 1919-1928, with 7 titles) has the area been so struck with baseball fever, optimism bolstered by the fact that almost all of their core players are already locked up for at least 3 more seasons.

This fact helps make owner/GM Dave Schwaller something of a local celebrity, rather the toast of the town. A fixture in the capital's high-society social circuit, Mr. Schwaller, in his trademark top hat and monocle, can regularly been seen in his private balconey at the opera or at various box socials and garden parties, where he is a enjoying the fruits of his success and the attention running a successful professional ball club brings.

Whether such dalliances will affect his focus on the long term success of the team remains to be seen. What is clear is that it has proven difficult to repeat in the modern MLB under any circumstances. The last six World Series' have, rather astoundingly, featured 11 different teams: A's, Cubs, Tigers, Pirates, Yankees, Reds, Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, and Nationals. The Pirates are the only team to make it back to the Series twice in that time, and are the only repeat champs, as well.

This provides hope for next season for fans of all the also-rans from this year; but for now, all the joy belongs to the city of Washington.

 
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