Sunday, January 29, 2017

1937...The Season of the Two Joes

1937...and the Joes Show


1937. The depression was waning, but Europe was headed towards war...
During this year, the Golden Gate Bridge opened, Amelia Earhart disappeared, and Howard Hughes took flight, breaking his own trans-continental flight record. Snow White debuted in the theaters, the fantasy novel The Hobbit is released, and a former Chicago Cubs radio announcer made his big screen debut...Ronald Reagan.
The German airship Hindenburg burst into flames while trying to 'dock' at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in new Jersey. The first “Blood Bank” opened in Chicago, which had seen an increase in polio cases during the year, causing schools to stay closed.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt is sworn in for the second of his four terms.
On the sports front, Joe Louis became the Heavyweight Champion in boxing. The Brown Bomber beat Jim Braddock in June, and would go on to hold the title for almost twelve years.
Around the world, King Edward VII abdicated the throne to marry an American woman, and King George VI had his coronation in May. Neville Chamberlain became the British Prime Minister. The Toyota Motor Company is founded in Japan, and Japan invaded China.
But it was two Joes that dominated on the diamond...

The 1937 baseball season was one of the top offensive producing seasons in Major League history. The American League tallied a .281 batting average as a league, while the national League batted at a .272 clip.
This translates into a bad year for pitchers, as the combined ERA was 4.27 across the leagues, with the National League pitchers outperforming their American league counterparts by 21.4%. Which stands to reason, since the National League hurlers didn't face Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig or Rudy York. The American League, as a whole, scored 506 less runs than they did in 1936, but hit 48 more home runs.

The top American League teams (Yankees, White Sox, Tigers) steamrolled the weaker teams (Browns and Senators). The St. Louis Browns finished fifty-six games behind the pennant winning Yankees. The Senators fared a little better, only missing by forty-six and a half games. The Browns finished the season with the tenth worst winning percentage in American league history (.299) That fast will come into play in a little while, when we compare players to their team performances.
(The Tigers scored thirty-six runs against the Browns during a doubleheader in August)

At season's end, the Power Rankings looked like this:
Yankees
World Series Champs
White Sox
3rd in AL
Tigers
2nd in AL
Giants
NL Champs
Indians
4th in AL
And as it played out, the Yankees defeated the Giants in five games in the Series.

The 1937 season began on an unusual note.

The Giants were visiting the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. Dick Bartell of the Giants stepped to the plate against Van Lingle Mungo. Mungo and Bartell had a bit of a history, having gotten into a fistfight the previous season. And prior to that, Bartell had a few other run ins with Dodger players, previously spiking Joe Judge and Lonny Frey in earlier seasons.

Bartell stepped to the plate, and Mungo fired a fastball for a strike. Suddenly a big soft tomato flew out of the stands, its hurler unknown, and also landed a strike, right in the middle of Bartell's chest. It took him a moment to realized that he had not been shot, as the umpire allowed him time to change his jersey before the game resumed.
Undaunted from that point on,the Giants won 1-0 over the Dodgers on their way to the National League pennant. The Giants outlasted the Cubs to win the title by three games.

On a side note, the Reds would finish in last place in 1937, and then wouldn't finish in last again until 1982.

The All-Star Game is believed to have claimed its first career in 1937. Earl Averill of the Indians hit a line drive that broke Dizzy Dean's toe. The Cardinal's pitcher altered his delivery after the incident, which led to elbow and shoulder issues. He finished the season at 13-10, but won just sixteen more games over the next four seasons.

In Chicago, construction began on reconstructing the bleachers. The plan was to build the bleachers in concrete, instead of wood, and have them fronted by a brick wall. In September of that year, the now iconic ivy was planted to cover the brick facade.
The also iconic scoreboard was installed for the 1937 season. To date, no batted ball has ever hit the scoreboard at Wrigley Field. Golfer Sam Snead did hit it with a golf ball teed up at home plate in 1951.

There were two rookie pitchers that each won twenty games in the National League. Jim Turner of the Boston Braves, and Cliff Melton of the New York Giants. Melton had an unfortunate nickname that almost wrecked his big-league career before it started...Mickey Mouse.


Some players made note of his 'floppy jug ears', and would tease him about it, which infuriated Melton. Word spread quickly that if someone yelled Mickey Mouse while Melton was pitching, it would affect his pitching.

During Spring Training in 1936, opposing manager Ray Schalk called Melton Mickey Mouse, and Melton charged into the dugout and knocked Schalk out cold.. Three more times over the next month, players would dare to call Melton by his nickname, and three more times, Melton would get the knockout. (His being 6 foot 6 and 205 pounds combined with what seemed to be blind rage helped with his pugilistic exploits.
Fortunately, he was able to overcome his anger issues, and went on to win twenty games in 1937.

And speaking of Jim Turner, he became the first Brave pitcher to lead the league in ERA.

Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi became the first catcher to amass six hits in one game.

Cubs outfielder Augie Galan became the first switch-hitter to homer from each side of the plate in the same game. And Frank Demaree got six hits in the first game of a double-header, and two more in the nightcap, giving him eight hits on the same day.


There were two Triple Crown winners in 1937. War Admiral set the horse racing world on fire, guided by jockey Charley Kurtsinger, and winning the Big Three races.

And Cardinals slugger Joe “Ducky” Medwick won the National League's Triple Crown, the last National Leaguer to do so. (He wound up in a tie for the home run lead with Mel Ott. He did hit a home run that was negated because that game was eventually forfeited by the Phillies) He also became the fourth player to lead the National League in homes and doubles in the same season. It would be 1973 until Willie Stargell of the Pirates would do it again.
Medwick became the first player to get four hits in the All-Star Game that summer.

Medwick, Hall of Fame outfielder from Carteret, New Jersey, made a name for himself as a cocky, surly young man during his minor league days. A shrewd negotiator, he studied the Sporting News weekly, and figured out which major league team had the biggest need for an outfielder. He decided that St. Louis, though a solid team at the time (1930), their outfield was aging. Signing with the Cardinals would help fast-track himself to the big leagues.
He made several stops along his minor league career, most notably in Houston, where he earned the nickname “Ducky”, allegedly because he may have waddled a little as he walked. Some of the ladies took to calling him “Ducky-Wucky”, which he hated. But unlike Cliff Melton, Medwick took the nickname in stride.
An opportunistic executive, Houston Bulls team president Fred Ankenman contracted with a local candy company to produce a “Ducky-Wucky” candy bar to be sold at the Bulls home games.
Medwick decided that since he had to endure the Ducky-Wucky moniker, he could at least earn some profit for his troubles, so he demanded a cut of the sales of the chocolate bar. So at this point, nineteen year-old minor league outfielder had what only Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh had, which was a chocolate bar named after them (Take that, Reggie Jackson)

(special mention of friend Gary Cierdakowski and his great book “The League of Outsider Baseball” for these special Joe Medwick tidbits)

He easily made it through several levels before reaching St. Louis during the 1932 season. He would hit .300 or better in his first eleven seasons, and would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame.
1937 became the second consecutive year where two American League sluggers amassed both 200 hits and 40 home runs. Lou Gehrig and Hank Greenberg in 1936, Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio in 1937.

In Detroit, rookie catcher Rudy York hit thirty-five homers, just the third rookie to hit 35 or more in his first season. Eighteen of those thirty-five (51.4%) were hit in August. And he still owns the record for the highest slugging percentage by a rookie, at .651.

Hank Greenberg joined Lou Gehrig in the exclusive 200 hits + 100 walks club. This was Greenberg's first time, and Gehrig's second. No one else had done it before Gehrig.
Hank also became the first player with 200 hits and 100 strikeouts, the seventh American League player with 40 homers and 40 doubles, and the first Tiger to hit 40 homers in a season.
He also set the record for Runs Batted In by a right handed hitter in the American League, and still holds the all-time record for most teammates driven in. He drove in 183 runs, hitting 40 homers, so 183-40=143 teammates driven in)

And it was a teammate that won the Most Valuable Player Award that year...Charlie Gehringer.

Over to the Bronx, where the Yankees would best the Giants in the Fall Classic, pitcher Lefty Gomez became the first pitcher to win both the All-Star Game and a World Series game in the same season.
But Joltin' Joe DiMaggio set all sorts of marks in what many believe was his finest season of his illustrious career. In taking a bit of sage advice from the legendary Ty Cobb, Joe changed from a forty ounce bat to a thirty-six ounce bat. He shared the Yankee spotlight with the great Lou Gehrig, and surpassing him at points during the season, Dimaggio became an almost immediate superstar.
In just his second year, the twenty-two year-old center-fielder hit .346 with 46 homers, 167 runs batted in and scored 151 runs. (Three Yankees drove in 130 or more runs, and four players scored 125 or more runs)
He was the youngest player to hit .330 with 40 or more homers in a season, and had the fourth highest Total Bases total in AL history (418)
DiMaggio was the second player to hit 40 or more homers while striking out less than 50 times. Lou Gehrig was the other to do it, and he did it twice.

And Joe became the first player to homer in a World Series Game during three different decades, the thirties, forties and fifties.

And it was a Duck (Ducky Medwick) and a Jolt (Joltin' Joe DiMaggio) that each reached 400 total bases, just the third time that more than one player reached 400 Total Bases in the same season (1930 and 1936)


So, let's get to the stats. Starting in the weak pitching American League, our initial numbers bring us this list of top performers:
PITCHER
TEAM
W-L
ERA
VOTES
Monty Stratton
White Sox
15-5
2.40
No votes
Lefty Gomez
Yankees
21-11
2.33
9th in MVP
Johnny Allen
Indians
15-1
2.55
13th in MVP
Red Ruffing
Yankees
20-7
2.98
8th in MVP
Lefty Grove
Red Sox
17-9
3.02
No votes
Ted Lyons
White Sox
12-7
4.15
No votes
Thornton Lee
White Sox
12-10
3.54
No votes
Eldon Auker
Tigers
17-9
3.88
No votes
John Whitehead
White Sox
11-8
4.07
No votes
Jack Wilson
Red Sox
16-10
3.70
No votes

And then compared to their teams performances, remembering the Browns and A's numbers may skew these initially, we get:
Oral Hildebrand
Browns
8-17
5.14
No votes
Jack Knott
Browns
8-18
4.89
No votes
Johnny Allen
Above



Monty Stratton
Above



Lefty Grove
Above



Lefty Gomez
Above



George Caster
A's
12-19
4.34
No votes
Wes Ferrell
Red Sox
14-19
4.90
No votes
Red Ruffing
Above



Eldon Auker
Above



Monty Stratton of the White Sox is one of baseball's forgotten heroes. He wasn't interested in baseball much as a young man, but was approached to pitch for a local semi-pro team near his home in Texas. He pitched very well, and was noticed by scouts, and made his way to the White Sox rotation in short order.
1937 was his breakout year, and although he would win fifteen games in 1938, his career was ended by a horrific hunting accident, where he accidentally shot himself in the leg, severing an artery, and causing an amputation of the leg. He would never pitch in the majors again...
But he did pitch again...

Amazingly, after a few years, and the help of his wife/catcher, Stratton was able to teach himself to pitch again, and was able to take the mound in 1948 for the Sherman Twins of the East Texas League (Class C ball) And he pitched well enough to win eighteen games.

The made a movie, The Monty Stratton Story that starred Jimmy Stewart.
(Thanks again to Gary Cieradkowski)

Also of note is Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez. A colorful character for the business like Yankees, Lefty was always judged to be a little off-center. But what a pitcher he was.
My favorite story involving him happened during this season. In the World Series, Game 1 I believe, Gomez stepped off the mound and signaled for catcher Bill Dickey to come out to the mound. Dickey trots out, confused as to what was going on, and Lefty asked him, “You still got them hunting dog puppies?”
“Huh?” Dickey responded
“You know, them puppies that you had. I had a friend ask me to ask if you had any of them puppies left, and I just now remembered to ask. Do you?”
Dickey didn't answer, just shook his head and went back behind the plate.

I do not know if Lefty's friend ever got a puppy or not.

Anyway, our top overall pitching performances for 1937 in the American League were;
Monty Stratton
Johnny Allen
Lefty Gomez
Red Ruffing
Lefty Grove
Ted Lyons
Eldon Auker
Thornton Lee
Tommy Bridges (Tigers 15-12 4.07)
Jack Wilson

Now over to the National League, where the pitchers fared a little better, our initial rankings are:
PITCHER
TEAM
W-L
ERA
VOTES
Jim Turner
Braves
20-11
2.38
4th in MVP
Cliff Melton
Giants
20-9
2.61
11th in MVP
Lou Fette
Braves
20-10
2.88
5th in MVP
Carl Hubbell
Giants
22-8
3.20
3rd in MVP
Dizzy Dean
Cardinals
13-1
2.69
No votes
Tex Carleton
Cubs
16-8
3.15
No votes
Danny McFayden
Braves
14-14
2.93
No votes
Van Mungo
Dodgers
9-11
2.91
No votes
Slick Castleman
Giants
11-6
3.31
No votes
Russ Bauers
Pirates
13-6
2.88
No votes

And now looking at how they did compared to their teams, we get:
Van Mungo
Above



Jim Turner
Above



Lou Fette
Above



Lee Grissom
Reds
12-17
3.26
19th in MVP
Tex Carleton
Above



Luke Hamlin
Dodgers
11-13
3.59
No votes
Dizzy Dean
Above



Peaches Davis
Reds
11-13
3.59
No votes
Danny McFayden
Above



Gene Schott
Reds
4-13
2.97
No votes
That brings our list of top national League pitchers for 1937 to:
Jim Turner
Lou Fette
Van Mungo
Dizzy Dean
Cliff Melton
Tex Carleton
Carl Hubbell
Danny McFayden
Slick Castleman
Lee Grissom


Now, to the very potent American league hitters, with runs produced per game, the initial numbers are:
PLAYER
TEAM
HR
RBI
AVG
RP/G
VOTES
Joe DiMaggio
Yankees
46
167
.346
1.80
2nd in MVP
Lou Gehrig
Yankees
37
158
.351
1.65
4th in MVP
Rudy York
Tigers
35
101
.307
1.33
23rd in MVP
Bill Dickey
Yankees
29
133
.332
1.36
5th in MVP
Charlie Gehringer
Tigers
14
96
.371
1.49
1st in MVP
Zeke Bonura
White Sox
19
100
.345
1.38
No votes
Jimmie Foxx
Red Sox
36
127
.285
1.35
No votes
Bob Johnson
A's
25
108
.306
1.26
No votes
Hal Trosky
Indians
32
128
.298
1.31
No votes
Joe Cronin
Red Sox
18
110
.307
1.31
7th in MVP
And against their teams performances, we get this ranking:
Bob Johnson
Above





Joe DiMaggio
Above





Harlon Clift
Browns
29
118
.306
1.24
13th in MVP
Zeke Bonura
Above





Lou Gehrig
Above





Wally Moses
A's
25
86
.320
1.13
11th in MVP
Beau Bell
Browns
14
117
.340
1.19
17th in MVP
Rudy York
Above





Billy Weber
A's
7
70
.292
1.16
No votes
Bill Dickey
Above





Which brings our top offensive list to this:
Joe DiMaggio
Lou Gehrig
Rudy York
Bill Dickey
Charlie Gehringer
Zeke Bonura
Bob Johnson
Jimmie Foxx
Harlond Clift
Hal Trosky

Now, on to the National League, our initial list is:
PLAYER
TEAM
HR
RBI
AVG
RC/G
VOTES
Joe Medwick
Cardinals
31
154
.374
1.50
1st in MVP
Johnny Mize
Cardinals
25
113
.364
1.32
10th in MVP
Gabby Hartnett
Cubs
12
82
.354
1.06
2nd in MVP
Dolph Camili
Phillies
27
80
.339
1.18
No votes
Frank Demaree
Cubs
17
115
.324
1.31
15th in MVP
Billy Herman
Cubs
8
65
.335
1.18
9th in MVP
Wally Berger
Braves/Giants
17
65
.285
1.15
No votes
Mel Ott
Giants
31
95
.294
1.08
7th in MVP
Arky Vaughan
Pirates
5
72
.322
1.10
No votes
Paul Waner
Pirates
2
74
.351
1.08
8th in MVP

And then compared to their teams, we get this list:
Joe Medwick
Above










Dolph Camili
Above










Johnny Mize
Above










Wally Berger
Above










Gene Moore
Braves
16
70
.283
0.96
No votes
Tony Cuccinello
Braves
11
80
.271
0.96
No votes
Heinie Manush
Dodgers
4
73
.333
0.95
21st in MVP
Ernie Lombardi
Reds
9
59
.334
0.76
No votes
Babe Phelps
Dodgers
7
58
.313
0.77
No votes
Mel Ott
Above










That brings our overall National League hitters ranking to:
Joe Medwick
Johnny Mize
Dolph Camili
Gabby Hartnett
Frank Demaree
Mel Ott
Billy Herman
Arky Vaughan
Paul Waner
Dick Bartell (Giants 14HR 62RBI .306AVG 1.09 RC/G, 6th in MVP)



The post season awards for Most Valuable Player were awarded to Charlie Gehringer and Joe Medwick. There was no post-season pitching awards given at this point in baseball history. Since it is my blog, I will make a note for pitcher of the year for each league, which would be the top of my overall list for pitchers in each league.
Some years, the pitcher is the player of the year, bust most times not. In a heavily offensive season, like this season in particular, the top league overall ranking (combining hitters and pitchers) are very hitter heavy.
With that being said, my top five overall performers in each league are:

American League:


Joe DiMaggio

Lou Gehrig
Rudy York
Bill Dickey

Monty Stratton (Pitcher of the Year)



National League:


Joe Medwick

Johnny Mize
Dolph Camili
Gabby Hartnett

Jim Turner (Pitcher of the Year)






Sunday, January 22, 2017

2017 Inductees

2017 Inductees

     Congratulations to this year's Hall of Fame inductees. The voters have spoken.

     Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez will grace the beloved Hall after their induction this coming summer. All three had lengthy careers, were multiple All-Stars, and were great players.
     
     When I look at the final ballot tally, I see that Trevor Hoffman was just five vote short of induction, so perhaps he may get in on the next vote. And that Vladimir Guerrero was fifteen votes shy. 
     I posted recently my picks for this year's ballot, and I stand behind that mythical vote. I would have voted for Mr. Guerrero, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Kent before I voted for Mr. Raines. That is not to besmirch The Rock of his accomplishment in being inducted, nor his accomplishments during his playing days either.

     It is worth noting that some of the players that have been accused of (or strongly suspected of) performance enhancement substance use and abuse, received stronger support with this year's ballot. Perhaps the time may come when these players garner enough support to be inducted despite their various dalliances.
     I am speaking of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

     Both of these greats became eligible for the Hall of Fame for the 2013 vote. Both are acknowledged to have been amongst the all-time greats before their PED use allegedly began. And neither had garnered more that 50% of the Hall of Fame vote. Until this year.

     Interestingly enough, the all-time home run king, both career and single-season has never been able to get more votes than "The Rocket".  Bonds has been able to garner a bit more support though, gaining 48.6% more votes in 2016 versus 2013. (Clemens only improved by 43.9%) So perhaps the day may come when these two are welcomed into the hallowed hall in Cooperstown.

     But, do they belong there? Well, yes they do. As does Pete Rose, as does Joe Jackson. These are the greats of the game. But, they did break the rules. And as such, the consequences are dealt with.

     But that is not to put Rose and Jackson in the same class as Bonds and Clemens. Rose and Jackson have been banned from baseball, while Bonds and Clemens have not. This past season saw Barry Bonds as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. They are eligible for the Hall of Fame. It is then up to the baseball writers to vote on their worthiness. Of this, there are no parameters. Numbers, anecdotal evidence, personal relationships, grudges and favors do all take a part of a writer's vote. And yes, so does politics.
     The one baseball writer that voted for Tim Wakefield for the Hall, instead of voting for Guerrero, Martinez or even Bonds, still retains the right to cast a vote in the 2018 election. Then, he could cast that vote for Chipper Jones, Jim Thome or even Brian Fuentes.

     So, is the problem the procedure itself? The current procedure calls for no mandate t elect any player, which was exactly what happened in 2013, when Craig Biggio was the highest vote getter, but still fell 39 votes shy of enshrinement.
     It is hard to fathom, in this day and age, that Yankee great Joe DiMaggio didn't get elected until his fourth year on the ballot. That's right...fourth. Hank Greenberg...nine years. In fact, beginning in 1956, the baseball writers voted only in even numbered years, and any inductees in those years were selected by a select committee of Veterans. And then, the writers didn't vote to induct anyone until 1962.

     With the high price of collectible memorabilia, and the big amounts that the players charge for signing said pieces, the Hall of Fame inscription carries a financial weight that wasn't there when the Hall was begun. It really has taken off in the last twenty years or so, so that may also factor into a feel, or a need, to vote for someone, if only to help them make some extra money in their retirement. But with this generation of ballplayers, and the guaranteed contracts and deferments, that shouldn't be in the equation at all.
 

     The Lords of Baseball are in a precarious position. Sure, they have decided to admit (via a special committee) Commissioner Bud Selig this summer, the man who allowed for many changes to the game. They have not addressed the players of the 'steroid age', but who's to say who did or didn't use enhancements to further their career? And that being said, does that cast a doubt on pitchers who may be having surgery to pre-empt any possible arm issues ahead of time? Does that fall under the performance enhancement category? Or having surgery to remove a rib, like a couple of pitchers have done, does that institute performance enhancement?

     I don't know what the answer is. But surely, someone has some idea of what to do.


     Just my two cents.










Thursday, January 12, 2017

1977...Millionaires, managers, expansion and a massacre


              1977 was the second season played after the implementation of re-entry free agency. The 1975 ruling that players were allowed to not sign a contract for their upcoming season (long term contracts were a rarity) opened the door for players to try their hand at the free market, to attempt to be paid ‘fair market value’ for their services. Which, in this case, meant their talent and worth at playing the game of baseball.
              Players who did not sign a contract, but continued to play for their team, had their contract automatically renewed for that season, but at the team’s option in regards to salary considerations. Well, to a degree. Teams could cut a player’s salary for the season, but by no more than twenty percent.
              Some teams, aware of the possibility of not being able to afford their star players had to weigh whether or not they should gamble on making a pennant run with the status quo, or trade their players who had ‘played out their option’ to a team willing to take the bigger gamble, and trade back some other, possibly younger, maybe even cheaper talent to acquire these stars.
              This process began in 1976, mainly by Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley, who traded superstar Reggie Jackson to the Baltimore Orioles after a very contentious hold-out/contract negotiation. Reggie, pitcher Ken Holtzman and minor leaguer Bill VanBommel went to Baltimore in exchange for Mike Torrez, Don Baylor and Paul Mitchell. Holtzman, still unhappy with the contract negotiations with Baltimore, so he was subsequently traded to the Yankees in June of that year, as part of a ten player deal.
              Reggie became a ‘rental’ player, staying in Baltimore for just that one season, and netting the A’s approximately $200,000 in salary savings in 1976. The Orioles managed a second place finish, and lost Reggie to the Yankees that following off-season.
              Following the earlier theme, in mid-1976, Charlie Finley tried to sell three other upcoming free agents. He had agreed to sell Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Boston Red Sox for $1,000,000 each, and pitcher Vida Blue to the Yankees for $1,500,000. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stopped the sale, citing the ‘best interest of baseball’ as his reasoning, and that the sales would ‘disrupt the competitive balance’ of the league. Finley would sue Major League Baseball, and Kuhn, and would lose.
              That being said, the financial picture of baseball was beginning to change dramatically. Never more-so
 than in 1977. The average major league salary jumped an incredible 44.8% from 1976. The two teams with the highest player salaries were the Phillies and the Yankees. Both topped the $3 million dollar mark.
              The twenty-four re-entry draft free agents hit the somewhat open market prior to the 1977 season, and would pave the way for the second wave of eighty-nine players would hit the market at the conclusion of the season. This would lead to several higher paid, bigger name players being traded, both before and during the season. The most notable of these trades was the trade between the Cubs and the Giants, where disgruntled batting champion Bill Madlock was sent to San Francisco for disgruntled All-Star Bobby Murcer. Both men wanted to renegotiate their contracts to take advantage of the loosened purse strings that the owners were now using, and neither team would budge. According to reports, both players were offered the same contracts by both teams.



              Many other players were upset at their contract situations, and some felt that players of lesser talent were being paid much more than their worth, while established players were being ‘short-changed’ by the free-wheeling attitude of the owners. Some veterans’ concerns were heard and addressed by their teams, while others deteriorated into toxic acrimonious conditions between owners and players.
              Dave Kingman of the Mets was a prime example of this. Kingman, who was known for his prodigious home-runs and high strikeout rates was one of the team’s remaining stars. He asked for the security of a long term contract, reported to be a five year deal worth $3 million. Kingman agreed to a lesser, $2 million deal, while the Mets never went beyond $1.2 million over a six year term. Kingman made known his intentions to play out his option, and become a free agent at the end of the year, at which point, the Mets renewed his 1977 contract, instituting the maximum cut in pay allowed, which dropped his salary to the $70,000 range.
              Kingman demanded a trade, and the Mets obliged, sending him to San Diego on June 15th, in exchange for pitcher Paul Siebert and infielder (and future Mets manager) Bobby Valentine.
              The Padres, also unable to reach an agreement with Kingman, later sold him to the California Angels, who then sold him to the New York Yankees. Kingman became the first player to play in four different divisions in the same year, and the fist to hit a home run for four different teams in a season.





              Speaking of June 15th...it is a date that Mets fans of a certain age know and remember all too well...The Franchise was traded.

              George Thomas Seaver was regarded as one of the top pitchers of his era. His three Cy Young Awards, numerous strikeout and ERA championships as well as his reputation as one of the most intelligent competitors all cemented his reputation.
              Many things led to the June 15th trade deadline deal, or as we Mets fans call it, “The Midnight Massacre”. The massacre involved the Dave Kingman trade, mentioned above, and a lesser deal sending shortstop Mike Phillips to the Cardinals for Joel Youngblood. But the one that tore our hearts out was the trade that sent Tom “Terrific” Seaver to the Reds in exchange for four players: infielder Doug Flynn, outfielder Steve Henderson, outfielder Dan Norman and pitcher Pat Zachry.
              Seaver, already one of the highest paid pitchers in the game. His contract issue was not one of impending free agency. In fact, he had signed a three year deal prior to the 1976 season, which paid him a base salary of $225,000 per year, plus incentives. Initial reports coming out of one of the New York newspapers said that Seaver wished to renegotiate the last two years of his contract, which Seaver claims was not the case. Seaver said that he wished to add an additional three year extension onto the existing contract.
              Mets General manager, M. Donald Grant, who had been placed in charge of the negotiations by the family of their late owner, Joan Payson, refused to budge, and essentially stonewalled Seaver. Things came to a head in early June when Seaver asked to be traded. Following several meetings, including some with Mrs. Payson’s daughter, Mrs. Lorinda de Roulet, who now had a controlling interest in the club, there was an agreement reached on June 14th that would satisfy Seaver and put the issue to rest. Mrs.de Roulet would have to ‘run it by the board’, but didn’t foresee any issues in approving the new deal.
              That next morning, an article written by Hall of Fame baseball writer Dick Young appeared in the New York Daily News. The article said, “Nolan Ryan (of the California Angels” is getting more money than Tom Seaver and that galls Tom because Nancy Seaver and Ruth Ryan are very friendly and Tom Seaver has long treated Ryan like a little brother”
              Seaver was incensed, and took the article as an attack on his family, at which point Seaver stated that all deals were off the table, and he demanded to be traded. Seaver continues to this day to point to that article as the reason for his demanding a trade, saying that Young had been his harshest critic, and that Young had been on the Mets management side since they hired his son-in-law.
              Young, who was regarded as the most influential baseball writer of his time, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, saying, “What it comes down to is Seaver wanted more money. Everything else is extraneous...If he says he told them it was all off because of my mentioning his wife and Ruth Ryan--all because of that one sentence--well, I find that pretty hard to believe...”
              Grant, in an interview with the Village Vice later that summer said that Seaver never expressed unhappiness with his salary until after the first re-entry draft.
              “I have a simple way of explaining it. In duplicate-bridge tournaments, it boils down to how many tricks you will make in a hand.Seaver played his hand at four spades and just made the bid. But another player played five spades and just beat him out by a little bit and won the big prize, and he said “Oh, my God, can I replay my hand?” It’s as simple as that.”
              Seaver, who joined the “Big Red Machine” in Montreal, won his first start for the Reds, a 6-0 shutout, wound up winning twenty-one games on the season, fourteen of those for Cincinnati. Reds president Bob Howsam informed Seaver that the team didn’t plan to renegotiate the terms of his contract, news which Seaver took ‘without complaint’.



              In other intriguing news, there were two instances of managers for a day. The first happened in Arlington, where a beleaguered Frank Lucchesi was relieved of duty on June 21, after leading the team to a mediocre 31-31 record. During Spring Training, Lucchesi was assaulted by Rangers second baseman Lenny Randle, and punched three times, fracturing his eye socket. Randle was fined, suspended and traded to the Mets, but Lucchesi’ misfortunes followed until his dismissal.

             The Rangers hired former White Sox skipper Eddie Stanky, who had been serving as the coach for the University of South Alabama. Joining the Rangers in Chicago, he piloted the team to a 10-8 victory over the White Sox, but couldn’t sleep after the game, and called his wife at six a.m. to tell her he was coming home. He resigned his position, and was replaced by Ranger coach Connie Ryan, who himself was replaced ten days later by former Orioles coach Billy Hunter.
              The Rangers responded very well to Hunter, and played at a .640 clip, going 57-32 along the way to a surprising second place finish behind the Kansas City Royals.
             




               The four managers in a season hadn’t been done since the 1898 Washington Senators of the National League.


              Renegade Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner assigned manager Dave Bristol a ten day scouting trip through the Braves’ minor league system. (In reality, Bristol just went to his home in Andrews, NC) Turner then signed himself to a coaching contract, and then named himself the team manager. He managed the Braves in Pittsburgh on May 11th. The team was entrenched in a fifteen game losing streak, and Turner was frustrated, so he decided that he would ‘lead his troops’. The losing streak then made it to sixteen games.


              National League President Chub Feeney notified Turner the next morning to let him know that he was in violation of the rule stating that no player or coach of a team can hold a financial interest in a club by which he is employed, except with the written consent of the Commissioner.
              It was the fifth instance of an owner taking the field to manage their team, but the first since 1929, before the rule was added.
              Turner was also fined and suspended by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for tampering. Kuhn also docked the Braves their first round draft choice in the June draft. Turner made comments publicly about his intention to sign outfielder Gary Matthews of the Giants, when Matthews became a Free Agent. Turner told Giants owner Bob Lurie that no matter what Lurie offered Matthews, Turner would offer better. Kuhn considered this to be an unfair statement, causing an unfair balance between the Giants negotiating capabilities, as well as any other team that may wish to pursue Matthews’ services. Turner contested the fine and sued Kuhn and Major League Baseball. Kuhn also docked the Braves their first round draft choice in the June draft.
              The decision was a split, with the suspension and fine upheld, but the draft pick was re-instated. (They drafted left-handed pitcher Tim Cole, who never made it to the major leagues.
              The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals organizations were also fined for tampering,but they paid their fines without rebuttal.

              Expansion happened in 1977, and the American League welcomed Seattle back into the fold, and added the Toronto. Both teams did well, attendance wise, and they both drafted players with an eye towards youth and continued growth. Raiding players made available to them by each of the American League teams, Ruppert Jones became the first draft choice of the Mariners, while Bob Bailor was the same for the Blue Jays.
              In a bit of historical curiosity, the first shutout thrown in Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, was pitched by Canadian citizen (and Hall of Famer) Ferguson Jenkins. For the first time since 1961, the leagues would be uneven, with fourteen in the American League to the twelve in the National League. That imbalance would remain until 1993, when the Rockies and Marlins entered the National League.



              On to various other tidbits from the season at hand...

              Alvis Woods of the Blue Jays, a rookie drafted from the Twins organization in the expansion draft, homered in his first at-bat, on the first pitch, in the Blue Jays first game. It’s the only time that has ever happened where a player homered in his first at-bat in a team’s inaugural game. First-baseman Doug Ault of the Jays hit two homers in that first game as well, the first time an expansion player hit two homes in their team’s inaugural game.



              Richie Zisk of the visiting White Sox became the first American Leaguer to homer on Canadian soil in the game.

              The Blue Jays had a deal in place to trade veteran pitcher Bill Singer to the Yankees for left-handed starter Ron Guidry, but the deal fell through because someone in Toronto realized that Singer was on the cover of all of the team’s media guides. Singer went 2-8 with the Jays, while Guidry went 16-7 with the Yankees.

              Willie McCovey, who returned to the Giants, became the first player to hit two homers in an inning twice in his career. He originally accomplished the feat in 1973.

              For the first time since the advent of the All-Star Game in 1933, both Chicago teams were in first place at the break. Prior to 1933, the only other time that happened was in 1906.

              Manny Sanguillen, catcher for the Oakland A’s who was involved in a trade from the Pirates for manager Chuck Tanner, broke up a no-hitter on two consecutive days. He first victimized Mike Torrez of the Yankees, and then Jim Palmer of the Orioles.


              In Texas, third-baseman Toby Harrah (one of baseball’s rare palindromic names) and second baseman Bump Wills hit back-to-back inside-the-park homers, which had never been done, before or since. meanwhile, shortstop Bert “Campy” Campaneris, a re-entry free agent who left the A’s to join the Rangers, led the majors with forty sacrifice hits. He was the first player in over fifty years to get than many sacrifices. (Joe Sewell of the Indians got 41 in 1929) No one has gotten that many since.




              In Pittsburgh, outfielder Dave Parker became the second batting champion to amass more than one hundred strikeouts.


              In Detroit, speedster Ron LeFlore became the second Tiger to reach 200 hits and 100 strikeouts. The only prior instance of that happening in the American League was Hank Greenburg, also of the Tigers, in 1937. But Jim Rice of the Red Sox also did it. (Dave Parker also reached that dubious milestone in 1977)



              In Los Angeles, Tommy John of the Dodgers, soon after the surgery that made him a household name, became a twenty game winner for the first time in his fourteen year career. At the time, that set the record for the longest career before winning twenty for a starting pitcher. That record has since been tied by Jamie Moyer, and eclipsed by Mike Mussina.

              Hall of Fame manager Tommy LaSorda began his managerial career, replacing the legendary Walter Alston at the helm. LaSorda becomes one of a select few manager to lead their team to the World Series in their first season as skipper.

              Third-baseman Ron “The Penguin” Cey set the National League record (since broken) for the lowest batting average(.241) in a season in which they drove in 100 runs.


              In New York, third-baseman Joe Torre of the Mets is hired as a player-manager, replacing Joe Frazier (not that one) at the helm. Torre played in just a few games while managing, but remains the third most recent player-manager. Don Kessinger of the White Sox and Pete Rose of the Reds were the last two.

              Torre would go on to have great success as a manager, and as a general manager, and would be voted into the Hall of Fame as a manager. But one remembers that he was a very good player throughout the sixties and early seventies. He holds the dubious record of hitting into four double plays in one game, a record that I’m sure he doesn’t like to be reminded of.
              Left-handed pitcher Jerry Koosman struggled through a rough season, losing twenty games. He remains the last pitcher to have won twenty games, and then lose twenty the following season.

              Also in New York, left-handed relief specialist Albert “Sparky” Lyle becomes the first relief pitcher to win a Cy Young Award. He became the third Yankee pitcher to win the award, an their way to their first World Series Championship in fifteen years.

              Free-agent signee off-handedly mentioned that if he were to play in New York, somebody would name a candy bar after him. They did. the Reggie Bar, a small, disk shaped concoction of nougat and peanuts covered in chocolate appeared that spring, and as a promotional giveaway, they were handed out to all fans attending a Yankee game one evening. As Sparky Lyle noted in his book, “The Bronx Zoo”, it didn’t take long for the Yankee faithful to realize that these disc shaped candy bars could travel great distances when chucked from the upper deck of the stadium. Hundreds of the candy bars, orange wrappers, with Reggie Jackson on the front, were sent sailing onto the field.               Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the game was delayed for about twenty minutes while the ground crew cleared the field.


              In Chicago, infielder Jack Broahmer of the White Sox hit for the cycle, becoming just the second Sox player to accomplish that feat in their seventy-six year history. The other Sox player to hit for the cycle was Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk in 1922.

(and how about those snazzy threads)

              In Anaheim, the California Angels had the dubious distinction of being no-hit twice during the season. first by Bert Blyleven of the Rangers, and then by Dennis Eckersley of the Indians. Both would later be Hall of Fame inductees. Royals pitcher Jim Colborn also pitched a no-hitter, this one against the Rangers. Umpire Bill Deegan was behind the plate for Colborn’s and Eckersley’s gems.

              In San Diego, rookie outfielder Gene Richards of the Padres became the first rookie to get six hits in a game. While not his debut, it is still the first and only time a player has done that during his rookie season.

              In Cincinnati, outfielder George Foster won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, hitting fifty-two homers in the process. It was the first time a National Leaguer has topped the fifty homer plateau since Willie Mays did it in 1965. His fifty-two homers remains the Reds single-season record.

              The Montreal Expos christened Olympic Stadium with a bunch of young stars. Future hall of Famer Andre Dawson would win the Rookie of the Year Award, becoming the second Expo to do so. Gary Carter, Warren Cromartie, Steve Rogers and Larry Parrish would be the core that made the Expos serious pennant contenders, even though they never had a post-season run to speak of. They did make the playoffs during the split-season of 1981, where they won the second half division title. The won the Divisional Series against the Phillies, but lost to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. They had the best record in baseball in 1994 at the time of the strike, but the season was cancelled, and the Expos never got to that post season.

              St. Louis Cardinal great Lou Brock stole his 898th base, breaking Ty Cobb’s all-time record.

              The Kansas City Royals and the Philadelphia Phillies both won more than one hundred games, but neither team made it to the World Series. This is the first time that two 100 win teams missed the Series in the same year.
              As a point of interest, the last time that two 100 win teams faced each other in the Series was in 1970.

              In Minnesota, Twins reliever Tom Johnson became the last pitcher to garner fifteen wins and fifteen saves in the same season.

              But the eyes of the baseball world were on second baseman Rodney Cline Carew. Carew, one of the purest left handed hitters of his generation, flirted with .400 all season, finishing with a .388 average. It was the second highest season average since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. (Williams also hit .388 in 1957). Carew became just the second player to bat over .380 with fifteen triples and fifteen stolen bases. George Sisler, in 1922, was the other. Carew also finished with 239 hits, the most hits in the American league since Heinie Manushe in 1928. (I just love opportunities to mention Heinie Manush.) And he won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award.

              In the minor leagues, Aurelio Lopez earned thirty saves with nineteen relief wins for the Mexico City Reds of the Mexican league. Slugger Hector Espino of the Tampico Alijadores hit fourteen homers, bringing his career minor league total to 435 in his career. (Sorry Crash Davis). Vic Davalillo of the Aguascalientes Rieleros led the Mexican League in hitting, with a .384 average. the Dodger would sign Davalillo to use in the late season, where he hit .313 in twenty-four games for them
              The Modesto A’s did not set a record for stolen bases, surprisingly. The Tom Trebelhorn led California League affiliate of the Oakland A’s did steal 357 bases during 140 games, an average of two and a half per game. Outfield prospect Darrell Woodward, who would hit .282 on the year, stole 90 bases for the A”S. he finished second on the team in steals. Youngster Rickey Henderson would hit .345, placing third in the league (behind Rudy Law and Kelly Snider, both of Lodi) and he would steal 95 bases.
               
              And in Japan, Tokyo Giants legend Sadaharu Oh hit his 756th home run, which eclipsed Henry Aaron’s record for home runs in a professional league. He would finish his career with 868.
              The 1977 playoffs featured the Dodgers playing the Phillies, and the Yankees against the Royals. The Yankees and Dodgers would beet in the Series for the first time since 1963, and the Yankees fared better this go around, winning over the Dodgers in six games.
              Game Six featured one of the most memorable feats in World Series history. Yankees right-fielder Reggie Jackson homered three times in the Yankees 8-4 victory in the clincher in the Bronx. Not only did he homer three times, they were in consecutive at bats. And off of three different pitchers. And on three consecutive pitches.

              Now, let’s look at the stats, beginning with the Power rankings.
               
TEAM
FINISH
Royals
1st in AL WEST
Phillies
1st in AL EAST
Yankees
1st in AL EAST, World Series Champs
Dodgers
1st in NL WEST, NL Champs
Red Sox
3rd in AL EAST


              So now, on to the performances at hand. We will look at the American League pitching first. The pitching across the league gic\ves a 4.42% advantage to the National League, mainly due to the addition of the two expansion teams, which ‘watered down both the pitching and hitting numbers. If we remove the expansion teams performances, the two leagues were close to equal, with the American League pitching having a slight 0.32% advantage over the National League hurlers.
              First, the overall numbers, the top performers were:

PITCHER
TEAM
W-L
ERA
SAVES
AWARD VOTES
Frank Tanana
Angels
15-9
2.54
0
9th Cy Young
Ron Guidry
Yankees
16-7
2.82
1
7th Cy Young, 18th MVP
Dennis Leonard
Royals
20-12
3.04
1
4th Cy Young
Jim Palmer
Orioles
20-11
2.91
0
2nd Cy Young, 19th MVP
Bert Blyleven
Rangers
14-12
2.72
0
no votes
Nolan Ryan
Angels
19-16
2.77
0
3rd Cy Young, 24th MVP
Dave Rozema
Tigers
15-7
3.09
0
8th Cy Young, 4th Rookie of the Year
Don Gullett
Yankees
14-4
3.58
0
no votes
Dock Ellis
Rangers
12-12
3.63
1
no votes
Sparky Lyle
Yankees
13-5
2.17
26
1st Cy Young, 6th MVP


              Then looking at how they performed against their team averages:
Dave Rozema
above




Frank Tanana
above




Enrique Romo
Mariners
8-10
2.83
16
no votes
Nolan Ryan
above




Dave Goltz
Twins
20-11
3.36
0
6th in Cy Young
Dave Lemanczyk
Blue Jays
13-16
4.25
0
no votes
Dennis Eckersley
Indians
14-13
3.53
0
no votes
Jim Palmer
above




Pete Vukovich
Blue Jays
7-7
3.47
8
no votes
Jerry Garvin
Blue Jays
10-18
4.19
0
 


              Which, when all values are factored in, brings our top ten pitching performers to:
Frank Tanana
Dave Rozema
Nolan Ryan
Ron Guidry
Jim Palmer
Bert Blyleven
Dennis Leonard
Don Gullett
Dave Goltz
Dock Ellis

              So now, over to the National League, our top overall leaders are:

PITCHER
TEAM
W-L
ERA
SAVES
AWARD VOTES
John Candelaria
Pirates
20-5
2.34
0
5th Cy Young, 18th MVP
Tom Seaver
Mets/Reds
21-6
2.58
0
T3rd Cy Young, T25th MVP
Steve Carlton
Phillies
23-10
2.64
0
1st Cy Young, 5th MVP
Tommy John
Dodgers
20-7
2.78
0
2nd Cy Young, 12th MVP
Bruce Sutter
Cubs
7-3
1.34
31
6th Cy Young, 7th MVP
Rick Reuschel
Cubs
20-10
2.79
1
T3rd Cy Young, T21st MVP
Rich Gossage
Pirates
11-9
1.62
26
no votes
J. R. Richard
Astros
18-12
2.97
0
no votes
Bob Forsch
Cardinals
20-7
3.48
0
no votes
Burt Hooton
Dodgers
12-7
2.62
1
no votes

               
              Then against their teams, we get:

Tom Seaver
above




Bruce Sutter
above




Rick Reuschel
above




John Candelaria
above




Phil Niekro
Braves
16-20
4.03
0
no votes
Steve Carlton
above




Steve Rogers
Expos
17-16
3.1
0
no votes
Bob Forsch
above




J. R. Richard
above




Rollie Fingers
Padres
8-9
2.99
35
14th MVP


              And that brings our top performers to this:
Tom Seaver
John Candelaria
Steve Carlton
Bruce Sutter
Tommy John
Rick Reuschel
Rich Gossage
J. R. Richard
Bob Forsch
Steve Rogers



              Now we’ll look at the offense. where the American League trended 2.37% better than the National League, but again, removing the expansion team numbers, that number would increase to a 5.27% advantage. Four our table below, I have added the Runs Produced per Game state, just for comparison’s sake.
              Our top American League hitters by raw numbers are:

PLAYER
TEAM
HR
RBI
AVG
SB
RP/G
AWARD VOTES
Rod Carew
Twins
14
100
.388
23
1.38
1st MVP
Carlton Fisk
Red Sox
26
102
.315
7
1.20
T8th MVP
Larry Hisle
Twins
28
119
.302
21
1.32
12th MVP
George Brett
Royals
22
88
.312
14
1.23
13th MVP
Thurman Munson
Yankees
18
100
.308
5
1.12
7th MVP
Reggie Jackson
Yankees
32
110
.286
17
1.17
T8th MVP
Jim Rice
Red Sox
39
114
.320
5
1.12
4th MVP
Lyman Bostock
Twins
14
90
.336
16
1.18
T27th MVP
Carl Yastrzemski
Red Sox
28
102
.296
11
1.15
17th MVP
Al Cowens
Royal
23
112
.312
16
1.15
2nd in MVP


              Ten, against their teams, we get:

Mitchell Page
A’s
21
75
.307
42
0.96
2nd Rookie of the Year
Bobby Bonds
Angels
37
115
.264
41
1.15
16th in MVP
Ken Singleton
Orioles
24
99
.328
0
1.09
3rd in MVP
Leroy Stanton
Mariners
27
90
.275
0
0.89
no votes
Carlton Fisk
above
           
Don Money
Brewers
25
83
.279
8
0.95
no votes
Rod carew
above






Dan Meyer
Mariners
22
90
.273
11
0.90
no votes
Ron Fairly
Blue Jays
19
64
.279
0
0.80
no votes
otto Velez
Blue Jays
16
62
.256
4
0.80
no votes

              That brings our rankings for the top ten offensive performances to this:
Rod Carew
Carlton Fisk
Larry Hisle
George Brett
Bobby Bonds
Thurman Munson
Ken Singleton
Riggie Jackson
Jim Rice              
Mitchell Page

              And then for the National League, note that while Steve Henderson didn’t play the full season with the Mets, he did have ample opportunities, and while he wouldn’t qualify for a batting title, his other numbers merit his being a part of this list. The top overall offensive rankings were:

PLAYER
TEAM
HR
RBI
AVG
SB
RP/G
AWARD VOTES
George Foster
Reds
52
149
.320
6
1.40
1st MVP
Greg Luzinski
Phillies
39
130
.309
3
1.28
2nd MVP
Ted Simmons
Cardinals
21
95
.318
2
1.04
9th MVP
Mike Schmidt
Phillies
38
101
.274
15
1.15
10th MVP
Johnny Bench
Reds
31
109
.275
2
1.02
T21st MVP
Reggie Smith
Dodgers
32
87
.301
7
1.07
4th MVP
Steve Henderson
Mets
12
65
.297
6
1.21
2nd Rookie of the Year
Dave Parker
Pirates
21
88
.338
17
1.09
3rd MVP
Joe Morgan
Reds
22
78
.288
49
1.10
no votes
Bill Robinson
Pirates
26
104
.304
12
1.11
11th in MVP


              And then against their team’s average performances, we have:

Steve Henderson
above
           
George Foster
above






Gary Carter
Expos
31
84
.284
5
0.90
no votes
Jeff Burroughs
Braves
41
114
.271
4
1.06
T16th MVP
Ted Simmons
above






Bob Watson
Astros
22
110
.289
5
1.09
no votes
John Stearns
Mets
12
55
.251
9
0.68
no votes
Tony Perez
Expos
19
91
.283
4
0.93
no votes
Reggie Smith
above






Dave Parker
above
           

              So our National League top hitting performers were:
George Foster
Steve Henderson
Greg Luzinski
Ted Simmons
Reggie Smith
Johnny Bench
Mike Schmidt
Gary Carter
Dave Parker
Jeff Burroughs



              So now, if I were to vote my top five players in each league, for player of the year, the American League top five would be the same as the offensive performances above, namely:


Rod Carew
Carlton Fisk
Larry Hisle
George Brett
Bobby Bonds

              And my pitcher of the year would be :
               
Frank Tanana

              While in the National League, my player of the year vote would be:


George Foster

Tom Seaver (Pitcher of the Year)
Steve Henderson
Greg Luzinski

Steve Carlton