No-hitters against the Yankees a rare event

Fifty-six years ago today, September 20, 1958, the Yankees were no-hit by knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm. And discounting Houston’s six-pitcher no-hitter against New York in 2003, the Yankees haven’t been no-hit since – although they came close on numerous occasions.

Eight times since the Wilhelm gem the Yankees have entered the ninth inning without a hit. And each time they managed to break up a no-hitter in their last at bat.

In 1967, on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Boston left-hander Billy Rohr took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. Rohr was one strike away from history when Elston Howard hit a soft single into right-center field. Rohr beat the Yankees in his next start, but won just one more game in the majors after that.

In the space of one month in 1970, Yankee second baseman Horace Clarke broke up three possible no-hitters in the ninth. Jim Rooker of Kansas City, Sonny Siebert of Boston and Joe Niekro of Detroit were the victims.

Reggie Jackson broke up a Nolan Ryan no-hit bid in 1979 with a one-out single against the Angels’ Hall of Famer. Two years later, Rick Cerone turned the trick against Boston’s Bobby Ojeda. And in 1989, Roberto Kelly ruined Dave Stieb’s perfect game by doubling to left with two outs in the ninth. Kelly then scored on a single by Steve Sax, but Stieb got Luis Polonia to ground out and preserve his 2-1 victory. The last near-miss occurred in 2006, when Robinson Cano hit a line single to left against Baltimore’s Daniel Cabrera with one out in the ninth to break up the no-hitter. Cano was then erased when Bobby Abreu hit into a double play to end the game.

Wilhelm No-No

Wilhelm’s no-hitter took place at the old Baltimore Memorial Stadium. Orioles catcher Gus Triandos accounted for the only run of the game with a home run in the seventh inning against Yankee reliever Bobby Shantz, who was pitching in relief of Dan Larsen. Less than two years earlier, Larsen threw the only no-hitter in World Series history as New York beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0.

A total of six Hall of Famers played in the Wilhelm game, Mickey Mantle and pinch-hitters Yogi Berra and Enos Slaughter for the Yankees, and Brooks Robinson, Dick Williams (who made it as a manager) and Hoyt Wilhelm for the Orioles.

Houston’s Posse

Wilhelm was just 3-10 in 1958, splitting the season between Cleveland and the Orioles. He started four games that year, and just 52 in his entire career.

The Astros six-man no-hitter took place on June 11, 2003. Roy Oswalt started for Houston but was injured early in the contest. Pete Munron, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner finished the task. 

It was the most pitchers ever to combine on a no-hitter in major league history — twice, four had done the trick. And it was the first time in 6,981 games — the longest streak in major league history – that the Yankees had been no-hit. Between those no-hitter, the Yankees won nine World Series and 15 American League pennants.


Still the Juan: Best never to win Cy Young

Nolan Ryan, baseball’s all-time strikeout king, never won a Cy Young Award. Nor did Don Sutton, a fellow Hall of Famer and 300-game winner. Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven, Jim Bunning, Phil Niekro or Robin Roberts? Answer is no. Not even Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history, could cop the Cy.

It’s not any of  those guys. The greatest pitcher never to win a Cy Young Award is Juan Marichal, the Dominican Dandy. He’s the Juan, the best player never to win pitching’s highest honor.

Marichal was 243-142, a .631 winning percentage and a 3.04 ERA during his Hall of Fame career, spent almost entirely with the San Francisco Giants. He won 20 games six times, and three of those were dominant performances, Cy Young type seasons almost any other year.

However Marchial had the bad luck to run up against even more superb performances by Sandy Koufax in 1963 and 1966, and then Bob Gibson in 1968.

In 1963, Juan Marichal was 25-8 with a 2.41 ERA and 248 strikeouts. One of those wins was an epic 1-0, 16-inning battle by the bay against Warren Spahn, in which both pitchers had complete games. But Sandy Koufax was even better, 25-5, 1.88 ERA and 306 strikeouts. Koufax was also the National League MVP that year.

Three years later, Marichal went 25-6, .2.23 ERA and 222 strikeouts. Again he was bested by Koufax, who in his final season was 27-9, 1.73 ERA and 317 strikeouts. From its inception in 1956 until 1967, only one Cy Young was awarded each season. Koufax won it three times – in 1963, 1965 and 1966.

In 1968, Marichal was a career high 26-9, 2.43 ERA and 218 K’s. This time he ran up against Bob Gibson and his 1.12 ERA, the lowest in baseball since Dutch Leonard’s 0.96 in 1914. No pitcher has come close to that mark since. Gibson was 22-9 that year and struck out 268 batters in winning both the Cy and MVP. Marichal was left behind at the altar once again.

Imagine that,winning 25, 25 an 26 games – and losing the Cy Young each time. Marichal failed to garner a single vote in 1963, 1966 or 1968 – Koufax twice and Gibson were unanimous winners.

Marichal also won 20 games in 1964, 1965 and 1969 – and yet did not get as much as a single first place vote in Cy Young balloting any of those years, or in any of the other years he was eligible.  Marichal’s highest finish was eighth, tied with Bill Stoneman, in 1971, when he was 18-11.


These Yankees are offensively challenged

To say the Yankees are offensively challenged is a gross understatement. Going into action today, the Bronx formerly known as Bombers were next to last in runs scored in the American League (ahead of only the Red Sox.)

The pitching is not the problem. Despite losing 80 percent of their starting rotation for all or most of the season, the Yankee pitching has been consistent. The bullpen, led by David Robertson and Dellin Betances, has, in fact ,been outstanding.

It’s the Yankee offense that bears scrutiny. Only Brett Gardner, who has been their best player in 2014, is hitting above his lifetime average. It’s easy to point the finger at a starting lineup which is hitting a collective .491 points below their lifetime batting averages. Here’s the ugly truth:

Pos. Player                                    2014   Career   Difference

LF   Brett Gardner                .276   .269        +7

SS   Derek Jeter                     .273    .311         -38

CF   Jacoby Ellsbury             .273    .294       -21

IB     Mark Teixeira                .232    .275       -43

DH    Carlos Beltran               .240    .281       -41

C      Brian McCann                 .238    .274       -36

3B     Chase Headley              .250     .265       -15

2B     Stephen Drew                .170    .259       – 89

RF     Martin Prado                 .163    .289       -126

RF     Ichiro Suzuki                  .277    .317       -40

RF     Alfonso Soriano            .221    .270       -49

Some random thoughts, rants and muses on the hitless wonders:

  • Texeira’s batting average has dipped each year since he joined the Yankees in 2009.
  • Free agent acquisitions Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann (or is that McCan’t?, pictured above in case you were wondering) have hit a cumulative 98 points behind their lifetime averages.
  • Amazingly, Drew is hitting lower with the Yankees (.170) than the Red Sox (.176).
  • Discount relative newcomers Headley, Prado and Drew, the cumulative mark is still .261 under the lifetime mean.
  • And we haven’t included utility men Brian Roberts (.237, .276, -39) and Kelly Johnson (.219, .251, -32). That brings the cumulative total below lifetime batting average to -.562
  • Don’t forget these are current lifetime averages.If you counted those averages coming into the season, the dropoff would be even more precipitous.
  • Jeter gets a pass. He’s played exactly one game in his career when the Yankees were mathematically eliminated. Plus he’s a 40-year-old shortstop.
  • Yankees haven’t finished below .500 since 76-86 in 1992, 20 games behind the world champion Blue Jays. Since then they’ve captured five World Series and seven AL pennants while winning 14 divisional titles.

10 highly unlikely batting champions

Some may argue OBP or even OPS, but batting average is the true test of the best hitter.

Here are baseballs 10 most unlikely batting champs:

1. Norm Cash, Tigers, 1961, .361 – Cash never came within 75 points of his magical season, and finished with a career .271 BA. His 41 homers and 132 RBIs that year were overshadowed by the great Maris-Mantle home run chase.

2. Snuffy Stirnweiss, Yankees, 1945, .309 – A second baseman with a .268 lifetime average, Stirnweiss won the AL batting title in the final year of World War II while many stars were still in the service.

3. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies, 2014, .331 – Cuddyer never hit higher than .284 until his breakout season last year, 53 points above his lifetime .278 average.

4. George Stone, Browns, 1906, .358 – Stone played just seven seasons, six with the Browns, yet managed to win an AL batting title. Ty Cobb would go on to win 11 of the next 13.

5. Debs Garms, Pirates, 1940, .355 – A singles hitter, Garms had a career year with Pittsburgh. He batted .293 lifetime with just 17 home runs.

6. Ferris Fain, A’s, 1951, .344; 1952, .327 – Fain, a journeyman first baseman who played nine years with four AL teams, won back-to-back batting titles for Philadelphia. He wound up a .290 career hitter.

7. Bubbles Hargrave, Reds, 1926, .353 – Bubbles, whose real name was Eugene, broke a run of six straight batting titles by the great Rogers Hornsby, who hit .400 three times in four years before Hargrave stole his crown.

8. Derrek Lee, Cubs, 2005, .335 – Lee had a career year in 2005 when he led the NL in batting, hits, doubles and slugging percentage. But lifetime he hit just .281.

9. Alex Johnson, Angels, 1970, .329 – Johnson played for eight teams during a 13-year career and hit .288 lifetime, yet edged out Carl Yastrzemski to win a batting title.

10. Carl Yastrzemski, Red Sox, 1968, .301 – Yaz is a Hall of Famer who won three batting titles. But he managed to win one of them with the lowest average for a batting champion in baseball history.


Dan Brouthers — baseball’s first great slugger

IMG_0908Scoping out the village of Wappingers Falls the other day when I stumbled upon this plaque in the center of town, right near the waterfalls in front of a bicycle shop. Turns out Dan Brouthers, a native of Dutchess County, was quite a ballplayer.

Brouthers was born in Sylvan Lake, NY, in 1858. As a teen-ager he played for the semi-pro Actives in Wappingers Falls before making his professional debut  in 1879 with the Troy Trojans.

A big man by the standards of the time (6-2, 207), he  was known as the first great slugger in baseball history. “Big Dan” held the career record for home runs from 1887 to 1889 and hit 106 home runs, fourth highest total of any 19th Century player.

A left-hand hitting first baseman, he had a career slugging percentage of .519, which remained a major league record until Ty Cobb moved ahead in 1922. When Brouthers retired, he ranked second with 205 triples and third in RBIs (1,296) and hits (2,296).

Brouthers played for a variety of teams throughout a 19-year career that spanned four decades, including the Buffalo Bisons, Detroit Wolverines, Brooklyn Grooms and Boston Beaneaters, all of the National League.

He earned five batting titles, and his lifetime average of .342 ranks ninth on the all-time list, tied with another great slugger, guy named Babe Ruth.

John McGraw, the long-time manager of the New York Giants, once said: “Brouthers really was a great hitter, one of the most powerful batters of all time. ‘Big Dan’ in his prime, against the present-day pitching and the modern lively ball, would have hit as many home runs as anybody. I don’t think I ever saw a longer hitter.”

Brouthers retired in 1896, but returned eight years later in 1904 to play two games for the Giants. He is one of 29 players in MLB history whose career spanned four decades.

At the age of 46, he played for Poughkeepsie and led the Hudson River League in batting with a .373 average. He spent nearly 20 years working with the Giants, and was in charge of the Polo Grounds press gate.

Brouthers died in 1932, and is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Wappingers Falls. Dan Brouthers was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1945. The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) ranks him as the ninth greatest player of the 19th Century.

Related blog: Be sure to read about another great Dutchess County baseball player, Hall of Famer Eddie Collins of Millerton.


Off the pitch, USA waffles the Belgians

Manneken-PisIf size matters, the USA will waffle the Belgians in their World Cup knockout round match. Here’s how we stack up against Belgium.

 

POPULATION

USA — 318M

Belgium – 11M, roughly akin to Ohio

ADVANTAGE – USA, big

 

SIZE

USA — 3.79M square miles, world’s third largest country

Belgium – 11.8K square miles, roughly the size of Maryland, our 42nd largest state

ADVANTAGE – USA, big

 

FAMOUS PEOPLE

USA – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Thomas Edison

Belgium – Adolpe Sax (inventor of the saxophone), Peter Paul Reubens (baroque painter), Leorge Lemaitre (astronomer who invented the Big Bang theory)

ADVANTAGE — USA (although sax and Big Bang are big deals)

 

CULINARY INVENTIONS

USA – BBQ pork and beef, crab cakes, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies.

BELGIUM — Belgian waffles, Brussels sprouts

ADVANTAGE — USA

 

GOVERNMENT

USA – Federal republic

Belgium – Federal monarchy

ADVANTAGE —  Belgium, a king tops a president, King Philippe gets the nod

 

GDP (gross domestic product)

USA – $16.799 trillion

Belgium – $434.503 billion

ADVANTAGE – USA, big

 

MOTTO

USA – “In God we trust”

Belgium – “Strength through unity”

ADVANTAGE — Tie

 

ATHLETES

USA – Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, Michael Jordan

Belgium – Eddy Merckx (five times winner of the Tour de France), Justine Hennin and Kim Clijsters (women’s tennis)

ADVANTAGE – Seriously

 

ACTRESSES

USA – Marilyn Monroe, Meryl Streep, Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall

Belgium – Audrey Hepburn

ADVANTAGE – USA

 

ACTORS

USA – Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks

Belgium – Jean-Claude Van Damme

ADVANTAGE – USA

 

FAMOUS MONUMENTS

USA – Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore

Belgium – Manneken Pis

ADVANTAGE – USA

 

LANGUAGES

USA – English, Spanish

Belgium – Flemish, French

ADVANTAGE — Tie

 

NICKNAME

USA – Land of the Free

BELGIUM – Low Countries (with the Netherlands and Luxembourg)

ADVANTAGE – USA


World Cup: A tie is a loss, a loss is a win

Strange when a tie feels like a loss…..and a loss feels like a win. But those are the emotions Team USA fans are feeling after the Red, White and Blue advanced out of the “Group of Death” – despite a 1-0 loss to Germany.

Sure, Americans were down after Portugal scored in the waning seconds of extra time to forge a 2-2 draw with the US on Sunday. And for awhile there today it appeared as though Ghana, and not the USA, might advance along with Germany in Group G.

Imagine the uproar if that had happened. The US beat Ghana 2-1 in an earlier match, and yet Ghana could have moved ahead on goal differential. What kind of tiebreaker system is FIFA using when head-to-head is not the first criteria,

Some other random thoughts about soccer and the World Cup.

The clock – It’s nice to see games start on time and end in less than two hours. But timekeeping is so imprecise that with extra time you’re never quite sure when the final whistle will blow. And how about a little more clarity on goals then, rather than just saying the score was in the 54th minute…or whatever.

Fakers – It seems as though an awful lot of players take dives and embellish injuries every time they go down – or is that just me?

There’s no biting in soccer – Well actually there is. Uruguay’s star striker Luis Suarez (Chewy Luis), taking a page out of Mike Tyson’s book, bite out of the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. The result – a four-month suspension and a fine of $100,000 Swiss francs. That oughta teach him.

Vests – Why do subs wear those ridiculous vestments?

Like ice hockey – Soccer and hockey are cousins. With very few goals being scored in either sport, the thrill is in watching the scoring chance. If you’re waiting for home runs, touchdowns or three-pointers, you’re in the wrong sport.

Home pitch advantage – Uruguay (1930), Italy (1934), England (1966), West Germany (1974), Argentina (1978) and France (2006) have all won the World Cup as host team.

Five-time champs  – Brazil has won the most World Cup – five – but none at home.

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium – Team USA will face Belgium next Tuesday in the knock-out round. Heck, the Americans win on GNP alone. Suzanne Pleshette will pick the winner.


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