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Posts Tagged ‘Babe Ruth’

Even though most studies suggest that incremental changes in batting order position have minimal impact on run production, each slot still carries a certain connotation. Leadoff is usually reserved for a player with speed, while cleanup is the domain of a slugger. The third position, however, is the slot usually reserved for a team’s best hitter. As the Yankees enter the 2011 post season, Joe Girardi has decided that Robinson Cano is the hitter on his team who best fits that description, at least against right handed pitchers.

Cano’s elevation in the lineup not only represents a promotion for the second baseman, but it also constitutes a partial demotion for Mark Teixeira, who has primarily occupied the role over the last three seasons. Most teams coasting into the playoffs with their league’s best record usually don’t make significant changes at the end of the season, but Girardi should be commended for his willingness to reverse course at such a late stage. With consecutive MVP-caliber seasons under his belt, Cano has firmly established himself as one of the American League’s best players and arguably the most feared hitter in the Yankees lineup. Meanwhile, Teixeira has seen his overall production decline, particularly from the left side. On that basis alone, the lineup adjustment seems warranted, but when you consider the relative post season performance of each player, the switch makes even more sense (although that’s more of an indictment of Teixeira than complement to Cano).

Mark Teixeira vs. Robinson Cano, Post Season Performance

  G PA R H HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Mark Teixeira 26 122 17 22 3 12 0.214 0.320 0.330
Robinson Cano 37 152 19 35 6 20 0.248 0.296 0.461

Source: baseball-reference.com

It remains to be seen whether Girardi’s lineup switch will be maintained after the 2011 post season,  but regardless, Teixeira has had a pretty good run in the three-hole. Since 1919, the Yankees have had 183 players bat third, but only eight have been penciled into that slot more than Teixeira. What’s more, Teixeira is one of only six Yankees to primarily bat third in three consecutive seasons.

Yankees Top-10 Third Place Hitters, Ranked by Games Started Since 1919

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated atTheYankeeAnalysts.)

Bobby Abreu’s game winning home run off Mariano Rivera was shocking for two reasons. Not only has the great Rivera been seldomly beaten by the long ball (64 surrendered since 1995), but Abreu entered the game with only four round trippers all season. As John Sterling would say, you can’t predict baseball.

Granderson looks dejectedly after his caught stealing thwarted a potential Yankees' comeback (Photo: AP).

If the events in the top of the ninth were surprising, only a gaping mouth could describe what happened in the bottom half. With Mark Teixeira at the plate as the winning run, Curtis Granderson was picked off first by Jordan Walden. Adding insult to injury, Granderson was fooled by one of the oldest tricks in the book: the much maligned fake-to-third/throw-to-first. After two failed attempts to catch Granderson, Walden’s third try proved to be a charm as the Yankees’ centerfielder guessed wrong and left on the right hander’s first move. The result was a caught stealing and the Yankees left to wonder what might have been.

Although Joe Girardi tried to defend the move as an aggressive attempt to tie the game, there was no justification for Granderson’s blunder. Considering the risk, as well as Teixeira’s propensity for extra base hits (50 of 107 hits have been for extra bases), the advantage of Granderson advancing to second, particularly with two strikes already on the batter, was minimal. Nonetheless, because it was just a regular season game (although, should the Yankees lose the wild card to the Angels, the play will take on added infamy), and, more importantly, Granderson has played so well all season, the lapse in judgment was relatively overlooked after the game. Just imagine, however, if the error was committed in a much more important game…like game seven of the World Series?

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On May 30, 1935, the greatest career in the history of major league baseball came to an end.  It was Memorial Day in Philadelphia, but there were no fireworks to bid farewell, just a weak ground ball to Phillies’ first baseman Dolph Camilli and a mournful walk back to the dugout.  The immortal Babe Ruth was finished.

Ruth, pictured here with long-time Yankees’ teammate Lou Gehrig, finished his career as a member of the Boston Braves.

At the time, no one knew they had seen the last of the Bambino. After the Memorial Day loss to the Phillies, Ruth, who had been nursing a sore knee for most of the season, decided that he needed some time to rest. So, during the next series against the Giants, the Babe put on a suit instead of a uniform and watched his Boston Braves’ teammates lose two of the next three. An idle Ruth was of no use to the Braves, however, so a confrontation was inevitable.

Ruth’s return to Boston was precipitated by a disagreement between the legendary slugger and Yankees owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert and chief executive Ed Barrow. Following the 1934 season, the team’s second straight campaign without a pennant, Ruth all but demanded that the Yankees’ brass fire manager Joe McCarthy. Ruppert and Barrow refused, so Ruth angrily declared that he’d never play for them again. It was an unfortunate threat because that suited the Yankees just fine. Instead of having to make what would have been an incredibly unpopular decision, the temperamental Ruth had gone ahead and done it for them.

Nowhere in the land are you more admired than in the territory of New England that has always claimed you as its own and where you started your career to fame.” – Judge Emil Fuchs, Boston Braves owners, February 26, 1935

While Ruth was abroad on a trip around the world, Judge Emil Fuchs approached Colonel Ruppert about having the Bambino return to Boston to play for his Braves. Fuchs desperately needed a gate attraction for his woeful team, and Ruppert was eager to rid himself of the increasingly troublesome slugger. So, the two owners hatched a plan to ensure a smooth transfer. In addition to a 25,000 salary, Fuchs offered Ruth a laundry list of hollow inducements, including an implied opportunity to manage. In response, Ruppert feigned surprise and agreed to not stand in Ruth’s way. Finally, on February 26, 1935, the three men held a press conference to announce that Babe Ruth was now a member of the Boston Braves.

Waived out of the American League after fifteen glamorous seasons with the New York Yankees, the one and only Bambino thrilled 25,000 frozen fans at Braves Field in his first game as a National Leaguer.” – James P. Dawson, New York Times, April 16, 1935

Judge Fuchs hands Ruth a pen so he can sign his new contract with the Braves.

At first, it seemed like the move might revitalize both the aging Ruth and the financially strapped Braves’ franchise. During spring training, the team played to large crowds as it  barnstormed up north, and then on Opening Day, 25,000 people jammed Braves Field to watch the Sultan of Swat take Carl Hubbell deep in a 4-2 victory over the New York Giants. However, that initial euphoria would quickly give way to acrimony as a developing contentious relationship between Ruth and Fuchs came to ahead just after Memorial Day.

After getting off to a hot start in the first five games of the season, Ruth suffered through a nightmarish 17-game stretch in which he hit .068 with only one home run in 57 plate appearances. What’s worse, the hobbled and overweight Ruth could barely field his position, subjecting the once invincible figure to jeers, laughter and, worst of all, pity. In the middle of that horrendous stretch, Ruth finally decided to call it quits, but Fuchs, who was desperate to squeeze as many gates as possible out his sideshow attraction, convinced him to stick around for at least the upcoming road trip, which was to feature a Babe Ruth Day in all five cities on the tour.

As Ruth struggled through sickness, injury and the rapid decline of his skill, he also gradually came to realize that all of Fuchs’ promises were empty. Because the Braves were in such poor economic condition, it soon became apparent that the financial inducements in his contract were worthless. However, what bothered Ruth most was the realization that he would never be given a chance to manage.

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In honor of the 50th anniversary of Roger Maris’ record setting 61 homeruns in 1961, The Captain’s Blog will be tracking his pursuit of Babe Ruth by listing each home run in the sidebar on the anniversary of the day on which it was hit. Details about each blast will be provided along with a running tally and a comparison to both Ruth and Mickey Mantle.

Commissioner Ford C. Frick presided over an era of expansion in major league baseball, but his career is often defined by an asterisk.

Long before Roger Maris took his first at bat in 1961, the baseball world was obsessed with Babe Ruth’s single season homerun record. Although no one had really challenged the mark since Hank Greenberg hit 58 long balls in 1938, everyone was talking about the possibility that the upcoming season would bring with it a new single season home run champion.

The impetus for the great debate was the American League’s decision to increase its schedule to 162 games (the National League would follow suit in 1962). The added games were needed to facilitate the league’s expansion to 10 teams, but that didn’t stop many in and around the game from fretting about the impact more contests would have on the record book.

There can be little doubt that with 388 games tagged onto the major league schedules each year due to the expansion, many records will be toppling faster than managerial jobs.” – UPI, October 27, 1960

Although concern was expressed about all of baseball’s individual and team records, only one was really on most people’s mind: the 60 homers belted by the Babe in 1927. Ironically, however, the general consensus among the informed was that although other marks might fall, Ruth’s home run record would persevere.

Everyone worries most about Ruth’s record of 60 in 1927, but adding eight games to the schedule wouldn’t threaten that mark, according to the recent trend.”Seymour Siwoff, Elias Baseball Bureau, quoted by UPI, January 21, 1961

Even Commissioner Ford C. Frick directly addressed the prospect of Ruth’s record falling as a result of the expanded schedule. “My opinion on that is almost a conviction,” Frick told Arthur Daley of the New York Times. “I don’t think the Babe’s record is vulnerable.”

At the time, Frick did hedge his bet by stating that he might decide to use a separate category to list records set during the extra eight games, but no definitive ruling was established at the time. After all, Frick didn’t expect there to be an issue. Before too long, however, Maris would throw the controversy right back into his lap.

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Larry Granillo’s (Baseball Prospectus and Wezen-Ball) recent forensic investigation into Ferris Buehler’s whereabouts on his now infamous day off made for one of the more creative and entertaining blog posts in quite some time. For those who missed the piece, Granillo attempted (and succeeded) to determine the date of the game that Buehler attended with his fellow truants by analyzing the footage from WGN that was used in the movie.

In addition to being greatly amused by Granillo’s investigation, it got me to thinking about how many other unsolved baseball mysteries remain cloaked in movie clips from years gone by? The list of unidentified baseball references on the silver screen are probably too numerous to count, so let’s start at the beginning by examining one of the first movies to incorporate live baseball action into its script.

The movie in question is called Speedy (which will be featured at this year’s Rhode Island International Film Festival in August). Created by renowned silent-era funny man Harold Lloyd, the comedy tells the tale of hapless Harold “Speedy” Swift, whose addiction to the Yankees constantly interferes with his ability to remain employed. During the course of the movie, this compulsion causes Speedy to lose several jobs, including one as a taxi cab driver, but not before having the chance to chauffeur Babe Ruth in a harrowing ride from Manhattan to Yankee Stadium.

Speedy was Lloyd’s last silent film and resulted in his only Academy Award nomination, but more than anything, it is best remembered today for the spectacular footage filmed in 1927-era New York City. The extensive on-location filming pushed the movie’s price tag toward $1 million, an unheard of figure for the era, but  Lloyd’s expense immediately paid off thanks to the buzz his month-long stay in New York created.

Over the years, the movie’s archival footage has made it even more valuable as a historical reference. As Speedy whirls around the town, we get detailed glimpses of a city brimming with motor cars, horse-drawn carriages, trolleys, and elevated trains. The movie also includes vivid images of Luna Park in Coney Island, Columbus Circle, the Brooklyn Bridge, Penn Station, the Battery, Times Square, Fifth Avenue, and most importantly to baseball fans, Yankee Stadium, which is where the real point of this exercise begins.

The first glimpse of Yankee Stadium occurs early on in the movie (4:32 in the first clip). Unfortunately, the lack of clarity and detail prevents the date of the game from being indentified…at least to this point. In the meantime, we’re treated to several amusing scenes as Speedy endeavors to perform his duties while keeping tabs on the ongoing game via telephone calls to Yankee Stadium and a visit to a public scoreboard outside the local sporting goods store (which we’ll examine later).

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

As Moshe Mandel covered in detail yesterday afternoon, Brett Gardner has made improving his bunting skills a priority during spring training. Hopefully, that means more drag bunts for base hits and not maddening sacrifices when the team can ill afford to give away an out. Unfortunately, if history is the judge, it could be more of the latter.

Over the past two seasons, Gardner ranks second on the team in sacrifice bunts, one behind Francisco Cervelli, who should probably bunt more often considering his less than potent bat. Despite being second, however, Gardner’s 11 sacrifice bunts really aren’t all that many. In fact, considering how often Girardi is criticized for employing the sacrifice, the total number for each player is surprising low (especially Derek Jeter’s five). Perception is hard to overcome, but the truth is the Yankees have ranked toward the bottom of the American League when it comes to sacrifices in all three seasons that Girardi has been manager.

Yankees’ Sacrifice Bunt Leaders, 2009-2010

Player SH G PA
Francisco Cervelli 12 135 418
Brett Gardner 11 258 853
Nick Swisher 6 300 1242
Derek Jeter 5 310 1455
Ramiro Pena 5 154 288
Curtis Granderson 4 136 528
Melky Cabrera 4 154 540
A.J. Burnett 2 66 8
Andy Pettitte 2 53 11
Javier Vazquez 2 31 5
Johnny Damon 2 143 626
Jerry Hairston 2 45 93

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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He jogged around slowly, touched each bag firmly and carefully, and when he imbedded his spikes in the rubber disk to record officially Homer 60, hats were tossed into the air, papers were torn up and tossed liberally and the spirit of celebration permeated the place.” – New York Times, October 1, 1927

On September 30, 1927, Babe Ruth established a new record for homeruns in a single season by belting his 60th round tripper against the Senators’ Tom Zachary. Ruth’s milestone achievement not only bested his own mark of 59, set in 1921, but also surpassed the total of every other American League team as well as all but three in the National League.

In an era when the homerun has lost some of its luster, it’s easy to overlook the enormity of Ruth’s accomplishment, not to mention the entirety of his career, but for those who need a little reminder, and perspective, following is a unique leader board from the 1927 season.

1927 Homerun Leaders

  HR
New York Giants 109
St. Louis Cardinals 84
Chicago Cubs 74
Babe Ruth 60
Philadelphia Phillies 57
Philadelphia Athletics 56
St. Louis  Browns 55
Pittsburgh Pirates 54
Detroit Tigers 51
Lou Gehrig 47
Brooklyn Dodgers 39
Boston Braves 37
Chicago White Sox 36
Hack Wilson 30
Cy Williams 30
Washington Senators 29
Cincinnati Reds 29
Boston Red Sox 28
Cleveland Indians 26
Rogers Hornsby 26

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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