This day in baseball history

Featured image On May 12, 1963, Mickey Lolich made his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers. He pitched two scoreless, hitless innings of mop-up relief against Cleveland Indians, striking out the first two batters he faced — Max Alvis and Sam McDowell. He was 22 years old. Lolich went on to win 217 games, 207 of them for Detroit. And in 1968, he won three World Series contests. Nineteen sixty-three was »

This day in baseball history

Featured image On May 10, 1963, Tony LaRussa made his major league debut at the age of 18. Playing for the Kansas City Athletics, LaRussa appeared as a pinch-runner for Chuck Essegian. Pinch-running would be LaRussa’s role for the next three months. It wasn’t until August 15 that he recorded his first plate appearance, after coming on as a “caddy” for Jerry Lumpe in a rout of the A’s by Detroit. He »

Our town

Featured image In his five years with the Minnesota Twins, David “Big Papi” Ortiz struck me as a player with awesome potential who persistently underperformed, partly as a result of injuries and partly as a result of poor coaching. The Twins sought to turn him into a singles hitter. As he put it, “They tried to make me hit like a girl!” There’s actually a lot of that going around. Regardless of »


Featured image The film 42, released nationally this weekend, is a conventional Hollywood biopic in the heroic mold. The film is tightly focused on Jackie Robinson’s epochal 1947 season that broke baseball’s color line. Despite its conventional form, the film is inspiring and distinctive in a number of respects that justify attention. We went to see the film in a suburban St. Paul theater last night and enjoyed it immensely. After seeing »

Baseball the way it should be played

Featured image If memory serves, that’s what a huge banner on the outside of Shea Stadium said throughout the 1986 season, during which Davey Johnson’s Mets won the World Series. Today, 27 years later, Johnson’s Washington Nationals played baseball the way it should be played during a 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Opening Day. The team’s two phenoms, Bryce Harper and Steven Strasburg, provided the heroics. Harper contributed the home »

Spring Training Follies

Featured image Later on tonight, I am planning on doing a post or two about budget numbers. But before undertaking that green-eyeshade task, let’s talk spring training. Spring training has a special resonance here in the North; the overnight low last night was one degree, and there is a pile of snow ten feet high in my cul-de-sac. Around here spring is only a rumor, save for the far-off crack of bat »

Remembering Chuck Hinton

Featured image Chuck Hinton, an outfielder for the Washington Senators and the Cleveland Indians during the 1960s and early 1970s, died this week at age 78. Hinton was the first African-American baseball player who plied his trade in predominantly black Washington, DC to be perceived as a star. Actually, Earl Battey, who played for the pre-expansion Senators, was probably a better player than Hinton. But Battey, a catcher, found himself overshadowed by »

Say It Ain’t So, Derek!

Featured image My wife, who is a big Derek Jeter fan, will be disappointed to see this: Derek Jeter interrupted his rehab work on his surgically repaired left ankle to rub shoulders with the world’s most powerful at the Davos Economic Forum. Jeter — invited by Pepsi — said he hopes climate change would be discussed: “I was in New York for Hurricane Sandy . . . It’s something that needs to »

“What the Heck, It’s Only a Game”

Featured image Last night my wife and I were guests of our good friend Clark Griffith, whose family used to own the Washington Senators and the Minnesota Twins, and his beautiful wife at an unofficial baseball Hot Stove League event. The president of the Twins was there, along with umpire Tim Tschida and a couple of popular former Twins, Tom Brunansky and Jack Morris, among other luminaries. It was a fun event »

The RG III-Steven Strasburg Comparison

Featured image Thomas Boswell in the Washington Post compares the Washington Nationals’ treatment of young pitching star Stephen Strasburg with the Washington Redskins treatment of young quarterbacking sensation Robert Griffin, III. In case you have been vacationing in Mongolia, the Redskins created quite a controversy by not pulling Griffin, who was playing on a damaged knee, from their playoff game against Seatle even after he was hobbling visibly and throwing ineffectively. Eventually, »

No one elected to baseball hall of fame

Featured image The Baseball Writers of America have declined to elect anyone to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. It’s only the second time in four decades that this has occurred. As expected, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the two biggest stars eligible this year, were passed over because of the taint of steroids. But there were at least two other players who, in my view, had strong Hall of Fame »

What will happen to the Hall of Fame?

Featured image Bill James once wrote a book called Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? My question is, what will happen to baseball’s Hall of Fame now? Today, the Hall of Fame will unveil its class of 2013. This is the first year of eligibility for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa, three stars of baseball’s steroid era, all of whom were tainted by it. “Exit polling” of those who »

Remembering Eddie Yost

Featured image Eddie Yost died on Wednesday at the age of 86. Yost was a key player on the first baseball team I ever followed, the Washington Senators of the mid 1950s. Yost wasn’t our best player; that was slugger Roy Sievers. But he was the team leader and, as far as I could tell, the most popular player among adult Senators fans. Yost is famous for drawing walks. He led the »

This day in baseball history — a classic game decides the World Series

Featured image On October 16, 1962, the New York Yankees and the San Francisco Giants played Game 7 of the World Series at Candlestick Park. This game is generally (and correctly, in my view) considered one of the top 10 World Series games of all-time. The game is remembered for the line drive that ended it, for the double play that produced its only run, and, by some, for the impact of »

This day in baseball history — after the deluge

Featured image On Monday, October 15, 1962, the New York Yankees and the San Francisco Giants resumed the World Series after four days off. The two teams had last played on Wednesday, October 10. Since then, there had been a travel day and then three consecutive rain-outs in San Francisco. You can get an idea of the magnitude of the storms that caused the postponements, and catch a glimpse of “Candlestick Pond,” »

Steven Strasburg and the Nats playoff defeat

Featured image In the wake of the Washington Nationals heartbreaking playoff series loss to St. Louis, John Feinstein takes to the pages of the Washington Post to write a bitter and unfair attack on the club’s management for shutting down ace pitcher Steven Strasburg before the playoffs. Feinstein believes that the Nationals, once they realized they would make the playoffs, should have “stretched out” Strasburg’s season so he could pitch in October »

Heartbreak by the numbers

Featured image Back when I followed baseball closely, I sometimes heard hardcore fans say that the playoffs will expose a team’s weakness. I never really believed this, though. The playoffs provide too few games to guarantee a full, searching probe of a baseball team. The limits of the playoffs as arbiter of pure baseball quality seem even clearer in these days of “wild card” teams. Except in cases of an exceptional injury »