Friday, December 30, 2016

Lou Gehrig's last All-Star hurrah

Buddy Lewis was a ripe 21-year-old in his fourth major league season when he earned the starting nod as the third baseman in the 1938 All-Star Game.The 1938 midsummer classic serves as a historical footnote for not only being the first All-Star Game in which neither team hit a home run, but also the last All-Star contest that featured Lou Gehrig.
Buddy Lewis 1938 All-Star / Baseball-Almanac.com

As manager Joe McCarthy penciled in Lewis batting eighth at the hot corner, and placed Jimmie Foxx in the cleanup spot at first base, he had the dilemma of how to get Gehrig in the game. When Lewis' second turn at bat came in the fifth inning, McCarthy sent the Iron Horse up as a pinch hitter. Foxx moved to third base and Gehrig as the first baseman finished the game 1-3.

Lewis passed away in 2011 at the age of 94, undoubtedly the last major leaguer to have the honor of Lou Gehrig pinch hitting for him. In a 2008 letter, Lewis spoke with candor about bowing out gracefully to Gehrig in the contest.

"Everybody liked Lou," Lewis wrote in 2008. "They strengthened the lineup when he came in."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How Dell Curry almost shifted the family legacy from the hardwood to the mound

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Billy Martin's World Series heroics was fueled by a desire to surpass Robinson

For deep rooted baseball fans, while many are celebrating joyous occasions with their families, the tragic death of Billy Martin on December 25, 1989 is an annual reminder of how one's mortality does not escape the holiday season.

One of the fiercest competitors baseball has ever seen, his fiery temperament resonated with his teammates. Speaking with his New York Yankees teammate Bob Cerv in 2008, he recalled how much Martin was motivated to outperform Jackie Robinson when their clubs met in the World Series.

Jackie Robinson and Billy Martin Baseball Card / Upper Deck

"The only thing I remember Billy Martin would say was, 'I'm gonna do better than him,'" Cerv recalled. "And he did in the World Series."

Below are Martin's and Robinson's totals from the four World Series in which they faced off. If there was an MVP award in 1953, Martin would have certainly won it. Is it mere coincidence that Martin's best World Series performance came when Robinson also had his, or was Martin hellbent on proving that he was the premier second baseman in the city?

Billy Martin World Series Stats vs. Brooklyn Dodgers

Year Age Tm Lg Series Opp Rslt G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
1952 ❍ 24 NYY AL WS BRO W 7 26 23 2 5 0 0 1 4 0 1 2 2 .217 .308 .348 .656 8 0 1 0 1
1953 ❍ 25 NYY AL WS BRO W 6 25 24 5 12 1 2 2 8 1 2 1 2 .500 .520 .958 1.478 23 1 0 0 0
1955 27 NYY AL WS BRO L 7 26 25 2 8 1 1 0 4 0 2 1 5 .320 .346 .440 .786 11 1 0 0 0 0
1956 ❍ 28 NYY AL WS BRO W 7 28 27 5 8 0 0 2 3 0 0 1 6 .296 .321 .519 .840 14 2 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2016.

Jackie Robinson World Series Stats vs. New York Yankees

Year Age Tm Lg Series Opp Rslt G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
1952 33 BRO NL WS NYY L 7 30 23 4 4 0 0 1 2 2 0 7 5 .174 .367 .304 .671 7 0 0 0 2
1953 34 BRO NL WS NYY L 6 26 25 3 8 2 0 0 2 1 0 1 0 .320 .346 .400 .746 10 1 0 0 0
1955 ❍ 36 BRO NL WS NYY W 6 24 22 5 4 1 1 0 1 1 0 2 1 .182 .250 .318 .568 7 2 0 0 0 0
1956 37 BRO NL WS NYY L 7 29 24 5 6 1 0 1 2 0 0 5 2 .250 .379 .417 .796 10 2 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2016.

Monday, December 26, 2016

John Barfield, former Texas Rangers pitcher murdered at 52

On a day when most are rejoicing in holiday spirits, Christmas Eve turned fateful for former Texas Rangers pitcher John Barfield. The 52-year-old Barfield, who pitched in parts of three seasons for the Rangers from 1989-1991, was murdered at his home in Little Rock, Arkansas after engaging in a dispute with an acquaintance

John Barfield / 1991 Mother's Cookies

Barfield, whose Rangers moundmates included Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Nolan Ryan, compiled an 8-8 record with a 4.72 ERA in 65 career appearances. According to a statement from the Rangers, Barfield's August 18th, 1990 six-inning relief victory was the last relief victory of 5.1 or more innings, until Diego Moreno accomplished the feat for the Yankees in 2015. 


Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 Topps High Tek offers intriguing variety for collectors

Two-thousand-sixteen is quickly coming to a close, but Topps gives collectors a glimpse into the future with this year’s High Tek baseball release. Crafted with a slick opaque design with funky patterns that highlight the on-card action shots, 2016 Topps High Tek breaks the mold of recent trading card designs.

2016 Topps High Tek / Topps
The 111-base card set is divided into two different styles, Spiral Vortex and Maze Grid. If these two were the only options in the set, High Tek would quickly fall to the wayside as one of Topps’ novelty releases, but a closer inspection of the designs reveals at least a dozen additional variations. Some collectors will find this to be a dizzying array of options; others will be enthralled at the challenge of putting together a master set. Further adding to the chase of a complete set is the fact that there are only six base cards in each box.

2016 Topps High Tek Base Cards & Variations / Topps
The major appeal of 2016 Topps High Tek is the on-card autographs. The impressive list includes top modern stars such as Ichiro, Kris Bryant, and Mike Trout, as well as Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, and Ken Griffey Jr. The box provided for this review produced an autograph of Hall of Famer Wade Boggs in a parallel limited to 25.

Wade Boggs Topps High Tek Autograph / Topps
With 2016 High Tek, Topps aims to give value to collectors looking for instant autograph hits with the addition of the chase of variations that comprise the master base set. While some collectors might frown at the notion that purchasing an entire case might not yield a complete base set, they will be pleased at the quality of autographs and diversity of inserts and parallels.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Melvin Duncan, 87, pitcher for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues

Melvin “Buck” Duncan, a former pitcher and outfielder for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues, passed away November 29, 2016 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He was 87.

Born March 31, 1929 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Duncan joined the Monarchs at the tender age of 20. The watchful eyes of a future Negro League manager steered him towards one of the Negro Leagues most powerful franchises.

Melvin Duncan / Author's Collection
“I joined the Monarchs in Monroe, Louisiana,” Duncan wrote in a letter to the author in 2007. “I was scouted by Sherwood Brewer, who was from where I was raised.”

Managing the Monarchs was the legendary Buck O’Neil, who took over the helm in 1948 after Frank Duncan (no relation) retired. With O’Neil serving as a player-manager, the young hurler found that Monarchs’ skipper still took an interest in nuturing the rookies on the club.

“He was strict, gentle, and very nice to be around,” Duncan wrote. “He was like a father to the younger players; full of knowledge and would give to you. I love him very much.”

One teammate he considered a close friend was fellow pitcher Gene Collins. He found Collins special for the camaraderie they built on the road.

“Eugene Collins, he was understanding and like a brother with me, for we were roommates,” he wrote. “Whenever he pitched, he was like the fifth infielder, for he was a good fielder.”

While Collins’ name came to the forefront when recalling his favorite teammate, Duncan hesitated to choose the best player he played with in the Negro Leagues. Instead, he chose to focus on the team aspect of the game.

“It takes nine men to play the game,” he wrote. “Each man has a position to play. I was a pitcher and not a catcher, so [therefore] I was not as good as Elston Howard.”

Duncan played with the Monarchs and Detroit Stars through in 1955 while the league was in decline. Closing his 2007 letter, Duncan had a simple request on how he wanted the memory of his career to survive.

“[I want it to be remembered] that I played in the Negro Leagues and I gave all I had to give.”



* - Video Courtesy of Negro Leagues Baseball Museum