Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day

For the 138 year, a new baseball season is beginning. A few fun tidbits are in order.

Longest Games
On May Day, 1920, the Brooklyn Robins (soon to be called the Brooklyn Dodgers) faced off against the Boston Braves in the second of a three game series. The game lasted 26 innings and was called a 1-1 tie when it was halted due to darkness. Both pitchers threw complete games. Oddly, the next game they played, after taking Sunday off, lasted 19 innings.

In terms of time, the longest game lasted just over eight hours in 1984 between the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. That game was halted after 17 innings and finished the next day. On April 18, 1981, the minor league Pawtucket Red Sox faced the Rochester Red Wings. That game started at 8:25 pm and the teams played continuously (32 innings) until 4:07 am on the 19th when the league president finally got in touch with the umpires and told them to stop the insanity. The players got a couple hours sleep before they played an afternoon game later that day. The game was completed in late June when they played one last, deciding inning.

Worst Base Running

In 1926, the Brooklyn Dodgers were again playing the Boston Braves. They had the bases loaded with the powerful Babe Herman at the plate. Herman lined an extra-base hit off the right field wall. On second base, pitcher Dazzy Vance held up until he was absolutely certain the ball had not been caught, On first base, lead-off hitter Chick Fewster raced towards second and was right behind Vance heading towards third. At the same time Herman sensed triple all the way, put his head down and ran like the wind.

Vance, ever cautious, got to third base and decided to stop there. Fewster also got to third shocked that it was already occupied. All the time Herman kept running and slid into third base at the feet of Vance and Fewster. With three confused Dodgers on the base, third baseman Eddie Taylor tagged everybody and waited for the umpire to sort out the details. Result: double play with pussyfoot Vance declared safe at third.

Miguel Cabrara recently signed a contract that will pay him an average of $31 million a year until the year 2023. Here is a brief history of baseball's highest paid players.
  • 1916 - Ty Cobb, 29, is the first player to be paid $20,000 in a season. He led the league in runs and stolen bases that year.
  • 1930 - Babe Ruth, 35, saw his salary peak at $80,000. That amount would not be reached again until 1949.
  • 1949 - Joe DiMaggio, 34, was the first person paid $100,000 in a season. He only played half the Yankee's games that year and retired after the 1951 season. No salary hit six figures again until Willie Mays in 1963.
  • 1976 - Hank Aaron, 42, was paid $240,000. It was his last year.
  • 1977 - Mike Schmidt, 27, more than doubled Aaron's salary at $560,000.
  • 1980 - Nolan Ryan, 33, was the first player paid a million dollars.
  • 1997 - Albert Belle, 30, was the first player paid $10 million.
  • 2009 - Alex Rodriguez, 33, signed the largest contract in baseball history at $33 million annually.
Man-Child Pitcher
Of all the oddballs to have played baseball, the oddest might be Rube Waddell. If a fire truck drove by, Rube would drop what he was doing, including pitching, to run after it. Opponents were known to place toys on the field to distract him. Managers would assign babysitters to Rube on the days he pitched so he wouldn't get lost on the way to the ballyard and they wouldn't pay him all at once but only a couple of dollars at a time. With money in his pocket, Rube would disappear for week long drunken benders.

But Rube Waddell was a hell of a pitcher. In 1904 he set a record of 349 strikeouts in a season that was not beaten until Sandy Koufax in 1965. The following year Rube had a league leading 1.48 earned run average leading the Philadelphia Athletics to the American League pennant. His drunkenness forced him from major league baseball in 1910. Two years later Rube was playing minor league ball when a devastating flood hit the town of Hickman, Kentucky. Rube heroically worked saving lives, nearly drowning in the process. Rube got pneumonia and then tuberculosis. At the age of 37, only four years after leaving the majors, Rube Waddell died of consumption.

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