Monthly Archives: February 2011

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Frank Malzone

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
On September 20th, 1955 Frank Malzone made his first major league start, playing in both ends of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. On that day he went 6 for 10, including having four hits in the first game. Over the next eleven years, Malzone solidified himself as one of the Red Sox greats in an era where the team finished above fourth place just once.

Born on February 28th in 1930, the Bronx, NY native was signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 1947. after tearing up the minor leagues for a few seasons, Malzone missed two years to military service. He quickly rediscovered his stroke when he returned in 1954. For his career, he hit .299 in the minor leagues. After briefly being called up in 1955 and 1956, Malzone became a permanent fixture in 1957. In his rookie year he hit .292 with 15 homers and was the runner up in the Rookie of The Year Award to the Yankees’ Tony Kubek.

In a September 1957 issue of Baseball Digest, Arthur Daley wrote about Frank Malzone’s career choices between Con Ed and the Boston Red Sox. Click here to check it out!

Over the next eight seasons, Malzone was named to the AL All-Star squad seven times and awarded the Gold Glove three times. In fact, he won the Gold Glove the first three seasons it was awarded. He had a .281 average and he averaged 16 homers a season during those eight seasons. He compiled a impressive pile of numbers that, at his retirement, ranked him among the top 10 in many Red Sox hitting records.

By 1965, Malzone’s offense began to wane, and for 1966 the 36 year old third baseman was playing his final season with the California Angels. After retirement, Malzone returned to Boston and spent the next 35 years serving as a scout. His talents were passed on to his son, John Malzone, who played and coached in the minor leagues with the Red Sox. Frank Malzone currently works as a player development consultant for the team. In 1995, the Red Sox honored Malzone by inducting him into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame during its inaugural year.

Also Born On This Day:

Aroldis Chapman(b. 1988) has already earned himself high expectations for his future at just 23 years old. Chapman defected from Cuba when their national team played in the Netherlands in July of 2009, and was pitching with the Cincinnati Reds by August of 2010. In September of last season his fastball was clocked at 105.1 MPH, which is the fastest record pitch in MLB history.

Jim Wohlford(b. 1951) logged fifteen seasons in the big leagues with four teams. He may be best remembered for his quote, “Ninety percent of this game is half mental.” A long time reserve player, Wohlford primarily played left field.

Terry Turner(1881 – 1960) spent the majority of his 17 season career with the Cleveland Naps and Indians. In celebration of the Cleveland Indians 100 Year Anniversary, he was named to their list of 100 Greatest Indians. He led the league in fielding percentage at third base and shortstop for three years each.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Monte Irvin

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Turning 92 years old on February 25th, Monte Irvin represents an entire generation of ballplayers that played at the highest level possible and then transitioned that ability into a Hall of Fame Major League career when given the chance.

Born in 1919, Monte Irvin began his professional career at the age of 19 as a member of the Newark Eagles. Playing alongside future Hall of Famer Leon Day, Larry Doby, Ray Dandridge, Biz Mackey and others, Irvin carved out a solid career in both the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues.

Irvin played four seasons with the Eagles(1938-1942) before being shipped off to serve in the U.S. Military during World War II. Before he left, he managed to earn the Most Valuable Player Award while playing in the Mexican Winter League in 1942.

Upon his return from the war in 1945, Irvin and the rest of Eagles stormed through the league and won the 1946 Negro League World Series over Buck O’Neil and the Kansas City Monarchs.

After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, Irvin was one of the first black players to sign. He spent the 1949 season with the Jersey City Giants of the International League, hitting .373 in 63 games. Later that same year, Irvin and Hank Thompson became the first black players to debut with the New York Giants.

In a March 1951 issue of Baseball Digest, Charles Dexter wrote about Monte Irvin’s impact on the New York Giants. Click here to check it out!

Despite beginning his major league career after the age of 30, Monte Irvin nonetheless displayed the offensive abilities well into his 30’s. Over the course of an eight year MLB career, Irvin slugged 99 homers to go along with a .293 average and an OPS+ of 125. He hit better than .300 three times, hit 20 or more homers twice, and ranked third in MVP voting in 1951. It was during that season that Monte Irvin made his mark.

In his only season selected as an All-Star, Irvin hit 24 home runs during the 195 campaign and played a huge role in pushing the Giants to their World Series matchup with the New York Yankees. Though the team eventually fell to the Yankees, Irvin hit .458 with eleven hits in six games. Three years later Irvin and the Giants were redeemed, as they defeated the Cleveland Indians for the World Series title.

Since his retirement following the 1956 season, Irvin has worked within the league in many capacities. Most recently, he serves as a member of the Veterans Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and works to give recognition to Negro League ballplayers.

Also Born On This Day:

Paul O’Neill(b.1962) is a veteran of 17 big league seasons, reaching the World Series six times, including five trips with the New York Yankees between 1996 and 2001. Between his time with the Cincinnati Reds and the Yankees, he played in 85 postseason games and had 299 at bats, hitting .284 overall.

Ron Santo(b.1940) was a 15 year veteran almost exclusively with the Chicago Cubs. A nine time All-Star and five time Gold Glove, Santo was one of the best third basemen in baseball history. At his retirement, he ranked close to or surpassed Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews in many offensive categories. Widely regarded as one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame, Santo died on December 3, 2010 due to complications from bladder cancer and diabetes.

Negro Leagues To The Major Leagues: The First

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
In honor of Black History Month, BaseballDigest.com is celebrating the history of the Negro Leagues and the intertwining pathway of Negro League ballplayers to the Major Leagues. The final installment of the series puts the focus on the first seventeen Negro League players to reach the Major Leagues. Last week featured the teams of The West.

On April 15th, 1997 Major League Baseball officially retired the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball fifty years earlier. At the time of honoring Robinson, only active players wearing the number were allowed to continue wearing it. Entering the 2011 season Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is the only remaining player wearing 42. Beginning in 2007, MLB began honoring Robinson by allowing players to wear #42 on Jackie Robinson Day, which is on April 15th. By 2009, all uniformed players and coaches began wearing 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. The day recognizes not only a Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, and it recognizes more than just a Hall of Famer. It recognizes the first of many great black ballplayers that would enter the major leagues. Though April 15, 1947 is important, it was another 12 seasons before Major League Baseball was fully integrated. The final installment of the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues features seventeen players to reach the big leagues, representing the integration of each team.

Jackie Robinson endured a great deal of personal trials and tribulations and excelled on and off the field with his ability to succeed in becoming not only the first black player in the big leagues, but paved the way for other players, teams and fans to open up and embrace the future of integrated baseball. The future Hall of Famer established himself as a great player by winning the inaugural Rookie of The Year Award that was eventually named in his honor. In August of 1947, pitcher Dan Bankhead joined Robinson as a member of the Dodgers and they became the first pair of black players to play in a World Series.

In a July 1951 issue of Baseball Digest, Bill Dougherty wrote about “The Jackie Robinson of Today”. Click here to check it out!

Just eight weeks after Robinson’s debut, Larry Doby became the first black player in the American League when he appeared in a game with the Cleveland Indians. Unlike Robinson, Doby played sporadically in his first season and endured the same kind of torment that Robinson encountered in the senior circuit.

Doby and Robinson both quickly made their mark in postseason history. Robinson, capping off his Rookie of The Year debut, hit .259 in a losing effort against the New York Yankees in the 1947 World Series. Larry Doby played a huge role with the 1948 Cleveland Indians, hitting .301 on the season and helping the team to a 97 win season and a trip to the World Series. He became the first black player to homer in a World Series with a Game 4 home run off Boston Braves’ pitcher Johnny Sain. A seven time All-Star and 1998 Hall of Fame inductee, Doby’s career began with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. In that same series, Negro League legend Satchel Paige became the first black player to pitch in a World Series.

Less than two weeks after Larry Doby’s entrance into the American League, Hank Thompson became the second black player in the AL and the first of the St. Louis Browns organization. Two days later, Willard Brown was inserted into the lineup, the first time a lineup featured two black players at the same time. Brown had his own significant moment, becoming the first black player to homer in the American League; he cranked an inside the park home run off future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser. Thompson and Brown both began their professional careers with the Kansas City Monarchs, the same team where Jackie Robinson started his career as well.

For the next two seasons, no other teams integrated their rosters. On July 8th, 1949, the New York Giants were next to break the color barrier, starting Hank Thompson and Monte Irvin on the same day. Hank Thompson is the only player in history to break the color barrier for two teams. Irvin, a Newark Eagles teammate of Larry Doby and five time Negro League All-Star, wasted little time before having an impact. He hit .312 in 1951 and led the Giants(along with Thompson and Willie Mays in the outfield) in the pennant race against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He hit .458 in a losing effort against the New York Yankees in the 1951 World Series. Irvin, Thompson and the Giants redeemed themselves as they defeated Irvin’s former Eagles teammate Larry Doby and the 1954 Cleveland Indians in the World Series. 1949 also featured the first time a black pitcher and hitter faced each other when Hank Thompson faced Don Newcombe. Newcombe(the 1949 NL ROY), Robinson, and Roy Campanella became the first black players to be named to the National League All-Star team.

Two years before Jackie Robinson debuted with the Dodgers, he participated in a tryout with the Boston Red Sox. A tryout that has long since been criticized as the team at the time were unlikely to integrate their roster, included two other players. One of these players was Sam Jethroe, who went on to sign with the Dodgers and eventually reached the majors as a member of the Boston Braves on April 18th, 1950. Hitting .273, slugging 18 homers and leading the league with 35 stolen bases led the right fielder to earn the American League Rookie of The Year Award.

A year after Sam Jethroe’s debut, the Chicago White Sox were the next to integrate their roster. Minnie Minoso played in a handful of games with the Cleveland Indians during the 1949 and 1951 seasons before being traded to the White Sox. He eventually became more well known for being the only player in history to play in a professional game in seven different decades.

In a July 1950 issue of Baseball Digest, Austen Lake wrote about the debut season of Sam Jethroe. Click here to read the full article!

More than two seasons passed before more teams began integrating. In one case, it was a franchise changing decision. On September 13th, 1953 the Oakland Athletics integrated their team with the addition of Bob Trice, who would go on to shut out the New York Yankees a year later. Four days after the Athletics, the Chicago Cubs integrated their team with a 22 year old shortstop by the name of Ernest Banks. 19 years, 2 NL MVP awards, 512 home runs, and eleven All-Star nods later, “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks ranks among the greatest to ever play the game.

With the start of Ernie Banks’ career, the proverbial flood gates opened as black players entered the league and teams began to integrate with a greater pace. Curt Roberts of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tom Alston of the St. Louis Cardinals became the first black players of their respective teams when they debuted on April 13th, 1954. They later played against each other in a game on April 29th of that year. Four days later the Cincinnati Reds integrated their team when Nino Escalera and Chuck Harmon appeared in a game against the Atlanta Braves. Escalera and Harmon both went on to become scouts with major league teams following retirement.

In addition to the integration of more teams in 1954, the Brooklyn Dodgers became the first team to field a team with a majority of black players. The influx of integration for 1954 concluded when Carlos Paula debuted with the Washington Senators on September 6th. On April 14th, 1955, Elston Howard became the first African American to play for the New York Yankees. BaseballDigest.com Intern Simon Sharkey profiled Howard on his birthday, click here to read about the heralded rookie.

Though the Yankees were late to integration, there was a two year wait before the Philadelphia Phillies became the next team to integrate their roster. The overall career of John Kennedy was brief, but on April 22nd, 1957 he became the first black player in franchise history. A year later, Ozzie Virgil Sr. broke the color barrier for the Detroit Tigers, becoming the first player from the Dominican Republic to play in the major leagues. On July 21st, 1959 the Boston Red Sox finally integrated their team with the addition of Pumpsie Green. However, by 1966 the Red Sox roster included players such as Earl Wilson, George Scott, Felix Mantilla and Reggie Smith.

Since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, Major League Baseball has made strides to increase the number of players from all backgrounds within the league. As recently as the 2010 season, 30% of the players that make up MLB were of a diverse background.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Wagner & Murray

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
February 24th is a day of Hall of Fame proportions, when you just look at the numbers. If you look at most offensive categories throughout Major League history, there are two names that quickly show up in top tier of the lists. Two players that never played together, and in fact have careers that began six decades apart. However, these two Hall of Famers have a much greater connection; they were born on the same day.

Eddie Murray and Honus Wagner combined to collect 6,675 hits over the four plus decades that they played between them. They both wore #33, though in Wagner’s case this was only in his post career as numbers weren’t worn during his playing days. They both won championships with the team they spent most of their careers with, and they were both RBI machines during their eras.

Honus Wagner was born in 1874, and began his baseball career in the Atlantic League at the urging of his brother in 1896. Before the end of the 1897 season, Wagner was roaming the outfield for the Lousville Colonels and hit .335 in 62 games. Though he spent the next 21 seasons in the big leagues, it was several seasons before he became the every day shortstop of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Before 1901, “The Flying Dutchman” played just about every position except shortstop. He had already established himself as one of the premier hitters in the league(winning the NL 1900 batting title with a .381 average!) and began a permanent transition to shortstop with his move to Pittsburgh. By 1903 he was the every day shortstop as the Pirates stormed their way into the first modern era World Series, as fans have come to recognize as the Fall Classic. Though the Pirates fell in eight games to the Boston Americans, it was not the last time Wagner’s team would reach the series. 6 years later Wagner met Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers, defeating the Tigers in a seven game series that capped off an 110 win season by the Pirates.

Between 1900 and 1917, Honus Wagner lit up the leader boards as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In addition to leading the National League five times in RBIs, he won eight batting titles and led in many other offensive categories. His overall career numbers are astonishing when you consider he accomplished his feats during the Dead Ball Era. Though he last played 94 years ago, only six men have collected more hits than Honus Wagner. Only eight men have cranked more doubles than Wagner’s 643, and only two have legged out more triples than Wagner’s 252. In addition to his speed(only 9 players in history have more stolen bases), Wagner regularly ranked among the top ten in home runs during his era.

It’s fitting that, in 1936, Honus Wagner was selected as the inaugural class to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He retired in 1917 with the most hits for a National League player, and it was 45 years later before Stan Musial broke that record. The sheer magnitude of Wagner’s career showcased exactly the kind of performances that should be expected for players to enter the Hall of Fame. He was inducted along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

In a February 1953 issue of Baseball Digest, Harry Keck profiled “Hans Wagner”. Click here to check it out!

Though Honus Wagner passed away in 1955, his legacy remains in the Hall of Fame and in the auction circles of baseball card collecting. The T206 card depicting Wagner, printed by the American Tobacco Company, is considered the rarest and most valuable baseball card. A near mint T206 card sold for nearly $3 million in 2007.

Honus Wagner played before the days of uniform numbers, All-Star Games, and the Hall of Fame. By the time Wagner died in 1955, these were the norms of the baseball world. Fans associate greatness with All-Star nods, trips to Cooperstown, NY and retired baseball numbers. Wagner wore #33 as a coach, and after his death his number was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s fitting that Wagner shares this number with a player who’s career can be attributed to All-Star nods, the Hall of Fame, and the same birthday.

Eddie Murray was born in 1956 in Los Angeles, California and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 1973 amateur draft. He powered his way through the minor leagues(63 homers in four seasons) before bursting onto the American League scene as the 1977 Rookie of The Year. Like Wagner with the Pirates, Murray helped push the Orioles into the postseason. Two years after he debuted, Murray hit .417 in the American League Championship Series against the California Angels. He slumped in a World Series loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Steady Eddie” averaged nearly 30 home runs and 100 RBIs during the first seven seasons. The seventh season, 1983, proved to be the pinnacle of his career in Baltimore. A career high 33 home runs, 110 RBI and a .306 average were the precursor for the 1983 World Series Champion Orioles. In the ’83 postseason Murray hit three home runs.

Murray continued his strong offense through 1988, earning six straight trips to the All-Star Game. Prior to the 1989 season, the last place Orioles shipped Murray to his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers where he had a a resurgence of sorts by nearly winning the 1990 NL batting title with a .330 average.

Los Angeles was the first of three stops in eight seasons. Despite moving from L.A. to the New York Mets to the Cleveland Indians, the power hitter still averaged more than 20 homers and nearly 90 RBI to go along with a .277 average during that time. He also had a taste of the postseason before wrapping his career up.

In 1995, while with the Indians, Murray clubbed three homers in the postseason that resulted in losing the World Series to the Atlanta Braves. The following year, the O’s were back in the postseason hunt for the first time since Murray’s 1983 team won the World Series. In July of ’96, the O’s brought the 39 year old back to Baltimore for the stretch run. Murray hit .400 against the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, and .267 against the New York Yankees in the ALCS, eventually won by New York. For his career, Murray hit 9 postseason home runs in 44 games.

In a December 1996 issue of Baseball Digest, Buce Lowitt wrote about the impact of Eddie Murray’s 500th career home run. Click here to check it out!

Eddie Murray played one more season, in 1997, split between the Anaheim Angels and the Dodgers. Since retirement, he has served as the hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians and more recently the Dodgers.

A year after his retirement, the Baltimore Orioles officially retired #33 in his honor. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He is just the fourth player in history to have at least 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. He is widely considered the greatest switch hitter in baseball history. In his career, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game eleven times.

Like Honus Wagner decades before him, Eddie Murray represents the very best of not only his era, but of baseball history.

Also Born On This Day:

Bronson Arroyo(b.1977) is an eleven year veteran that may be best remembered as one of the 25 players of the 2004 Boston Red Sox that ended an 86 year World Championship drought. A mainstay of the Cincinnati Reds rotation, Arroyo has won at least 15 games in each of the last three seasons.

Mike Lowell(b.1974) just ended a thirteen year career spent mostly with the Florida Marlins and the Boston Red Sox. A testicular cancer survivor, Lowell may be best remembered as a ‘throw in’ with the trade that sent Josh Beckett to the Red Sox. The ‘throw in’ was a key part of the 2007 World Championship season, including earning Most Valuable Player honors in the World Series.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Sparky Anderson

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
On November 4th, 2010, George “Sparky” Anderson passed away at the age of 76. I wrote an article about Sparky the day after he passed away. To read that article, click here. Baseball Digest.com also featured a Card Tribute by Tim Danielson, click here to see the images of Sparky Anderson! As the Hall of Fame manager would have turned 77 today, we’re going to take a look at the very beginning of the career of George Anderson.

Born in 1934, Sparky Anderson was associated with baseball from his earliest days. He was a batboy with the University of Southern California’s Trojans and signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers after graduating from Susan Miller Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, California.

Sparky’s professional career began as a member of the Santa Barbara Dodgers of the lowest level of the minor leagues in 1953. He played alongside Red Witt, who went on to become a member of the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. He was just the first of many teammates that made their impact on major league baseball. In 1954, Roger Craig was the future big leaguer who played a few games with the Pueblo Dodgers alongside Anderson. A year after that, Sparky played alongside future Hall of Fame Manager Dick Williams, teammates with the 1955 Fort Worth Cats. It was in Fort Worth that George Anderson earned the nickname “Sparky”, thanks to a baseball announcer commenting on his style of play.

Over the next three seasons, Sparky played in the minor leagues with the Montreal Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League and the International League. He played alongside future greats like Monte Irvin and Tommy Lasorda. At the age of 24 in 1958, the Dodgers opted to trade the infielder to the Philadelphia Phillies. The trade proved to change Sparky Anderson’s life forever.

In a February 1971 article of Baseball Digest, Wells Twombley wrote about how Sparky Anderson was preparing for the 1971 season on the heels of a 1970 World Series loss. Click here to check it out!

He was promoted to the Phillies for the 1959 season and played sparingly in his only season in the big leagues before returning to the minors. Between 1960 and 1964, Sparky played exclusively with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. The team changed Major League affiliation three times while he played with the team, and it was the owner of the Maple Leafs that first suggested the idea of managing to Anderson.

Sparky retired as a player following the 1959 season and immediately began his career as a manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In each of his years as minor league manager between 1965 and 1968, he led his team to their league championships. As a result of his success Sparky was hired as the third base coach of the San Diego Padres for their debut season in 1969. In the off-season before 1970, he was initially hired to join the coaching staff of the California Angels. However, this was short lived when the Cincinnati Reds came calling and offered the white haired 36 year old an opportunity to manage the team that would eventually become the “Big Red Machine”.

Also Born On This Day:

In a unique twist of coincidences, the players sharing a birthday on February 22nd are forever linked to the Seattle Mariners organization.

J.J. Putz(b. 1972) is an eight year major league veteran, playing with four teams and most recently signed a two year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He may be best remembered for his time with the Seattle Mariners, where he ranks second in franchise history with 101 saves.

Kazuhiro Sasaki(b. 1968) played his entire 4 four major league career with the Seattle Mariners, and logged another twelve seasons with the Yokohama BayStars. In his brief tenure in Seattle, he recorded 129 saves and ranks first in franchise history. He elected to forgo his final year with the Seattle Mariners to return home to Japan, citing his desire to be with his family.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Sam Rice

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
If he were alive today, Sam Rice would be 121 years old. Though his playing days ended 77 years ago, the Sam Rice story remains one of the most fascinating in baseball history.

Born on February 20th, 1890 in Morocco Indiana, Edgar Charles “Sam” Rice endured a personal tragedy that changed the course of his life. His path to the big leagues was a bit unconventional, to say the least.

In his early 20’s, he worked several miles away from his home. A tornado ripped through the town where his wife, children, and parents lived, killing them and prompting Rice to leave Indiana as a result.

In an attempt to escape his past, he signed up with the Merchant Marines and began playing ball throughout the mid-west. In 1913 Rice enlisted with the United States Navy as the President Woodrow Wilson attempted to handle a Mexican revolution. Though he saw action, he also continued playing baseball when on leave. During this time he was eyed by the owner of a team in the Virginia League and his enlistment was purchased by the Petersburg Goobers.

Two years later Rice’s contract was again purchased, this time by the Washington Senators of Major League Baseball. For the next two decades, Sam Rice dominated the American League to the tune of a .322 batting average. In eight seasons over the course of his career his season average ranked among the top ten in the league. He ranked among the top 10 for hits in a season twelve times, twice leading the league in hits and collecting 200+ hits six times.

His 2,987 career hits remains the highest total for anyone in major league history that didn’t reach the immortal number of 3,000. There are multiple reports that Sam Rice wasn’t even aware of his hit total until after retirement. There was an attempt to bring Rice out of retirement some years later to collect the remaining thirteen hits, but the outfielder refused the offer.

In a February 1975 Baseball Digest issue, Shirley Povich wrote about the letter Sam Rice left after his death regarding his famous World Series catch. Click here to check it out!

In addition to his hitting prowess(his 2,271 singles are 14th all time), Rice was excellent on the base paths as well. His 184 career triples still rank 14th all time and his 498 doubles place him 53rd all time in that category. He once led the AL with 63 stolen bases in 1920 and his career total of 351 are good for 107th all time.

Sam Rice may best remembered for an over-the-wall catch during Game 3 of the 1924 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the eight inning he made a sprawling catch to rob Earl Smith of a home run. He tumbled into the stands and, though many disputed it, the umpires called Smith out. Rice himself wouldn’t comment on whether he caught the ball for the rest of his life, but he sent a letter to the National Baseball Hall of Fame to be opened upon his death and confirmed he had indeed caught the ball and maintained possession.

After retirement, Rice had to wait for the Veteran’s Committee to be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963, nearly 30 years after his final season. Sam Rice passed away on October 13th, 1974 at the age of 84.

Also Born On This Day:

Livan Hernandez(b.1975) is a fifteen year major league veteran who has spent time with seven teams. The Cuban defector may be best known as a member of the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins and the 2002 San Francisco Giants that reached the World Series. The half brother of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez was won 166 games throughout his career and has a 3.97 postseason ERA.

Shane Spencer(b.1973) played seven years in the big leagues as a backup outfielder and is best remembered as a key member of the New York Yankees team between 1998 and 2002. Since retiring following the 2004 season, Spencer has spent time coaching in the minor leagues.

Muddy Ruel(b.1896) was considered one of the best defensive catchers in the league during his career that started in 1915 and concluded in 1938. During that time he was a teammate with Sam Rice as they won a World Series title in 1925 with the Washington Senators, and Ruel scored the series winning run in Game 7 against the New York Giants. He also served as a battery mate of Hall of Famer Walter Johnson.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Dave Stewart

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Between 1978 and 1986, Dave Stewart bounced from the major leagues to the minors, from the rotation to the bullpen, and was traded and released before finding his stride and dominating the major leagues for four seasons and playing a role in three World Championship titles(and playing in two other World Series) before hanging it up in 1995.

Taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the last pick in the 16th round of the 1975 June Amateur Draft, Stewart won 59 games in 6 full minor league seasons before reaching the major leagues for good during the 1981 season. During the first three full seasons of Stewart’s career, he maintained a 3.13 ERA while starting 23 games and notching 15 saves out of the bullpen. He was a member of the 1981 World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching in two games. In August of 1983, the Dodgers shipped Stewart to the Texas Rangers, who shuttled the righty back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen for parts of three seasons before trading him to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1985.

Stewart struggled towards the end of his time in Texas and further spiraled downward with the Phillies. His ERA skyrocketed over 6.00 during his time in Philly, and the team released him in May of 1986. Two weeks later the Oakland Athletics signed Dave Stewart and his career changed forever.

By July of 1986, Dave Stewart was inserted into the regular rotation and threw four complete games by the end of the season, including a shut out against the Baltimore Orioles. Starting in 1987 Stewart made a regular turn in the rotation for the next four seasons, leading the league in games started from 1988-1990. He won at least twenty games each year from 1987-1990 and routinely finished in the top 4 for American League Cy Young voting as well.

During the four year dominance, Stewart threw 41 complete games(along with seven shut outs), averaged 265 innings pitched, maintained a 3.20 ERA and a 1.241 WHIP to go along with a 121 ERA+. During this same period, he won 7 games in the postseason as the Athletics reached the World Series in three straight years. This period was capped off with Stewart being named the ALCS MVP as he held the Boston Red Sox to 2 runs in 16 innings.

In a March 1991 Baseball Digest article, Dave Newhouse asked the question, “Why Have Pitching Awards Eluded Dave Stewart?” Click here to check it out!

Beginning with the 1991 season, Stewart’s numbers began to decline. Though he led the league with 35 starts, he also led the league with 130 runs allowed. His 5.18 ERA was the highest of his career going back to 1985, and his stretch of winning 20 games a year came to an end. He rebounded in 1992, helping the A’s back to the postseason where they lost against the eventual World Champion Toronto Blue Jays.

During the off-season, Stewart signed a two year deal with the Blue Jays, and was a key player for their attempt to repeat as world champs. Though his regular season was less impressive, he dominated the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS and earned his second ALCS MVP honor with a 2.03 ERA in 13+ innings. He struggled in the World Series, but the Blue Jays went on to win their back to back championships anyway.

Stewart struggled in his second year with the Blue Jays and returned to the Oakland Athletics for the 1995 season. Over his last two seasons in the big leagues, the veteran righty had an ERA of 6.26, allowing 149 runs in 214 innings. In retirement Stewart worked as a pitching coach with the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays before starting his own business as a sports agent.

Also Born On This Day:

Miguel Batista(b. 1971) is a sixteen year veteran who has played with eight different teams. He may best be remembered for his stint with the World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. For the 2011 season, he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. In addition to his baseball career, he has a career as a writer in the Dominican Republic.

Russ Nixon(b.1935) was a backup catcher for 12 big league seasons and a major league manager for five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. He has been involved in baseball for the better part of 55 years, including 12 seasons as a minor league manager. He currently works with the Texas Rangers as a roving instructor.