Monthly Archives: March 2011

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Joe McGinnity

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

“For The Love Of The Game” is a saying you often hear about players who continue on with their careers long after they’ve achieved their personal best. They’re players who can’t quite shake that craving for competition. For a player born on this day in 1871, you’d believe this saying came about when he was toiling through the minor leagues seventeen years after the final season of a great career at the major league level.

Though minor league statistics throughout history can be hard to verify in some respects, there is a possibility that Hall of Fame pitcher Joe McGinnity has the greatest number of victories at the minor league level as any other pitcher in the Hall of Fame. More impressive, most of these victories came after his big league stint.

Joe McGinnity, born on March 20th, 1871 in Cornwall Township, Illinois, played seven seasons at the minor league level(though numbers for only one season is available) before joining the Baltimore Orioles and leading the league with 28 wins in 1899. Over the course of a ten year career(spent mostly with the New York Giants), McGinnity led the league in victories five times, led the league in innings four times, and led the league in games started six times. His 246 career wins ranks him 46th all-time, and his career 2.66 ERA ranks him 66th all-time, 103 years after his last MLB season.

McGinnity holds the distinction of pitching both ends of a doubleheader several times, to solidify the nickname “Iron Man”, earned reportedly when he mentioned that he was an iron man by trade.

In an August 1955 issue of Baseball Digest, Pat Harmon wrote about Joe McGinnity’s ‘Iron Man’ ability of pitching both ends of a doubleheader! Click here to check it out!

At the age of 37, McGinnity was the fourth oldest player in the big leagues and it was his last season at the highest level. It was just the beginning of his second career in the minor leagues, however. He played 14 seasons(over 18 years) with nine different teams, and earned 207 victories in the minors between 1909 and 1925. He won 20 or more games 7 times, including 29 and 30 wins in his first two seasons with the Newark Indians of the Eastern League. In total, McGinnity won more than 450 games(the exact number depends on the source) in his professional career. He passed away in 1929 of bladder cancer, just four years after his last season in the minor leagues.

Also Born Today:

George Altman(b.1933) spent nine seasons in the big leagues, primarily as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He had a career year in 1961 when he knocked in more runs than teammates Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, and Billy Williams. Though he hit just 101 home runs in his MLB career, he slugged 205 between 1968-1975 while playing ball in Japan.

Stan Spence(1915-1983) played nine seasons, most notably as a member of the Washington Senators. Despite missing the 1945 season to service in World War II, Spence averaged 14 homers and 84 RBI on his career. He was a four time All-Star, and also had two stints with the Boston Red Sox.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Mike Timlin

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

March 10th, 1966 is the birthday of a man who is the only player in baseball history to win a World Series Championship with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox. More impressive, this player won two titles with each ballclub.

Though born and raised in Midland, Texas, Mike Timlin’s greatest success was achieved well north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Drafted in the 5th round of the 1987 Amateur Draft, his career as a relief pitcher began in his second season as a member of the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays of the South Atlantic League. By 1990 Timlin had a sub 2.00 ERA, prompting a call up to the big leagues for the 1991 season. He made his major league debut against the Boston Red Sox on April 8, 1991. He recorded his first career strikeout(against Tom Brunansky) two days later. Timlin pitched more than 100 innings over 63 appearances that year, and his moderate success in the 1991 ALCS gave a glimpse into the future of Timlin. He logged some time in the minors during the 1992 season, but provided much needed support in September with seven scoreless appearances spanning 7.1 innings. He saved the best for last, keeping the Atlanta Braves scoreless in the World Series and being involved in the bunt play that ended the series and gave the Blue Jays their first title.

The following year, Timlin again provided much needed relief in the Toronto bullpen down the stretch. In September he allowed just one earned run in eleven appearances. Much like the previous year, Timlin saved the best for last, maintaining his perfect World Series ERA with 2.1 scoreless innings as the Blue Jays repeated as champions, this time defeating the Philadelphia Phillies.

As the Blue Jays faded from the group of elite teams in the league over the next few years, Timlin solidified himself as a great arm in the ‘pen. By 1996, Timlin became the everyday closer and notched 31 saves. At the trade deadline in July of 1997, Timlin began his career as a journeyman when the Blue Jays traded him to the Seattle Mariners, who were charging towards the postseason. He helped the M’s to the ALDS, but struggled mightily in his two thirds of an inning pitched, getting hammered for four runs, en route to a series loss to the Baltimore Orioles. As the every day closer for the Seattle Mariners in 1998, Timlin recorded 19 saves.

In an October 2006 issue of Baseball Digest, Amalie Benjamin wrote about Mike Timlin’s impact on the young pitchers of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff. Click here to check it out!

During the 1998-1999 off season, Timlin signed with the Baltimore Orioles for the 1998 season, and recorded 27 saves in his first season with his third team. By the trade deadline in 2000, he was once again on his way to another team, this time the St. Louis Cardinals. With the Cards, he returned to his role as a middle inning set up man and thrived. Though he struggled in the 2000 postseason, he rebounded to become a reliable arm for the Cardinals through the 2002 season. For the third time in his career, Timlin was again traded at the July deadline to the Philadelphia Phillies, pitching well down the stretch. Following the season, Timlin signed on with the Boston Red Sox and began the journey that would land the native Texan on the team that ended an 86 year championship drought.

For six years between 2003 and 2008, Mike Timlin provided a veteran presence on the mound and in the clubhouse for the band of ‘Idiots’ that changed history for baseball in Boston. In eight games during the 2003 postseason, Timlin did not allow a single run. Though he struggled in the 2004 postseason, he did not allow a run during pivotal late innings in Game 5 and Game 7 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees. He allowed a few runs in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the offense of the Red Sox overcame all obstacles to sweep the Cards four games to none.

Timlin’s solid work out of the ‘pen continued during 2005, appearing in a league(and career) best 81 games. After a down year in 2006, he regained some of his dominance in 2007 and helped the team to another World Series berth, this time against the Colorado Rockies. Along the way he held the Cleveland Indians scoreless in the ALCS. Earning his second World Series ring with Boston signified the beginning of the end for Timlin in Boston as well as at the major league level. His 2008 season was his final year, and his 5.66 ERA indicated that the 42 year old had reached the end of the line. Though he attempted a comeback in 2009 with the Colorado Rockies, his career was over. At his retirement, he had ranked first all time for relief appearances by a right handed pitcher with 1,054 and ranks seventh all time with 1,058 overall appearances by a pitcher. Not too shabby for a well traveled player who’s career began with the 1991 Toronto Blue Jays 18 years earlier.

Also Born Today:

Aaron Bates(b. 1984) is the only current player in spring training camp with the Boston Red Sox that was born on March 10. In five minor league seasons, he has slugged 70 home runs. On July 11, 2009 he notched his first career hit against Roman Colon of the Kansas City Royals.

Rob Stanifer(b.1972) was a member of the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins before twice being acquired by the Boston Red Sox. The right handed pitcher had a career ERA of 5.43 and his last strikeout victim in the big leagues was Sal Fasano of the Oakland Athletics.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Jackie Jensen

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Throughout baseball history players have retired due to ability, injury, and even refusing trades. Some players simply did not want to play elsewhere. In the case of the late Jackie Jensen, he could not overcome a combination of the pull of family life and a fear of flying. The 1958 American League MVP was born on March 9th, 1927 and his career blossomed during a time of expansion and the advent of aviation.

Jensen’s career began with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in 1949,the team that traded him to the New York Yankees along with Billy Martin following the season. After spending parts of two seasons with the New York Yankees, Jensen became an every day player when the team elected to trade him to the Washington Senators in 1952. He achieved his first of three career All-Star nods while with the Senators. Following the 1953 season, the Senators traded Jensen to the Boston Red Sox, where his career drastically changed for the better.

Over seven seasons with Boston, Jensen topped 100 RBIs five times and led the league in three of those seasons. During his first six seasons as a Red Sox, he averaged 26 home runs and a .285 average. Jensen achieved his greatest success during the 1958 season when he earned the American League Most Valuable Player Award following a season where he hit .286 with 35 home runs and 122 RBI.

In a December 1999 issue of Baseball Digest, Barry Sparks examined where Jackie Jensen ranked among his era of players. Click here to check it out!

With the expansion of baseball to the west coast and more teams moving by the early 1960’s, Jensen retired from baseball in January 1960 citing a desire to be with his family and a fear of flying that increased through the late 1950’s. After missing the entire 1960 season, Jensen attempted a comeback in 1961 and retired again when he failed to produce as well as he did prior to his first retirement. Beyond baseball, Jensen kept busy as a baseball coach with the University of Nevada and the University of California. He passed away in 1982 at the age of 55, caused by a heart attack.

In 2000, the Boston Red Sox honored the ’58 AL MVP by inducting him into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Also Born Today:

“Arky” Vaughan(b.1912) was a Hall of Fame shortstop that is considered to be one of the greatest hitting shortstops in the history of the game. A nine time All-Star, Vaughan topped 100 runs score five times in his career and led the league twice. Vaughan played with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Brooklyn Dodgers during the course of his 14 year career. He sat out three seasons during the 1940’s due to a disagreement with manager Leo Durocher. He died suddenly in August of 1952 when his boat sank while fishing.

Billy Southworth(b.1893) was a Hall of Fame manager with the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Braves. He led teams to four National League Pennants and was a two time World Series Champion as manager. In addition to his managing days, he played 13 seasons as an outfielder with five different teams, including his time as a player/manager in 1929 with the Cardinals. He died in November of 1969.

Benito Santiago(b.1965) played two decades in the big leagues with nine different teams. A bulk of his career was spent with the San Diego Padres where he set a record by a catcher with a 34 game hit streak. He also earned Rookie of The Year honors in 1987 with the Padres, four trips to the All-Star Game, four Gold Glove Awards and Four Silver Slugger Awards while in San Diego. He bounced around the major leagues for more than a decade after leaving his first time. He slugged the first home run in franchise history as a member of the 1993 Florida Marlins.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Paul Konerko

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Paul Konerko was born on March 5th, 1976 in Providence, Rhode Island. He was a stand out at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in first round of the June Amateur Draft following his senior year. Konerko made an immediate impact in the minor leagues, leading the Single A Yokima Bears with six home runs in 67 games. In fact, he led his team in home runs three times during his climb through the minor league ranks. His 37 home runs to lead the Triple A Albuquerque Dukes led to a September call up in 1997.

1998 proved to be an important year for Konerko, as he spent 75 games in the big leagues and was traded for the first time. He started the year with the Dodgers and returned to the Dukes at the end of April for a month before returning. He clubbed his first home run off Bob Wells in June and hit four with the big league club during the season. On the fourth of July Konerko was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. He hit three home runs with the Reds and eight more during another stint at the Triple A level.

In a May 2006 issue of Baseball Digest, Doug Padilla wrote about the impact of winning a World Series on Paul Konerko’s standing with fans and teammates alike. Click here to check it out!

During the off-season, he was traded again. This time, he was traded to Chicago White Sox for outfielder Mike Cameron. The trade added Konerko to a lineup with offensive power that already included Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas. The acquisition of Konerko helped the White Sox reach the postseason for the first time since 1993. Though they weren’t successful in 2000, Konerko’s addition changed the dynamic of the team.

Since becoming an every day player with the White Sox, Konerko has averaged 30 home runs a year(twice hitting 40 or more) to go along with four All-Star nods. He has averaged 147 games a year, while knocking in more than 90 runs on average; he has driven in more than 100 runs five times in his career. Along the way to 365 career homers, Konerko has slugged three in a single game and hit his 300th in back-to-back homers with Jermaine Dye, who also hit his 300th career homer. The feat was the first of its kind in Major League Baseball history.

Most significantly though, Konerko played a huge role with the 2005 World Champion White Sox squad, earning MVP honors of the ALCS. In Game 3 of the series, Konerko helped set the tone with a 2 run home run in the first inning to cap off a three run inning. He continued his first inning heroics in Game 4, with a three run homer off Ervin Santana. He also added an insurance run with a double in Game 5. On the series, he hit .286 with 7 RBI. In the World Series against the Houston Astros, Konerko added a grand slam home run in Game 2 to bring the White Sox back from a 4-2 deficit.

Paul Konerko currently ranks high among the greatest White Sox for various franchise records. With a new three year contract in hand, Konerko has a great chance to end his career with the White Sox and rank among Frank Thomas, Nellie Fox and Luke Appling as one of the franchise best.

Also Born On This Day:

Hall of Famer Sam Thompson(b.1860) ranked second all-time in with 126 home runs at the time of his retirement. During the 19th century, Thompson was one of the best offensive players in the major leagues. His 61 RBI in a single month remains a record today, and his 1887 season with 166 RBI wasn’t bested for 34 years until Babe Ruth knocked in 171 in 1921. Thompson died in 1922 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.

Elmer Valo(b.1921) played twenty years in the big leagues, and may be best remembered for the ever-evolving nature of Major League Baseball between 1940 and 1961. Valo was a member of the Philadelphia Athletics team that was moved to Kansas City prior to the 1954 season and became the Kansas City Royals. Two years later he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1957 and was a member of the team when they relocated to Los Angeles, California. Finally, Valo joined the Washington Senators in 1960 and they moved to Minnesota in 1961 to become the Twins.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Monte Ward

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Though it took nearly 100 years, Curt Flood had a critical part in the ending of the Reserve Clause that essentially tied ballplayers to their original teams without any ability to negotiate. Though Flood is considered the player to force the end of the clause, he was actually a supporting cast member on a long fought battle.

Nearly eighty years before Major League Baseball included an organized player’s union, John Montgomery Ward established the very first player’s union. Though it was another eight decades before players had their voices heard, the eventual Hall of Famer Monte Ward left his impression on baseball history by challenging the Reserve Clause in 1885. It was just the beginning of a long fight for Ward to establish player’s rights.

Born on March 3rd, 1860 Monte Ward entered college at the age of 13 and started playing ball at Penn State University. Several years later, when he was trying to establish a career for himself, he signed with the Providence Grays of the National League. At age 18 in 1878, Ward won 22 games and led the league with a 1.71 ERA. In his first three season he notched 108 wins, but it was also the peak of his pitching career. Due to an arm injury he eventually switched to shortstop. In nine seasons as the every day shortstop, Ward hit .293 and swiped more than 500 bases.

Though a solid all around baseball player, Ward’s Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players and the subsequent Player’s League is what he is best remembered for. In the winter of 1888, the owners of the NL teams met and established a player ranking system that determined a player’s salary. The highest salary of a player was $2,500 and an owner’s sale of a player sparked outrage from Monte Ward.

Following the 1888 season, after Ward and the New York Giants won the World Series, the team elected to sell Ward to the Washington Nationals for a sum of $12,000. Ward refused and demanded a meeting with owners to garner a slice of the fee being exchanged. The owners shelved talks until the end of the 1889 season(which Ward’s Giants again won the World Series), hoping the put an end to the complaint.

In a May 1964 issue of Baseball Digest, Edward Pierce highlights “What They Wrote About Monte Ward”. Click here to check it out!

Instead, Monte Ward went ahead and used business contacts to set up the Player’s League, a league that comprised of eight teams with many star players that played in the National League the year before. The league was a moderate success in some cities, but struggled with owners that were cautious of the future of the league and the league lasted just one season. Major League Baseball officially recognized the PL as a major league during its one year stint, in 1968.

The attempt by Monte Ward to establish a new league without a Reserve Clause or player classifications is impressive on a number of levels. New professional leagues crop up throughout the years, but usually never with the star power that the Player’s League carried. Hall of Famers King Kelly, Old Hoss Radbourn, Buck Ewing, and Charles Comiskey among many others either played or managed in the PL. On the flip side, the failure of the PL set players back nearly 9 decades with regard to the Reserve Clause and other player’s rights.

Like the rest of his newly formed league, Ward returned to the National League and was a player/manager for the final four years of his career in the big leagues. After his playing days, Ward worked as a lawyer representing ballplayers and had a owner role with the Boston Braves before getting involved with the Federal League in 1914. In retirement he established the New York Golf Association as well as the Long Island Golf Association. Ward passed away on March 4th, 1925, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.

Also Born On This Day:

Hall of Famer Willie Keeler(b.1872) was a nineteen year veteran who spent the bulk of his career playing in New York with the Highlanders, Superbas and Giants. His .341 career batting average ranks 14th all time in Major League Baseball history. In 1897, Keeler led the league with a .424 average! He died in 1923 and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

Scott Radinsky(b.1962) played eleven seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers. His career was nearly derailed when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. He missed the entire 1994 season undergoing treatment and returned to form by 1996. After retirement following the 2001 season, Radinsky has worked as a coach in the minor leagues and off the field he’s a member of a punk rock band, “Pulley”.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Paul Hines

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Over the last 120 years of professional baseball where statistics have been recorded, Paul Hines remains high among important lists of offensive numbers. For one, only 199 players in history have collected more hits than Hines’ 2,133. Some notable players that fall short of Hines on the hits ladder include Dale Murphy, Ellis Burks, Paul O’Neill, and at least until some time in late August, Albert Pujols.

Though not a Hall of Famer, Paul Hines left an indelible impression on major league baseball that remains all these years later. Hines was born on March 1st, 1855, a full six years before the Civil War broke out. He first played professional ball with the Washington Nationals in the National Association in 1872, a team that actually lost all eleven games they played before folding. Hines played four seasons in the National Association before moving on to the National League, where he had his most success as a member of the Providence Grays.

In a May 1947 issue of Baseball Digest, Guy M. Smith describes how “The Hines Play” inaccurately credited Paul Hines with the first unassisted triple play. Click here to check it out!

Between 1878 – 1884 Paul Hines maintained a .315 average, including leading the league in average twice. Though not recognized at the time, Hines has been considered the first winner of the Triple Crown in 1878 with 4 home runs, 50 RBIs, and a .358 average. After his time with the Grays, Hines played with 6 more teams, twice returning to the Washington D.C. area to play for some variation of the Washington Nationals.

Most impressive about Hines’ career is the length of time his numbers remained among the best. At retirement, he ranked third all time in the National League with 1,823 NL hits. His 16 seasons as a center fielder was not surpassed until Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb more than three decades later.

Paul Hines arguably ranks among the top 200 to play the game, when you consider the various offensive categories where he ranks all-time. Batting Average(184th), Runs Scored(160th),Hits(200th),Singles(153rd), and Doubles(165th). Part of his success can be attributed to a few great players he played alongside. With the Providence Grays, Hall of Famer Old Ross Radbourn played alongside Hines. With the Chicago White Stockings in 1876, Hines played with Hall of Famer Cap Anson.

Though Albert Pujols and other modern day players will continue to knock Paul Hines down the list of greats, it’ll be another hundred years before the pre-Civil War born player is long forgotten.

Also Born On This Day:

Ramon Castro(b. 1974) is a 12 year major league veteran, primarily playing catcher. He has played with four teams, most recently with the Chicago White Sox. He was drafted in the first round of the 1994 amateur draft, becoming the first Puerto Rican native to be taken in the first round. His 63 career home runs are more than any other player born on March 1st.

Mark Gardner(b. 1962) is a retired major leaguer after playing 13 seasons in the big leagues, the last half with the San Francisco Giants. His 99 career wins leads players born on March 1st. In July 1991, Gardner lost a no hitter when he allowed a hit in the 10th inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.