Monthly Archives: August 2011

Baseball Digest Birthdays: George Kell

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A ‘country-gentleman” familiar voice of the Detroit Tigers, and a career .306 hitter to boot, George Kell was the epitome of a baseball man. Between his career as a player and as a broadcaster, he spent the better part of 65 years around the game.

George Kell had an impressive major league career than spanned fifteen seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles. In addition to being named an All-Star ten times, Kell batted over .300 nine times, including beating out fellow Hall of Famer Ted Williams for the AL batting title in 1949 while striking out just 13 times that season.

In a July 2006 Baseball Digest article, Bill Dow wrote about fan favorite George Kell. Click here to check out the article!

Kell’s 13 strikeouts in 1949 were par for the course during his playing days. In over 7,500 plate appearances, he struck out just 287 times. By contrast, he walked 621 times during his career. He twice led the league in hits and had 385 career doubles to go along with 50 triples.

After retirement, George Kell began a forty year broadcasting career for the Detroit Tigers that spanned 1957-1996. In 1983, the Veteran’s Committee inducted Kell into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The beloved announcer passed away in his sleep on March 24th, 2009.

Also Born Today:

Hall of Famer George Davis(1870-1940) was a sensational ballplayer at the turn of the century, leading the league in outfield assists before shifting to the infield and leading the league again at the shortstop position. He was the first player in history to hit a triple and a home run in the same game.

Julio Franco(b. 1958) appeared in 23 MLB seasons between 1982 and 2007, despite spending the 1995 season in Japan and playing in Japan, Mexico and South Korea between 1998 – 2000. He played one game as a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999.

Mark Bellhorn(b. 1974) played ten seasons in the big leagues, but may be best remembered as a member of the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox. Bellhorn homered in Game 6 and Game 7 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, and became the first second baseman to homer in three straight postseason games when he slugged a two run homer against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series.


Baseball Digest Birthdays: Roberto Clemente

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For a game that celebrates important milestones, it is appropriate that Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente sits among the greatest ballplayers of all time with exactly 3,000 career hits. At the time of his sudden death at the age of 38 on the New Years Eve of 1973, Clemente was coming off his fifth straight season with a batting average above .300, and thirteenth time overall for his career. There’s no mistaking that Roberto Clemente would have surpassed 3,000 hits and built upon an already impressive resume had his life not been cut short.

That being said, Roberto Clemente’s impact on Major League Baseball and the importance being involved in humanitarian activities has grown tremendously since December 31st, 1972, when Clemente died while escorting supplies to Nicaragua, which had been devastated by an earthquake. Roberto Clemente, in more ways than one, has established himself as a benchmark for excellence on and off the field for future ballplayers.

Born on August 18th, 1934 in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Clemente reached the major leagues as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the age of 20. For a franchise coming off its third straight eighth place finish Clemente offered a glimpse of potential, even if the team finished in eighth once again during his rookie season.

Bart Ripp of the Daily Iowan wrote about the ‘gifted player and extraordinary man’ that Roberto Clemente was in a March 1973 issue. Click here to check it out!

Over the first five seasons of his career, he solidified himself as the every day right fielder. During the off seasons, Clemente played in the Puerto Rican Baseball League. However, a major change in his off season regiment had an impact on the rest of his career. During the off season before the 1959 season, Clemente served with the United States Marine Corps Reserves, which added ten pounds to his frame and contributed to his .296 average during the 1959 season. The off season change proved beneficial, and he continued as a member of the corps through 1964. Beginning in 1960, Clemente hit above .300 eight times and won four NL batting titles along the way.

As Clemente was arriving on the national stage, he was carrying the Pirates with him. For the first time since 1927 the Pirates were facing off against the American League in the Fall Classic, and for the first time in 45 years the Pirates became kings of baseball when they defeated the New York Yankees for their third franchise title. Clemente earned his first of fifteen All-Star nods during the 1960 season, and the first of twelve consecutive Gold Glove Awards.

From 1960 to his final season in 1972, Clemente hit .329 over that span. Over the course of his career, he averaged 200 hits, twice leading the league in that category. Frankly, the right fielder ranked among the top 10 every year in most offensive and defensive categories throughout his career. He secured his only MVP Award in 1966, in the midst of a four year span where he hit a robust .335.

In a September 1971 issue of Baseball Digest, Roberto Clemente tells George Voss about the ‘Game He’ll Never Forget’. Click here to read all about it!

With the new decade, the Pirates returned to the postseason in three straight seasons, culminating with a World Series victory over the 101 win Baltimore Orioles in 1971. Clemente did his part with a .342 season average and a .414 average in the World Series. Though he played in just 102 games during the 1972 season, Clemente showed as a 38 year old that he was far from being finished as a ballplayer at the major league level. His final at bat came on September 30th, 1972; and he stroked a double to left field. He came around to score the first run in a 2-0 victory over the New York Mets.

On December 23rd, 1972, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck Managua, Nicaragua, killing 5,000 people, injuring 20,000 more and leaving a quarter million homeless. Clemente organized efforts to send supplies to the victims, and encountered a government that was stockpiling foreign aid instead of ensuring the supplies reached victims. After three failed flights with supplies Roberto Clemente boarded a plane overloaded, bound for Nicaragua, on December 31st, in hopes of ensuring supplies reached their intended destination. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Roberto Clemente’s body was never recovered, despite efforts by even his long time friend and teammate Manny Sanguillen, who dove off the coast of Puerto Rico on the day of his funeral services. Less than four months after his death, the Baseball Writers Association of America held a special election to waive the five year waiting period to induct him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Since 1973, Roberto Clemente has been posthumously honored in several ways. Perhaps the biggest honor Clemente has received(next to the three Presidential Awards) is the renaming of the Commissioner’s Award presented by Major League Baseball each year to a player in his honor that “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”. Clemente’s legacy also lives on with his his, Roberto Clemente Jr., who established the Roberto Clemente Foundation in 1993.

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Carl Crawford

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On December 11, 2010 Carl Crawford signed a 7 year deal worth $142 million dollars with the Boston Red Sox. Over the previous nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, Crawford averaged 45 stolen bases to go along with a .293 batting average and an OPS of .781. As Crawford,who turns 30 years old today, is two thirds of the way into his first season in Boston, he has just 12 stolen bases to go along with a .245 batting average and an OPS of .660.

While this may cause concern for some Boston Red Sox fans, they only need to look at a slew of ballplayers born on the same day as Carl Crawford to understand that the new left fielder may just need a full season to get himself going in Boston. He may not even need a full season. There are a number of players born today who made an impact in Boston in just a few key games.

One such player is Eric Hinske, who helped the Red Sox to the 2007 World Series. His first home run as a member of the Red Sox broke a 2-2 tie game against the Detroit Tigers. Hinske, born on August 5th, 1977, hit 7 home runs during his brief tenure with the team between 2006-2007. Hinske went on to join Carl Crawford and the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 and helped them reach the World Series for the first time by slugging 20 homers during the season. He had a World Series trifecta when he reached the 2009 World Series with the New York Yankees.

Bernie Carbo is a player to consider when trying to determine whether or not Carl Crawford could possibly turn his season and his career around. Born on August 5th in 1947, Carbo found himself coming off the 1973 season with a .286 batting average and an OPS of .819 with the St. Louis Cardinals. After that season, he was traded to Boston, and his first season proved to be a bit underwhelming. For the 1974 season, his average dropped to .249 and his OPS slipped to .778. It wasn’t until the 1975 season that Carbo proved his worth. He slugged 15 homers to go along with a .257 average/.892 OPS, and made his biggest contribution in the World Series against his former team. He cranked a 3 run home run in Game 6 of the World Series, tying the game a 6-6 and set the state for Carlton Fisk’s famous walk-off homer in extra innings.

Jeff Berlinicke wrote an article about Carl Crawford as the cornerstone of the Tampa Bay franchise in a May 2005 issue. Click here to check it out!

Some naysayers may believe that Carl Crawford’s best years are behind him. If Bobby Kielty(born August 5th, 1976) is any indication, even players seemingly at the end of the line can contribute significantly. A veteran outfielder with postseason experience with the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics, Kielty split his final season in 2007 between the A’s and the Red Sox. Though he hit just .218 dring the regular season, he played a huge role in the ALCS and World Series, including slugging a pinch hit home run in the series ending Game 4 against the Colorado Rockies.

One thing is for sure; it is highly unlikely Carl Crawford’s career in Boston will be remembered as fondly(or infamously) as John “Way Back” Wasdin’s Boston tenure. Born on August 5th, 1973, Wasdin acquired when he was traded for Jose Canseco by the Oakland Athletics. Wasdin allowed 54 home runs during his three plus seasons in a Red Sox uniform. He also allowed 7 runs in 3.1 innings of work between the 1998 and 1999 postseasons. Wasdin did show he was a capable pitcher, however, when he threw a perfect game for the Toronto Blue Jays Triple A affiliate in 2003.

Drafted by the (then) Devil Rays in the second round of the 1999 draft, Crawford need to adjust briefly during his meteoric rise through the minors. He also had an adjustment period during his first two seasons in the big leagues. If Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees is any indication, there can also be an adjustment to playing in a big market like New York and Boston. Having played in an ALCS against Boston and in the World Series against the Texas Rangers, there is great potential for Carl Crawford to build his own Red Sox history like the several players he shares a birthday with.

Photoblog: Brooklyn Cyclones

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The Brooklyn Cyclones, the New York Mets Single A affiliate, are easily one of the most entertaining baseball teams to visit. I’m probably a bit biased, as I’ve made a point to see a half dozen games this year and dozens over the years since I moved to Brooklyn, NY.

On this particular night, the Brooklyn Cyclones held the opposition to just 1 hit through 7 innings. After a long bottom of the inning where the home team busted the game wide open, they finally allowed a few more hits.

It’s a solid good time!