Tagged: History

Phil Rizzuto’s Roommate in 1950

There is a new episode of The Bronx is Burning tonight on ESPN, and I can’t wait. I’m ecstatic about it. I already told my friends that I can’t go out tonight, and The Bronx (and the Angels game) are the only reasons why.

I really don’t know what it is about Billy Martin that has my so fascinated. He is the type of player who, if he played today, I would be in love with. A guy who isn’t naturally as talented as say your Albert Pujols, but who works hard towards the goal of winning, I’m thinking of our modern day David Eckstein (how appropriate that both are/were middle infielders). When I watch the game today I love rooting for the Ecksteins, the Spiezios, the guys who probably won’t hit the home run, but when they do it makes it that much better. You know, the kind that have to "play aggressively" (I took that straight from Billy Martin) and work at it. But when it comes to historical figures I- obviously- love the classic. DiMaggio, Williams, Johnson, Cobb, Henrich, Mantle (just about everyone, with the exception of Ruth. Billy Martin just doesn’t fit in that list.

So I don’t know what it is about him that has me so smitten. My Dad keeps telling me that "Billy Martin isn’t what" I am "making him out to be," and that if I was alive when he was I "would have hated him." Apparently he was a whiner, and a blamer, two qualities which I can not stand. But what I see in Billy, so far in my research, anyways, is a guy who over came the odds and had to work twice as hard as anyone. Plus, lets face it, the guy was a smart ***, and I find that hilarious.

Also I love the way he managed, or at least I love it according to the way it has been described thus far in BillyBall. Aggresive. Steal bases. Squeeze. Do what the other team doesn’t expect, but still expect the unexpected. Hit and run. Take chances. That is fun baseball. Make your guys (like Ron Guidry) go 9 innings when everyone else says he can’t. So perhaps it is that Billy and I love(d) the same kind of baseball- going all out. Small ball with a DH (Billy didn’t like playing in the National League).

Anyways I think he was awesome. And I’ve gotten everyone in on my act. My Uncle Dave (well not really my Uncle, but one of my best friend’s Uncles) promised me his 1978 Billy Martin Yankee card. He couldn’t find it when he went home last night, but he did pull out an awesome Graig Nettles, Mike Schmidt, and most impressive of all a Han Solo. Needless to say, Uncle Dave is one of my favorite Uncles. And he said the Martin card has him with his (stereotypical) glasses and hat.

But I’m still not sure what it is about Billy. You will all be the first to know as soon as I figure it out though. It seems that in baseball, like in life, you can’t explain who you love.

The Perfect Yankee

Last night Derek Jeter passed Joe DiMaggio for 5th all time on the list of Yankee hit leaders.

This has lead to a lot of debate today regarding who is the more perfect Yankee. And it has become a little frustrating to me.

I understand that Jeter has been doing an outstanding job of getting on base and collecting hits. But lets be honest, they have not been in 56 consecutive games. Collecting any string of hits is difficult at the Major League level, but there is no comparison to the streak.

Jeter was rookie of the year in 1996. And I’ll concede to the fact that DiMaggio didn’t gain that honor, but only for the simple reason that the award didn’t exist in 1936. However if one were to figure out where DiMaggio ranks amongst the all time rookies all they would have to do is look at the 1936 All Star game, where DiMaggio became the first rookie to play in the annual event. Derek Jeter, on the other hand, did not even make it to the mid summer classic until 1998, 2 years into his career.

As Yankees the truest measure of greatness is how many rings they have. DiMaggio has 9 while Jeter currently sits at 4. Jeter has not even played in as many World Series as DiMaggio won. In fact, Jeter has 2 losses compared to DiMaggio’s 1. Perhaps more impressively is that DiMaggio is the only player, in the history of the game, to win the World Series in his first 4 years in the Majors. Both players made it to the Fall Classic in their rookie years. Jeter batted an impressive .250 that year. DiMaggio bested him, however, with a .346. I’ll concede to the fact that in overall WS batting average Jeter has DiMaggio beat, but only because DiMaggio 70 more at bats in the Series! In one of Jeter’s WS losses Jeter batted a pathetic .148, whereas in DiMaggio’s only loss he batted an outstanding .333.

DiMaggio is also the superior player when it comes to All Star games. DiMaggio was an All Star in every season he was eligable, compiling 13 appearances. Jeter, on the other hand, has only 7. As a matter of fact Jeter missed his first two chances (as pointed out above) as well as in 2003 and 2005.

While I firmly believe that Jeter deserved the AL MVP award last season, he didn’t win it. Conversely, DiMaggio earned 3 AL MVPs in his 13 years with the Yankees. This leaves DiMaggio tied for second, all time, on the list of MVP winners.

DiMaggio also lost time "fighting" in World War 2. These were some of the prime years in DiMaggio’s career too as he lost 1943, 1944, and 1945. But none the less DiMaggio managed to compile 361 career home runs. Jeter, who has not lost time to war, but is currently in his 13th Major League season (the total number that DiMaggio played), has only 186 home runs. So, unless Jeter intends on collecting 175 home runs this season he will not match DiMaggio in that category in the same amount of time, if ever. Even more telling is the strike out to home run ratio. DiMaggio collected a mere 369 Ks in his career (a 1:1 ratio, which is the best all time for a player with over 300 home runs). Jeter, however, has already compiled 1208 strike outs (a 1:6.49 ratio). Additionally Jeter’s career batting average is .318, compared to DiMag’s .325.

But even still the comparison to Jeter is not what bothers me most, it is the comparisons to Ruth. Many claim that Ruth is the perfect Yankee, as stated on PTI today. I believe that this is absolutely asinine.

Firstly, Babe Ruth was not only a Yankee, he was also a Red Sox, and a Boston Brave.

Ruth led his team to the World Series 10 times also, but only won 7 of them. Additionally three of those wins came with the Boston Red Sox. And in those three World Series wins Ruth had a total of 11 at bats in 5 games, totaling 1 hit. DiMaggio never amassed less than 2 hits in one World Series. I’ll admit that DiMaggio only batted .111 in the 1949 World Series, but he collected more hits then than Ruth did in his first 3 World Series. Ruth made his last World Series appearance in 1932, where he didn’t retire until part way through the 1935 season. DiMaggio made an appearance in the Series in 1951, his last year. So who was more consistant in the most important field of play to Yankee fans? DiMaggio. And in 70 more at bats (thats right Ruth and Jeter have the same number of ABs) DiMaggio struck out 7 fewer times. Perhaps if you want to compare World Series play Jeter and Ruth are a more accurate comparison.

Ruth was also only the MVP one time in his career, out of 22 seasons. Thats also right, Ruth played 9 more years than DiMag. And face it, Ruth posted better numbers at the Polo Grounds than he did at Yankee Stadium. And imagine if DiMaggio hadn’t played in Yankee Stadium, that ballpark was not beneficial to his stance, or him being a righty.

Joe DiMaggio was clearly the perfect Yankee, and anyone would be hard pressed to argue otherwise.

1941 Continued

"I wish everybody had the drive he (Joe DiMaggio) had. He never did anything wrong on the field. I’d never seen him dive for a ball, everything was a chest-high catch, and he never walked off the field."- Yogi Berra

Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams; names that, in America, are synonymous with the term hero. And in 1941 they cemented not only their legacies, but they also showed just why they were the leagues premminent outfielders and hitters. They finish the year first and second, respectively, in the Most Valuable Player race.

Joe DiMaggio only made 9 errors through the 1941 season. Williams, on the other hand, made 11 Es throghout the season. Additionally DiMaggio played center field, a wider area to cover than left.

Perhaps more importantly than how rarely the boys made errors, is how often they did things right. Williams’ fielding percentage (in an era long before The Fielding Bible existed) was a mere .961, DiMaggio on the other hand had a .978. Simple math shows that DiMaggio’s fielding percentage was .017 point higher. Why is this so important? Because the league fielding average was .973 that year. That means that while DiMaggio’s percentage was .005 points above the league, while Williams proved to be .012 below. Therefore we can conclude that DiMaggio was the superior fielder not only in strict comparison between the two men, but in comparison to the league as a whole.

While this will certainly not help my DiMaggio argument, I think that it is an important story that few people know of about Ted Williams. The Following excerpt is from John Underwood’s It’s Only Me:

There was one other time that stands out in my mind as marking the strength of character Ted WIlliams brought to sport, and it too, was done in private. And it came out of the one great disappointment-the greatest failure, if you will-of his baseball life. The 1946 World Series. […]

When the beaten Red Sox got back to Boston and Ted collected his World Series cut, he passed on teh whole thing to Johy Orlando, the clubhouse boy who had "always been there for me when I was down." […]

But the glow provided by an exceptional act of gratitude is not the only value drawn from this incident. Ted Williams was being generous to a dear friend, yes, but more important he was being true to himself. He didn’t want the money because he felt he didn’t deserve it.

Theres the 1946 World Series story for you, Rob. While DiMaggio is my hero, its the little known stories like these that make me respect Williams to a rarely paralleled level.

1941 Round 2

Sorry for not updating yesterday, I’m home from Spring Break and worked all day, took my younger siblings to see TMNT, and then went out with my friends from high school.

I maintain my stance that The Yankee Clipper was the deserving recipient of the 1941 AL MVP. First I will delve into refuting the statements that Michael made in his arguement. Clearly Michael values the home run to strike out ratio, otherwise he would not have mentioned Jimmie Foxx, but need I remind everyone of the best ratio of all time? Joe DiMaggio. 361 homers to 369 strike outs (career). Thats 1:1, the best ratio all time for players with over 300 career home runs.

And as Michael also pointed out, no one other than Williams had more than 20 home runs for the ’41 club. He also states that DiMaggio had a much better lineup around him. However he had previously shown that Williams had more walks than DiMaggio. Why of course he would, it is wiser to walk a man with a pour lineup surrounding him than one with a great hitters on either side. Therein making the fact that Williams walked so many more times than DiMaggio less important.

Now lets move on to my side. DiMaggio had almost 100 more at bats than Williams, so of course his average would be lower. It is much more difficult to bat .400 in 541 at bats than in 456 at bats.

I’ll concede to the fact that Williams had more home runs than DiMaggio did, its irrefutable, but DiMaggio’s 30 home runs did place him fourth in the league. Conversely DiMaggio had 10 more doubles than Williams (43-33). Additionally DiMag made it to third 8 more times than Williams did (11-3), which placed him fourth overall in the American League for yet another offensive statistic. All of this culminates to a very important stat, DiMaggio led the American League in total bases, whereas Williams was third. All of these impressive facts, and it has yet to be mentioned that DiMaggio also had a league leading 125 RBIs.

Those are just the numbers, here are the intangibles, the things that make you remember what made a man great. The official hit streak was 56 games, but DiMaggio got a hit in the All Star game (his 6th consecutive All Star game, at that), technically making it 57. This may be a formality, but had that game counted DiMaggio would have been given a very lucrative endorsement deal with Heinz 57 Ketchup. Additionally DiMaggio faced 4 future Hall of Famers during his streak alone (baseballalmanac.com). When The Hall opened in 1936 five outstanding men were elected to represent all of baseball to that point. Close to one hundered years of baseball, and only 5 men were elected. Two were remembered for their pitching (Mathewson and Johnson), and another was a pitcher, but remembered for his feats at the plate (Ruth). And in just 56 games DiMaggio faced 4 future Hall of Famers. While batting .406 is an amazing feat, it had not only been done before, but it had been done better. .406 is not the best batting average that MLB has ever seen. The number 56 however is one of those intangibles. Never before had someone batted 56, and it has yet to happen since. Hitting streaks have reached the 40’s, but not the 50’s, whereas Williams’ mark was not unique.

And it is true. DiMaggio did have better relations with the press. Perhaps it was because he didn’t spit at the fans. Or snap at the writers (he hadn’t met Marilyn yet). Or because he kept just the right balance in his life between the public and private spheres. DiMaggio was known as a classy citizen, and is a main reason that Italians were not treated in the same matter as the Japanese during World War 2 in America (see Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio). DiMaggio gave the American people a hero to look up to in a desperate time of need, when a "nation" of people had "lonely eyes" so to speak. And an intangible 56 games (followed by 16 more) allowed them to "turn" to the young man from San Francisco. So, yes, perhaps the media darling did win, but the statistical analysis does not hurt either.

Joe DiMaggio Stats
Ted Williams Stats

The start of the 1941 debate

This is a repost of something I wrote back in November. It was one of my first blogs, and because of that it didn’t get much recognition (or any to be perfectly honest). I went through and edited a few grammatical errors, but other than that it is the same text that you can find here. Michael, from 35th and Shields, this is the beginning of our great 1941 debate!

Many of you may be familiar with the popular online social network called "facebook". As a college student I use facebook to keep in touch with many of my friends from high school. Facebook is easier than email, and more private than myspace, making it ideal. Facebook also allows members to create forums called groups where members can join and talk about common interests. My qualm is with one group inparticular intitled "YANKEES ****!"

I stumbled upon this wonderful group in an attempt to find people interested in discussing Joe DiMaggio (I don’t believe that he ****, but this group came up when his name was searched). In their description they list "50 reasons why the Yankees ****," which for some reason included Joe DiMaggio. In their opinion the number four reason why the Yankees **** is "Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is considered the record in baseball. Why is excellence over two months better than excellence over a season? (DiMaggio had 193 hits that season, sixty-four short of George Sisler’s major league record.)".

This outraged me for many reasons. Firstly claiming that Joe DiMaggio recieving credit for an outstanding performance is a reason to claim that an entire franchise **** is ridiculous. Think about it, his individual effort in the 1941 season has never been matched at the major league level. 56 games straight is an amazing feat, especially considering that Kellers 44 was the previous mark, with Sislers 41 being the next closest. But perhaps it is the comparison to Sisler’s former major league record that is most absurd.

DiMaggio and Sisler played at different times. Sisler’s last season was 1930, where Dimaggio didn’t even move up from the PCL until 1936. Yes Sisler did manage to get 257 hits in a single season, and yes that record did stand for 84 years, but it also happened in 1920. DiMaggio’s hit streak didn’t come until 1941, 21 years later. This list implies that Sisler was robbed by DiMaggio, that DiMaggio was unrightfully named the American League MVP that year, because Sisler deserved it. However Sisler had been retired for 11 years by the time DiMaggio won the award. Therefore making their argument invalid.

Perhaps they meant to discuss Williams mark of .406. Yes, that mark is impressive, and hasn’t been matched since. Not to mention Williams heroics of playing in the second game of the double header on the last day of the season when he could have been benched. I’m not going to argue that Williams feat is not to be admired, but claiming that DiMaggio was only excellent "over two months" is asinine. Let us not forget that DiMaggio hit in 56 games straight, missed a hit in the 57th game, and then posted another 16 game hit streak. Not to claim DiMaggio wasn’t slumping early in the 1941 season, but he was definately "excellent" for more than 2 months. Additionally to claim that Sisler was robbed by Dimaggio 11 years later, but to vote for Williams would also do Sisler an injustice according to the find folks at "YANKEES ****". Sisler batted over .400 twice in his career, both times with averages higher than Williams (.407 in 1920, the same year as his 257 hits, and .420 in 1922 when he won the MVP). But that was a different era, so how can you compare.

I’ll admit that Williams was responsible for more runs in the 1941 season, but the Yankees won the pennant, and the World Series that year. While many people argue that shouldn’t be a factor in MVP voting it often is. Joe DiMaggio was the rightful MVP of the 1941 season, and "fans" that claim players of another era were deprived of their right to a crown because of it clearly don’t know what they are talking about.

*I realized as I was re-reading this that I had spelt DiMaggio as "Dimaggio" throughout the entire thing in my anger, reminds me of Dimaggio Day at Yankee Stadium back in the 90’s, or Richard Ben Cramer’s description of it anyways.

Richard Ben Cramer vs Joseph Durso

It sounds like Lackey looked great today. 5 strikeouts in just 3 1/3 innings, and only one earned run.

I’m not going to lie. I was a little nervous when the game started. He seemed to be lacking control and location when he faced the first batter. But he really shaped up. If he looks half this good during the season I will be happy. I’m thinking I will lead my fantasy league in strikeouts with Lackey, Johan Santana, and Barry Zito.

On an unrelated note I think it is very interesting how different biographers can manipulate a story based on their ultimate goal. Obviously I know this happens frequently, but to hear the same story told multiple ways is always intriguing.

I think one of the best examples of this is "how" DiMaggio blew out his knee in the early thirties. One biographer, Richard Ben Cramer, tends to agree with the story that DiMag was… tipsy, and exiting a cab in his The Hero’s Life. Another, Joseph Durso, states that DiMaggio was on his way back home from a dinner with his sister, on a "crowded jitney car" when detailing the scene in The Last American Knight.

But Coral, there are obviously many different stories, why do you find this so intriguing? For several reasons. Richard Ben Cramer was writing without knowing DiMaggio. Duraso was a biographer picked by DiMaggio, the two men were "friends" or as close to it as DiMaggio would get with a biographer. Another interesting detail is that Cramer was not worried about DiMaggio blacklisting him, as much of the book was rewritten after his death, and it wasn’t published until then either. Duraso’s book on the other hand was published well before DiMaggio passed. Cramer admits that many people came forward with new details after the Clipper crossed over.

I suppose we will never know the whole truth to the story behind DiMaggio injuring his knee, but that is part of the allure that is DiMaggio. That privacy. Always knowing too little, but at the same time just enough. And that is the fun thing about history, we can decide which aspects we believe are true. These are things that anthropology teachers can only hope to explain to a class. But until you find such a great example yourself, you never really understand it.

Casey Stengal is overrated

As I listened to the Angels’ game during lunch today I realized just how much I miss watching the games.

I got to watch the game against the A’s (in which we gave up a 3 run lead and lost), and it was invigorating. It was the first spring training game I have seen on TV this year.

I’m so upset that I’m missing out on seeing such hot young prospects as Jeff Mathis hit homeruns. I want to watch his swing develop. This is really unfair.

However it was fun seeing Kotchman hit a homer on Sunday. I hope he stays healthy. It would be such a benefit to the club if he can.

Frankie pitched in the 5th today, that was funny.

I can’t wait til our official rosters get announced. Its going to be wonderful.

Anyways the point is, maybe I have been selling Mathis short. Maybe he is ready for this. And its clear that Scoscia hasn’t made up his mind regarding who will be his starting catcher.

I think that Casey Stengal gets too much credit for being a great manager. I bring this up as I am thinking of platoons. Look at the men he inherited from McCarthy. If you couldn’t win with those men you would be a fool. And how stupid of him to try and get Mantle under DiMaggio’s skin. YOU KNEW YOU PLAYED OFF DIMAG, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. How fast Mickey would have been if he hadn’t messed up his knee in ’51… Commerce Comet.

Just something to think about.