Friday, June 29, 2007

Protest nears

People are supposed to protest the ownership of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.

Joe Tuscano, assistant sports editor for our newspaper, The Observer-Reporter, has written a column about the efforts. Click here to give a read.

Personally, I've managed to avoid paying a cent toward the Pirates ownership this year after attending probably an average of 20 times a season since PNC Park opened in 2001. Fool me six years ...

Congratulations to Frank Thomas (500 home runs) and Craig Biggio (3,000 hits) on reaching their respective milestones yesterday.

I've heard debate today about Biggio's qualifications for the Hall of Fame. Oh, come on! Just because the guy wasn't hitting balls into the ozone with the frequency of McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro, let's not diminish his accomplishments. He's a very well-respected player who has put in 20 years with the same team, a rarity not only in these nomadic times but in major-league history.

By the way, he has hit 286 home runs so far. He also has scored 1,821 runs, hit 658 doubles (tops among active players) and stolen 413 bases to go along with a respectable .282 lifetime batting average. And he's done all that from switching his position from catcher to second base to center field, then back to second base.

He might not make it on the first ballot, but when all is said and done, Craig Biggio deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.

Trivia question 46 (courtesy of Bruce Brown): Who was the last 20th Century player to appear in 120 games in consecutive seasons for the same manager, but on different teams? Hint: He was an All-Star as a player and as a manager. Answer at bottom right

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The unfortunate Mr. McAndrew

As we approached Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia - what seemed like the most massive structure I'd ever seen - Dad pointed to the top and said, "We'll probably have to stand way up there because it will be so crowded."

I didn't realize he was joking. With Steve Carlton on the mound for the Phillies, coming off his 27 victories for a last-place team the previous season, I figured this would be one popular baseball game.

And even if I ended up hundreds of feet above the playing field, I wouldn't care. This was my first major-league baseball game, and I was going to enjoy it.

As it turned out, there was plenty of room inside the stadium, as the paid attendance was slightly more than 11,000 to see the Phillies play the Mets on April 14, 1973. Facing the mighty Mr. Carlton was New York's Jim McAndrew, a pitcher I'd never heard of before that night.

Carlton pitched a complete game as Philadelphia coasted to a 7-3 win. McAndrew, making his first start of the season, lasted into the sixth in taking the loss.

The 1973 season didn't prove to be a one to remember for either pitcher. Carlton ended up losing 20 games, while McAndrew staggered his way through his sixth and final year with the Mets and was gone from the majors by early '74.

About all I knew of McAndrew was that he was one of a crew of exceptional young pitchers the Mets' farm system developed in the '60s. Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan went on to the Hall of Fame, while Jerry Koosman and the late Tug McGraw achieved some degree of stardom.

McAndrew was one who didn't, perhaps in part because of his harrowing experiences at the very start of is major-league career.

The native of Lost Nation, Iowa - what a great place name! - was 24 when the Mets called him up from Jacksonville in July 1968. McAndrew must have known he wasn't joining an offensive juggernaut (New York batter his .228 and scored fewer than three runs per game that year), but nothing could have prepared him for what happened when he reached The Show.

In his debut, for example, he pitched exceptionally well, giving up one run on six hits and no walks by facing the defending World Series champion Cardinals. On the mound for St. Louis, though, was Bob Gibson, who was in the midst of a stretch of surrendering two runs in 100 innings (sic) on his way to a 1.12 ERA for the season. Gibson scattered seven singles, walked none and struck out 13 while posting one of his baker's dozen complete-game shutouts in '68.

The Mets gave McAndrew his next start two weeks later, against the Dodgers. He didn't pitch as well, giving up nine hits before manager Gil Hodges yanked him in the fifth inning. The two runs Los Angeles scored were plenty enough for mound opponent Mike Kekich, who pitched a one-hit shutout, striking out 11.

On Aug. 10, McAndrew faced the Giants. His one mistake was giving up a single to Bob Barton, which scored Jesus Alou from second. San Francisco's Bob Bolin, meanwhile, pitched a six-hit shutout and struck out nine in the 1-0 win.

A week later, it was McAndrew's turn against Houston, which was fighting the Mets for eighth place in the NL standings. McAndrew's only gaffe was hanging a ball that Jim "The Toy Cannon" Wynn hit out of the park in the top of the sixth. Houston's Don Wilson and John Buzhardt combined to give up four hits in the 1-0 victory.

To that point, McAndrew had compiled a 1.82 ERA, but was 0-4, with the Mets scoring exactly zero runs in any game in which he'd pitched.

So one couldn't blame him for being more than slightly frazzled when he took the mound again on Aug. 21 for a rematch with San Francisco, which had two future Hall of Famers, Willies Mays and McCovey, in the lineup and another, Juan Marichal, as the opposing pitcher.

This time around, the Mets actually scored on McAndrew's behalf, with Larry Stahl's home run in the third and Ed Kranepool's single later in the inning staking New York out to a 2-1 lead.

Perhaps the shock of seeing his team actually score was too much for Jim. After giving up Mays' 580th career home run, which put the Giants up 6-2, Hodges dismissed McAndrew, and the Mets were on their way to a 13-3 defeat. His record: 0-5, 3.38 ERA.

By then, McAndrew might have been hoping for a bus ticket back to Jacksonville, but Hodges put him out there again St. Louis on Aug. 26, vs. yet another pitcher on his way to Cooperstown: Carlton, the same guy he'd face in my first game.

In the '68 contest, Carlton shut out the Mets for the first seven innings, but the Cardinals had no success against McAndrew, either. In the eighth, Tommie Agee (on his way to a .217 season with a whopping 17 RBI) led off by bouncing a single to left field. Phil "Harmonica" Linz sacrificed Agee to second. Apparently, Carlton hadn't developed his killer pickoff move at that point in his career, and Agee stole third. Cleon Jones then hit a fly ball deep enough for Agee to cross the plate.

Knowing that probably was all he'd get in the run department, McAndrew mowed down the final six Cardinals, with Roger Maris, who'd retire after the season, making the last out.

Finally, McAndrew had a win to go with all those losses. But four days later, Carlton turned the tables and beat McAndrew and the Mets, 2-0. And five days after that, Pittsburgh's Steve Blass won a 2-1 battle over McAndrew, the deciding tally coming on a home run by all-time great Roberto Clemente.

Thus, in his first eight major-league starts, Jim McAndrew compiled a 2.53 ERA, but had a 1-7 record to show for it.

He won his last three decisions in '68, beating Cooperstown-bound Ferguson Jenkins and future All-Stars Ken Holtzman and Rick Wise. McAndrew finished 1968 at 4-7 with a 2.28 ERA.

The Mets' pitching staff was loaded in '69, and when McAndrew started the season by getting bombed in his first three starts (including failing to make it out of the second inning against the Montreal Expos in just the team's second game ever), he would up splitting time between the starting rotation and the bullpen.

Despite showing a flash of brilliance in back-to-back shutouts of the Giants (beating Gaylord Perry, yet another future Hall of Famer) and Padres in late August, he generally was nowhere near as effective as he'd been as a rookie.

His best overall season was 1972, when he went 11-8 with a 2.80 ERA for another offensively challenged Mets squad. But after a slow start in '73, he was used sporadically and finished 3-8, scoring his final win on May 13 for a team that ended up going to the World Series.

McAndrew's career ended a year later on yet another team that couldn't hit the ball, the San Diego Padres. Two decades later, he watched son Jamie pitch a couple of seasons with Milwaukee.

Jim McAndrew still seems to be a hero of sorts among the Mets faithful who revere the miracle team of '69 and anyone who was on the squad. Here he is (far right) at a recent Mets fantasy camp, along with former teammates Jerry Grote, Cleon Jones and Al Jackson, along with camp attendee Howie Abrams, whose photograph this is:

Jim is pictured a big smile on his face, which means he may finally have gotten over some of those other guys not scoring any runs for him!

Trivia question 45: Who was the first Kansas City Royals player to win the Rookie of the Year award? Question courtesy of the Society for American Baseball Research; answer at lower right

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Nabors' nadir

As a baseball fan living in Pittsburgh, I've become fascinated with the sport's historic losers.

Well, that's not really true. I've been fascinated with baseball's losers since long before I moved to Pittsburgh. Maybe that's because I couldn't hit a lick when I was a kid. Seriously, it was embarrassing ...

Anyway, on the heels of Joe Cleary and his 189.00 ERA, I present Jack Nabors, who had the misfortune of pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics after Connie Mack decided to divest his payroll of any players making more than what passed for minimum wage.

Look it up. The A's went from winning the American League pennant in 1914 to winning a whopping 43 games against 109 losses the following year, in a plunge that was even more precipitous than Wayne Huizenga's 1997-98 Florida Fish.

Mack's apologists say he was embarrassed by his team being swept by the "Miracle" Boston Braves (and miraculous they were) in the '14 Series, but the cleaning of the house probably had more to do with competition from the upstart Federal League and the probability that Connie's stars were going to try to squeeze more money out of him.

The pitching staff of the 1915 Athletics is an interesting one. No less than 27 hurlers took the mound for the team at some point during the season, in an era when teams general had four-man rotations and a couple of guys on hand for emergencies. And Mack was going for a staff that was uniformly wet behind the ears: Their average age was 22.

Nabors, in fact, was the oldest pitcher to appear for the A's that year, having turned 27 the previous Nov. 19. The native of Montevallo, Ala., made his major-league debut in 1915 and turned in an 0-5 record in five starts and two relief stints, giving up 45 runs in the process.

(One A's pitcher, Bruno "Boon" Haas, set one of baseball's unbreakable records when he walked 16 batters in his very first start on June 23, 1915. Amazingly, Mack gave him another start and used him in relief four times after that.)

If the remaining Athletics fans thought '15 was a bad season, they were in for a rude awakening. The 1916 version holds the 20th-century record for lowest winning percentage, .235 (36-117), even worse than the '62 Mets.

The pitching staff had two decent hurlers in the rotation, Elmer Myers (14-23) and "Bullet" Joe Bush (15-24 with 8 shutouts), who combined for 80 percent of the A's wins that year. Another youngster having the proverbial cup of coffee, James "Rube" Parnham - a native of Heidelberg, Pa., my wife's hometown - went 2-1. That left the rest of the staff with a composite of 5 wins and 68 losses.

Contributing to that abysmal showing were two other members of the rotation, Tom Sheehan and Mr. Nabors. Sheehan, who was named manager of the San Francisco Giants 44 years later, went 1-16. Nabors did even worse, losing 20 while winning just once.

Philadelphia sportswriters apparently had a ball trying to describe what they were seeing on the field. Here's part of a late-season article that appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer following a loss to the Washington Senators:

Elongated Jack Nabors tried hard enough to stave off defeat No. 115 for the Athletics yesterday, but pop-eyed support by [shortstop Lawton] Witt and [second baseman Roy] Grover enabled two Washingtonians to travel the 360 feet of pathway around the diamond and these runs were sufficient enough to give the Senators their second victory over the much-abused Mackmen. The final verdict was 4 to 1, the other two markers being compiled in the ninth, when Rube Bressler, who succeeded Nabors in this round, gave a weird exhibition of pitching.

Had Jack been flawlessly supported the Senators would not have reached the counting station. Grover's fumble of Menesky's [actually, "Leaping" Mike Menosky's] roller in the sixth, when two were down and a man on second, set the stage for [outfielder Elmer] Smith to single in the first counter for the Capital brigade. In the very next inning "Whitey" Witt, who showed up poorly all day, erred on [Howard] Shanks' bouncer and that bull blossomed into the second tally scored on Nabors. ...

It was one of Nabors' best exhibitions, for he forgot to pass a man, eliminated wild pitches from his repertoire and in general behaved with all the skill and cunning a regular moundsman uses in his daily labors.

Gotta love that old-time sportswriting!

That turned out to be the last start for "Elongated" Jack (listed at 6-foot-3, very tall for the time). He returned for two relief appearances for the A's in 1917 without a decision, then passed into the record books with a lifetime mark of 1-25. He died Nov. 20, 1923, one day after his 36th birthday.

Just for the record, the last surviving member of the worst team of the 20th century was outfielder James "Shag" Thompson, who died in 1990 at the age of 96. He hit .203 in 79 career at bats. (I couldn't find any information on the final disposition of outfielder James "Don" Brown, who appeared in 14 games. He was born in either 1893 or 1897, meaning he'd be 110 or 114 if he were alive today. Either way, that would be a record for former major-leaguers!)

Trivia question 44: What pitcher of the 1980s left the majors with an 0-16 career record?

Monday, June 25, 2007


When you pore through the minutiae of baseball encyclopedias for the better part of three-and-a-half decades, you keep coming across interesting tidbits that stick in your mind.

So when I saw that the latest SABR Baseball Biography Project was about a pitcher named Joe Cleary, I recognized the subject of the profile right off the bat.

Cleary is one of the many players whose appearance in the baseball reference books comes about because of a solitary appearance in the majors. What makes Mr. Cleary memorable is one of the numbers attached to his entry: 189.00. That's his lifetime ERA, the result of pitching one-third of an inning for the 1945 Washington Senators and giving up seven earned runs. (I've read some reference books that don't even credit him with getting that one out, which would give him a lifetime ERA of infinity.)

And that's all I knew about Joe Cleary, except the biographical information that lists him as a native of Cork, Ireland, and having the nickname of "Fire" or "Fireman." ("Arsonist" would seem to be more appropriate ... sorry.)

At any rate, biographer Charlie Bevis does a fantastic job of putting a face, so to speak, on Mr. Cleary, who died in 2004 at age 85.

Even if you've never seen his listing in Macmillan, click here to read all about the man with the 189 ERA.

Irate fans

I've heard some mixed opinions on the planned protest of the Pirates coming up on Saturday at PNC Park. But in my opinion, the guys who are organizing it are showing that there still is interest in baseball in Pittsburgh, and those who still care are, to borrow from the late Peter Finch, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

In a nut(ting)shell, the protest is planned for Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals. The objective is for people who are in attendance to walk out after the third inning, after they've collected their Bob Walk bobbleheads. But for those who don't want to give the Pirates ownership their money on Saturday, the organizers of the protest are planning activities on the public streets outside the ballpark (which, itself, came about pretty much with public money, apparently so that whoever ran the baseball team could turn a profit regardless of the product on the field).

Anyway ... supporting the protest is a group with a really catchy name for its Web site, Irate Fans, featuring a logo that sort of looks like there's a "P" in front of "Irate." Give credit where it's due when it comes to creativity. The site has been in place since last spring, and the publicity surrounding the protest really must be generating some hits these days.

Kraig Koelsch, one of the leading Irate Fans, forwarded this information regarding the protest planned by Fans for Change:

Hello everyone,

As you may have heard by now, Fans for Change will hold a formal press conference on Tuesday, June 26th at 2:15pm near the Roberto Clemente statue on Federal Street. At this time, we will officially announce our plans and objectives for the evening of Saturday, June 30th. All regional media outlets have been informed and will be in attendance.

We ask that all supporters of Fans for Change join us (if possible) on Tuesday afternoon, adorned in a green shirt, as a visual representation of the strength that we have gained in the span of less than two weeks! Our group presence will vividly illustrate the strength and passion of fans that truly demand and deserve change.

Remember, this movement is a team movement, and together we have power in unity.

We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday afternoon if you can make it.


So, if you're not doing anything tomorrow afternoon ... unfortunately, I am, so I won't hear firsthand what the Fans for Change have to say. But I'll pass on the information as I get it.

At any rate, the protest should be picking up a lot of steam following the Pirates' horrific showing on the just-completed West Coast trip, an interleague nightmare that included:

• Being shut out by a pitcher, Seattle's Jeff Weaver, who entered the game with an ERA above 10.

• Being shut out by another Mariners pitcher, Felix Hernandez, who seems to have a lot of potential but also seems to be injury-prone.

• Choking away an early lead and losing to the Los Angeles ... Anaheim ... whatever they're called, in extra innings.

• Giving up 10 runs to the Angels in a game started by Ian Snell, who has been mentioned as a possibility for the Pirates' representative in the All-Star Game (as if they deserve one).

• Tying the game in the ninth but blowing it in extra innings, giving the Angels the most victories in the majors to this point in the season.

Yeah, it's getting easier to protest. It's also getting easier to stay away from PNC Park while the Nutting ownership is reaping the profits. For Pittsburgh-area baseball fans, there's a viable alternative down the road in Washington, PA, with the Frontier League Wild Things. Read more about them in Chris Dugan's blog.

And unless you're protesting, you might want to consider steering clear of PNC.

Trivia question 43: Who was the second pitcher to win a World Series game for the Phillies? (The first was Grover Cleveland Alexander.)

Friday, June 22, 2007

The pride of Key West

In this case, Key West is in Iowa, a town I never knew existed ...

I remember Joe Hoerner as a decent relief pitcher for the Phillies toward the end of his career, but I knew little about him other than he was fairly old at the time and once had made the NL All-Star team. I also knew that at one point, he held the record (long since shattered) for fewest innings per appearance for his career. He never started a game, and as a lefty, usually came into the game to face left-handed hitters.

In the latest SABR Baseball Biography project installment, Brian Cooper writes about the life of Mr. Hoerner and tells me something else I didn't know: Joe died in a farming accident in 1996. RIP.

Click here to read the biography.

Oh, happy day!

Joe Saunders has to be smiling today. Or at least he will be, when he wakes up on Pacific Daylight Time.

Saunders, who turned 26 last week, is living every pitcher's dream: He faces the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight. Because of injuries in the Angels' rotation, Saunders has been called up from Triple-A Salt Lake City specifically for that purpose.

What a way to return!

Saunders actually has pitched very well when Los Angeles or Anaheim or whatever they heck they're called has used him as a spot starter this season, posting a 3-0 record with a 2.22 ERA. In 19 lifetime starts, he's 10-3.

The Pirates, meanwhile, are traveling down the coast from Seattle after being shut out in consecutive games, the latter marking the major-league-leading eighth time Pittsburgh has failed to score.

At least they were dominated last night by an up-and-coming pitcher, Felix Hernandez, who got back on track after some injuries to even his record at 4-4 and lower his ERA to 4.00. The previous game, the Pirates were shut out by Jeff Weaver, who managed to get his ERA below 9.

Pittsburgh did manage to scratch out six singles and a double against Hernandez and closer J.J. Putz. The Pirates also showed their typical lack of discpline at the plate, striking out 10 times while walking just once.

Here's a note from the Associated Press on the Pirates' ineptitude against certain pitchers this season: "The Pirates, next-to-last in the National League on on-base percentage and owners of its second-fewest hits entering Thursday, made another struggling pitcher happy. Four of their last five shutouts have come against Kyle Lohse, Kameron Loe, Weaver and Hernandez, who were a combined 5-22 until they got well against Pittsburgh."

Joe Saunders hasn't been struggling, but he sure must be happy nonetheless.

When the Pirates return home, "fans" (or more accurately, people who like baseball but are disgusted) are staging a protest.

A site called contains information about the protest, as well links to relative articles that have been written about bottom-line, no-commitment-to-winning approach by the team's owners, the Nutting "clan."

The June 30 protest might be worth a trip over toward PNC Park, even if you don't spend a dime to get inside the place and give the Nuttings any of your hard-earned cash.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Who ya gonna call?

Instead of wearing haz-mat suits and firing proton guns, they put on baseball uniforms and wield (in a manner of speaking) baseball bats.

They're the Pittsburgh Pirates. And if you're a pitcher who feels like he can't get anyone out, bring 'em to your ballpark.

Seattle's Jeff Weaver, who's had a modicum of success at various times during his career, had yet to pitch effectively this season. His 2007 statistics: 0-6, 10.97 ERA, 62 hits allowed in 32 innings. He'd given up six or seven runs in five of his first six starts this year.

But then he must have looked at the schedule and smiled. The Pirates were coming to town.

And just like Aykroyd, Murray, Ramis and Hudson, the men from Pittsburgh came through for Weaver. They managed a grand total of four hits and no runs off him as he went the distance for a 7-0 victory Wednesday night.

Cue up Ray Parker Jr. music.

Weaver now is in the win column, has a sub-9.00 ERA and dropped the batting average against him below .300.

Thank you, Slumpbusters!

Now, let's see what he can do against a real major-league team ...

Jeff Weaver was just the latest in a string of not-so-well-known pitchers who have dominated the Pirates this season. The list also includes:

• April 18: Milwaukee 7, Pittsburgh 3 - Claudio Vargas, 11 strikeouts in six innings

• April 28: Cincinnati 8, Pittsburgh 1 - Matt Belisle, complete-game five-hitter

• May 4: Milwaukee 10, Pittsburgh 0 - Claudio Vargas, six scoreless innings

• May 11: Atlanta 4, Pittsburgh 1 - Kyle Davies, one run in seven innings

• May 12: Atlanta 9, Pittsburgh 2 - Chuck James took no-hitter into seventh inning

• May 23: St. Louis 5, Pittsburgh 3 - Kip Wells, one earned run in seven innings

• May 28: Cincinnati 4, Pittsburgh 0 - Kyle Lohse, six hits and no walks in complete-game shutout

• June 14: Texas 6, Pittsburgh 0 - Kameron Loe, eight shutouts innings

"Ghostbusters" is a registered trademark of Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. Buy the DVDs!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rating the managers

Baseball always has been a game of statistics, but the sport's adherents have really kicked it up a notch in my lifetime.

Simple numbers such as wins and losses, hits and runs, walks and strikeouts have been expanded to include a vast array of analytical minutiae, breaking it down pretty much to every pitch that's thrown.

The analysis has extended beyond the players, themselves, to the men who call the shots during the games. Until recently, all we had to go on when judging a manager's performance was how many victories his teams scored. Such simple glances, of course, tend to favor managers who take over star-studded teams, while pilots of squads lacking talent tend to suffer (and pay for it with their jobs).

Recent number-crunching a cabal of researches led by John Thorn and Pete Palmer has led to the publication of several editions of Total Baseball, which includes a calculation of "expected wins" for each team each season "based on its actual runs scored and runs allowed." The difference between actual wins and "expected wins" serves as a gauge of sorts for the effectiveness of a managing job.

I looked up Hall of Fame managers for their comparative Actual Wins Minus Expected Wins, as listed in Total Baseball, and came up with this list:

1. Hugh Jennings (1907-20, 24-25) +29.9, avg +1.9
2. Earl Weaver (1968-82, 85-86) +29.9, avg +1.8
3. Frank Chance (1905-14, 23) +20.4, avg +1.8
4. Al Lopez (1951-65, 68-69) +28.3, avg +1.7
5. Walter Alston (1954-79) +36.8, avg +1.6
6. Bill McKechnie (1915, 22-26, 28-46) +37.0, avg +1.5
7. Clark Griffith (1901-20) +24.9, avg +1.2
8. Sparky Anderson (1970-95) +23.9, avg +0.9
9. Wilbert Robinson (1902, 14-31) +16.8, avg +0.9
10. Miller Huggins (1913-29) +13.5, avg +0.8
11. Red Schoendienst (1965-76, 80, 90) +6.2, avg +0.4
12. Frank Frisch (1933-38, 40-46, 49-51) +7.4, avg +0.4
13. Connie Mack (1894-96, 1901-50) +13.9, avg +0.3
14. Joe Cronin (1933-47) +3.7, avg +0.2
15. Frank Selee (1890-1905) -1.5, avg -0.1
16. Cap Anson (1875, 79-98) -2.9, avg -0.1
17. Casey Stengel (1934-36, 38-43, 49-60, 62-65) -4.8, avg -0.2
18. John McGraw (1899, 1901-32) -11.9, avg -0.4
19. Fred Clarke (1897-1915) -8.6, avg -0.5
20. Tom Lasorda (1976-96) -15.5, avg -0.7
21. Joe McCarthy (1926-46, 48-50) -23.6, avg -1.0
22. Bucky Harris (1924-43, 47-48, 50-56) -32.5, avg -1.1
23. Ned Hanlon (1889-1907) -30.3, avg -1.6
24. Harry Wright (1871-93) -39.7, avg -1.7

Actually, Weaver would have ranked No. 1 by a large margin had he not returned to manage the Orioles in 1985 and '86. His final season also was the first in which any of his teams compiled a sub-.500 actual record.

Jennings is one of several on the list who spent substantial time as a player-manager, joined by Chance, Frisch, Cronin, Anson and Clarke. I was kind of disappointed to see Clarke rank so low on the list. I'd always thought of him as perhaps the most successful combination of player and manager, but his early 20th-century Pirates teams just might have been record than their record would show. In several of those seasons, Chance's Cubs finished ahead of Pittsburgh, and in fact his Chicago teams of 1906-12 compiled the best seven-year record in baseball history.

You'll notice that Alston is far, far higher on the list than his better-known, louder-mouthed successor. I always wondered how Lasorda got into the Hall of Fame before Anderson. Obviously, the men who make such decisions were swayed by the Lasorda bluster and didn't read any Palmer-Thorn.

Stengel is in negative numbers, as you'd expect, because of his tenure with the fledgling New York Mets. According to Total Baseball, the legendarily awful '62 Mets should have won eight more games than they actually did, which still would have put them among the worst of all time. Apparently all the stories about Marv Throneberry and his talent-challenged teammates are true.

The biggest surprise on this list might involve another Yankee manager. McCarthy's teams won more than 60 percent of their games, but apparently they had the potential to win a whole lot more. Still, he never had a losing season in 24 years, and that should count for something.

As for the managers at the tail end, I've never been sure why Bucky Harris is in the Hall of Fame; I wondered why the Hall of Fame waited until Hanlon had been dead for six decades until inducting him; and despite Wright's awful showing here, he deserves high accolades for his pioneering efforts.

I haven't included active managers, but Bobby Cox and, to a lesser degree, Tony LaRussa have put up very impressive numbers, and both should be in Cooperstown someday. As for Joe Torre, much of his managerial success has come by way of a monster team payroll, but he was a pretty good player and a heck of a nice guy, so one day they'll have a plaque for him, too.

A quick look at non-Hall managers shows that the most inept of all time might have been Wislon, who racked up Actual Wins Minus Expected Wins of negative-31.8 in ine seasons while guiding the Phillies and Cubs through the Depression and into World War II. For what it's worth, the Cubs won their last National League pennant the year after they jettisoned Wilson.

Perhaps the best non-Hall AWMEW was compiled by the late Dick Howser, who scored a plus-23.4 in six full seasons. In his seventh, he was diagnosed with the brain cancer that killed him at age 51, less than two years after he guided the Kansas City Royals to their only World Series championship.

And just for the laughs, I looked up Joe Quinn, who took over the reigns for the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and guided them to a 12-104 (sic) record the rest of the way. According to AWMEW, the Spiders actually should have been 10-106 under his leadership.

Good job, Joe.

Sammy Sosa just hit his 600th career home run. Throughout most of baseball's history, that would have been big news.

The chase

It's amazing that sports talk shows lately have stirred up far more of a buzz about the finale of "The Sopranos" than the imminent fall of Henry Aaron's career major-league home run record.

I'm still trying to figure out what "The Sopranos" has to do with sports, but the lack of interest in Barry Bonds is easy to explain. Outside of San Francisco, no one seems to like him. (Pittsburgh's top-rated sports-talk host, Mark Madden of ESPN radio, professes on the air to love Barry, but I suspect that has more to do with riling his audience.)

The atmosphere certainly was different at the start of the 1974 season, with Aaron just one homer behind Babe Ruth. Even in those days before pervasive sports/entertainment, Hank's chase was right up there with Watergate on the news front. True, Aaron received quite a bit of hate mail from racists, but most clear-minded American sports enthusiasts were genuinely excited about him setting the record.

As far as Bonds is concerned, a lot of the talk about him passing Aaron has to do with the reassurance that the new record probably won't last long.

Exhibit A is Alex Rodriguez, who is far more likable than Bonds but still seems to have plenty of PR problems. Maybe that will change if he gets away from New York. In the meantime, he is putting up power numbers that have no precedent. He doesn't turn 32 until next month, by which time he very well might be sitting on 500 career home runs. Aaron had 442 homers at a comparable age and Bonds, 334.

Exhibit B is Albert Pujols, who started hitting well during his very first major-league series at Coors Field at the start of 2001, and hasn't stopped. (He's supposed to be having an "off" year in '07, but is up over .300 and is on pace for 38 round-trippers.) At 27, he also is ahead of Aaron and Bonds at the same age.

Click here for cumulative home run totals by age for Aaron, Bonds, Rodriguez and Pujols.

Before we go anointing either Rodriguez or Pujols as a sure thing, let's think this through:

• Aaron was remarkably durable for two decades, never suffering a major injury and not dropping to part-time status until he was over 40. He also was remarkably consistent after finding his power stroke and continued to be among the league's top sluggers into his late 30s. While neither Rodriguez nor Pujols have lost significant time to injury yet, keep one name in mind: Ken Griffey Jr.

• Bonds was very durable, as well, until his knees derailed him for most of 2005. As far as consistency, he became a productive hitter in 1990 and remains so, comparatively, today. But as far as his power numbers go, he started to catch up with Aaron during an era that -- for whatever reason -- produced far more home runs than any other point in baseball history. The pendulum might start swinging the other way by the time the careers of Rodriguez and Pujols start to wind down.

(Aaron, by the way, played much of his career under conditions that favored pitchers. His power numbers apparently were helped, though, when the Braves moved from Milwaukee's County Stadium to Atlanta's Fulton County "Launching Pad.")

• Rodriguez is the highest-paid player in baseball history. One day, Pujols might be. With so much money in the bank, will they want to extend their careers as long as Aaron and Bonds? Again, if Rodriguez gets out of the spotlight of the New York tabloids, he might want to hang around a little while longer.

Then again, we can do some simple extrapolation to come up with future totals for Rodriguez and Pujols.

Let's say A-Rod plays until 2015, when he turns 40. And let's say he matches his career high with 57 home runs in 2007 (which, by the way, would tie him with Ted Williams at 521). If he were to average 35 home runs during his final eight seasons, he'd finish with 801.

Let's say Albert plays until 2020, when he's 40. And let's say he does finish 2007 with 38 home runs (which, by the way, would tie him with Del Ennis at 288). If he were to average 38 per year the rest of the way, he'd rack up 782 for his career.

If all goes as expected, both those totals should rank ahead of Bonds when all is said and done.

I'd like to add my own nomination for a potential all-time home run king.

Prince Fielder turned 23 last month and so far has 56 home runs, which doesn't even put him on the charts with the other four I've mentioned. But he is on pace to hit nearly 60 this year, and he has the pedigree: His father, Cecil, was the only American Leaguer between Maris/Mantle and the '90s homer surge to hit more than 50 dingers in a season.

Dad tended to put on quite a bit of weight around the middle, though, and Prince is already listed at 260 pounds. If he keeps that as muscle, he might be making a run for the record around 2025.

Trivia question 42: Society for American Baseball Research trivia gurus Bruce Brown and Scott Brandon send out a weekly list, and I thought I'd share a few. This week's theme, by the way is All-Star third basemen.

Which player hit the most HR in the decade of the 1980s? (Answer at bottom right)

(Bruce, by the way, says: "We believe that the word 'trivia' is misleading. Quality trivia is never trivial, but meaningful; symmetrical; unique, where possible; poetic; but most of all, interesting. We might not always do THAT well every time, but everybody seems to have fun."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Dump

One of baseball's legendary ballparks was the longtime minor-league facility in Nashville, Tenn., known as Athletic Park, or Sulphur Dell, or The Dump (because, before its baseball days, it was one).

SABR's Baseball Biography Project presents its first bio of a ballpark, as researched and written by Warren Corbett, whose work also includes profiles of broadcasters Mel Allen, Red Barber and Ralph Kiner (who was a heck of a ballplayer, too); pitchers Ken Raffensberger, Monte Weaver, Murry Dickson, Tiny Bonham, Mike Garcia, Art Houtteman, Howie Pollet and George Earnshaw; and iconoclastic owner Marge Schott.

Click here to read all about The Dump.

The Count

John Montefusco was one of the more colorful characters to emerge in baseball in the '70s, but he later fell on some tough times.

As part of SABR's ongoing Baseball Biography Project, Bob Hurte has submitted an essay detailing The Count's life on the diamond and beyond. Click here to give it a read.

Bonds swap?

Midseason trade talk has started in earnest, and one of the names that has come up is Barry Bonds. The theory has been put forth that the Giants, who are mired in last place in the NL West, will ship Bonds out of San Francisco shortly after he breaks the career home run record, which should occur within the next month or so.

Certainly, the Giants could use some prospects in exchange for Barry. They've been trying to win with a lineup that features the likes of Omar Vizquel, age 40; Ryan Klesko, 36; Ray Durham, Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia, all 35; Randy Winn, 33; and Bengie Molina and Pedro Feliz, both 32. That approaching obviously isn't working. Just ask Matt Cain (2-7 despite a 3.15 ERA).

Bonds leads the team in home runs and, of course, leads everyone in drawing bases on balls. But he'll turn 43 on July 24, and his contract calls for him to be paid more than $19 million this season. Then there's the talk about a possible indictment hanging over his head, along with the fact that he's being booed mightily by fans in every ballpark he plays besides his home AT&T Park. What other team is going to take on all that baggage?

Then again, historical precedent exists for Bonds moving. The top three career home run hitters prior to Barry's insinuating himself among them - Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays - all has this in common: They ended their major-league careers in the cities where they began them, but for different teams.

• Ruth: Boston Red Sox, 1914-19; Boston Braves, 1935. The Braves of that year, incidentally, were the worst National League team of the 20th century in terms of winning percentage, even poorer than the 1962 Mets.

• Mays: New York Giants, 1951-52 and 1954-57; New York Mets, 1972-73. Willie ended his career on a high note, sort of, by playing in the 1973 World Series, although at age 42 his skills had diminished to the point where it was painful to watch him. I'd rather have seen him in his prime, certainly.

• Aaron: Milwaukee Braves, 1954-65; Milwaukee Brewers, 1975-76. Atlanta at least waited until the end of the season in which he broke Ruth's record to send him packing. Then-Brewers owner Bud Selig was happy to take Aaron aboard at age 41 to draw more fans to see a struggling franchise.

Bonds, of course, began his career in Pittsburgh, back when the Pirates actually drafted some useful players; they were savvy enough to grab Barry with the sixth overall pick in 1985. A case can be made that the Pirates are a "different" team today compared to when Bonds left after '92. Back then, management actually made an attempt to put a competitive team on the field.

But the odds of Bonds returning to the Steel City are about as remote as those of Commissioner Selig suddenly enjoying the inevitability of Barry setting the home run record.

Trivia question 41: Despite the 1935 Boston Braves' horrible performance, the team managed to have two future Hall of Fame players, and the manager also was eventually enshrined. Besides Ruth, who were the other two to make it to Cooperstown? Answer at bottom right

Monday, June 18, 2007


In the "Now I know I'm getting old" department ... this is the 35th major-league season the designated hitter has been in use. I remember when they came up with the idea thinking it was too bizarre to last for long and that it would disappear within a few years.

Obviously, I'm not much for predictions.

The DH came about because, as stated in The New York Times at the time of its adoption prior to the 1973 season: "(T)he American League, under heavy financial pressure, kept campaigning for innovations. Only three teams in the American League passed the million mark in attendance last season; only three teams in the National League did not."

So, there you have it. Money talks. And it talked loud enough for then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn to break the stalemate between the two leagues over the issue and let the AL have its way.

As far as predictions, some of those noted in the Times regarding the designated hitter haven't worked out as expected with three-and-a-half decades of hindsight:

• When the DH was used as an experiment in the International League in 1969, games became shorter. "The reason for that was no surprise to the fan or television viewer: Changing pitchers is the most time-consuming maneuver in baseball."

The assumption at the time, which actually did hold true for several years, was that without having to be pulled for pinch-hitters, starting pitchers would be able to throw more complete games. Of course, the complete game has become almost extinct in the 21st century, and frequent pitching changes have tacked on quite a bit of time to the average contest.

• The extra legitimate batter in the lineup was supposed to increase offense, which did happen in the American League. But not everyone was sold. Chuck Tanner, then managing the White Sox, was quoted as saying:

"I don't think it will necessarily cause more scoring. In fact, it may cut down scoring on one side if the other team leaves a pitcher like Nolan Ryan in the game."

Again, the assumption was that pitchers would finish what they started.

• Finally, also along those lines, the number of pitchers carried by a team was expected to drop from about 10 or 11 to seven or eight, "now that the manager can use a pinch-hitter without losing his pitcher."

These days, teams carry seven or eight relief pitchers; in fact, when the Pirates made a recent trip to Yankee Stadium, where they'd be using the DH, Pittsburgh shuffled its roster to take 13 pitchers along, with just 12 players on offense. (The Pirates were swept in three games, anyway.)

The National and American leagues once were completely separate and competing entitites. Today, they're under the same umbrella almost completely, with only one glaring exception:

The designated hitter.

But after 35 years, it looks like it's going to be that way until the sport fades away, no matter what we "traditionalists" hope might happen.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Dutch Master

Every time a pitcher throws a no-hitter, the discussion prior to his next start inevitably turns to Johnny Vander Meer.

Pitching for the Cincinnati Reds in June 1938, Vander Meer pitched no-hitters in consecutive outings against the Boston Bees (as the Braves then were called) and Brooklyn Dodgers, a feat that remains unique in major-league history.

Today, Detroit's Justin Verlander will pitch in Philadelphia going for his second straight no-hitter, following his 12-strikeout masterpiece vs. Milwaukee. Verlander will have to contend with a lineup that includes Ryan Howard, last year's National League MVP, along with heavy-hitting infielders Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, and rejuvenated outfielder Aaron Rowand.

Good luck to Justin, but the odds certainly are against him.

Now that Vander Meer's accomplishment has stood alone for 69 years, let's take a look at the game that wrote him into the record books.

The lead sentence in legendary sportswriter Roscoe McGowen's recap for The New York Times explains one factor in The Dutch Master's favor: "Last night they turned on the greatest existing battery of baseball lights at Ebbets Field for the inaugural night major league game in the metropolitan area."

The term "greatest existing battery of baseball lights" is relative, and in 1938 it probably amounted to not much more than the illumination for a high-school stadium nowadays. At any rate, major leaguers had been playing night baseball for only three years prior to '38, and Cincinnati's Crosley Field happened to be the first place where lights were installed.

The night game was a big event in Brooklyn, and a reported crowd of 40,000 jammed into Ebbets for the novelty of it all. The home team was down 4-0 by the third inning, but with Vander Meer continuing to put up zeroes, most of the fans probably stayed in their seats. It was 6-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, and as McGowen wrote:

"More drama was crowded into the final inning than a baseball crowd has felt in many a moon. Until that frame only one Dodger had got as far as second base, Lavagetto reaching there when Johnny issued passes to Cookie and Dolf Camilli in the seventh."

He developed a wild streak again in the ninth, walking the bases loaded with one out.

"All nerves were taut as Vandy pitched to Ernie Koy," McGowen wrote. "With the count one and one, Ernie sent a bounder to (Reds third baseman) Lew Riggs, who was so careful in making the throw to (catcher) Ernie Lombardi that a double play wasn't possible.

"Leo Durocher, so many times a hitter in the pinches, was the last hurdle for Vander Meer, and the crowd groaned as he swung viciously to line a foul high into the right-field stands. But a moment later Leo swung again, the ball arched lazily toward short center field and Harry Craft camped under it for the put-out that brought the unique distinction to the young hurler."

Vander Meer was 23 at the time and went on to have a decent career, if otherwise unspectacular. He was injured for much of the Reds' pennant-winning seasons in 1939 and '40, but came back to lead the NL in strikeouts for three consecutive years, 1941-43. He died in 1997 at age 82.

At the time of his double no-hitters, McGowen predicted "baseball history that probably never will be duplicated."

Let's see if Justin Verlander has something to say about that.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The unfortunate Mr. Cain

A few days ago, the granddaughter of a pitcher named Bob Groom e-mailed me after I mentioned him as throwing a no-hitter in 1917 against the eventual World Series-winning White Sox. She and I agreed that he seemed to be a good pitcher who was victimized by lack of run support. But he had the excuse of pitching in the Dead Ball era, when runs were at a premium.

So, what's the Giants' excuse in 2007 when it comes to Matt Cain?

The talented 22-year-old fell to 2-7 today after losing to the Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1-0. Cain's only mistake was a ball that Manny Ramirez cracked over the Fenway Park fence.

San Francisco, with a lineup that contains a man on the inevitable, but stalled, march toward the career home run record, can't do much of anything when the unfortunate Mr. Cain takes the mound. His earned run average (3.15) is among the best in the National League, but the Giants have scored only 12 runs in his seven losses. And that includes his 9-7 loss to Philadelphia on May 3, the only game standing between Cain and a sub-3 ERA.

One of his wins was a three-hit complete game against Arizona that the Giants managed to win 2-1. His other victory (May 19) was in the thin air of Denver, where San Francisco bats came alive to put up 15 runs. Since then, the Giants have scored only 10 times in the six games Cain has pitched.

Cain is putting up a good front about his team's lack of production, but he has to be boiling inside. Perhaps if the Giants put a few guys out on the field who weren't old enough to be Matt's father (or exceptionally older brother), they might be able to show him some offensive support.

Trivia question 40: The Year of the Pitcher was 1968, when the 20 major-league teams then in existence posted a combined ERA of just under 3. A rookie pitcher for the New York Mets suffered considerably from the offensive drought: The Mets failed to score in any of his first four major-league starts, after which he was 0-4 with a 1.82 ERA. He finally scored his first victory with a 1-0 shutout, but finished the year at 4-7 despite a 2.28 ERA when the Mets managed just 16 runs in his 12 starts. Who was this hurler who was even more unfortunate than Mr. Cain?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Round Trip Kip

Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates will remember Bob "Round Tripper" Kipper, whose alliterative nickname seemingly fit his propensity to give up the longball.

Although former Pirate Kip Wells gave up no home runs last night, he was yanked in the midst of an eight-run second inning during St. Louis' 17-8 loss to Kansas City. Because so many batters have been rounding the bases against Wells - he has a 6.93 earned run average this year - "Round Trip Kip" might fill the bill.

People in Pittsburgh might think every pitcher who ends up with another team suddenly finds success, after watching the likes of Oliver Perez and Chris Young.

But Wells has struggled mightily for the Cardinals, who haven't found anyone to remotely pick up the slack caused when ace Chris Carpenter went down with an injury in April. Kip already has 11 losses, and it's only June 15. (Remember when that was the major-league trading deadline?)

No National League pitcher has lost 20 games since 1979, when Phil Niekro went 21-20 for the Braves and Kip Wells was 2 years old. An old baseball adage is, "You have to be a good pitcher to lose 20 games," implying that the manager won't keep a pitcher in the rotation long enough to hit the mark. With that in mind, figure that Wells might be bound for mop-up work instead of going to the mound every fifth day, and so he probably won't reach 20. Either that, or he'll suddenly remember how to be marginally successful, as he was for a couple of seasons with the Pirates.

As for Kansas City, the Royals still are mired in last place, 14 games behind Cleveland, but they've shown some offensive firepower lately. Yesterday marked the second time in four games the team has scored 17 runs, and in six interleague games so far, they've averaged almost nine runs per contest. And that includes being shut out by Philadelphia's Jon Lieber on Saturday.

Just more evidence of how dominant the American League is these days.

One of the Royals' hottest hitters is Alex Gordon, who was ballyhooed as a potential rookie of the year, then, of course, struggled mightily. On Thursday, Gordon hit a tape-measure home run for the second night in a row, and he's pulled his average up over .200. That might not seem so great, but the 23-year-old was hitting .181 at the start of June.

Trivia question 39: If Wells ends up losing 20, he'll become the first Cardinals pitcher since whom to reach that mark?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The unfortunate Mr. Groom

In the list of no-hitters against pennant-winning teams (and their rough equivalents), I mentioned Bob Groom as having pitched one against the White Sox in 1917, and that Mr. Groom seemed to be a pretty good hurler who got stuck on some bad teams.

I received an e-mail from Catherine Groom Petroski, Bob's granddaughter, who plans to give a presentation about him at the annual convention of the Society for American Baseball Research, July 26-29 in St. Louis. I wrote back that I'd love to attend, but I'm waiting until next year, when the convention is just up the road in Cleveland.

At any rate, Mrs. Petroski mentioned, "In the material I’ve amassed for the biography I’m writing, I would have to agree that BG’s teams were not, all around, very good, except for the 1912 and 1913 Senators."

The record shows that Groom, indeed, had his best season in 1912, when the traditionally lowly Senators rallied behind Bob and another pitcher named Walter Johnson to rise all the way to second place. Groom won 24 games that year, with a 2.62 earned run average.

His ERA rose the following year, and his record leveled out at 16-16. Perhaps seeing the opportunity for something better, he signed with the St. Louis Terriers when the Federal League achieved brief status as a major league in 1914. The Terriers turned out to be the doormats of the FL, though, and poor Bob lost 20 games. St. Louis jumped to second place in 1915, and Groom improved to 11-11, but the Federal League went out of business after the season and his contract was acquired by the St. Louis Browns.

He did OK in '16 (13-9, 2.57 ERA) as the Browns finished fifth, but as St. Louis took a nosedive to seventh in '17, so did Groom. The no-hitter was pretty much his last hurrah in a career that probably could have been much better.

If you're going to be in St. Louis for the SABR convention, Mrs. Petroski's presentation is at 12:30 p.m. on the event's opening day.

SABR has an ongoing Baseball Biography Project, and the latest entry is Jose Morales, whom I remember as a great pinch-hitter who burned my favorite team at the time, the Phillies on quite a few occasions in the '70s.

Click here to read the biography by Rory Costello, who is an expert on major-leaguers who hailed from the Virgin Islands.

Trivia question 38: Jose Morales set a major-league record with 25 pinch-hits in a season. Who now holds the mark with 28?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A momentary lapse

Fortunately for baseball fans, last night's no-hitter tossed by the Tigers' Justin Verlander gave sports commentators something to talk about besides: a) all the disappointments surrounding the NBA playoffs, and b) the finale of "The Sopranos," whatever that has to do with sports.

Verlander turned in a domineering 12-strikeout performance in which he's reported to have registered 102 mph on his fastball in the ninth inning. See, starters can be effective past the sixth! Verlander's masterpiece came at the expense of the heavy-hitting Milwaukee Brewers, who still look like a shoo-in for the National League "Comedy" Central title despite a long stretch of mediocrity following a hot start.

If you're wondering whether having a no-hitter pitched against a team dooms it for the rest of the season, history shows several teams have experienced a similar momentary lapse at the plate before going on to qualify for the postseason and/or win championships:

Atlanta Braves, victims of perfect game by Arizona's Randy Johnson, May 18, 2004. The Braves still were in their long streak of winning the divisional title every year. Johnson's Diamondback's, though, were in a transition year and compiled a 51-111 record, the worst in the National League since the days of Casey Stengel's Amazin' Mets.

New York Yankees no-hit by six Houston pitchers, June 11, 2003. The Yankees made it to the World Series that year, losing to Florida. Astros starter Roy Oswalt left after the first inning with a groin injury, then Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner combined on the no-hitter that featured the most pitchers.

Arizona Diamondbacks no-hit by St. Louis' Jose Jiminez, June 25, 1999. The D-Backs won 100 games and the NL West title in their second year of existence. Jimenez finished the year 5-14 for the Cardinals. Go figure.

San Francisco Giants no-hit by Florida's Kevin Brown, June 10, 1997. The Giants won the NL West, but Florida outdid them by winning the World Series. Barry Bonds went 0-for-3; Brown took a perfect game into the eighth before hitting Marvin Benard, the only Giant to reach base.

Houston Astros no-hit by the Pirates' Francisco Cordova (9 innings) and Ricardo Rincon (1 inning), July 12, 1997. The Astros won the NL Central, finishing five games ahead of the surprising second-place Pirates. Mark Smith hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the 10th off John Hudek in one of the few baseball highlights to occur in Pittsburgh in the past 15 years.

Oakland Athletics no-hit by the Rangers' Nolan Ryan, June 11, 1990. The A's won 103 games and swept the Red Sox in the playoffs (that's the year Roger Clemens got tossed out in the second inning of the fourth game) before the Reds swept Oakland in the Series, to everyone's surprise, even to this day. This no-hitter was the sixth of Ryan's seven, and he was 43 at the time, a record for the oldest author of a no-hitter until he did it again the following season.

Los Angeles Dodgers, victims of perfect game by Cincinnati's Tom Browning, Sept. 16, 1988. This was the year of Orel Hershisher's pitching heroics and a hobbled Kirk Gibson hitting his epic home run to win the first game of the World Series, which the Dodgers went on to win in five games. Even more than his perfecto, Browning is known by baseball historians as the only pitcher in more than half a century to win 20 games as a rookie, in 1985.

California Angels, no-hit by Joe Cowley of the White Sox, Sept. 19, 1986. Three weeks later, the Angels came within one out of advancing to the World Series for the first time; I remember telling that to my 3-year-old son, as if he had a clue, as we watched on television. Then Dave Henderson took Donnie Moore (RIP) deep, much to the eventual chagrin of Bill Buckner. As for Cowley, he was traded to the Phillies after the season and pitched himself out of the majors within a month.

Chicago White Sox no-hit by Oakland's Mike Warren, Sept. 29, 1983. The Sox were in playoff mode, a few days away from finishing a full 20 games ahead of the second-place Royals in the AL West. Nevertheless, most of Chicago's regular lineup faced Warren, who was making just his ninth major-league start. The no-hitter was one of Warren's nine major-league victories.

Los Angeles Dodgers no-hit by Houston's Nolan Ryan, Sept. 26, 1981. Ryan's only National League no-hitter came a month and two days before the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies no-hit by St. Louis' Bob Forsch, April 16, 1978. This is the only no-hitter I've watched in its entirety on television. But I still contend that Garry Maddox's hard grounder to Ken Reitz should have been ruled an infield hit, not an error. At any rate, the Phillies were on their way to winning their third NL East title in three years, and Forsch's brother Ken would join him the following year as the only siblings to pitch no-hitters.

Oakland Athletics no-hit by Cleveland's Dick Bosman, July 19, 1974. The A's were on their way to their amazing three-year streak of World Series winners. Bosman, an American League journeyman, wound up in Oakland the following season and pitched very well down the stretch as the A's won their last divisional title before Charlie Finley broke up the dynasty.

Oakland Athletics no-hit by Texas' Jim Bibby, July 30, 1973. Despite winning three straight World Series, the A's weren't an extraordinarily heavy-hitting team, with the exception of Reggie Jackson.

Pittsburgh Pirates no-hit by St. Louis' Bob Gibson, Aug. 14, 1971. Roberto Clemente didn't play, but his Hall of Fame teammate, Willie Stargell, struck out three times against the Cardinals' immortal pitcher. The Pirates regrouped to beat the Orioles in the World Series.

Minnesota Twins no-hit by Oakland's Vida Blue, Sept. 21, 1970. Blue's gem came in just his eighth major-league start, at age 21, the year before he really burst onto the scene by posting a 17-2 record prior to the '71 All-Star Game. He beat one of the league's better-hitting teams, which was on its way to winning the AL West for the second straight season. The losing pitcher was Jim Perry, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 1970.

New York Mets no-hit by Pittsburgh's Bob Moose, Sept. 20, 1969. This was the year of the miracle, when the Mets suddenly went from baseball's laughingstocks to World Series champions. The success had much more to do with New York's pitching staff than the team's prowess at the plate. Moose, who pitched for his hometown team, died in a traffic accident on Oct. 9, 1976, his 29th birthday.

Atlanta Braves no-hit by the Cubs' Ken Holtzman, Aug. 19, 1969. Before the Braves became Ted Turner's lovable losers, they won the first-ever National League West title. And before Holtzman gained fame as a hot-hitting pitcher in the World Series for the A's, he pitched a pair of no-hitter for Chicago. This was the first. He later was traded for Rick Monday, the first player taken in the first-ever amateur draft in 1965.

St. Louis Cardinals no-hit by San Francisco's Gaylord Perry, Sept. 17, 1968. It's not known how much spit was on the balls Perry threw past the Cardinals. St. Louis' Ray Washburn returned the favor the next day by no-hitting the Giants, the first time pitchers on opposing teams performed the feat in consecutive games. The Cards went on to lose the World Series to Detroit despite Bob Gibson striking out 35 Tigers in three games, a Series record that is likely to stand for the ages.

New York Yankees no-hit by Baltimore's Hoyt Wilhelm, Sept. 20, 1958. The Yankees already had clinched their 11th American League pennant in 12 years when they fell victim to Wilhelm's knuckleball. His mound opponent happened to be Don Larsen (we'll get to him shortly). For Wilhelm, the no-hitter might have saved his career. At age 35, he'd started the year 2-7 with Cleveland and was 0-3 for the Orioles after they claimed him off waivers. After the stellar start vs. New York, the O's decided to make Wilhelm a full-time starter in '59, and he responded by winning 15 games and leading the American League in earned run average. Eventually he returned to the bullpen and pitched until he was 49, and he later became the first pitcher who primarily was a reliever to make the Hall of Fame.

Brooklyn Dodgers, victims of perfect game by the Yankees' Don Larsen, Oct. 8, 1956. The Dodgers went on to lose the World Series, but this was the year they won their final National League pennant while in Brooklyn. Larsen retired with an 81-91 career record, but his Series masterpiece drew him Hall of Fame votes for years.

New York Yankees no-hit by Detroit's Virgil Trucks, Aug. 25, 1952. The Yankees were on their way to winning the fourth of five consecutive world championships. Trucks was on his way to a 5-19 record in '52, even though this was his second no-hitter of the year.

Cincinnati Reds no-hit by Brooklyn's James "Tex" Carleton, April 30, 1940. The Reds won the previous year's NL pennant and were on their way to winning the '40 Series, their last championship until the Big Red Machine. Carleton, whom the Dodgers had rescued from the minors prior to the season, posted a 6-6 record to give him an even 100 career wins before disappearing from the majors.

Chicago White Sox no-hit by Ernie Koob and Bob Groom of the St. Louis Browns, May 5 and 6 (second game), 1917. The Sox won the World Series that year, then waited 88 years to do it again. The Browns ended finishing 57-97, barely edged out of the basement by Philadelphia. Yet for two days in May, the Browns looked like world beaters against the eventual champs. Neither of the no-hit pitchers was anything special: Koob ended up going 6-14 and Groom, 8-19, both in their next-to-last seasons. Groom apparently wasn't a bad pitcher, but played for some horrible teams. For example, as a rookie in 1909, he lost 26 games for Washington with a 2.87 earned run average. Talk about a lack of support, even for the Dead Ball era!

Boston Beaneaters no-hit by Baltimore's James "Jay" Hughes, April 22, 1898, and Philadelphia's Francis "Red" Donahue, July 8, 1898. The Beaneaters (yes, that's what they were called) posted a .290 team batting average and scored 872 runs in 152 games on the way to the National League pennant, so the two no-hitters against them must have come as something of a surprise. Donahue was a decent hurler who had been rescued from the vestiges of Chris von der Ahe's once-mighty St. Louis Browns; Red had lost 35 games for the Browns in '97. Hughes was a very successful pitcher, compiling an 83-41 record in four seasons before returning to play ball in his native California. One of the batters in Boston's lineup, catcher Marty Bergen, wrote a tragic chapter in baseball history on Jan. 20, 1900, when he killed his wife and two children with an ax, then cut his own throat with a razor.

Providence Grays no-hit by Larry Corcoran of the Chicago White Stockings, June 27, 1884. This was the year Charles "Ol' Hoss" Radbourne won either 59 or 60 games for the Grays, depending on the source, then defeated the original New York Mets three straight games in the first "World's Series." But the spotlight shone solely on Corcoran in late June, when he became the first pitcher to toss three career no-hitters. Corcoran, just 24, had racked up 170 victories in his first five seasons, but in those days pitchers were overworked and tended to burn out early. He posted just seven more victories after 1884 and died at 32, forgotten except for the troika of no-hitters.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The hall of ... whom?

Back in the days before baseball history was subjected to critical scrutiny, various books appeared profiling the members of the Hall of Fame, treating them as a homogeneous group whose contributions of the game were uniformly heroic.

Sure, players like Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson stood out among the crowd for their fabled exploits. But for youngsters trying to learn about Cooperstown, it was hard to differentiate between the somewhat lesser lights, such as Eddie Collins (truly great) and Chick Hafey (perhaps not so).

In recent years, there have been complaints about the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee refusing to select anyone for induction. Perhaps that's because we've reached a point where just about anyone who played before, say, 1980 doesn't really have the qualifications we'd expect of an "immortal."

The counter argument is that plenty of players who aren't in compiled much better numbers than some of the people who are. Take a look at the Big Four of non-HOF pitchers: Tommy John (288 wins), Bert Blyleven (287), Jim Kaat (283) and Jack Morris (254). Every other 20th-century pitcher with at least 250 wins is enshrined in Cooperstown, as are several starters who failed even to make it to 200. As they say, what's up with that?

At any rate, a casual baseball fan who takes a close look at the Hall of Fame membership is likely to ask continuously, "Who's that?" So in that spirit, let's put together an all-"who's that?" Hall of Fame team:

C - Ray "Cracker" Schalk (1912-29). My assumption always has been that Schalk was rewarded because he was a highly visible "clean" member of the 1919 Black Sox, and at one point he held the record for games caught. Schalk was remarkably durable behind the plate for his era, putting in 11 seasons of catching 120 or more games using equipment that wouldn't be allowed on a T-ball field today. That didn't translate into success at the plate, though. Schalk hit .253 for his career, including a seasonal high of .281. His lifetime slugging average was a paltry .316, which comes as no surprise when you see that he hit exactly a dozen home runs in his 18 seasons. Schalk did hit .304 in trying to overcome the bad guys in the '19 Series, but of course, none of them were for extra bases. Supposedly, he was called "Cracker" because that's what his back looked like when he squatted in the catcher's position.

1B - George "Highpockets" Kelly (1915-32). Historian par excellence Bill James wrote that he once was confronted by Kelly's son after James wrote very disparaging remarks about Highpockets' Hall of Fame qualifications. A look at Kelly's record shows some seemingly decent numbers: .297 career batting average, 100 or more runs batted in four consecutive seasons; National League leader in home runs once and RBI twice. Then again, Kelly played the bulk of his career during the '20s, when the ball was livelier and the hitting statistics went through the roof compared with the Dead Ball era. He was a regular for only eight of his 16 seasons, and by his last season of playing full-time had dropped to only five homers. Kelly is in the Hall of Fame pretty much because his former teammate, Frankie Frisch (who definitely belongs in Cooperstown) was very active on the Veterans Committee and saw to it that many of his old friends were enshrined. We'll meet some more of them later.

2B - John "Bid" McPhee (1882-99). Besides the recent Hall of Fame inductees honored for their contributions to the Negro Leagues, McPhee appears to be the last of the old-timers to make it through the vets' panel, back in 2000. He is unique among 19th-century players in spending his entire 18-year career with the same franchise, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, which jumped from the American Association to the National League in 1889. McPhee ends up being, very belatedly, the token AA honoree, and he probably was selected because his superior fielding statistics for the time help his ranking in certain analytical systems that attempt to take a player's overall performance into consideration. Also, accounts of the time noted him as a steady individual of good personal habit, a rarity among ballplayers of his day. For the record, his career average was .271 and he scored 1,678 runs, one of the highest such totals for the 1800s.

SS - Rhoderick "Bobby" Wallace (1894-1918). I own a book that shows photographs for all Hall of Fame inductees to that time, with the exception of Wallace, who is represented by an illustration. I found that to be appropriate. Wallace has been in the Hall of Fame for more than half a century, yet it's rare that I've found any reference to him other than his place in Cooperstown. He did manage to appear in parts of 25 seasons, which is noteworthy, but the last five or so were infrequently as player-coach. He apparently was a much-sought prize when the fledgling American League raided the National League in the first years of the 20th century, with Wallace switching allegiances from the St. Louis Cardinals to the same city's Browns when they started operating in 1902. You'd think that spending 15 years with the St. Louis Browns would relegate anyone to utter obscurity, but apparently some Hall of Fame voters remembered Wallace. He never led the league in an offensive category while posting a .266 lifetime batting average.

3B - Fred Lindstrom (1924-36). Another of Frankie Frisch's friends, Lindstrom is best known for having a couple of ground balls hit pebbles and bounce over his head in the final game of the 1924 World Series, costing his Giants and giving the Washington Senators their one-and-only title. According to the latest records, he was only 18 at the time, and apparently the earnestness of youth didn't let the situation bother him that much. He went on to post a .311 lifetime batting average, including two separate seasons in which he racked up 231 hits. But again, he was playing in a prime era for hitters; his 231 hits in 1930 ranked only fourth in the league. As a matter of fact, he never led the league in an offensive category. His career was relatively short, the equivalent of fewer than 10 full seasons, and he was done in the majors by age 30.

OF - Earle "The Kentucky Colonel" Combs (1924-35). The 1927 Yankees are generally acknowledged as "the greatest team of all time," and Hall of Fame selectors over the years have made sure that members of that squad are amply represented. (For comparison purposes, think of the '70s-era Steelers.) Combs was a good hitter and apparently was quick on the basepaths, leading the American League in triples three times. But with the legendary Murderers' Row lineup around him, he probably was pitched to a whole lot more than, say, guys named Ruth, Gehrig and Lazzeri.

OF - Royce "Ross" Youngs (1917-26). Probably a sentimental favorite of Frankie Frisch, who watched Youngs waste away from Bright's disease when they were teammates on the New York Giants. Youngs, who died at 30, also apparently was lauded heavily by legendary manager John McGraw, but I don't know if that's before or after his demise. Youngs is another player whose numbers benefit from the heavier hitting of the '20s, but he actually was hitting over .300 already in the waning years of the Dead Ball era. He was a primary contributor on McGraw's final string of pennant winners (1921-24), and the Giants started to fade about the same time Youngs became seriously ill. His is a sad story that probably has escaped the attention of most baseball fans.

OF - Tommy McCarthy (1884-96). Before the early 1950s, not much was done as far as an all-inclusive listing of baseball statistics. If one had been consulted in 1946, the year of McCarthy's Hall of Fame election, he probably would be outside of Cooperstown, languishing in even greater obscurity alongside the likes of Duff Cooley, Dan McGann and Silent John Titus. McCarthy's career numbers are similar to all those players, yet the voters in '46 apparently remembered him as one of the so-called "Heavenly Twins" in the outfield of the old Boston Beaneaters, along with the far, far superior Hugh Duffy. Even as a 10-year-old kid reading about McCarthy, I wondered why the heck he was in the Hall of Fame, and the mystery never has been solved. His batting record shows three seasons of hitting over .340, but in one of them (1890) most of the better athletes were performing in the Players League, and the two others (1893-94) were right after the pitching mound was moved back 10 feet, and everyone was hitting a ton. Perhaps no future Hall of Famer has gotten off to as rough a start as McCarthy. He debuted in the Union Association, as marginal a "major league" as ever existed, and in fact is the only UA alumnus in Cooperstown. In parts of three subsequent National League seasons, his batting average ranged from .182 to .186. Finally, he won a starting job with the St. Louis Browns in the American Association, but only after that team's penurious owner, Chris Von der Ahe, cleared away most of the higher-salaried players. McCarthy wound up in Boston after the AA's demise and hit .242 in 1892, while the mound still was 50 feet from the plate. Apparently, he and Duffy were "heavenly" for only three seasons, and McCarthy quickly faded away after being sold to Brooklyn prior to 1896.

P - "Happy" Jack Chesbro (1899-1909). The record books show Chesbro (and will 'til the end of time) as the all-time leader for victories in a season, with 41 for the 1904 New York Highlanders. Actually, that honor should go to Charles "Ol' Hoss" Radbourne, but when he won 59 or 60 games in 1884, the pitching mound was too close to the plate. Chesbro might have won all those games in '04, but he also threw a wild pitch that lost the pennant-deciding game for the future Yankees; rumor always had it that he was acting on orders from his team's owners, who had bet against their boys. Chesbro's arm never was the same after logging 454 innings that year. For his final five seasons, he posted a 66-67 record, including 0-5 in his final year. He couldn't have been too happy about that.

P - William "Candy" Cummings (1872-77). Jokes could be made about his nickname fitting a certain film genre, but I'm not going to do that. I will present Cummings' National League statistics: two seasons with a 21-22 record. Yawn. He did much better in baseball's first professional league, the National Association, averaging more than 30 wins over four seasons against competition of very questionable talent. Cummings, who's listed as weighing all of 120 pounds, is in the Hall of Fame for one reason: In 1939, someone cited him as the guy who invented the curve ball, no doubt using some yellowed newspaper clips as evidence. That was good enough in the days when apocryphal stories meant more than cold, hard statistics.

P - Jesse "Pop" Haines (1918-37). See comments for Kelly, Lindstrom and Youngs. Haines was a decent enough pitcher, lasting with the Cardinals until he was well into his 40s, but was never what anyone would call a star. He did hang in long enough to collect 210 victories, which, as far as Frankie Frisch teammates went, was good enough for Cooperstown.

P - Richard "Rube" Marquard (1908-25). When Ty Cobb died in 1961, an aspiring author named Lawrence Ritter noticed that not too many ballplayers from the Dead Ball era still were around to talk about their experiences. So he traveled the country, having some of the surviving ones do just that. The result was "The Glory of Their Times," which still serves as the standard for baseball's oral history. Each of the players who were profiled had fascinating stories to tell, including Marquard, a city boy who wondered, "How come I'm called Rube." The quick answer is that he was a lefthanded pitcher at a time when the game's top southpaw was Rube Waddell. Hall of Fame voters loved "The Glory of Their Times" and ended up bringing some former players aboard who might not have otherwise received consideration. In Marquard's case, he did win 201 games and set a record that still stands by scoring 19 straight victories for the New York Giants at the start of 1912. (He argues to Ritter that it really should have been 20). He also got off to a rough start as a highly touted phenom, earning the nickname "The $10,000 Lemon" before most fans knew him as "Rube." Two years after his record streak, he lost 22 games to help drive the Giants out of contention, and he bounced around for National League for several more years with middling success. Eighty-five years at the time of his HOF induction, Marquard must have been glad that he'd agreed to talk with Ritter.

Manager - Stanley "Bucky" Harris (1924-56). The Washington Senators appointed the 27-year-old Harris as manager prior to the 1924 season, and the team responded by winning its one and only World Series. And the Senators narrowly missed repeating the feat in '25. Harris was the "Boy Wonder" among managers, and he continued to guide major-league teams intermittently for the next three decades. As he aged, though, he must have lost some of his acumen; he returned to the Series only once more, and that was when the Yankees hired him in 1947 (and canned him after '48, to bring aboard the even older Casey Stengel). For his managerial career, Harris is credited with 2,157 victories, but also lost more games than he won. As a player, primarily a second baseman, Harris hit .274 during the juiced-ball '20s with negligible power.

Executive - Morgan "Moneybags" Bulkeley (1876). The year listed is the inaugural season of the National League, and Bulkeley, owner of the team in Hartford, served as the league's president. That's because the founder and true leader of the league, William Hulbert, decided to stay in the background until he saw how the new ventured panned out. Apparently it did OK, and Hulbert served as president from 1877 until his death in 1882. One hundred and thirteen years later, they finally put a plaque for him in Cooperstown. That also was 58 years after Bulkeley was honored. How did that happen? The consensus is that someone in 1937 saw him listed as the league's first president and figured he must have been instrumental in its founding, rather than a figurehead in every sense of the word. He belongs in the Hall of Fame about as much as Abner Doubleday (who, by the way, is not).

As for Doubleday, modern historians agree that he had absolutely nothing to do with "inventing" baseball, in Cooperstown or elsewhere, and very well could have never seen a game in his life. But that doesn't mean the Hall of Fame is about to change venues anytime soon.

Monday, June 11, 2007

You're never too old

Viewers who could stomach sitting through the Pirates' trouncing by the Yankees on Sunday were treated, in a manner of speaking, to the major-league debut of Masumi Kuwata. The relief pitcher, a star in Japan since the '80s, is 39 years old.

In making note of Kuwata's advanced age, media reports are circulating the name Diomedes Olivo for the first time in years. Olivo, a lefthanded pitcher and Dominican Republic native, was 41 the first time he appeared in the majors. That also was for the Pirates but during much better times: 1960, the year they beat the Yankees in the World Series. (Some question has persisted about his actual age; for example, a blurb in The Sporting News at the time listed him at 45. But the sources that count list him as being born Jan. 22, 1919.)

I'd never heard of Olivo before I read about his death in 1977, but I always was curious about a player who was so old by the time he made it to the majors. In those days, baseball scouts weren't very prevalent in Latin America (with the exception of those employed by the Washington Senators). Buoyed by the success of Roberto Clemente, the Pirates started taking a closer look at the talent to the south. Apparently, Diomedes still had enough in the tank to warrant a call to The Show. He pitched pretty well, too, in four appearances before returning to the minor leagues.

In 1961, he was lights out for the International League pennant-winning Columbus Jets, compiling a 1.98 earned run average. So the Pirates brought him back for 1962, when he qualified for official rookie status at age 43, breaking Satchel Paige's record. In 62 games, he posted a 5-1 record with 7 saves and a stellar 2.77 ERA. Noting his success during the year were a number of feature stories, including the Sports Illustrated article "An Elderly Diomedes in the Big Show," written by future Pittsburgh Steelers announcer Myron Cope.

Olivo's fame was short-lived. The Pirates shipped him off to St. Louis as part of the ill-fated package that sent the extremely popular Dick Groat to the Cardinals for Julio Gotay, who stunk in Pittsburgh, and Don Cardwell, who wasn't much better. Diomedes faded quickly in St. Louis, exiting the majors after dropping his first five decisions in '63.

On June 7 of that year, he gave up a game-winning home run to Duke Snider, a future Hall of Famer who had seen better days and was playing out the string with the Mets. That was just about the last straw for the Cardinals; Olivo appeared in his final major-league game five days later. He was the last active player to have been born before 1920, by the way.

He had a brother, Federico - more popularly known as Chi Chi - who pitched four years with the Braves, and was "only" 36 in his rookie-qualifying season.

Both Olivo brothers died in February 1977, but I have yet to find information to suggest their deaths so close together represented anything other than coincidence.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Pirates fans have to wonder if they got a glimpse of the future or an unfortunately timed anomaly.

The day after Pittsburgh made lefthanded pitcher Daniel Moskos the fourth player taken in the amateur draft, Moskos hurled for the Clemson Tigers in the Starkville (Miss.) Super Regional tournament. He was chased by Mississippi State in the sixth inning after giving up nine hits and five earned runs, taking the loss in an 8-6 decision.

Sure, they used aluminum bats against Moskos. But they're college players. If they're lighting him up like that, imagine what major-leaguers will do, even with Louisville Sluggers. Of course, that's if No. 4 ever makes it that far through the system.

Certainly, the Pirates' scouting department, management and ownership might know something about this southpaw that's eluding us mere observers. But everyone who has any interest in the team - and the numbers continue to shrink rapidly - seems to be questioning the selection.

I hope we're wrong, if nothing else because I don't like to kick a young man when he's down. Then again, he's going to have plenty of money - although, we're guessing, not nearly as much as the No. 5 pick on which the Pirates passed.

That's the kind of operation they run, and the kind that doesn't deserve to collect your hard-earned money.

Trivia question 37: What 19th-century star commissioned the first Louisville Slugger bat?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Here we go again

I might be mistaken. It certainly wouldn't be the first time. But I thought I detected a lack of enthusiasm among the Pirates' announcers when they delivered news of Pittsburgh's first pick in the 2007 amateur draft, midway through the team's 3-2 win at Washington today.

The No. 4 overall selection was Daniel Moskos, a lefthanded pitcher from Clemson who did decently last summer as Team USA's closer. But the announcers didn't know too much about him when word came across. John Wehner was looking on Baseball America's Web site, trying to read what he could about Moskos and provide some positive PR.

The Pirates are going to need it. Moskos might turn out to be the next Steve Carlton, but for now, it looks as if Pittsburgh drafted another college pitcher just to avoid paying a bigger bonus to a better player. Those in the know said the Pirates' best bet would have been to take Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, who apparently is infinitely closer to becoming a Johnny Bench than Moskos is to morphing into Koufax reincarnated.

But Wieters' agent is the notorious hard bargainer Scott Boras, a fact that apparently steered the Pirates in a more economic direction. The Boras connection, though, didn't deter the Baltimore Orioles from making Wieters the sixth overall choice. Seems like a wise move, according to what Yahoo! has to say about Wieters:

"Outstanding defensive catcher with a strong, accurate arm. Best position player in draft is switch-hitter with tremendous power potential from both sides. Quietly put together solid season for Yellow Jackets: .358, 10, 59. Also served as team's closer for most of his three seasons with fastball that regularly hit mid-90s. Projected as potential All-Star catcher despite above-average height for position."

Compare that with Yahoo!'s assessment of Moskos:

"Just 3-5 with 2.91 ERA heading into super regionals, Moskos has three potentially dominant pitches: 93-95 mph fastball, wicked slider that hits mid- to upper-80s and a good curve. Really grabbed scouts' attention last summer when he struck out 35 in 21 innings and had six saves as Team USA's closer. Currently projects as No. 3-type starter in pros, but could also end up coming out of bullpen as stopper."

Using a No. 4 overall pick on a "No. 3-type starter"? The Pirates already have been there and done that, with Bryan Bullington. Sort of. He was the top overall pick in 2002. Today, he's pitching in Indianapolis, recovering from arm surgery that kept him out all last season.

Around Pittsburgh, they're probably starting a pool on how long it will take for Dan Moskos to go under the knife.

If you're planning to go to PNC Park this summer ... please, save your money and keep it out of the Nuttings' pockets!

Trivia question 36: The free-agent amateur draft was instituted in 1965. Who was the first overall pick?