Baseball Trivia 042517

The first Native American major leaguer is the topic of this post. He was born on the Penobscot Reservation – sometimes referred to as Indian Island, Maine – in 1871. Like just about every other First Nations player to reach the big leagues before the 21st Century, he was nicknamed “Chief,” a pejorative that further undermines any authority that a real chief would have had and delegitimizes some final shreds of potential humanity in the larger American societal sphere. This is so ingrained in White Mainstream American culture, that even his Baseball Reference page still officially lists his first name as “Chief” in the bold header, despite listing his full given name in smaller print below.*

This right fielder was a multi-sport star, including track and field (sorry, this isn’t Jim Thorpe, but the parallel brings him to mind, for sure) at Holy Cross University and then the University of Notre Dame.

Before the 20th Century even arrived, before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, our mystery man endured the fierce racist derision as the lone American Indian playing on a major league diamond.

Interestingly enough, the entirety of his major league playing days would be in Cleveland, where Chief Wahoo still exists to this day as a healthy reminder of how easily we, as a society, accept the rugged, brutal buffoonery of the Vaudevillian racist tradition. Even in the so-called post-racial America. He did not, however, play for the Cleveland Indians, but their Northeastern Ohio predecessors, the Cleveland Spiders.

He only played in 94 big league games, totaling 395 PAs. He had 0.7 career WAR and 101 OPS+.

Sadly, he would die at the young age of 42 years old, six years before Jack Roosevelt Robinson was even born.

I don’t expect anybody to know who this guy is…fancy a guess?

  • Dear Baseball Reference, I respectfully urge you to put his proper given name in the bold header. Thank you.

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One of only two players ever to appear in the majors with his surname, he also appears in a couple of fun queries in Baseball Reference’s Play Index tool (if you don’t have a subscription and are a huge baseball nerd, consider it thoroughly).

First of all, this taught, muscular outfielder is one of only 23 players in the Integration Era with 300+ home runs and 200+ steals in his career.

NOT-SO-SPOILER ALERT! He’s not Barry Bonds.

Of the 23 players on that list, only Darryl Strawberry and Reggie Sanders have fewer RBIs (1000 and 983 resepctively). This cat barely edges out Strawberry with 1008 career ‘rib-eyes’. It should be noted, however, that he achieved these milestones with the third fewest career plate appearances of players on that list. When he took off his cleats for the last time, he had 321 HRs and 243 SBs.

Seeing as that Sanders missed the 1000 RBI cut, I thought to refine the search. This two-time All-Star made that cut — obviously — and also scored 1000 runs in his career. So, if you add 1000+ RBIs and 1000+ Rs to the search criteria the list narrows to 21 Integration Era players. Strawberry also falls off the list.

His best season, in which he finished fifth in the NL MVP vote, entailed hitting 36 bombs, 117 driven in, 26 thefts, culminating in an .854 OPS.

In the third inning of a World Series Game 2, he was erroneously called out for the final out of that inning. The play isn’t even debatable and the out call was arrived at through surreptitious devices utilized by the first baseman-turned-Judo champ. In fact, the only thing debatable about the call is why the umpire was allowed to receive his pension checks from MLB. He should probably be harassed in a passive aggressive manner via social media. Curiously enough, the umpire who made this deplorable out call was also the first base ump during the Pine Tar Game.

Who is this running back in a baseball uniform?

 

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A World Series MVP at the age of 33 years old, this first baseman accrued 19.9 career WAR in 12 major league seasons. In that Fall Classic our mystery man had 16 plate appearances and slashed .357/.438/.1.071 and clubbed three homers, drove in four, and had 15 total bases.

Growing up around numerous ex-Negro Leaguers, he was even schooled by Satchel Paige to hone his understanding of the strike zone…at only 10 years old. Can you imagine how freaky it would be to stand in against Satchel Paige when you were only 10?!?

His father held Ph.D.s in Mathematics and Philosophy, but died tragically young from Leukemia. Our man of the moment never really new his father, but certainly took after him in the academic department, graduating high school at only 15! Then, in college, he was mentored by Martin Luther King, Jr. His family was close with the Kings. He developed into a three-sport star in college, playing baseball, football, and basketball. For his prowess in the latter sport, he was once offered a contract by the Harlem Globetrotters. Yet, baseball would become his sport of focus.

Once in the major leagues, his brightest four-year stretch would come between his age-28 and age-31 seasons. In that stretch, he slashed .285/.335/.455 with a 121 OPS+, knocking out an average of 17 homers and driving in 78 per season. He only ever led the league in strikeouts (twice) and sacrifice flies (once). Sooo, suffice it to say, he doesn’t have a lot of bold on his Baseball Reference page. He does have a World Series ring and Series MVP trophy, though. That’s something Joe Torre could never claim while he was a player (not a knock on Joe, I like him, even though I loathe the Yankees, but he was the first guy I could think of to fit the criteria).

Later in his playing career, he even served as a county detective in concert with the DA’s office during a couple of offseason’s. Expanding upon that, he earned a law degree from Duquesne University after retiring from baseball.

Who is this crusader for truth, justice, and championship-caliber baseball?

Baseball Trivia 041917

I don’t think I grew up in Canada, folks.

This true journeyman outfielder and utility infielder played for 12 different teams spanning across 19 major league seasons. His 265 career home runs rank him second behind Larry Walker for Canadian-born major leaguers. Of those dingers, 23 were of the pinch-hit variety, which is an MLB record. While he played for so long and has a career OPS+ of 117, he has a curiously low career WAR of 14.3.

He is one of four Canadians to play for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. The others are Denis Boucher, Shawn Hill, and Rob Ducey.

Though his physique was more John Kruk than Billy Hamilton, he did leg out 13 career triples, probably motivated by imaginary six packs of Molson Ice sitting behind the third base bag.

He wore many numbers in his career: 12, 3, 16, 11, 24, 25, 30, 35, and 59. And while his existence as a journeyman might lead you to believe he was below league average in many senses, he did have a career Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 115; not a superstar, but not a castaway either. He had excellent contact rates of 84.4% in the zone and 51.9% out of the zone. He also didn’t swing at a bunch of out of the zone garbage, with a career O-Swing% of 20.4%. For context, that sloppy bastard Pablo Sandoval is the all-time leader in O-Swing% at 44.8% (per FanGraphs). In fact, our player in question is 145th in O-Swing% historically – not far behind my beloved Manny Ramirez (19.9%), in fact!

So, who is this beer-swillin’ Canuck anyway?

credit to Baseball Reference, Baseball Almanac, and FanGraphs for statistical info and extra reasons to hate Pablo Sandoval.

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At the tender young age of 23 years and 296 days old, this first baseman made his major-league debut; the 12, 725th player in the history of the game. That Tuesday afternoon in April, he went 1-for-5 — a seventh inning double off of Mike Moore in his fourth at-bat of the game. He would not score a run, being stranded at third after a bases-loaded hit by pitch drove the runner in front of him home. (He also had a teammate with the last name Moore in that game.)

That year, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, eighth in the MVP race, and made his only All-Star appearance. He slashed .290/.348/.457 with an OPS+ of 119 in 154 games. With 22 dingers and 100 RBIs, he is still one of only 20 players in the Integration Era to post 100 or more RBIs in his rookie season. He also had three more sacrifice flies than the guy who beat him for RoY honors.*

After his twenties, he became a solid journeyman first baseman and occasional DH. He played for four different teams, including returning to his initial club for his farewell campaign. That season, he only played in 53 games and with a 72 OPS+, he was almost as valuable as Derek Jeter in his grand finale (Jeets posted a 76 OPS+ in his last season).

For his career, he had essentially identical walk and strikeout rates (10.3% and 10.2% respectively) and a cool, even .300 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP).**

In his final season, he was the sixth oldest player in the American League. Can you identify this player with a nickname that links him to Chevy Chase?

PS – he’s the only player in the history of the major leagues with his last name.

 

*the infinitely resourceful Baseball Reference

**freakin’ FanGraphs is awesome, guys!

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In the spirit of Easter, I’m going to resurrect some serious fan loathing.

This right fielder played for three different teams during his career, the last of which awarded him with a ludicrous five-year, multi-million dollar contract following his lone 100-RBI season. He was so infuriatingly fragile, under-productive, and listless, that I considered making a voodoo doll of him. Surprisingly, using the model of value per Win Above Replacement, that contract wasn’t as asinine as one might think, as his employer paid about $6.4 million per win (retro-valuing from the current $8 million per, that is about right for market value of the time).

Still, I hated him. In fact, if he were on fire, I’d get out the skewers and marshmallows. He played, seemingly, with less passion than the affectless Daisuke Matsuzaka, whom I also loathed. And I can, in hindsight, feel validated in opining that he was paid handsomely for past performance and not future value/potential.

As well as having the reputation for only giving medium effort and being aloof, he was also oft-injured. If he cut himself shaving in the morning, he might be out of the lineup by the afternoon workouts and batting practice. He was probably scared of his own fucking shadow. He never played more than 146 games in a season and averaged just 119 played per season. If I missed that many days of work per year, I’d be living on the street, because my mom wouldn’t let me move back in with her out of the shame for having a son with such a lackluster work ethic. So, with all that seething histrionics, let’s look at some facts concerning this dickwad’s career, shall we?

He was drafted in the 20th round out of high school, but didn’t sign. Then he was drafted twice in the first round during his college career at Florida State University. Form then he went on to accumulate 44.9 WAR and 242 home runs. Not part of that total, he once hit a Game-Seven-forcing grand slam in the postseason and he would later win a ring that fall. His career OBP (.384) is confoundingly good enough to place him 142nd all time; a stat I keep having to re-check, because it doesn’t seem possibly real. Again to my surprise, his career slugging percentage of .489 is 144th-best all time. Lastly, his career OPS (.873) puts him at 105th all time. That’s better than Magglio Ordonez, Danny Tartabull, Jose Canseco, and George Brett!!! Surely someone is hacking his Baseball Reference page, right?!?

Who is this punk?

Baseball Trivia 041317

One of the most naturally, physically gifted athletes to play the game, this one-time All-Star has 13.0 career WAR. With a Howitzer of an arm, he has 35 outfield assists in just 783 chances, despite racist narratives that purport him to play absent-mindedly, with “reckless abandon,” or to fall asleep/give up on some plays. Certainly a take that rarely is applied to White players. In 55 career PAs at Wrigley Field, he’s slashed .383/.473/.617 with an OPS of 1.090 and 161 OPS+. Totaling 18 Wrigley hits, this right fielder has doubled thrice, homered twice, tripled and driven in six runs.

He’s documented as an astute breakdancer, evidenced by footage from locker room post-game antics.

More about his throwing arm, shall we? In his rookie season, he threw out two runners trying to advance to third on ground ball hits up the line in right field. He also doubled up a runner trying to get back to first on a ball he caught at the warning track. That double play ended the inning as well.

In the first month of his rookie year he slashed .436/.467/.713, smashing seven homers in 107 PAs. That translated to an OPS+ of 227 that month.

Who is this enigmatic outfielder, who plays with unbridled, admirable passion?

Tip of the cap to Baseball Reference and Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies.