Baseball Trivia 043017: My Birthday Edition

Of my 24.3 career WAR, almost all of it (21.5) came in the six seasons I played between the ages of 25 and 30 years old. That played out for an average of 4.2 WAR per 650 PAs, which is All-Star caliber. During that span, I hit 181 homers, 186 doubles, drove in 596 runs and had a beefy .894 OPS. Seasonal averages 31 doubles, 30 homers, 99 RBIs. Despite my consistent production during those years, I was only an All-Star thrice, a Silver Slugger once, and never finished higher than 7th in my league’s MVP voting. I did win the Rookie of the Year award my age-25 season, however. Prior to my age-30 season, I was involved in a three-team trade that involved players with 697 career home runs. In exercising a buyout option of an unfortunately over-inflated free-agent contract, the team that had signed me paid me over $21 million for two seasons I did not play. Astrologically, I’m a Virgo, which means I deal with unknown situations very well and that probably helped me in some of near-end-of-career struggles (mostly due to injury). Who is this Gonzaga University alumni?

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To this date, of all the ballparks I’ve had 50 or more plate appearances in, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is the only one I haven’t homered in. So far in my career, I’ve slashed .265/.302/.388 in 53 PAs at PNC Park with a 54 OPS+. In 2863 career PAs I have 128 homers with a .287/.387/.511 slash line and 141 OPS+. Please don’t ever trade me to Pittsburgh.

What’s my name?

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His second career no-hitter happened to be Don Orsillo’s first game as a major league play-by-play broadcaster. On that chilly evening, the hurler in question threw 110 pitches – 69 of them for strikes – with 11 strikeouts, three walks, and a shiny and chrome game score of 95! He only received three runs of support from his squad, who would finish the season in the top half of the league in scoring with 4.80 runs per game. At season’s end, the man behind door number three had a 13-10 record with a 4.50 ERA. His FIP was 4.03, indicating that he pitched better than a 4.50 ERA guy. In 198.0 innings pitched during that seasons – the only one with that team – he led the league in strikeouts (220), strikeouts per 9 (10.0), but also walks allowed (96). When the books closed on his career, he had a record of 123-109 with a 4.24 ERA and 1918 strikeouts. Those nearly 2000 Ks are good enough for 10th most in the period spanning the entirety of his career, which also had a three-year hiatus from the majors.

This one should be significantly easier than today’s previous post. Who is this mofo?

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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?

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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.