From: The Boston Globe
The drumbeat of Pedro Martinez’s Hall of Fame candidacy resounded with the same air of anticipation and inevitability that accompanied a two-strike count when he occupied his stage at Fenway Park. The opportunity to reflect on his career is as much visceral and emotional as it is statistical; to remember Martinez on the mound is to recall a spectacle rarely matched, the unusual experience in which all parties – fans, hitters, the pitcher himself – knew that greatness and artistry were transpiring.
Yet for a time, as brilliant as Martinez was, he did not stand alone in Boston atop a baseball Olympus. For a time, Martinez enjoyed a peer whose performances nearly matched the pitcher for brilliance. Yet the fact that Nomar Garciaparra once occupied the same rarefied air as Martinez is now a largely forgotten footnote to a pre-championship era in Red Sox history.
Indeed, on a day when Martinez garnered more than 91 percent of votes from eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for a landslide first-ballot election, Garciaparra just barely gleaned the 5 percent of votes needed to stay on the ballot beyond his first year of eligibility. In the late-1990s, the idea that Garciaparra wouldn’t even sniff the Hall of Fame seemed unfathomable.
He was as iconic a presence in many ways as Martinez, the stands at Fenway Park blanketed in equal measure by fans wearing No. 5 and 45, a shared tribute to the pitcher with boundless self-confidence based on an unmatched pitch mix and the shortstop with a million superstitions and quirks, who winged the ball across the diamond with a signature cross-body, sidearm delivery and who displayed a preternatural ability to hit the snot out of the ball.
Garciaparra was a force like few others in the game’s history. Between 1997 and 2003 – when he amassed a Rookie of the Year trophy, finished in the top five in AL MVP voting five times (topping out at second in 1998), made five All-Star teams, won consecutive batting titles with marks of .357 and .372 in 1999 and 2000 (becoming the first righthanded hitter to win back-to-back batting titles since Joe DiMaggio) – he donned the mantle of greatness.
“From 1997 to 2003, Nomar offensively, in the batter’s box, was just a different animal than most. It screamed Hall of Famer,” said Garciaparra’s former teammate and current WEEI radio host Lou Merloni. “In 2000, I’ve never seen anyone barrel up balls on the consistent basis he did that year. That was the most legit .372 I’ve ever seen in my life.
“He would go 2-for-5 with two lineouts. It was ridiculous. As far as the barrel-up rate, it was probably more like 75 percent of the balls he hit were on the barrel. It was just preposterous what he did that year. Everybody watching him would say the same exact thing: ‘I’ve never seen a guy barrel up the ball more than him.’
“I’ve seen his bats. He’s very superstitious, but I’d see him go for a year with two or three bats. You’d pick one of them up, his gamer. The ball mark – he used brown maple – the ball mark, there wasn’t anything on the label and there wasn’t anything on the end of the bat. Everything was within probably three inches of the barrel, every single mark that the ball made on contact. You could tell he used it for about two months. … It was unbelievable.”
It was the sort of skill set that permitted Garciaparra to commune with baseball legends. Ted Williams was mesmerized by the shortstop, believing that he possessed the skills to become his successor as a .400 hitter, a player who hit for average, displayed 30-homer power and a skilled baserunner who often delivered double-digit stolen base totals.
“Nomar was a uniquely gifted player, a six-time All-Star and two-time batting champ. He followed another great righthanded hitter, Joe DiMaggio. That’s an extreme, unique combination, plus he played a skill position at shortstop,” recalled Orioles GM Dan Duquette, who occupied the same role with the Red Sox for most of Garciaparra’s big league tenure in Boston. “He had all the skills [to be a Hall of Famer]. He got to the big leagues quickly, won the Rookie of the Year, won a couple of batting titles early in his career. It was just a matter of whether he could stand the test of time.”
He couldn’t, of course. Though Garciaparra came back in startling fashion from a 2001 season lost largely to wrist surgery with a pair of All-Star campaigns in 2002 and 2003, he suffered an Achilles injury during spring training in 2004 that set in motion both the end of his Red Sox career and represented the starting point of a late-career crumble.
Still, on a day that could have marked a formal closing of Cooperstown’s doors to him, it’s worth remembering a time when it seemed like Garciaparra was going to knock on the Hall’s gates, to remember a Hall of Fame-caliber peak that lacked the requisite longevity for enshrinement.
Garciaparra had an .882 career OPS, the best of all-time by a shortstop who spent at least half his career at the game’s most demanding position with at least 5,000 career plate appearances. How good is an .882 OPS for a shortstop? It’s better than Hall of Fame shortstops Arky Vaughan (.859), Honus Wagner (.858), Joe Cronin (.857), Barry Larkin (.815), Hughie Jennings (.797), Lou Boudreau (.795),Cal Ripken (.788) and Robin Yount (.772). Derek Jeter achieved an .882 OPS in just three of his 20 seasons.
Of course, league context is important, since Garciaparra thrived during the Nintendo Numbers era. But even relative to his league, he stood out from most of the Hall of Fame pack as measured by OPS+ (OPS relative to the league average, adjusted for parks, in which a 100 OPS+ is average). Among Hall of Fame shortstops, Garciaparra ranks only behind Wagner (151 OPS+) and Vaughan (136 OPS+), well ahead of Larkin (116), Jeter (115), Yount (115), Ripken (112) and Alan Trammell (110).
The crux of Garciaparra’s irrelevance in the Hall of Fame conversation is the brevity of his stardom. He was a singular force from 1997 to 2003, but while he remained a passably productive hitter after that peak, posting a .291/.343/.446 line with a roughly league-average OPS+ of 102, he averaged just 84 games over the last six years of his career from 2004-09.
He fell off a cliff rather than enjoying a gradual decline, and ended his career with just 6,116 plate appearances. There are position players in the Hall of Fame with fewer plate appearances, but none who played after 1957 (the last season of three-time MVP Roy Campanella’s career). His 44.2 career WAR (as tabulated by Baseball-Reference.com) wouldn’t be the lowest ever by a position player with a plaque in Cooperstown, but no position player who has played since Bill Mazeroski (retired in 1972 with 36.2 WAR) has been enshrined.
Still, the cavalier dismissal of his Hall of Fame case (particularly in light of the 10-vote limit at a time when a PED-era traffic jam has created an electoral mess) belies the time when Garciaparra clearly represented one of the game’s greats, when he and Pedro represented the same sort of first-name luminaries in Boston and the game.
“I knew when I was playing against a Hall of Famer or playing with one. It was just a step above. And there’s no question that he was that,” said Merloni. “If he had two more Nomar-type years and maybe a couple more after , or three more years, I don’t think there’s a question that he’s a Hall of Fame-type of talent. There’s no question that he was a Hall of Famer in his heyday. He just wasn’t there long enough.”
The fact that his career won’t conclude in the Hall does not diminish the idea that Garciaparra enjoyed a historic start to his career. And at a time when Martinez rightly will take his bows, it’s worth remembering the teammate whose career once merited an almost-equal measure of awe, and whose not-quite-Hall-worthy career now stands as a monument to the great separator of durability and longevity.
From ESPN: Boston
There’s an old story that in April of 1947, over maybe a few too many drinks at Toots Shor’s restaurant in New York, Yankees owner Dan Topping and Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had agreed to the biggest trade in baseball history: Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams. DiMaggio would get to play in Fenway Park with its inviting Green Monster instead of cavernous Yankee Stadium (457 feet to deep left-center back then) and Williams would get to move to Yankee Stadium with its short right-field porch.
Yawkey woke up the next morning and came to his senses, telling Topping that his people in Boston wouldn’t do the trade. The Red Sox had just won the pennant in 1946, Williams was four years younger, Boston already had an excellent center fielder in Joe’s brother Dom and Joe had undergone offseason surgery on his heel. There wasn’t a good reason for Boston to consider such a move. In checking biographies on both Williams and DiMaggio, this story appears to come from a Dave Anderson column from the New York Times in 1980 (both Yawkey and Topping were dead by then) and not from contemporaneous newspaper accounts. Anderson’s column also suggests Yawkey, after turning down Williams for DiMaggio, asked Topping to include his “little left fielder” — a rookie named Yogi Berra.
The Berra part sounds a little apocryphal to me — for one thing, Berra had only played a few games in right field in April of that year, not left, and had hit .225 with no home runs. It doesn’t seem likely that Yawkey would have viewed Berra as the difference-maker to swing the trade. While the Red Sox never won another pennant with Williams, it would have been a terrible deal for them: DiMaggio would play just five more seasons and 625 games while Williams would play another 1,556 games (not to mention the time he missed in 1952-53 to resume military duty for the Korean War).
What I didn’t know until recently reading Richard J. Tofel’s book “A Legend in the Making: The New York Yankees of 1939” is that DiMaggio and Williams could have been teammates if not for the twists of fate. Imagine a Yankees outfield with DiMaggio and Williams side by side. Not that the Yankees struggled without Williams.
DiMaggio had first starred with his hometown San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League as an 18-year-old in 1933, hitting .340 with 28 home runs in 187 games, including a 61-game hitting streak. Major league teams attempted to purchase DiMaggio — the Yankees reportedly offered $75,000 — but Seals owner Charley Graham elected to keep his prized asset for 1934. Remember, back then most of the minor league teams were independent of the majors, selling players to big league teams or even making trades.
In May of that year, DiMaggio hurt his knee climbing into a car. In his autobiography, DiMaggio said he had been visiting his sister, took a cab home and slipped on the climb out because “my left foot must have fallen asleep from the awkward position in which I was sitting.” Richard Ben Cramer’s biography of DiMaggio, “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life,” reports that the San Francisco Examiner at the time reported DiMaggio had slipped in the early hours of the morning at Fourth and Market — an area full of bars and nightclubs. Cramer’s insinuation that DiMaggio may have been “loaded” is speculative, but DiMaggio’s own account certainly isn’t true.
Anyway, DiMaggio missed some time, attempted to play through the injury and didn’t hit as well when he returned. He still managed to hit .341 with 12 home runs in 101 games but Graham, who had been hoping for $100,00 for DiMaggio before the injury, now saw interest wane in his young star.
The Yankees, however, remained interested. West Coast scout Joe Devine had loved DiMaggio and he had a local scout named Bill Essick check into DiMaggio’s knee. According to Cramer’s book, the Yankees paid for an orthopedic specialist to examine DiMaggio and the surgeon reported that the 19-year-old should be able to recover from the injury. Essick told Yankees general manager Ed Barrow, “Don’t give up on DiMaggio. I think you can get him cheap.”
He was right. With other teams out of the running or short on cash during the Depression, the Yankees got DiMaggio for $25,000 and five prospects, with the caveat that the Seals could keep DiMaggio for one more year and the Yankees could get their money back if DiMaggio’s knee didn’t hold up. He hit .398 with 34 home runs in 1935 and joined the Yankees in 1936. DiMaggio was an immediate star, hitting .323 with 29 home runs and 125 RBIs, and the Yankees won the first of four consecutive World Series titles.
* * * *
Williams was another California kid, from San Diego. While DiMaggio was tearing up the American League in 1936, Williams was playing at Hoover High School that spring. Tofel writes,
For the Yankees, Williams was the one who got away. Bill Essick, the same Yankee scout who recognized late in 1934 that DiMaggio was still worth $25,000 despite his knee injury, failed to sign Williams eighteen months later. Essick offered a $500 signing bonus but refused to meet Williams’s mother’s demand for $1,000.
Did the Yankees really lose Williams over $500? I had never heard that story before. I checked out Ben Bradlee Jr.’s comprehensive Williams biography — “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams” — that came out in 2013 for more detail. As Williams was finishing up at Hoover, Bradlee reports that scouts had been tracking Williams for some time, with a local bird dog named Herb Benninghoven, who worked for the Cardinals, Williams’ “most ardent suitor.” Also interested in Williams was a bird dog named Elmer Hill, who worked for Essick. After Williams hit a long home run in an American Legion game, Hill and Essick showed up at Williams’ house.
Bradlee quotes Williams’ autobiography:
Essick was as anxious as anyone to get me. I’ll never forget what he said: “Ted, if I didn’t think you were going to be a New York Yankee, I’d never sign you.” Maybe he said that to everybody, but that sure impressed me. I think he offered me $200 a month and a $500 bonus if I made the team at [Class A] Binghamton, New York, but the story is my mother asked for a $1,000 bonus and Essick refused.
Note carefully the wording. Williams isn’t exactly saying that he didn’t because his mother asked for more money, but seems to be repeating a story that had been told by others.
Still, the Yankees remained interested, later offering $250 a month or $400 a month if he made the Yankees’ Pacific Coast League affiliate, and Hill apparently believed that an agreement in principle was in place once Williams finished high school. The Tigers also scouted Williams but area scout Marty Krug deemed Williams too skinny. The Los Angeles Angels of the PCL tried to sign Williams, but Ted’s father didn’t like the team’s manager. Benninghoven, still interested in Williams, invited him to a Cardinals tryout in Fullerton, where Branch Rickey would be present. Bradlee writes, “At the tryouts, the speed-conscious Rickey required recruits to run race after race with numbers pinned to their backs. But the day before the tryout, Ted was hit by a pitch on his thigh, just above the knee. Slow anyway, Ted was made even less mobile by the injury, and he largely went through the motions. Rickey showed no interest in him.”
Benninghoven did finally get the Cardinals to make an offer, but Williams figured St. Louis wasn’t the quickest way to the majors. Sam Williams, Ted’s father, reportedly asked the Yankees for another $25 a month. In a 1957 letter, Hill wrote that he agreed to this with Williams and his mother. Ted’s parents had a strained marriage, often living apart, and it appears Sam Williams was working in Sacramento at the time. Williams ended up signing on June 25 with the San Diego Padres, a new team that year in the PCL, for $150 a month. For the cash-strapped Williams family, apparently the fact that the Padres had agreed to pay him for the entire month of June was a crucial factor, along with Ted’s mother liking the club’s owner.
Williams played sparingly the rest of the season for the Padres, hitting .271 with no home runs in 107 at-bats. In 1937, at the age of 18, he hit .291 with 23 home runs. Now, just about every major league team wanted Williams. The Yankees were still interested as were the Tigers and New York Giants. Casey Stengel, who had been hired as manager of the Boston Bees (Braves) for 1938, had been out of baseball in 1937 but saw Williams when he played in Stengel’s hometown of Oakland and liked the kid’s potential. The Bees made an offer.
The Yankees fell out of the bidding, perhaps because of Joe Devine’s scouting report that said Ted “is a very slow lad, not a good outfielder now, just an average arm. There is no doubt Williams will never be a fast enough to get by in the majors as an outfielder. His best feature now is that he shows promise as a hitter, but good pitching so far has stopped him cold.”
And then there were the Red Sox, who had closely watched Williams all season and had discussed a deal with Padres owner Bill Lane. Lane held off during the season but told other teams that he had promised Red Sox general manager Eddie Collins the right of first refusal. At the winter meetings that year, however, Yawkey suddenly seemed reluctant to spend the money, saying he was tired of buying other teams’ players and that Boston was trying to develop its own farm system. Collins insisted they needed to make an exception for Williams.
Lane was about to give up on the Red Sox and sell Williams to another team when the two sides finally agreed on a deal: $25,000 and four players for Williams. The Red Sox were so lacking in minor leaguers at the time that Collins had farm director Billy Evans quickly acquire four players he could then trade to the Padres. The Tigers ($30,000) and Giants ($31,000) had reportedly offered more money, but Williams belonged to Boston.
Williams spent 1938 at Minneapolis, where he hit .366 with 43 home runs. He joined the Red Sox in 1939 and would spend much of the next 12 years chasing DiMaggio and the Yankees. While both players were active, the Red Sox would win just that one pennant in 1946, five times finishing in second place.
* * * *
How close did Williams come to signing with the Yankees? It’s difficult to say with any degree of accuracy all these years later. Certainly, dealing with Williams’ parents was difficult. The family was poor — Williams wrote that he was embarrassed to bring scouts to his house — and strapped for cash, thus wanted some sort of signing of bonus. Williams’ autobiography makes it appear as if he was willing to sign with the Yankees; when Boston finally purchased him from the Padres, he wrote that he was disappointed. “The Red Sox didn’t mean a thing to me. A fifth-, sixth-place club [the Red Sox had finished in sixth in 1936], the farthest from San Diego I could go. I certainly wasn’t a Boston fan.”
The scout Elmer Hill seemed to blame Williams’ mother for reneging on an agreement, but that could be some re-imagining of the facts years later. Or maybe the Yankees really did just cheap out in the end.
One more thing, however. Williams didn’t actually graduate from high school in the spring of 1936. He still had one more semester to go. Doesn’t it make sense that maybe Williams’ mother wanted him to finish school? He could sign with the Padres, get the family a little money in the short-term, play for them that summer and then finish his last semester of school in the fall. Also, Lane had apparently promised the Williams family a percentage of any sale in the future, so May Williams would eventually get her bonus money.
In fact, when Williams was sold, the Williams family asked for $5,000 from Lane, who now refused to give the family anything. The Williamses said Ted was a free agent and could sign with any team. All winter, reporters wrote on the squabbles going on with the Williams family, the Padres and the Red Sox. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered Collins to make sure he got Williams to sign a Red Sox contract.
He eventually did, but not until mid-February, and not until the Red Sox finally gave May Williams $2,500.
(Most of the information here was gathered from the books by Ben Bradlee Jr. and Richard Ben Cramer. I recommend both.)
In Comic Books they are known as ‘What If?’ (Marvel) issues or ‘Elseworld’ (DC) tales, taking the established character out of their established norm and seeing what would have or could have happened if….
A decade later, we revisit called-off engagement between Rodriguez and Boston
From: Gordon Edes
They rank among the great what-might-have-been stories in Red Sox history.
What if an organization with a history of racial intolerance had given more than a sham tryout to Jackie Robinson or listened to the urgings of a scout named George Digby to sign a young outfielder named Willie Mays?
What if Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had, in the cold light of morning, decided to follow through on the trade arranged over drinks the night before with Yankees co-owner Dan Topping, one in which the Sox would have swapped Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio? (Note: This deal also was scuttled due to the Yankees reluctance to include a young catching prospect named Yogi Berra.)
And what if the Red Sox had succeeded in their audacious effort 10 years ago to acquire Alex Rodriguez, generally acknowledged as the best player in the game at the time, from the Texas Rangers?
Ten years ago Monday, Rangers owner Tom Hicks declared that effort “totally, totally dead.” He would soon send a letter to Rangers season-ticket holders pledging that Rodriguez would be the team’s shortstop on Opening Day 2004. Then, on Valentine’s Day, he traded him to George Steinbrenner’s Yankees.
With A-Rod now shamed and a shell of his former self, a player who went from being championed by the game’s ruling class to pariah, it is easy to regard Boston’s failed courtship as a blessing, a disaster averted.
But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, the Sox — and A-Rod — were bitterly disappointed that it did not come to pass, this deal first proposed by Hicks to the Red Sox within days of their crushing Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the 2003 ALCS.
Hicks was looking to get out from under the game’s biggest contract, a $250 million, 10-year deal that in its first three years had not lifted the Rangers out of mediocrity. He asked for Nomar Garciaparra in return. The Sox countered by offering Manny Ramirez, whom they had placed on irrevocable waivers only weeks before without any takers.
With that deal in play, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made another at the winter meetings, arranging to trade Garciaparra to the White Sox for slugging outfielder Magglio Ordonez. That second trade was contingent on the A-Rod deal being approved, but when Epstein entered the hotel room of his new manager, Terry Francona, and rattled off a prospective lineup that included Johnny Damon, A-Rod, David Ortiz and Ordonez, on knees made unsteady by multiple surgeries, Francona climbed onto his bed and did an impromptu dance.
That same night, Epstein slipped out of the meetings in New Orleans and flew to New York to meet with Rodriguez and his then-wife, Cynthia. Owner John W. Henry had already met with the couple in Miami, granted extraordinary permission to do so by commissioner Bud Selig, who had run into Rodriguez at Sammy Sosa’s party in the Dominican Republic and listened to A-Rod earnestly express his desire to play for the Sox.
I was working for the Boston Globe at the time, and I, too, went to Miami to meet with Rodriguez. I liked him. He was smart, engaging and gracious. I believe he really wanted to play for the Sox. I had seen him when he’d made his major-league debut at Fenway as an 18-year-old from Miami, and I was impressed with his appreciation of Boston and what it would mean to his legacy if he would be the one who led the Sox to a World Series title after 86 years without one.
The deal was complicated and ultimately collapsed under its own weight. The Red Sox, for luxury tax reasons, wanted to reduce the value of Rodriguez’s contract by $4 million a year, a total of $28 million over the remaining seven years of his deal. That was a nonstarter for the union. Any reduction, the union lawyers said, would require “added benefits” from the Red Sox — like the Mets gave Mo Vaughn when they added two more teams to the no-trade provisions in his contract in exchange for a $500,000 reduction. The Sox tried to sell the union on an “added benefit” of allowing A-Rod the chance to opt out of his contract after two years and become a free agent, a proposal ridiculed by the union, which argued that A-Rod, because his contract was so much more than anyone else’s, probably would have been looking at a pay cut. They made a counteroffer the Sox deemed unacceptable.
Hicks, meanwhile, was seeking some immediate financial help and not only wanted the Sox to assume A-Rod’s contract, but pay a portion of Ramirez’s deal so that he could pursue some pitching in free agency. That was not going to happen. But on his own, A-Rod contacted Hicks and offered to pay, out of his own pocket, the $15 million Hicks wanted from the Sox. That’s how badly he wanted to come to Boston.
By the end of talks, there were bruised feelings on all sides. Henry was upset that Hicks had made little effort to keep negotiations quiet. Hicks was furious with Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, to the point that Tom Werner became the Sox point man with the Texas owner. Lucchino and union lawyer Gene Orza took whacks at each other. Garciaparra never recovered from the shock of learning that the Sox had sought A-Rod, even as Henry later explained he initially thought that they could have co-existed. And A-Rod resigned himself to remaining with the Rangers.
The upshot, of course, is that the Sox won two World Series in the next four seasons without A-Rod, and won their third in the 10 seasons in which Rodriguez has been a Yankee. And A-Rod alienated his longtime friend Derek Jeter, the first of many soap operas that would mark his time in New York. And then came the PED revelations.
That part of the story, sadly, would have been no different had he played for the Red Sox instead of the Yankees. But the rest of it? Ten years later, I still believe it could have gone a different way for A-Rod in Boston. Instead of a wary Jeter, he would have been embraced by David Ortiz, who remains one of his good friends in the game. He also was very close with Ordonez, who would have combined with A-Rod to more than compensate for the loss of right-handed power Ramirez represented.
He would have remained at short, where his value to the club would have been greater than it was to the Yankees at third.
In his first five seasons with the Yankees, through the 2008 season, Rodriguez hit 208 home runs. No one in baseball hit more. And Fenway is much kinder to right-handed hitters than Yankee Stadium. He was one of 10 players who had an on-base percentage greater than .400 in that time. He averaged 6.8 in WAR in that time.
Call me naïve, but I think Boston would have brought out the best in him, and he would have been loved for it.
We’ll never know, of course. And in this town, I am well aware, that’s hardly a popular thought. But there’s a part of me that has never forgotten the shining promise of that 18-year-old and laments that it has ended the way it has.
On a personal note: I was at that same game, just a few rows up and sitting between home and the visitors dugout (best seats I ever scored) for that Fenway game where an 18-year-old Alex Rodriguez debuted for Seattle. I sat close enough to see all the awe and wonder on the face of a kid who was walking out into a Cathedral to take his first big league swings. My how times changed as he was on his way to Texas!
Before the PED’s, before the even more inflated ego and sense of entitlement, I was not a fan of the proposed trade. I was a Nomar guy. I didn’t dislike A-Rod at that point, I just disliked the perceived greed and the monster contract and the handcuffs that came with it. How could you as a team hit the free agent market for pitching and additions under those circumstances? Yeesh! Sure the Yankees did it and eventually put a World Series ring on A-Rod’s finger, but we won two in the same amount of time and of course just added the third.
Would or could any of that have happened if we found A-Rod under the tree for Christmas of 2003? Maybe a ring… two at an outside chance? Luckily, this is one of those Scarlett Hose / Bronx Bombers hypotheticals we don’t have to put too much emphasis on… after all, we came out for the better.
Yes, that really was Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio serving as a coach on the Oakland A’s bench.
And for as many folks who either never realized it, or forgot, it was a duty that ‘Joltin’ Joe’, the ‘Yankee Clipper’, never performed in New York.
In 1967 Kansas City Athletics owner Charlie Finley hired the Hall of Famer as the team’s vice-president. DiMaggio would also serve as a coach for the newly transplanted Oakland Athletics. DiMaggio needed two more years of baseball service to qualify for the league’s maximum pension allowance.
So, while there was a monetary reason (as there was usually was in Joe’s motivation) for Joe D.’s service to the relocating Bay Area A’s, he also stated a few times over his life that he wasn’t asked by the Yankees to take any type of official personnel position.
And if you didn’t know about Joe, than you may have not known or just forgotten about another Hall of Famer, forever linked to his single team, who was never asked to take an official personnel position… that’s right, Ted Williams.
When Ted retired from the game in 1960, many thought he was headed for a lifetime of fishing. Williams helped new Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski in hitting and adapting to life as the left-field superstar in Boston. Though he mostly (sometime’s to Carl’s frustration) talked and taught about hitting. That was the case for a few years until new Washington Senators owner Bob Short came calling.
Short. who outbid a group headed by Bob Hope, then named himself general manager and wanted, no needed Ted to manage his struggling Senators. Ted wasn’t interested. Short tried again. Teddy said no again. Short brought in AL President and former Red Sox manager Joe Cronin for help. Joe called Ted in Florida and told him, “baseball needs you.” How could Ted say no to his former manager and a salary of $1.25 million over five years?
On April 7, 1969 Ted Williams managed his first game as the skipper of the Senators. Although Williams had never coached or managed at any level of baseball, he seemed to light a spark under the once-moribund Senators. Williams kept them in contention for most of the season, finishing above .500 for the first time in franchise history; their 86–76 record would be its only winning season in Washington. As you would expect from the greatest hitter of all time, Ted’s immediate impact on the Senators came with the hitters. In that first season the team’s batting average went up by 25 points. Attendance soared and he was chosen “Manager of the Year” after that season. Unfortunately the following years did not go as well. 1970 brought pitching problems to Washington and the Senators were below .500 once again at 70 – 92. Year three of Teddy’s regime was even worse with the club making bad trades and finishing the season with a record of 63 – 96. The honeymoon was over and Bob Short wanted out of Washington. He petitioned and won approval to move the team to Arlington, Texas. Ted spent one year in Texas with the Rangers, hated it and resigned at the end of the 1972 season.
Like many great players, Williams became impatient with ordinary athletes’ abilities and attitudes, particularly those of pitchers, whom he admitted he never respected.
I find it interesting how Hall of Fame players can be treated or handled by their teams following their playing days. Is it ego? Is it a control factor? Are irritable prima-donna’s on the field just as bad on the end of the bench? Or do God’s just not make good managers? Sure, you want guys like Ted and Joe or Babe Ruth as spring training instructors, guest-roaming organizational coaches and so on… but take a look at Ryne Sandberg. A Hall of Famer for the Cubs, he made it expressly clear his intention to manage in the majors… and manage the Cubs. While accumulating great minor league numbers, credentials and championships, Chicago let him walk. If anything, Ted’s tenure as Washington/Texas manager (like Wayne Gretky’s in Phoenix) goes to show that a manager’s HOF credentials aren’t always as important as the talent they have to direct on the field.
… by the Eagles is one of my favorite songs (and one of the best songs in American songwriting history) and what I felt would be a fairly good transition into the troublesome world of the Oakland Athletics.
The A’s, or the Montreal Expos West Coast, just finished one of the semi-annual fire sales. Chances are, should they still be in Oakland in two to three years, they’ll be holding another one. Don’t get me wrong, these sales are great for baseball. It gives other teams a chance to trade prospects for what are usually great young arms and keep one of baseball’s historic (yes, historic) and once proud franchises in the basement.
Lets take a brief look at the past…
The history of the Athletics Major League Baseball franchise spans the period from 1901 to the present day, having begun in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City in 1955 and then to its current home in Oakland, California in 1968.
The “Athletics” name originates from the late 19th century “athletic clubs”, specifically the Philadelphia Athletics baseball club. They are most prominently nicknamed “the A’s”, in reference to the Gothic script “A”, a trademark of the team and the old Athletics of Philadelphia. This has gained very prominent use, and in some circles is used more frequently than the full “Athletics” name. They are also known as “the White Elephants” or simply “the Elephants”, in reference to then New York Giants manager John McGraw calling the team a “white elephant”. This was embraced by the team, who then made a white elephant the team’s mascot, and often incorporated it into the logo or sleeve patches. The typical Philadelphia uniform had only a script “A” on the left front, and likewise the cap usually had the same “A” on it. In the early days of the American League, the standings listed the club as “Athletic” rather than “Philadelphia”, in keeping with the old tradition. Eventually, the city name came to be used for the team, as with the other major league clubs. After buying the team in 1960, owner Charles O. Finley introduced new road uniforms with “Kansas City” printed on them, as well as an interlocking “KC” on the cap. Also while in Kansas City, Finley changed the team’s colors from their traditional red, white and blue to what he termed “Kelly Green, Wedding Gown White and Fort Knox Gold.” It was also here that he began experimenting with dramatic uniforms to match these bright colors, such as gold sleeveless tops with green undershirts and gold pants. Upon moving to Oakland, the “A” cap emblem was restored, although in 1970 an “apostrophe-s” was added to the cap and uniform emblem to reflect the fact that Finley was in the process of officially changing the team’s name to the “A’s.” The innovative uniforms only increased after the team’s move to Oakland, which also came at the time of the introduction of polyester pullover uniforms. During the team’s 1970s heyday, management often referred to the team as The Swingin’ A’s, referencing both their prodigious power and to connect the team with the growing disco culture. During their dynasty years in the 1970s, the A’s had dozens of uniform combinations with jerseys and pants in all three team colors, and in fact did not wear the traditional gray on the road, instead wearing green or gold, which helped to contribute to their nickname of “The Swingin’ A’s.” After the team’s sale to the Haas family, the team changed its primary color to a more subdued forest green and began a move back to more traditional uniforms. New owner Walter Haas restored the official name to “Athletics” in 1981, but retained the nickname “A’s” for marketing purposes.
The A’s are the only MLB team to wear white cleats, both at home and on the road, another tradition dating back to the Finley ownership.
One of the American League’s eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniaia, in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics. The team had some prominent success in Philadelphia, winning three of four World Series from 1910 to 1914 (the “First Dynasty”) and two in a row in 1929 and 1930 (the “Second Dynasty”). The team’s owner and manager for its first 50 years was Connie Mack, and its Hall-of-Fame players included Chief Bender, Frank “Home Run” Baker, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove. After two decades of decline, however, the team left Philadelphia for Kansas City in 1955 and became the Kansas City Athletics.
After 13 mostly uneventful seasons in the Midwest, the team moved to Oakland in 1968. There a “Third Dynasty” soon emerged, with three World Championships in a row from 1972 to 1974 led by players including Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and colorful owner Charlie O. Finley. Finally, a “Fourth Dynasty” won three consecutive pennants and the 1989 World Series behind the ‘Bash Brothers’ of Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley.
Since the mid 2000s the A’s have been in talks with Oakland and other Northern California cities about building a new baseball-only stadium. The planned stadium, Cisco Field, was originally intended to be built in Fremont, California (a location that has since been abandoned), and there were talks about it remaining in Oakland, and current talks about building it in San Jose.
As of February 26, 2009 the city of San Jose was expected to open negotiations with the team. Although parcels of land south of Diridon Station are being acquired by the city as a stadium site, the San Francisco Giants’ claim on Santa Clara County as part of their home territory would have to be dealt with before any agreement could be made. By August 2010, San Jose was “aggressively wooing” A’s owner Lew Wolff. Wolff referred to San Jose as the team’s “best option”, but Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he would wait on a report on whether the team could move to the area because of the Giants conflict. In September 2010, 75 Silicon Valley CEOs drafted and signed a letter to Bud Selig urging a timely approval of the move to San Jose. In May 2011 San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed sent a letter to Bud Selig asking the commissioner for a timetable of when he might decide whether the A’s can pursue this new ballpark, but Selig did not respond. Selig addressed the San Jose issue via an online town hall forum held in July, saying, “Well, the latest is, I have a small committee who has really assessed that whole situation, Oakland, San Francisco, and it is complex. You talk about complex situations; they have done a terrific job. I know there are some people who think it’s taken too long and I understand that. I’m willing to accept that. But you make decisions like this; I’ve always said, you’d better be careful. Better to get it done right than to get it done fast. But we’ll make a decision that’s based on logic and reason at the proper time.”
Well, the proper time is most likely sooner rather than later.
Commissioner Bud Selig, who was recently extended through 2014, has placed the A’s and their pursuit of a new stadium and a move to San Jose on the front burner. The special committee Selig put together to examine the dilemma has delivered a “comprehensive” report but has yet to be presented to all 30 owners. Still, Selig says they’re “proceeding at a rather quick pace” and seemed to agree to the suggested analogy that if the stadium issue were a baserunner, he’d be on third base. A’s owner Lew Wolff said he’s “delighted” to hear that Selig is prioritizing the situation and that MLB is moving toward a decision.
The Giants could fight back by supporting an anti-ballpark campaign in San Jose, where a special ballot referendum (partially financed by MLB) would need to pass, or perhaps even by persuading one of their sponsors to sue MLB (the Giants cannot sue MLB themselves). There’s also nothing preventing the Giants from filing a lawsuit against the city of San Jose itself.
The Giants’ territorial claim can be overturned by a 75 percent vote from MLB owners.
So, let’s look at it positively. Selig cleans up the whole mess, makes the Giants happy and San Jose constructs a stadium. Yay! The A’s (who currently have the worst stadium deal in most any major sport) will finally have a much-needed revenue stream to go with all those first round draft picks.
My suggestion… The California Athletics. Using the original and updated San Jose Sharks logos and looking at one-time Bruins Captain and #1 draft pick over-all Joe Thornton, we get some useful uniform and cap ideas. The new version of the Sharks jersey uses Deep Pacific teal, black, burnt orange and white. The Miami Marlins have, except for probably a throwback jersey or two, abandoned the teal shade as their primary color and it could easily transition west. The burnt orange could be amended to a more golden hue, and kept as a background color, mix well with the darker hues of teal, black and finally white. Taking cues from the Athletics’ past, they can create a great ‘new’ yet totally retro jersey color scheme for their jerseys and caps. Something that recalls the history of the Philadelphia Athletics while easily reminding you of the Oakland A’s. I’d imagine the only team with much of a complaint would be the Royals (The Royals of Kansas City who take their color cues from their predecessor Athletics), but even then, too bad. Look at how many teams utilize the ever familiar red, while and blue… The Red Sox, Braves, Cardinals, Angels and Nationals. After all, Baltimore and San Fransisco are practically twins (because when John McGraw left Baltimore for New York and the Giants, he took the familiar colors with him), yet easily separated.
The A’s are a proud and deserving franchise who, if the transition is done right, would definitely thrive in a new venue. Think of it like an expansion franchise designed to contend pretty quickly.
With the Pinstripe Captain reaching his 3000th hit in such ‘Grand’ fashion (as any New York scripted Yankee milestone would be), there has been a lot of talk, blogging and general conversing on where he ranks all-time for the game’s most historic team.
This tidbit is lifted from www.thepostgame.com :
Where Does Derek Jeter Rank On The List of Greatest Yankees Ever?
Now there are six.
The greatest New York Yankees have long been counted on one hand. Babe Ruth is the unquestioned No. 1, after which the order is debatable but not the names: alphabetically, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle.
Add Derek Jeter to the mix.
Jeter became the first Yankee to accumulate 3,000 hits in pinstripes when he hit a solo home run off Tampa Bay lefty David Price in the third inning Saturday in the Bronx. Jeter, who just returned after spending three weeks on the disabled list with a calf injury, singled in the first inning for No. 2,999. In his next at-bat, Jeter ripped a full-count slider from Price into the leftfield seats. And despite the recent cyber-trend to disparage Jeter’s game and accomplishments, he deserves mention alongside the best to play for baseball’s most storied franchise.
Precisely where does he rank? From a poetic standpoint, No. 2 would be the perfect perch. Cue a tape of Bob Sheppard to make the announcement:
“The shortstop, number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2.”
But that’s a difficult case to make. To eclipse every Yankee except Ruth, Jeter would need to bounce back offensively through 2013. He’d need to change positions so his deficient range at shortstop recedes into memory. And the Yankees would need to win two more World Series with Jeter a driving force through those postseasons.
Today, though, Jeter has gained entry into the land of the elite. A Fab Five is now a Sparkling Six.
Here’s our list, in reverse order. Class, grace and a certain “Yankee-ness” count. So do stats. Only accomplishments with the Yankees are considered.
It all adds up to “greatness,” an admittedly imprecise blend of hard numbers and subjective notions.
Berra was part of a major league record 10 World Series champion teams, was named American League Most Valuable Player three times and played the most demanding position on the field. He also developed an iconic oracle-like persona with his fractured speech and hilarious yet astute observations. And at 86, he’s not only the lone living member of the Sparkling Six besides Jeter, he still wears pinstripes. Berra anchored the team during its late-1940s and 1950s heyday, succeeding Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickey at catcher and playing alongside DiMaggio and Mantle. He has the fourth-highest Wins Above Replacement of any catcher in history.
Jeter’s stature and leadership are unsurpassed. His production in the media hellfire of the Bronx has been phenomenally consistent. His five World Series titles and overall postseason excellence set him apart from other active players. In 2001, his flip of a relay throw to home plate and his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the World Series are among the most memorable moments in Yankees history. Of course he’s slipping at 37: Mantle, DiMaggio and Gehrig were retired at that age. Yes, he’s made more outs and hit into more double plays than any other Yankee and he’ll probably pass Mantle for most strikeouts. One milestone begets others for the player with the most plate appearances, official at-bats, hits and stolen bases. Each category speaks to longevity, durability, toughness and resilience.
Like DiMaggio, Mantle retired at age 36. Like Jeter, his defensive skills eroded with age and — in Mantle’s case — injury. But like Berra, Mantle played 18 Yankee seasons because he broke in at age 19. He and Willie Mays vied for the title of best player on the planet through the 1950s and much of the ’60s. The switch-hitting Mantle was AL MVP three times and he led the Yankees to 12 World Series, winning seven titles. He might have had more natural ability than any player ever, but he frittered away some of his talent partying. Who knows the numbers he could have amassed had he not been such a carouser? That question need never be asked of Jeter, who by remaining productive for two more seasons could swap places with Mantle.
The Yankee Clipper was the team’s most majestic player, and only Gehrig and Jeter approach his stateliness. DiMaggio’s greatest accomplishment is his record 56-game hitting streak. A close second is his nine World Series titles, behind only Berra in Yankee history. DiMaggio’s offensive numbers across the board are exceptional per season, but his career totals are lacking because he retired after 13 seasons, at least four fewer than the others on the list, primarily because he missed three years serving in World War II. At age 35 in 1950 DiMaggio had a stellar season that mirrored his career numbers. A year later his performance declined because of nagging injuries and he hung ’em up after helping the Yankees to one more World Series championship.
As he was in the Yankees lineup from 1925 to 1934, Gehrig is immediately behind Ruth on the list of Yankee Greats. When the measure is a blend of batting statistics, World Series titles, impact on baseball, impact on New York, larger-than-life persona and unforgettable nickname, The Iron Horse noses out the rest of the pack. Gehrig’s greatness was perhaps best displayed after Ruth left the Yankees. Gehrig led the team to three more World Series titles for a total of six, and he batted .361 with a staggering 1.208 OPS in the postseason. His career was tragically cut short at 36 after 17 seasons because of the rare disease that bears his name.
Besides singlehandedly introducing home run power as the game’s most lethal weapon and gate attraction, Ruth also made the Yankees the greatest team in baseball. Before his arrival in New York in 1920, the franchise had a losing record. In Ruth’s 15 seasons with the Yankees, and for the next 30 years beyond his departure, they had only one losing season. His career offensive Wins Above Replacement of 143 is easily the franchise best and he holds the trifecta of highest batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.484) and slugging percentage (.690). Ruth won fewer World Series titles with the Yankees (four) than any of the others on this list. But he delivered, hitting 15 homers in 117 at-bats. .
I would imagine that was the general thought passing around most baseball television studios and chat rooms and radio programs where the ‘experts’ were discussing the HOF election results.
Because no one saw that coming.
With ‘surefire’ ‘locks’ and ‘automatics’ like Robbie Alomar, Barry Larkin and Bert Blylevin (on his 13th ballot) awaiting their calls to to the Hall, only one person was so fortunate and he was just barely a blip on this year’s radar… ‘The Hawk’ Andre Dawson.
And a controversial pick he appears to be. But, really, how controversial can OBP be? The fact he was the key item in that little collusion case the owners lost back in the 1986-1987 era is far more important. The fact that he surpassed Blylevin ( who missed by like what.. 6 tenths of a percent?) and Alomar is the real controversy here. Bert ‘should‘ be getting the call next year, as will Alomar if his scant percentage points tell anything… but the bigger question should be Why?
Reportedly four ballots were returned blank. Blank… meaning no one was worthy of a vote. Dawson skated by on the few percentage points Alomar missed. But again, why? Is it a statement that he shouldn’t have been a first ballot HOF’er like Ricky last year or a Ted Williams? Sure it took Joe D. a few times but the landscape was different then. Some believe it may be retaliation for the Hirschbeck incident, although I can’t really see the BBWAA standing up for an umpire in such grand fashion. Either way, the ‘experts’ have concluded that the next two HOF classes will be short on entries, so anyone needing to make the push should be doing so now. Look for Bert, Robbie and Barry to step in next year or 2012 before Bonds and Clemens hit the ballot. Those falling shorter, could be making greater strides towards a higher percentage of votes (like Mattingly and so on) over the next two years.
All the talk of Edgar Martinez as the first DH in the Hall was for not as he fell rather short on his first ballot, which may ring ditto for Big Papi in the future. The lack of showing for Juan Gonzalez and Raffi Palmero combined with Big Mac’s meager progress up the ladder gives us more evidence that proven and suspected PED users are not going anywhere. Could make the 2013 Ballot of Bonds and The Rocket that much more interesting, nevermind Sammy Sosa and the eventual Manny Ramirez (again, ditto Big Papi).
Anyone looking for a good read on the history of the beloved Hall should pick up Zev Chafets’ Cooperstown Confidential, a great little escape into the convoluted, controversial and rather interesting history of not only the Hall, the caretakers and their evolution, but the hamlet of Cooperstown as well. Chafet gives us not only the norm historical blurbs on inductees but backgrounds to how the voting process was ‘refined’ and reasonings as to why the Veteran’s Committee isn’t as objective as they perhaps should be. It may also answer some longtime questions you have, such as “Why the hell is that guy in there in not this guy?” Of course, there are the usual insights on such themes as The Negro Leagues (or lack thereof), murderers such as Ty Cobb and the biggest HOF enigma this side of Babe Ruth’s ghost… Pete Rose. But italso touches base with some guys such as Steve Garvey, a deserving player who made poor personal choices and was caught but still hasn’t been a Veteran’s Committee pick… hmmm.
Again, congrats to the Hawk.
Oh yeah, that news flash from St. Louis came in. Holliday is staying put. Imagine that.