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  • MISERY INDEX AT ALL TIME HIGH FOR CHICAGO SPORTS FANS MISERY INDEX AT ALL TIME HIGH FOR CHICAGO SPORTS FANS             There are 25 metropolitan areas in the United States that are fortunate enough to have both a major league baseball ...
    Posted Jan 21, 2015, 11:23 AM by charles billington
  • The 2014 Chicago Cubs: Worst Hitting Team in History? THE 2014 CHICAGO CUBS: WORST HITTING TEAM IN HISTORY?         Who would have thought that with franchise hopefuls Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo actually showing some signs of life at the ...
    Posted Jun 15, 2014, 3:08 PM by charles billington
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MISERY INDEX AT ALL TIME HIGH FOR CHICAGO SPORTS FANS

posted Jan 21, 2015, 11:23 AM by charles billington

MISERY INDEX AT ALL TIME HIGH

FOR

CHICAGO SPORTS FANS

            There are 25 metropolitan areas in the United States that are fortunate enough to have both a major league baseball team and a NFL football franchise.  Sports fans in these venues are assured the opportunity to follow a professional home team for nine months of the year.  Chicago has been home to pro teams in both sports as long as any urban area in the country, with the Cubs and Sox joined by the Chicago Cardinals in 1920 and the Bears in 1921.   

            The recent performances of the Bears, Cubs, and Sox, however, have left many Chicago fans scratching their heads about the value of being so amply represented in the professional ranks.  In the last two years no city fared worse on the playing fields than Chicago.  Before we analyze this dreary fact let’s talk about which cities have been successful. 

           In 2014 it was very easy to be a baseball or football fan in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.  These three cities saw their teams win at an over .600 clip and enjoyed playoff games in both sports.  The Tigers and Lions combined for a .621 winning percentage; the Pirates and Steelers won at a .615 clip; the Orioles and Ravens, .609. 

           On the opposite end of the spectrum there was a veritable “Bermuda Triangle” of losers consisting of Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Chicago.  The Rays and Buccaneers managed a winning percentage of .300, the worse of any urban area with two teams.  In Oakland the pitiful showing of the Raiders lowered the baseball and football WP to .365.  With three teams failing, Chicago was not far behind, at .381.  If one wanted to turn this Bermuda Triangle into a “Remorseful Rectangle,”  New York could be added to the mix.  The Giants, Jets, Mets, and Yankees barely outpaced the Chicagoans, winning at just a .401 clip. If one were to eliminate the 84-78 Yankees from their equation, the New Yorkers’ misery would have been about the same as Chicagoans - .363.

         What makes Chicago’s 2014 worse than all the others is the repetition of failure.  Tampa Bay experienced a baseball playoff team in 2013, and Oakland hosted a wild card game at the end of the 2014 baseball season.  Chicago has not enjoyed a Bear playoff game since 2010, and their baseball franchises’ last taste of a postseason was 2008.

        The Cubs just finished the worst three year stretch in their history --- that’s 138 years, if anyone’s counting.  When one considers their rich legacy during the first 75 years of existence, the chant “We got worse to get better later on” rings hollow.  The White Sox, in spite of some promising young players, continued to strike out at record clips and had a terrible time drawing anyone’s interest, let alone fannies in the seats.  With the Cubs three years of failure, the South Siders had an opportunity to recapture a huge share of Chicago’s baseball market but failed to do so.   Instead they finished the year at 73-89, matching the Cubs’ record, and making their 2013-‘14 seasons the worst two year stretch since 1969-’70, when they were 68-94 and 56-106.

             The Chicago media, looking more like civic boosters than sports experts, predicted great things for the Bears as early as the opening of their training camp in July, when it was clear that Cubs and Sox fans had only the hot stove league to look forward to.  Seduced by a coach who spoke like a junior high counselor, and initially more amused than offended by the pathetic bleatings and boasts coming from the locker room, the honeymoon between the Bears and the press lasted until Halloween.  By that time the lack of leadership, the toxic clubhouse, and the most overrated quarterback in the team’s history were evident to everyone and the season was over.  As the losses piled up the Bears, from ownership on down, proved even less capable of damage control.  In 2014 one of the proudest franchises in the country became a national embarrassment.  Many began to wonder if the wrong pro football team had left Chicago way back in 1960.  Bronko Nagurski, Sid Luckman, Rick Casares, Bill George, and Walter Payton probably spent December spinning in their graves. 

            In spite of this sad chronicle there is some hope for the Windy City in 2015. While the Bears and Cubs still seem years away, the White Sox are stronger in many phases of the game while their competition in the AL Central seems weaker.  Maybe the South (Side) will rise again to give Chicagoans something to cheer about.             

The 2014 Chicago Cubs: Worst Hitting Team in History?

posted May 28, 2014, 1:37 PM by Aaron Maass   [ updated Jun 15, 2014, 3:08 PM by charles billington ]

THE 2014 CHICAGO CUBS:

WORST HITTING TEAM IN HISTORY?

        Who would have thought that with franchise hopefuls Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo actually showing some signs of life at the plate that Theo Epstein’s 2014 edition of the Little Boys in Blue would be in the running with the most hapless offensive teams in major league history?  Unfortunately with the 2014 baseball season one month old, the 2014 Chicago Cubs are making a strong bid to be in this unfortunate team picture.  Let’s take a look the current Cub squad stacks up against the least successful offenses since 1900.

The “Slumping Six”

        We’ll compare the beloved Cubbies to the six worst hitting teams over the last 113 years, a sorry septet indeed, except for one notable exception:

                           1.     1909  Boston Doves                  4.  1942  Philadelphia Phillies

                           2.     1909  Washington Senators       5.  1954  Philadelphia  Athletics

                           3.     1906  Chicago White  Sox         6.  1904  Washington Senators     

        Boston's National League team, commonly known as the Braves, called themselves the Boston Doves from 1907 to 1910, changing their name to the Braves in 1912.The Philadelphia Athletics became the Kansas City Athletics in 1955, and the two Washington Senators squads are ancestors of the Minnesota Twins, not the Texas Rangers. 

        After putting the 2014 Cubs in this group – and renaming it the “Slumping Seven” – I will compare the teams in five different categories:

                                                            1.  Team Batting Average                    3. On Base Percentage

                                                            2.  Team Average minus Best Hitter     4.  Runs Scored

                                                                                       5.    Won – Loss Record

Team Batting Average

            The ’09 Doves/Braves and ’09 Senators shared the worst team batting average recorded between 1900 and 2013 as they both finished at a .223 clip.  In 1904 the Senators hit .227,  three points less than the ‘06 “Hitless Wonders,” the Chicago White Sox, who finished at .230. The’42 Phillies hit .232, and the ’54 Athletics, .236. On April 30, 2014 the Cubs were hitting .230, bad enough to be tied with the ’06 Sox for fourth worst.

                                                  1.  ’09 Doves/Braves  .223              4. ‘06 Sox        .230

                                                              2.  ’09 Senators           .223              5. 2014 Cubs   .230

                                                              3.  ’04 Senators           .227              6. ’42 Phils      .232

                                                                                          7.  ’54 Athletics     .236

 Team Average Without The Best Hitter

 

        Some teams that are uniquely poor in one statistic often have one player that skews the true picture with a standout performance.  The Philadelphia Phillies’ pitching staff during Steve Carleton’s heyday and the Chicago Cubs hitting during Ernie Banks’ MVP years immediately come to mind.  The ranking below reflects the team batting averages of the Slumping Seven without the performance of their best hitter.           

Outfielder Emilio Bonifacio ended April hitting .338 for the 2014 Cubs, and without his stick the Cubs team average is a woeful .211.  Right fielder Jack Lelivelt finished 1909 with a lusty .292 average. If the ’09 Senators did not have Lelivelt in the lineup they would have finished the season at .218.  Center fielder George Beaumont hit .263 for the Boston Doves. The Doves’ team average for the 1909 season without Mr. Beaumont is .219.  Taking first baseman Jake Stahl’s .262 out of the 1904 Senators’ .227 lowers their team batting average to .223.  The 1906 White Sox drop from .230 to .223 without Frank Isbell’s .279, and the 1942 Phillies lose six points – going from .232 to .226 – without outfielder Danny Litwhiler’s .271. The 1954 Philadelphia Athletics are virtually as bad collectively without their best hitter as they are with him.  Second baseman Spook Jacobs (think Connie Mack regretted trading Nellie Fox?) led the squad with a .253 average, and without him the A’s only drop three points, from .236 to 233.

 

                                                           1.  2014   Cubs    .211              4. ‘04 Senators   .223

                                                            2.  ‘09 Senators   .218              5.  ’06 Sox          .223

                                                            3.  ’09  Doves      .219              6.  ’42 Phillies    .226

                                                                                     7. ’54 Athletics    .233

 Team On Base Percentage

        Perhaps the most boring experience in baseball is suffering through inning after inning when your heroes cannot even get on base. Even the best of the Slumping Seven, the 1954 Athletics, had the unique distinction of not even getting one out of every three batters ---whether by error, walk, hit by pitch, catcher’s interference, or base hit – on base.                                                                                                            

 

                                                         1. ’04 Senators     .275               4. ’42  Phillies   .289

                                                         2. ’09 Senators     .276               5. ‘2014 Cubs   .293

                                                         3. ’09 Doves        .285                6. ’06  Sox       .301

                                                                                     7.  ’54 Athletics     .305

 Total Runs Scored

        It’s difficult to score runs if you don’t get runners on base, and more than half of these teams do not average even three runs –462 runs over 154 contests -- a game, and none of them came close to averaging four.     

                   1.  ’09 Senators     382             4. ’04 Senators    437

                   2.  ‘42 Phillies       394              5. 2014 Cubs       492 (projected)

                                                       3.  ’04 Senators     437             6. ’54 Athletics     542

                                                                                     7. ’06 White Sox    570

 

Overall Record

        With all due respect to the old baseball adage that pitching is 70% of the game, it’s very difficult to win if you don’t score runs, hard to score runs if nobody’s on base, and men on base are few and far between if base hits are scarce. These poorest hitting teams’ records are equally sordid, except for one notable exception.  The 1906 Chicago White Sox  won 93 games, took the American League pennant, and   embarrassed the cross-town Cubs to win the World Series—thanks to great fielding, stealing over 200 bases, having a pitching staff put up a  2.13 ERA, and holding their opponents to 110 fewer runs (460) than they scored themselves.                                                                        

                                                1.’04 Senators    38-113  .252           4. ’42 Phillies     42-109  .278    

                                                2. 2014 Cubs      41-113  .267*         5. ’09 Doves       45-108  .294

                                                3. ’09 Senators   42-110  .276           6. ’54 Athletics   51-103  .331

                                                                                7. ’06 White Sox    93-58   .616

 Ranking The Worst Offensive Teams Since 1900

        The grid below indicates which of the Slumping Seven is worst at what, with the numerals reflecting their ranking, one through seven, in each category.

 

TEAM                           B.A             B.A. – B.H.         ON BASE %     RUNS     TOTAL    

’09 SENATORS              2                     2                            2                     1               7

’09 DOVES/BRAVES     1                     3                            3                     3             10 

2014   CUBS                    3                     1                            5                     5             14

’04 SENATORS              7                     4                            1                     4              16

’42 PHILLIES                  5                     6                            4                     2              17

’06 WHITE SOX             4                     5                            6                     7              22      

’54 ATHLETICS             6                     7                            7                     6              26      

The 1909 Senators, second worst of the seven in three categories and worst in runs scored, appear to the worst offensive team in the modern era.  The ’09 Boston Doves, sporting the worst team batting average and finishing third worst in the other categories, were not much better.   If the 2014 Cubs continue at their present pace, they’d fall right behind the Doves and the ’09 Senators.  The ’04 Senators, ’42 Phillies, ’06 World Champion White Sox, and the ’54 Athletics finish the list..

 Won-Loss Record

 

            In large part the worst offenses in history closely parallel the same ordinal rank for the worst won-loss records in history.  The worst-hitting ’09 Senators had the third worst record, and the ’09 Doves managed 45 wins in spite of their woeful offense. 

 

                     1. ’04  Senators   38-113   .252                 4. ’42  Phillies   42-109   .278

                      2. 2014  Cubs      41-113   .267                 5. ’09 Braves     45-108  .294

                     3. ’09  Senators   42-110   .276                 6. ’54 Athletics  51-103  .331

         7. ’06 White Sox    93-58    .616

     What Now, Cubs Fans?

            This is the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, and the Cubs’ organization is nostalgically commemorating each decade throughout the season to honor the occasion. Perhaps if the weak hitting continues it will help Cub followers nostalgically appreciate the poor hitters the Cubs sent to the plate in the bygone eras.  How better for Chicagoans to reminisce about Cuno Berrigan, Bruce Edwards, Cal Nieman, Bob Speake, and Casey Wise than see these “Rickettsy” Cubbies duplicate their failures at the plate?

 

Cleveland's Browns: The Standard of Football Excellence

posted Mar 20, 2014, 10:03 PM by Aaron Maass   [ updated Mar 25, 2014, 12:43 PM by charles billington ]

 CLEVELAND’S BROWNS

The Standard of Football Excellence

            While the followers of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate their first Super Bowl and the faithful in Denver, New England, and San Francisco applaud the successful efforts of their heroes, pro football fans along the banks of Lake Erie helplessly look on as their Browns undergo another complete upheaval. Never mind the “good young nucleus,” and pay no attention to the fact that they are “sitting pretty well” for the NFL draft.  The Browns once again have their followers seeing red while they sing the blues and reluctantly look at the team’s black future.  Since it might be too painful for the Brown's loyalists to peer at ahead, let’s provide them some needed comfort by looking to the past – about sixty to seventy years past, when most of them weren’t even born yet.  They are guaranteed to like what they see. 

         If there were Super Bowls between 1946 and 1955 instead of just professional football champions, Cleveland’s beloved Browns would have been in the Super Bowl for ten straight seasons.  Of these ten "Super Bowl" appearances, they won an incredible seven of them;  winning the first five, losing the next three, and then winning the next two.  The Boston Celtics are the only other professional team in any sport that has appeared in ten straight title games, an accomplishment no team in the future will probably ever duplicate.  By the way, this domination was not just in the postseason. Cleveland’s regular season record from ’46 to ’55 was 107-17, an unearthly .861 winning percentage.  In the modern era, it’s the equivalent of 14-2 for ten years.

         The Browns’ total gridiron domination was masterminded by their legendary coach, Paul Brown.  Brown had incredible success at every level that he coached.  He was 38 years old during the Browns’ first season in 1946, and had previously coached at the high school, collegiate, and military levels. He lost ten games in eleven seasons while coaching in his home town at Massillon Washington High School. At the collegiate level in 1942 he led Ohio State to their first national championship.  In 1945, with very little time to prepare, he coached the Great Lakes Naval Training Station Bluejackets to a 9-2-1 record and a ranking in the Top 20 of the Associated Press football poll, his only losses at the hands of Ohio State and Notre Dame.  The following year, with a roster decimated by discharges or transfers, Brown’s Bluejackets were 6-4-1, with one of the victories a 39-7 rout of Notre Dame. 

         As a pro football coach Brown was the master innovator and cared little if others saw him as a control freak.  He was the first to consistently scout opponents, study game film, and hire a full time staff of assistant coaches.  Also, thumbing his nose NFL teams, Brown invited running back Marion Motley to Cleveland.  After Motley's brilliant career in Cleveland was over he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame.   

         Brown’s approach to coaching was equally innovative.  Browns players were routinely tested on their playbook.  They wore a sport coat and tie when travelling on the road.  During the season no member of the Browns was allowed to smoke or drink alcohol, and players were also warned not to engage in sex after Tuesday nights until that week’s game was over.  When you look at how players Otto Graham, Dante Lavelli, Mac Speedie, “Special Delivery” Jones, Lou Groza, Frank Gatsby, and Don Paul thrived under Coach Brown’s guidance – it all worked.  

Perhaps the best measure of Brown’s greatness and influence, however, can be measured by looking at the success of his coaching disciples. Even a partial list is quite impressive: Blanton Collier, Weeb Ewbank, Don Shula, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Bill Parcells, Buddy Ryan, Mike Holmgren, Bill Belichick, and Jeff Fischer. Fourteen members of Brown’s “coaching tree” have taken teams to the Super Bowl.       

So the good citizens of Cleveland can be excused if the presence of new coach Mike Pettine doesn’t conjure up images of the team’s namesake, and they can be excused if new faces like Dante Whitner and Karlos Dansby don’t remind them of Jim Brown and Gene Hickerson. If all the new faces for 2014 fare no better than their 2013 predecessors, they can always drive to nearby Canton and relive the Browns’ years of glory. 

Charles Billington

March 12, 2014

 

 

A Turn-Back-The-Clock Season for Chicago: How 2013 Resembled 1948

posted Nov 5, 2013, 3:16 PM by Aaron Maass   [ updated Nov 7, 2013, 10:10 AM by charles billington ]

A TURN-BACK-THE-CLOCK SEASON FOR CHICAGO
 
How 2013 Resembled 1948
 
             As the baseball world focuses on the World Series, fans of the Chicago Cubs and White Sox are still trying to getget over a year they would rather forget.  The 2013 season in Chicago tied 1948 for the gold standard of futility, with both teams finishing last for the first time in 65 years.  If any baseball aficionado in the City of Big Shoulders thought they could clear their heads of six months of terrible baseball by watching the playoffs, the “ex-Cub and ex-Sox” factor seemed to rear its ugly head in too many postseason matchups to help them forget.  To see the likes of Scott Baker, David DeJesus, Sam Fuld, Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, and Jake Peavy playing deep into September hurts, and the pain will be excruciating if baseball’s clown prince, Ryan Dempster, plays a successful role for the Red Sox. Speaking of discomfort, in a matter of four weeks Theo Epstein fired a manager, was unable to sign the guy whose potential availability caused the firing, witnessed his successor in Boston get to the World Series, and experienced three teams from his division –two with much younger lineups—reach the playoffs. Cherington’s Red Sox lost over 90 games in 2012 and followed it up by going to the World Series.  Epstein’s Cubs lost over 90 games in 2012 and….lost over 90 games and finished in last place in 2013.  Is Theo Epstein related to Wid Matthews?  Just a thought; thus far their results are almost identical. On the other side of town nobody will ever mistake Rick Hahn for Frank Lane or Chuck Comiskey.  To help Chicago baseball fans become more adept at accepting futility, let us turn the clock back the year that “Dewey Beat Truman” and more closely examine the Cubs and Sox of 1948.
 
The 1948 Chicago Cubs

    The 1948 Chicago Cubs set a club record for most losses in a season, finishing in last place with a record of 64-90.  They finished 27.5 games behind the pennant winning Boston Braves, against whom they were 6-16 for the season. Of course the Cubs’ poor performance on the field did not have any effect on their popularity.  With every home game covered for the first time in history by WGN television, the Cubs drew 1,237,792 fans, fifth best in the National League.  This was a remarkable achievement for a team that was in last place for all but 15 days from the first of June until the end of the season.  At the start of 1948 owner Phil Wrigley and general manager Jim Gallagher were enthusiastic about the youth movement they had embarked upon to keep the Cubs competitive. The batting order and lineup in ’48 was as follows:

Hank Schenz, second base
 
Eddie Waitkus, first base

Hal Jeffcoat, center field

Andy Pafko, third base

Bill Nicholson, right field

Peanuts Lowrey, left field

Roy Smalley, shortstop

Bob Sheffing, catcher

 

      The Cubs lineup had seven legitimate hitters in Waitkus, Jeffcoat, Pafko, Nicholson, Lowrey, and Sheffing.  Waitkus hit .295 with 27 doubles and 11 stolen bases.  Jeffcoat, who would eventually become an effective National League pitcher, hit .279.  Pafko played 142 games at third base, a position he had never played before, and still hit .312 with 26 home runs, 30 doubles, and 104 RBI.  Pafko also made the All-Star team and finished hgh in National League MVP voting.  Nicholson’s average was only .261 but he had 19 homers and 26 doubles. Lowrey hit .294 and Scheffing hit .300, better than every catcher in the majors.
      
     Nicholson  provided one of the great thrills in Wrigley Field history in a game against the Cardinals when he got ahold of an Al Brazle fastball and just missed becoming the first player in history to hit the  center field scoreboard. His tremendous 550+ blast sailed just to the right of the middle of the scoreboard, bounced off the building at the southeast corner of Waveland and Sheffield, and then hit the hood of a southbouind automobile.  As the season progressed Phil Wrigley took note of how, regardless of the score, if Nicholson was going to be coming to bat in the late innings most of the crowd would hang around just to see him bat, even if they Cubs were bound to lose, and even though they were doomed to go nowhere in the standings.  As the years progressed, if the Cubs were bad, they still always seemed to have a slugger; Hank Sauer, Ernie Banks, later on Dave Kingman, Sammy Sosa…it’s funny how that worked.

             Unlike the offense, the pitching staff, with the exception of Johnny Schmitz, left a lot to be desired:

                                                                                     Johnny Schmitz, 18-12, 2.64

Russ Meyer, 10-10, 3.66

Dutch McColl, 4-13, 4.82

 
Hank  Borowy, 5-10, 4.89
 
Bob Rush, 5-11, 3.92
     Cub pitching highlights in 1948 were Schmitz and two isolated one-hit games. In addition to his sparkling numbers above, Schmitz pitched 18 complete games, his WHIP was only 1.169, and he led all major league pitchers in fewest hits per nine innings pitched.  Meyer, the “Mad Monk”, whose experiences, exploits, and social activities at the Sheridan Plaza Hotel became legendary, missed a
no-hitter in an April game against the Cardinals when a scratch grounder to Andy Pafko at third was ruled a hit.  Borowy, one of the heroes of the 1945 pennant who by 1948 was reaching the end of his career, threw a one-hitter against the Brooklyn Dodgers on the last day of August.  Borowy faced the minimum 27 batters because Gene Hermanski, who got the only hit, was thrown out by Scheffing when he tried to steal second.  To be fair, Cub hurlers were not helped by the fact that the team committed 186 errors, the highest total in the majors. 
 
    Almost everything else about the 1948 Cub season was a big disappointment. The much ballyhooed youth movement centered around Schenz, Smalley, outfielder Clarence Maddern, McColl, and Rush.  Schenz was replaced in the lineup early in the season by Emil Verban.  Smalley entered the majors as a highly touted power-hitting shortstop but posted a dismal .216 batting average, hit only four home runs, and had a league-high 34 errors at shortstop.  Maddern hit only four homers in 80 games and was quickly replaced by Peanuts Lowrey.  McColl set a club record with twelve consecutive losses.  Rush showed some promise, winning only five games but having many hard-luck losses and striking out nearly twice as many hitters as he walked.  Out of this quintet of youngsters only the tall, bespectacled Rsh would develop into a front-line major leaguer.
 
    On August 27 the Cubs, mired in last place 18 games behind Boston, eclipsed the one million mark in attendance.  Three days later Phil Wrigley took out a full page ad in all five Chicago newspapers, thanking the fans for their support, apologizing for the '48 rebuilding year being such a flop, vowing that Cub management did not just have an eye on attendance, and expressing a desire to build a winning team as badly as the fans wanted one.  He and general manager Jim Gallagher backed up the truck after the season, sending Borowy, Meyer, Nicholson, and Waitkus to the rapidly improving Philadelphia Phillies, and also dispatching veteran catcher Clyde McCullough to the PIttsburgh Pirates.  These trades made little difference, however.  The Cubs finished in last place in 1949 and in seventh in 1950. 
 
 
The 1948 Chicago White Sox 
 
    The penurious practices of  Grace Copmiskey and the utter incompetence of general manager Leslie O'Connor finally caught up with the White Sox organization in 1948.  As a consequence the team's harvest at the end of the year was a 51-101 record, good enough for last place, 44.5 games behind the pennant winning Cleveland Indians.  Sox fans stayed away from the ballpart at 35th and Shields in droves, with only 777,844 clicks of the turnstiles for the entire season, an 11% drop in attendance from 1947 and an alarming 21% drop from 1946.  Those that did show up at Comiskey usually saw the following lineup and batting order:
 
Don Kolloway, second base
 
Luke Appling, third base
 
Tony Lupien, first base
 
Pat Seery, left field
 
Cass Michaels, shortstop
 
Dave Philley, centerfield
 
Aaron Robinson, catcher
 
    As a team the '48 Sox batted .251,  seventh in the American League, managed  just 55 home runs, and scored only 588 runs, the  lowest totals in the majors.  Their leading hitter was the young Dave Philley, who hit a respectable .287.  Philley also led all major league centerfielders in assists (22) and double plays (6), these accomplishments occurring  in a season when Richie Ashburn, the DiMaggio brothers, Larry Doby, Johnny Groth, Andy Pafko, Bobby Thomson, and Duke Snider were patrolling the same position.  
 
    Whatever power the anemic Sox hitters could generate came mostly from Pat Seery, who had 18 round-trippers and provided Sox 
fans with the teams' most memorable offensive display in history.  On July 18, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics,  Seery became the first  Sox to hit four home runs in one game.  In the fourth inning he completely cleared the roof of Shibe Park's double-decked left field stands, and in the fifth the portly slugger hit another tape measure blast that bounced off that same roof. Seery batted again in the sixth and reached the back row in the upper deck of those same left field bleachers, becoming the first player in history to hit three home runs in three consecutive innings. In the eleventh Seery's fourth round-tripper reached the left field upper deck and became the eventual game-winning hit. Long forgotten today, Seery was kind of a post-war Adam Dunn.  During his career he hit an impressive 86 home runs in only 1,815 at bats, which averages out to about 30 per season, but he led all American League batters in strikeouts each of the four years he played, and had  a poor .224 lifetime batting average for his career.  Luke Appling led all Sox hitters in '48 with a .314 average and an impressive .423 on base percentage in what would be the second to last season in his Hall of Fame career.  
 
    The starting rotation in 1948, missing their ace Eddie Lopat for the first time in four seasons who went to New York in an ill-advised trade for Bill Wight, left a lot to be desired:
 
Bill Wight, 9-20, 4.80, 135 BB, 68 K
 
Joe Haynes, 9-10, 3.97, 60 BB, 49 K
 
Marino Pieretti, 8-10, 52 BB,  28 K
 
Randy Gumpert, 2-6, 3.97, 13 BB 31 K
 
    The first thing that jumps off the page with this group is that they walked 250 batters and struck out only 176. The entire Sox pitching staff walked 673 batters and struck out 403; Gumpert weas the only one of 16 pitchers manager Ted Lyons sent to the mound who ended the season with more strikeouts than walks.  
 
    Like the Cubs, the '48 White Sox were poor from the start of the season until the end of September. They went 6-20 in May, and as if to prove that they were not waiting for the warm weather to heat them up, finished the season 7-18 in September.  The Sox had a punishing 22 game road trip in July and went 5-17.  As soon as the season ended Jack Onslow replaced Lyons as manager, O'Connor was fired, Frank Lane took over as general manager, and 22-year-old Chuck Comiskey was named vice president.  Exactly one month after Lane came aboard, on November 10, 1948, Aaron Robinson was dispatched to Detroit for a crafty little lefty named Billy Pierce, and the go-go White Sox were conceived.  While the gestation took almost three more seasons, the White Sox were primed for the greatest decade in their history.  
 
+++++++++++++
 
    So what will it be for Chicago's heroes in 2014?  Will the history of  the 1948 era repeat itself for the Cubs, with another 19 seasons of stumbling in the wilderness before they once again become respectable? And will the Sox' failures of 2013 mark the start of a slow but intelligent rebuilding process, with fifteen years of success to follow?  For now let's just hope that Theo Epstein can sign no lesser an individual than his third choice for manager, and let's also hope that Rick Hahn can try to impersonate Frank Lane and learn how to  back up the truck.          
 
 
 
 

The 1984 Detroit Tigers: A Primer on How To Avoid Spring Fever

posted May 10, 2013, 10:21 AM by Aaron Maass   [ updated May 10, 2013, 4:27 PM by charles billington ]

            The 1984 Detroit Tigers:

A Primer on How To Avoid Spring Fever

 

            The Boston Red Sox should feel justifiably proud of the success they experienced in April 2013.  They ended the month with a record of 18-8, a .692 winning percentage, the best record in baseball.  Making the BoSox feel even better was the fact that their division rival Tampa Bay was under .500 and that Toronto and California were not even playing .400 ball, in spite of their limitless payrolls. It was nice to know that at least one team’s locker room would not echo with the hackneyed post-game clichés most teams use during the season’s first month:

 

“We’re not hitting, but the bats will come around when it warms up.”

 

“Our pitching will be fine. We just have to get in a good rotation after all these rainouts.”

 

“I like our team on the field! Our defense will be fine when it warms up.”

 

“Don’t blame me… I gotta use Carlos Marmol out of the bullpen.”

 

              

Time to introduce perhaps the greatest “April team” of all time, the legendary1984 Detroit Tigers. It might be true that you cannot win a pennant in April, but if you play .900 ball the first month of the season it makes it pretty difficult to lose the pennant in any of the months that follow.  In April 1984 manager Sparky Anderson’s pride of Tigers went 18-2.  They were five and a half games in first place at the end of the month, having outscored their opponents 120-63.  The Tigers started the year winning their first nine games, losing their tenth (to Brett Saberhagen and the Kansas City Royals), and then winning their next seven. On Thursday, April 26 they were an unearthly 16-1.  Their success came against six different teams: Minnesota, Chicago,Texas, Boston, Kansas City, and Cleveland.  The lineup:

 

Lou Whittaker, second base

Kirk Gibson, right field

Darrell Evans, DH

Lance Parrish, catcher

Jim Herndon, left field

Howard Johnson, third base

Alan Trammell, shortstop

Chet Lemon, center field

Dave Bergman, first base

Starting Pitchers: 

Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Milt Wilcox, and Juan Berenguer

 

            As if to prove their April success was legitimate, the Tigers proceeded to go 17-3 over their next twenty games, setting a record at 35-5 on Thursday, May 24, 1984.  As the year progressed Jack Morris threw a no-hitter, Dave Bergman ended a 14-pitch at bat with a walk-off home run, reliever Willie Hernandez won the Cy Young and the MVP, and they became one of the few teams in history to occupy first place for an entire season. Oh, in case anybody forgot: they trounced the San Diego Padres to win the World Series. 

 

So who knows, maybe you can win the pennant in April.

Charlotte is Helped by an Act of Providence

posted Mar 13, 2013, 4:45 PM by Aaron Maass   [ updated Mar 19, 2013, 6:10 PM by charles billington ]

Charlotte Is Helped

By An

    Act of Providence        

             The purpose of this writing is to help the fans of the Charlotte Bobcats not feel so bad about having the worst record in the NBA for the umpteenth year in a row and once again being assured of missing the playoffs.  Not because suddenly there is light at the end of their dismal tunnel or because the tea leaves indicate that the 2013 NBA draft will set them free.  Perhaps their loyal fans will feel better if they are reminded that while the grass can sometimes appear greener on the other side, if you look back in time it can also look much browner. Take comfort, Bobcats followers, in knowing that the 1947-48 Providence Steam Rollers had the brownest basketball grass of all time.

             The Steam Rollers finished the second of their three seasons of existence with a record of (un-drum roll) 6-42.  That’s six wins and forty-two defeats, for a winning percentage of exactly .125.  There were seven other teams in the Basketball Association of America that year.  The standings looked like this:

 

      Eastern Division                           Western Division

Philadelphia Warriors        27-21    .563                       St. Louis Bombers     29-19   .604

New York Knicks              26-22    .542                       Baltimore Bullets       28-20   .583

Boston Celtics                  20-28    .417                       Chicago Stags           28-20  .583

Providence Steam Rollers  6-42     .125                       Wash. Capitals          28-20   .583

                         {Baltimore took the title by besting Philadelphia, 4-2}           
 

             What’s fascinating about the league standings is how balanced all the teams- except for the Rhode Island franchise—are. Only nine games separate the Boston Celtics, who finished with the second-worst record, from the St. Louis Bombers, who finished with the best. If we take the 20-28 Celtics out of the standings, the entire league finished above .500! So while the Steam Rollers got little appreciation or respect from their Providence followers, fans in the rest of the league should have been eternally grateful they were as bad as they were.

              To be fair, the Providence cagers were not without their season highlights.  Point guard Ernie Calverley, the pride of the University of Rhode Island  at 5’10” and 145 pounds, had 119 assists in 47 games, good enough for second in the league (behind the Warriors’ Howie Dallmar, who had 120).  Pop Goodwin had a .704 free throw percentage.  Swing guard Kenny Sailors and Giant George Nostrand added some geographic diversity to the roster by calling the University of Wyoming their alma mater.  If anyone else has more highlights of Providence’s ’47-48 campaign, please email or telephone at your convenience.  Just to prove the season was not a fluke, the Rollers rolled over and played dead at the end of the campaign, mailing it in on January 31, 1948, when they proceeded to lose 18 of their last 19 games. Has any other basketball team ever gone 0 for February and March?  With a season ending like that, nobody worried whether they affixed enough postage.

              So take heart, Bobcats followers. Sixty-five years ago, somebody had it worse than you do.


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