A Piece of Piffle

May 2, 2019
I was idly trying to trace a clever bit I’d passed along here a few years back,  the story that when 1969 Met Ed Charles had hit a HR, one of his teammates exulted after the game "Never throw a slider to the Glider!" I figured "How many HRs could Charles possibly have hit in 1969, anyway?" (Answer: 3.) The Mets’ 3b-men in 1969 were among the worst of all time for a championship team, the weakest link on a very weak offense, Old Man Charles and weak-stick rookies Wayne Garrett and Bobby Pfeil, so I thought it would be easy to trace the exact game in which the fatal slider was thrown to the Glider, and try to track the quote down from there.
 

According to Charles’ SABR bio (https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/8fb2e85c ) the phrase was invented by Jerry Koosman but in honor of a double that Charles hit on June 2, 1969, which isn’t quite as good a hit or a story as a home run, but it was a place to start. Unfortunately, Ed Charles himself gave the lie to that version, crediting Mets play-by-play guy Bob Murphy with the phrase: "When I was on Kiner’s Korner," Charles said in DOWN ON THE KORNER: RALPH KINER AND KINER’S KORNER, "the question was raised as to what pitch did I hit for a home run off of Juan Marichal, and I just would always answer ‘ a slider’ no matter what the pitch was. The next thing I know Bob Murphy, the play by play man, picked it up and he started saying ‘Never throw a slider to the glider’ and it just took off." The website The 7 Line, https://the7line.com/blogs/the-7-line/rip-the-glider, confirms this version explicitly:

Though he was known for his glove, Charles once appeared on Kiner's Korner after hitting a home run off Juan Marichal and told Ralph Kiner that the pitch he knocked out of the park was a slider. From there, Kiner’s broadcast partner, Bob Murphy, coined the phrase: "Never throw a slider to The Glider."

Honestly, the turn of phrase sounds much more like Bob Murphy, who was a smooth-tongued devil,  than Jerry Koosman. I think that Koosman maybe coined the not-entirely-complimentary nickname "The Glider," and Murphy came up with the rhyme. Since Marichal was a Mets-killer, it shouldn’t be too tough to locate the game where Ed Charles zinged him for that HR, and it wasn’t. It was a July 4th game, in 1967, the first time that the Mets ever defeated Marichal, after 5 ½ years of facing him and 19 consecutive Marichal victories.

I’m sure that this was a huge joyous memorable moment in my young Met-fan history, a literal Giant-killer moment, though I have no recollection of the game, or of that July 4th particularly, though I know exactly where I was, listening to Murphy and Kiner and Lindsay Nelson on the radio in the Catskills.  Since it was a day game and radio waves only reached the Catskills at night, though, I doubt I even heard this game.  It was a close game, but by no means a pitching duel, as the Mets scored 8 runs off Marichal and eked out an 8-7 win.

As I reviewed the boxscore, it occurred to me that I had some tidbit of memory for every single player in both teams’ lineups, even the scrubbies and the relievers, in that game, which reminded me of how closely I followed baseball in those days. For most of the players, I have reams of memory, of course, but I can free-associate at least two coherent thoughts for each of them (and a clear mental picture for all but two of them).

Jesus Alou LF-RF  He would twist his neck like a contortionist before and during every at bat. Very squeamish player, according to Jim Bouton, who was his teammate on the 1969-70 Astros.

Tom Haller C  Why would he be batting 2nd? Huge guy, slow runner, brother of an AL ump.

Willie Mays CF Bladder-burster: No one ever took a bathroom break when he was up. Greatest I ever saw.

Jim Ray Hart 3B-LF  Overshadowed in his rookie year in 1964 by even-greater rookie 3B man Richie Allen, his rival in AAA in 1963. No glove-man. Drinker?

Willie McCovey 1B Shortest ROTY season ever, took him almost a decade to get 1B to himself.  Three fabulous ROTY candidates batting 3-4-5 here.

Ollie Brown RF  A gun to rival Clemente’s. Giants let him go to Padres in expansion draft after 1968.

                Ron Herbel P Later a Met, led NL in appearances as a Met and Padre. Terrible hitter.

                Norm Siebern PH Won GG as Yankee LFer in 1950s. Swapped for Roger Maris and later for Jim Gentile, both of whom were better players but not by very much.

                Bob Schroder PR-2B, Total glove guy, useless as a hitter. Good Peanuts character.

Hal Lanier, SS-2B, Same as Schroder, only he eked out a long MLB career without offensive skills. Giants were crippled by middle infielders’ woeful bats. Later lemon-sucking Houston mgr.

Ty Cline PH  Much-touted defensive CFer coming up, failed as an Indian prospect, a Cub prospect, a Braves prospect. Briefly a regular for the Braves.

Bill Henry P Old guy when he pitched in 1961 Series for the Reds against the Yankees. Played another decade after that.

Frank Linzy P Wore glasses. Star potential early in his career, sub-2 ERA several times, spectacular Strat card.

Tito Fuentes 2B Flashy player, never walked, another offensive hole in SF middle infield.

Dick Groat PH-SS MVP for 1960 Pirates, basketball star at Duke, hanging on by his fingernails by now.

Juan Marichal P  Greatest debut game ever? Vs. Phillies, maybe? Out-won Koufax, Gibson, but no CY Awards.

Jim Davenport, 3B Fabulous glove guy at 3B, shoulda played him at SS more after Hart came up?

 

 

Bud Harrelson SS  Skinny as hell, zero power, not bad OBP. Mets shoulda stuck him in the 8 hole, however, and put Garrett at the head of the lineup.

Larry Stahl CF Got him from KC. Another great white hope for Mets’ CF who couldn’t cut it. A corner OFer who played CF for them out of desperation. Sometimes mixed him up with Larry Elliot, another would-be OFer whom they traded to KC to get Ed Charles.

                Cleon Jones PH-CF  His natural position was LF, or better yet DH. Very inarticulate fellow, toyed briefly with superstardom, but was his own worst enemy, had run-ins with managers Hodges and Berra.

Tommy Davis LF  Mets’ best hitter at the time, a shadow of his former Dodger self. Busted ankle in ’65 destroyed his superstardom.

Tommie Reynolds LF Another KC OF reject, as I recall. Lowest moment came when he had to emergency-catch after hothead Grote got thrown out of a game, cost the Mets the game by his inability to catch.

Ed Kranepool 1B Very high opinion of himself, basically a teenager in MLB who never tried to ratchet up skills, just coasted on natural talent. All-Star at 21 or so, never again. Heavy legs even as a kid.

Ron Swoboda RF Best first month of MLB I can remember, tied Mays for NL lead in HRs, and then very little power for the rest of his career. Worst fielding CFer I ever saw.

Ed Charles 3B In the Braves minor leagues for a decade, a star with KC, and briefly when the Mets got him, a fabulous pickup until he quickly got very very old. Best line I ever heard about him: "Ed Charles shoulda caught that ball? RAY Charles coulda caught it!"

Jerry Buchek 2B  Got him from Cards. The Mets gave him a chance to show his stuff. No stuff to show.

Jerry Grote C   Hothead, hustler, red ass. Great fielding catcher, handler of pitchers, weak stick but got off to hot starts a few times and so made some all-star teams.

Jack Fisher P Fat Jack. Probably Mets best starter before Seaver, him or Al Jackson. Usually around the plate, gave up HRs plenty, low K but innings-eater. One of the Orioles’ Baby Birds of the early 1960s, him, Chuck Estrada, Steve Barber, all flameouts.

                Ron Taylor P—Also from Cards, engineering degree, later an MD for Blue Jays, I think. Canadian. Mets’ closer in ’69 despite Tug McGraw on staff.

                Don Shaw P —kid pitcher whom Mets GM Don Grant loved, for some odd reason. Couldn’t actually pitch.

                Hal Reniff P   Porky.  Porque? Pickup from Yanks, got off to a hot start including this game which he closed out by getting Mays to hit into a DP and Hart to ground out.

 

Usually, this is just a private exercise in nostalgia but a few thoughts emerged here.  I’d considered the 1960s Giants as unusually unbalanced for long stretches, but with the same recurring problem: a great hitting team in OF and 1B, 3B and C but awful at 2B and SS, which was very costly since the Giants spent the decade finishing in second place to somebody after somebody.  My solution, in making the observations above, is simple: start Davenport at short and Hart at 3B every day,  and with a late-inning lead, move Davenport to 3B, where he was a Gold Glove-type fielder, and put Lanier in at SS. Easy to say in retrospect, I know, but also kinda obvious. Their only successful season in the 1960s was their NL championship year where they played Chuck "Dr. No" Hiller at 2B—Hiller was a pure offensive player, so what did they say after that championship? "That sure worked out with a decent hitting, lousy fielding middle infielder, so let’s not try that ever again?"

There is a problem with the play-by-play account on Baseball-reference.com, I think, not the first such problem I’ve noticed: the p-b-p seems to suggest the Giants made four outs in the 9th inning. They credit Haller with a "Fielder's Choice /Sacrifice Bunt; Alou to 2B"  which says to me that he sacrificed Jesus to second base but got thrown out himself, but then he’s credited with being on first base for Mays to ground into a 6-3 DP.   Is that right? Shouldn’t Haller be credited with a hit, or some Mets’ fielder with an error, if Haller tries to bunt J. Alou along but instead winds up on first himself? How is that a "fielder’s choice"? If the fielder doesn’t nab Haller, isn’t that a "poor fielder’s choice" i.e., an error? Why isn’t every hit a "fielder’s choice," in the sense that it’s only a hit because the fielder chose not to stand exactly where the ball was hit? I don’t get that. Maybe it’s me.

1960s leadoff strategies are baffling. Jesus Alou had a long-standing reputation as a guy who simply refused to take a walk (138 BB in 4577 PA), like Tito Fuentes, so why the Giants persisted in batting them at the top of the order is a puzzler. "Oddly," Alou’s SABR bio says, "the Giants used Alou as their primary leadoff hitter. As manager Herman Franks explained, Alou’s swinging and missing at so many bad pitches made him a bad hit-and-run guy, so he didn’t like him up with men on base. ‘So,’ said Franks, ‘the leadoff position is where he can do the least harm and definitely the most good.’"  Definitely.

The Mets, and every other team, did likewise. Harrelson could take a walk but he hit so little that he had a lifetime OBP of only .327, meaning that he didn’t really belong in the leadoff spot either. (Still, a bunch higher than Alou's .305.) Wayne Garrett, who as stated had a pretty bad rookie year offensively, eventually would be a good OBP guy, which the Mets refused to take advantage of. (Only one quarter of Garrett’s career PAs came in the leadoff spot, while he accumulated a .350 OBP and the Mets were desperate for a leadoff man.)

I cheated a little bit on Buchek—really couldn’t remember him very clearly, and was hard-pressed to come up with two bits about him. Also Schroder, I suppose.

As to Fat Jack, whom the Mets got from the Giants in exchange for nothing, I believe, I never knew what to make of him. Was he a mediocrity who put up some decent numbers by sheer dint of not getting injured and the Mets not having any better pitchers to replace him with, or was he a pretty decent pitcher saddled with a terrible offense? I’m always surprised to find him pitching a lot of pretty impressive games against first-line pitching and losing a bunch of close ones. He had some godawful W-L records with the Mets. Deservedly or not, pitchers get saddled with the won-lost record, and I’m pretty sure that if Fisher had stayed with the Giants and their fabulous offense, some of his 200+ IP seasons with the Mets from 1964-7 would have looked pretty good. (Checking:  Yup, Giants gave him up for nothing, in a "special" draft after 1963.) I’d like to have seen as him a back-of-the-rotation guy for the mid-1960s Giants, and so would he have.

I loved Donnie Shaw, too, possibly the only point I saw eye to eye with M. Donald Grant about. Probably I just bought the hype but sometimes you just fixate on a player and root for him beyond the point of reason.

As to this epochal game, The NY Times headline is "Giant Ace Routed in Four-run Sixth," but actually they got to Marichal early, too, or his own defense did. He got the first two Mets out in the bottom of the first inning, and then got the third Met, Tommy Davis, to hit a grounder to the third baseman, Jim Ray Hart, which was an error. A two-base error—Hart apparently overthrew the first baseman, which was hard to do since the first baseman, Stretch McCovey, was bigger than most houses, but at that point Marichal seemed to fall apart: he gave up four straight singles, and three straight runs, none of them scored as "earned," on account of Jim Ray Hart’s bad arm. That still doesn’t seem right to me, that Marichal’s ERA doesn’t reflect the fact that four Mets stroked clean singles off him yet his ERA didn’t budge a smidge.

After the Giants tied the game, and The Glider gave the Mets the lead back by hitting his HR off a non-slider, the Mets then racked up 5 hits and two walks in the bottom of the sixth, knocking Marichal out of the game.

Although the Mets got 14 hits off him, a personal career high for Marichal, he was lucky in some ways: Mays’ arm got him out of a jam in the fifth inning, just before the dam burst. Ed Charles had singled with two outs, and then Buchek singled—Charles made the mental error of testing Mays’ arm, with predictable results: BBREF has this play as "Single to CF; Charles out at 3B/CF-3B-1B-C-3B-P," which I’d like to see. You’d think a vet like Charles would know better than to go first-to-third on him, but that’s a pretty crazy play. Mays throws to Hart at third, who throws to McCovey, who throws to Haller, who throws to Hart again, and Marichal lays the tag on Charles. Was Buchek trying to advance, too? Or did the ball get away from somebody? Normally, Mays throwing out Charles at 3B would be scored a simple 8-5, not 8-5-3-2-5-1. I feel like Danny Kaye here.

This was the high point, maybe, of some Met careers—Charles’ go-ahead HR off Marichal must have been a thrill for the newly-acquired 3b-man, and Reniff must have seemed like a godsend to Mets manager Wes Westrum: they’d gotten him from the Yankees on July 1, and he’d racked up two wins and this save in his first three appearances, after which he plummeted back to earth. By early September his MLB career was over. For Larry Stahl, in 8 games between July 1 and July 13th, he was their regular starting CFer, batting .417 with an 1.023 OPS in that stretch, and the Mets won 6 out of the 8 games he played in.  Of such small things, our dreams are made.

 
 

COMMENTS (22 Comments, most recent shown first)

Steven Goldleaf
Mrs. Payson, LesLein, not Mrs. Grant. Mrs Grant is the one buried with the General on Riverside Drive.

BTW, Donald Grant was NOT the Mets' GM, but rather the President or CEO or something.​
6:50 AM May 7th
 
LesLein
Kranepool was a favorite of Mrs. Grant. He didn’t have to worry about being cut.

Jesus Alou was involved in a bad outfield collision in 1969 and had to be rescued after swallowing his tongue. That may explain his squeamishness.
10:00 AM May 6th
 
Steven Goldleaf
You may be on to something, Rich, about Lanier's career arc, esp. as compared with Schroder's or other no-hit guys. His rookie season BA (.274, I believe), empty of walks and power as it is, may have gotten him chances that he really didn't deserve. Did the Giants think, "If he can hit .270, and field like he does, we'll' take it," only he never did again? Possible.

2:23 AM May 3rd
 
MarisFan61
Well, I wouldn't be offended :-) if such a thing were scored as a hit, but I see no problem and think it's better how it is.

I would be 'offended' if it were scored an error.

I see your point about it being considered an error; I just don't agree with it. I see a wide difference, in various respects, between that kind of play by a fielder and the things that are considered errors.

Mind you, it's not that I think the guidelines for scoring and not scoring a play an error are great. Main thing: It never should have been a thing that if you don't touch the ball you can't get an error. (Not sure that's an ironclad thing but it's at least close.)
Granted, if you could get an error when you don't touch the ball, scoring of errors would become hugely harder and far more controversial.
9:23 PM May 2nd
 
Steven Goldleaf
Yes, I think he should be credited with a hit. Batters who "sacrifice" bunt aren't deliberately trying to make an out, they're trying to get a hit but are willing to accept moving the runner along while being out themselves as a consequence. If they reach base, and no one commits an error, they should get a hit.

My next preference is that the fielder who fails to get anyone out on a bunt that the scorer can't credit the batter with a hit must get an error.

My final preference is what seems to happen in such circumstances.
8:00 PM May 2nd
 
Rich Dunstan
Ah, Hal Lanier. I was a big fan at the time. He batted .270 his rookie year and played second base like an octopus, and I thought he was great; his batting average went down after that but I kept expecting it to come back up, and I didn't value power enough, or walks at all, to realize what an offensive zero he was. But boy, those weekly highlight films!
6:27 PM May 2nd
 
MarisFan61
What do you mean, didn't sacrifice a thing?
He was trying to get the guy to 2nd, and he did.
And he was 'sacrificing" the opportunity to swing away!

Even if you consider that last thing to be too much of a mere conceptual pun, I don't understand why one wouldn't happily accept it being scored as a sacrifice. I mean, what else do you want? You want him to get credit for a hit? You want it to be a reached-on-error which would charge him with a hitless at-bat, which would be WORSE THAN if the fielder threw to 1st and he was out?

When anything other than how something is makes much less sense than how the thing is, how can you have a problem with how it is?
6:26 PM May 2nd
 
Steven Goldleaf
And in answer to my (non-)rhetorical question, the box score does credit him with a sacrifice hit. Which I think is weird since he didn't sacrifice a thing. If only he could get credited with a HR whenever he tried to hit a homerun.
5:24 PM May 2nd
 
Steven Goldleaf
You may be right about Haller, wilbur. It may be a Brian-Downing-kinda thing, "What are you batting this huge muscle-bound side of beef at the top of the order for, so he can clog up the basepaths and ensure that Willie Mays never can advance more bases than he can?" the answer to which is, he ain't THAT slow, he's not going to be exactly one base ahead of Mays all the time, and he takes some walks.

Haller's OBP was about where Bud Harrelson's was, high .320s, low .330s. It wasn't a turrible mistake to bat him #2, just weird-looking.
4:31 PM May 2nd
 
wilbur
Love these 60's-based essays.

I believe Tom Haller batted second regularly for the Giants in 1966. He may have some in other seasons too. I thought it was one of the smarter things the Giants did.

The Giants in those years generally had four outstanding everyday players (Mays, McCovey, Hart, Haller or Bonds) and four who were terrible, at least offensively. That they couldn't adequately fill the corner outfield spots year after year - especially with the guys they tried - was a puzzler.
3:39 PM May 2nd
 
MarisFan61
It feels right to me....

(The only thing that doesn't feel right is including force outs in "Fielder's Choice. :-)
Although, I suppose it's kinda like including Perfect Games in "No Hitters" -- but we never really say "no hitter" for a perfect game unless we slip up.)
3:18 PM May 2nd
 
Steven Goldleaf
I suppose I just stubbornly don't get the scoring there, Maris. If the scorer feels that the batter would have been out if the fielder had done the normal thing and thrown to first on a sac bunt, but he threw to second base in a misguided and greedy attempt to get the lead runner instead, and got no one, it gets scored the same as a successful sac bunt? Seems to me the fielder should be penalized for his poor judgment, rather than getting a pass on the foolish throw. He made an error, a mental error, in allowing an extra baserunner to reach base, and that baserunner needs to be accounted for. ​
3:14 PM May 2nd
 
Steven Goldleaf
Decided to look up how many SEASONS Ted Williams had more walks than Jesus Alou had in his career, 138. Turns out Williams walked more than 138 times in six seasons, plus one at 136.
3:08 PM May 2nd
 
MarisFan61
I don't understand the confusion or problem.

"Fielder's choice/Sac bunt" means (usually if not always) that the fielder tried to get the force, the runner was safe, and the scorer feels it's clear that if the throw had gone to 1st, the batter would have been out.

It is, I think, the only kind of example where a "fielder's choice" isn't a charged at-bat -- because it's a sacrifice.​
3:00 PM May 2nd
 
Steven Goldleaf
OK, Haller is credited in the box score with going 2-for-3 and a walk. He got a double in the first, a walk in the third, a flyout in the fifth, and a single in the eighth, so this at-bat in the ninth is just--nothing in the books?
2:55 PM May 2nd
 
MarisFan61
(Sorry, let me try that first part again, with the italicizing brackets done right..)


I had thought that it was for any play that's not a hit or error (and seemingly clearly the batter wouldn't have gotten on if the fielder threw to 1st base) where the batter reaches base and it's not a force out.
Turns out it also includes force outs.
2:51 PM May 2nd
 
MarisFan61
"Fielder's Choice" is one of my pet peeve linguistic annoyances.

I had thought that it was for any play that's not a hit or error (and seemingly clearly the batter wouldn't have gotten on if the fielder threw to 1st base) where the batter reaches base [i]and it's not a force out.]/i]
Turns out it also includes force outs.

If it didn't -- if it were the unique thing that I originally thought it was -- I think it's less likely you (or anyone) would have had any confusion or misunderstanding about it.

(I should talk -- I had a misunderstanding about it for over 50 years before I gathered that force outs are also within the definition.)

Why include force outs?
Wouldn't it make more sense for it to just mean things [i]besides[/i] force outs where the runner reaches base but wouldn't have if the fielder hadn't made the 'choice' to throw to a different base?
2:50 PM May 2nd
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks, guys, for trying to clear up my misunderstanding about the fielder's choice. I should compare the box score to the p-b-p to see what that scoring means: does Haller get charged with an at-bat there? He can't be charged with making an out, since no out is recorded, and he can't be credited with getting a hit, because he didn't. So what the hell? I always thought that plate appearances had to result in hits, or errors, or outs, or walks, of HBPs. Who holds the record for most "fielder's choices"? Fewest? Never heard of it.

If someone tries to sac bunt, and the fielders all decide to let it go foul, but it doesn't, as sometimes happens, isn't that scored as a base hit? Why not a fielder's choice? The fielder is making a choice there too, isn't he? I always thought a fielder's choice meant that the fielder chose to throw to one base rather than another, but that he got an out somewhere. Now I'm learning that he doesn't need to get an out, only to make a choice, however flawed? How does that show up in the boxscore? I'll want to look at that.

In other news, I don't want to be blaming Ed Charles for getting thrown out running first-to-third. The bottom of the order was coming up, there were two outs, and maybe Buchek's single was hit especially deep. It's just that: Willie Mays? Ya tried to run on Willie?
2:34 PM May 2nd
 
MarisFan61
Now you'll have a thing on Buchek: :-)

I went to Game 3 of the '64 World Series, the first New York home game (as I sort of always did then, if there were home games on the weekend). I came early so I could buy a ticket at the gate before the game. (Yeah, you could do that then. Bleacher seats, $2.00, for the World Series, at the gate on game day.)
Since I was so early (and the bleachers were just general seating), I was able to be in the front row.

Also since I was so early and since I made obeisances to being a serious student, I had a textbook with me. During BP and infield and outfield drills, I'm sitting there reading my textbook, occasionally talking with the Cardinal fans who had come from St. Louis sitting next to me, but mostly reading my textbook.

So then, out of the corner of my eye I sort of see a player running along the warning track and a ball floating at me. The player saw me with my eyes down at the book and thought it would be fun to flip a ball to me, or, more accurately, at me. I think it hit me in the lap, or in the book :-) ....anyway someone else wound up with it. I asked if they knew who it was who flipped the ball:
"Jerry Buchek."
12:56 PM May 2nd
 
steve161
MichaelPat: he didn't beat the tag, he beat the force play. But I agree with you: it's not an error, it's quite literally a fielder's choice.

Likewise the other case you cite: no error is charged, any more than there would be if the runner from third had been out at home and the runner on first advanced to second.
12:53 PM May 2nd
 
steve161
In the only game I ever saw at Shea Stadium, 26 Aug 1965, the Mets beat Sandy Koufax for the first time.

Retrosheet: https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1965/B08260NYN1965.htm

Steven, where were you?
12:46 PM May 2nd
 
MichaelPat
That was fun.... thanks.

On the fielder's choice - sacrifice bunt thing, why does there have to be an error or a hit? I assume the fielder made a good throw to second, fielded cleanly by whoever was covering, and the runner just made a good play to beat the tag.
I guess you could give the fielder an error for choosing to throw to second, but then there is this:
Runners on first and third, one out, batter hits a medium fly to the OF. Fielder (not either Cecil) overthrows cutoff man and just misses nabbing the runner at home. Should he get an error because the man on first advanced to second?
12:36 PM May 2nd
 
 
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