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Hi Bill, With Hall of Fame results being announced tomorrow, it is looking more and more like we’re on the precipice of our first HOF shutout since 1960.  Meanwhile, some players will continue making strides toward the magic 75% including Billy Wagner whose case seems to be based on, "he’s as good as or better than (insert HOF reliever here)".  Witnessing the evolution of sabermetrics and advanced analytics of the last 40 years, do you feel the tools used to measure value generally underestimate the value of relievers or are people just conveniently ignoring that, for example, Johan Santana career was more valuable than Billy Wagner?  
Thanks for the recent articles on relievers.  They were excellent.  
Asked by: ForeverRoyal

Answered: 1/26/2021
 When people give you two options, do you believe A or B, it is almost always the case that neither one represents what I believe.  


To your excellent short description of Warren Spahn, I have one correction and one additional note:  
The correction is that Spahn's 35 homers are not the most of any pitcher. Wes Farrell hit 38, and it may be that somebody like Earl Wilson hit 36 or 37. So he's not the record-holder, but he's not far off.  
The addition is my favorite stat involving Spahn, which kind of ties in with your story about him still full of energy after that 16-inning game: He led the National League in complete games seven years in a row ... from ages 36 to 42.
Asked by: BobGill

Answered: 1/26/2021


Re your comment about Warren Spahn being a WW II here.  He was in an engineering battalion during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and was involved in the crossing of the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine River into Germany in 1945, where he was wounded in the foot.  A secondary bridge that he was working on collapsed just after he got off it.   I read somewhere that he said something like, after experiencing what he did in the war, having runners on first and third was no big deal.  
Asked by: Marc Schneider

Answered: 1/26/2021
 Thanks.  That was a really good movie that failed--A Bridge Too Far.  


Hey Bill,  
For the one who asked about information on Spahn, could you include a picture of his high leg kick (which he shared with Marichal)? I found a couple of good ones, but can't find a way to attach them. Thanks.  
Asked by: bobroyster

Answered: 1/26/2021
 The Anniversary of One of Greatest Pitching Duels Ever! Spahn vs. Marichal,  July 2, 1963 - Baseball History Comes Alive!


Bill: Re wovenstrap's Warren Spahn question from yesterday ("I wonder if you could do a quick sketch of Spahn as a pitcher for those of us who don't remember him"), I very much recommend Jim Kaplan's The Greatest Game Ever Pitched. You get a detailed account of the Spahn-Marichal 16-inning game, but it also serves as a parallel biography of both pitchers.
Asked by: Phil Dellio

Answered: 1/26/2021
 Haven't read it.  Thanks.  


Regarding team names, the really strange one is the Golden State Warriors. You don’t see the Badger State Brewers or the Peach State Braves.
Asked by: PB

Answered: 1/26/2021
 They were originally going to call themselves the California Moral Philosophers. 


Hey Bill,  
To answer wdr1946's question about chess being a sport, as a former chess tournament player I have no doubt it is. The nervous energy you play in calculating chess variations is unbelievable. I felt far more exhausting playing just one game of tournament chess than five sets of tennis.  
Check this article out from espn.  
Asked by: patzeram

Answered: 1/26/2021
 The interaction between mental and physical energy is an interesting topic.   I'm not sure that saying "mental activity it physical activity, too!!" is either (a) accurate, or (b) necessary.   I would accept chess as a sport without any consideration of whether some jackass loses weight while doing it.  You lose weight while sleeping, too.  
This issue has always interested me, based on my own experience.  Sometimes at 11 PM I am physically very tired, ready to sleep, but working on something, some baseball problem, so I stay up and write or stay up and do my research.   Once everything around me goes quiet and I can focus on my work, i get a burst of mental energy, not physical energy, but I am alert and focused on my work, and stay that way until the sun comes up and people around me start to move around and distract me.  This has happened to me many hundreds of times, and I always wonder how it is that I have the energy to do this when I was exhausted 8 hours earlier.  Mental energy and physical energy, to me, are just different things.  Making mental energy into a subset of physical energy (a) does not seem convincing, to me, and (b) DIMINISHES the significance of mental energy, rather than adding significance to it.  


archieleach said "[s]eeing your grandfather's name in a local newspaper box score would be very cool". You replied that you were thrilled to find your great-grandfather's name in a Kansas history book.  
On our honeymoon in Scotland, my wife and I visited the farm where her ancestors lived and the village where mine lived before they came to Canada. My (I think) 6x Great Grandfather's and 5x Great Grandmother's gravestone is in the village churchyard. While watching Chariots of Fire last year, I realized one of the scenes was in the churchyard and was very excited their gravestone was visible.
Asked by: bewareofdow

Answered: 1/26/2021
 Thanks.  Chariots of Fire was a terrific movie until they ran the theme song into the ground.  Then nobody could stand it anymore.  


I always thought your description of Warren Spahn's career in the first Historical Baseball Abstract was particularly memorable. A partial quote: "Spahn had as many twenty-victory seasons as Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver, combined. His career won-lost record is about the same as Don Drysdale's and Sandy Koufax's - added together. And there are many nine man pitching staffs which, added together, will not approach his career win total.  
He did not do this on some dusty shelf of forgotten history, in circumstances of reduced strain and imbalanced teams. He went head to head with Musial, Mays, Snider, Koufax; there are players still active in 1985 who played against him. Before he started this work, he had to fight a war; he was twenty five years old before he won a major league game."
Asked by: cummerow@fuse.net

Answered: 1/26/2021


Hi Bill:  
Thanks for this site. Trying to reacquaint myself with the game (Abstracts incl.) after a post-'94 hiatus from MLB. Much catching up to do, incl.  
1) Early on in Phil Esposito's 2003 autobio (first page of introduction), he mentions he had elbow-to-knee ligament transplant surgery in early spring of '73, something similar to Tommy John surgery, it seems. Was that type of surgery around well before John's '74 operation, Dr. Jobe then just found a willing case study and perfected it, do you know? I was under impression John's operation was a radical, Frankenstein-like first of its kind...  
2) In one of your later Abstracts (1988, maybe?), I believe you wrote an essay on the wisdom, pragmatism, etc. -- partially of Buck Rodgers' -- of focusing on finding potential 10-12 game winners for a compromised pitching staff when 17+ game winners are nowhere to be found. Something like that, if memory serves. Can you point me in the right direction?  
Dan N.
Asked by: D.Nicholls

Answered: 1/26/2021
 Good to have you with us.   All I know about Dr. Jobe's operation is what I read in Tommy John's autobiography, which gives the impression that it was an experimental operation which had a high probability of failing.   I have no knowledge of the issue beyond that.  


Pretty silly thoughts, but...The Florida Marlins became the Miami Marlins and the California Angels became the Los Angeles Angels/Anaheim/etc, yet the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins thrive. Do you sense any difficulty in a professional franchise representing an entire state or region from a fan base perspective? Colleges seem to have an easier time—the Cornhuskers are Nebraska’s team and Ohio is for Buckeyes, but it could never be the Ohio Reds. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but watching the Marlins and Angels switch seems like branding a whole state is no sure bet.
Asked by: rossbtaylor

Answered: 1/26/2021
 1)  It's probably easier to use the state name if you have less competition.  The California Angels was troublesome because you have four other major league baseball teams in the state.  
2)  It's not an INHERENT problem.  The Colorado Rockies are not the Denver Rockies; we don't even notice.   The Tennesee Titans are not the Memphis Titans; nobody even notices.   If you put a team in Indianapolis and called them the Indiana whatever, nobody would pay much attention.   But if you put a team in Columbus and called them the Ohio Whatsis, that would be a challenge.  


My favorite Warren Spahn quote:  "Hitting is about timing.  Pitching is about DISRUPTING timing."  Pretty good Job Description.  
Asked by: archieleach

Answered: 1/26/2021
 . . .


Hey, Bill, Sam Dente is (was) Rick Porcello granddad.
Asked by: Jack

Answered: 1/25/2021


On twitter you mentioned that Aaron had the nickname "Quiet Henry"... Did you ever watch the old show "Home Run Derby"? They used to play it on ESPN classic in the 90s and I found it totally mesmerizing — the most quiet, undemonstrative television show you could imagine. It seemed always to be Henry Aaron vs. Harmon Killebrew, and while Harmon batted, Henry would sit with the host fielding questions like, "So Henry, looks like you had some good cuts out there..." ("Yes, sir, had a few good ones, that’s true") between long bouts of silence. No fans. No music. No embarrassment about the silence... Anyhow, Aaron’s gentle demeanor really shined.
Asked by: PB

Answered: 1/25/2021
 Yeah. . .you can still see that show someplace.  A million channels now; somebody was re-running that within the last couple of months.  


I missed Spahn. The earliest MLB game I can remember is from about 1976. I wonder if you could do a quick sketch of Spahn as a pitcher for those of us who don't remember him. The only thing I really know about him is that he was left-handed and had an inordinate number of high-productivity/20-win seasons.
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 1/25/2021
 He was Tom Glavine, basically, but he was super-flexible and super-durable.  Glavine was very durable. . .there was something really odd about Spahn's energy level.  In 1963 he pitched a famous 16-inning pitchers' duel against Juan Marichal.  July 2, 1963; had to look that up.  THe game was 0-0 through 15 innings, both starting pitchers still working.  Spahn gave up a home run to Willie Mays in the 16th inning, so Marichal won the game.  But after the game there was an interview filmed with Marichal and Spahn.  Marichal, who was 25 years old, looks like he just really wants to get home and go to bed.  Spahn, who was 42, is kind of bouncing around like he has a lot of nervous energy that he can't quite figure out what to do with.  After that game he took his regular turn in the rotation (July 7) and pitched a 5-hit shutout.  In his next 10 starts after the 16-inning game he went 9-1, all of the wins being complete-game victories; in the loss he pitched 8 innings and gave up 2 earned runs.  
He was a good hitter. . . he hit 35 home runs in his career, which I think is a record for a pitcher, although there have been many pitchers who were better hitters, but still, 35 homers is something.  He was skinny, almost scrawny, very quick.  
During World War II he was something of a hero. . .don't know the details, but I remember that somebody published a kid's book that overstated his heroism in World War II, and he sued them and made them withdraw the book and publish retractions.  He was funny, always joking around.   One year, when he and his teammate Lew Burdette were the best 1-2 pitching combination in baseball, on the day the Topps photographer appeared they switched gloves and switched uniforms, so that (as I recall) Burdette appears on Spahn's baseball card and Spahn appears on Burdette's.   Pitching for the Mets at the end of his career, he joked that he was the only man to play for Casey Stengel both before and after he was a genius.  He had played for Casey in 1941, briefly, with the Boston Braves (0-0 record), and then pitched for the Mets in 1965.  He was noted for having the best pickoff move of his time.  Just. . .impossible to capture him in this space, but I hope this helps.  


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