Shortstops of the 1960s

April 23, 2018
                                                        113 (B) Woodie Held (b)
 

              About six weeks ago I was doing a long series of articles about the top 10 second basemen of 1972, etc. . . the top X number of everything of the year X.  I had made it through 113 entries of this series before I got off on other things.   Last night in bed. . .well, don’t worry about what night it was; it was probably a week ago before you read this.  Last night in bed I was reading Michael Lewis’ The Undoing Project, and I found this paragraph (p. 184):

              When people make judgments, they argued, they compare whatever they are judging to some model in their minds.  How much do those clouds resemble my mental model of an approaching storm?  How closely does this ulcer resemble my mental model of a malignant cancer?  Does Jeremy Lin match my mental picture of a future NBA player?  Does that belligerent German political leader resemble my idea of a man capable of orchestrating genocide?  The world’s not just a stage.  It’s a casino, and our lives are games of chance.  And when people calculate the odds in any life situation, they are often making judgments about similarity—or (strange new word!) representativeness.  You have some notion of a parent population:  "Ssorm clouds" or "gastric ulcers" or "genocidal dictators" or "NBA players."  You compare the specific case to the parent population. 

              This is what I have been trying to tell people since the 1970s; I am not saying that I was ahead of Tversky and Kahneman, but I wasn’t far behind them, either.   The first time I remember having this realization was with regard to Gary Sutherland in 1974.  I was wondering why in the hell Ralph Houk would use Sutherland, a severely limited offensive player, as his #2 hitter all season, and I finally realized that it was because Sutherland fit Houk’s image of a top-of-the-order hitter—specifically, Bobby Richardson.   Houk’s first major league managerial assignment in the majors was the 1961 Yankees.  He used his double-play combination, Tony Kubek and Bobby Richardson, as his 1-2 hitters.  They were terrible, but it didn’t matter because they had Mantle, Maris, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron and Yogi Berra coming up behind them, so the 1-2 hitters didn’t have to do any heavy bat lifting.  Taking over the Tigers in 1974, Houk looked for somebody like Bobby Richardson to play second base for him.  Gary Sutherland was very much like Bobby Richardson, except that his career batting average was 20 points lower, but otherwise the same player.  He fit the image.

              That also is what I was trying to say about Woodie Held, in the last article that I wrote before the series lost steam.  Held was a very good player, and he could have had and should have had a career as good as Jay Bell or Leo Cardenas or Dick Groat or Bill Russell or Freddie Patek.   But his problem was, he didn’t look like a shortstop.   He didn’t fit the image.   He was a low-average power hitter; shortstops were supposed to be small and quick.   He was 5-9 and 190 pounds; shortstops were supposed to be six foot and 160.   And this half-ruined his career, because the people making decisions about him just could not get past it.

 

114. Summary of the Shortstops, 1900 to 1960

              Up to 1960 the greatest shortstop in baseball history was Honus Wagner; Duh.   You probably didn’t need me to tell you that. 

              When I was doing this before I was pausing every 60 years to summarize the best players in baseball up to this point in history.   Actually, when I started this series last December, with the catchers, I was putting in breaks after 40 years—1940, 1980, now—but I decided that was overkill.  

              The ranking method for comparing players over time depended on the season ranks, and it was something like this.   If a player ranked as the #1 player at the position in a year, he got 10 points.   If he ranked second, he got 7 points; if he ranked third, he got 4, if he ranked fourth, he got 2, and if he ranked fifth, he got 1. 

              Except that is not universally true.  If he ranks first at the position, he does always get ten points.   After that, though, it depends on how many teams there are in that season, thus on how many shortstops are being ranked.  The number of points awarded has to be essentially constant in relation to the number of teams in the majors.  To be frank, I actually don’t remember all the details of the ranking system; it’s been like three months since I was using it, and I’ll have to go back into the old articles I wrote before and figure out what I was doing.  Anyway, these are the top 25 shortstops of the years 1900 to 1960.   Hall of Famers are in Gold:

Rank

First

Last

1

2

3

4

5

Points

1

Honus

Wagner

14

3

1

0

0

144

2

Arky

Vaughan

8

3

0

1

0

96

3

Luke

Appling

3

4

4

0

2

76

4

Joe

Cronin

3

5

1

3

0

75

5

Joe

Sewell

4

4

0

0

0

68

6

Lou

Boudreau

2

5

2

0

1

64

7

Pee Wee

Reese

1

5

3

2

0

61

8

Ernie

Banks

5

1

0

0

0

57

9

Dave

Bancroft

3

1

3

2

0

53

10

George

Davis

3

9

3

0

0

41

11

Vern

Stephens

2

1

2

3

0

41

12

Travis

Jackson

3

0

1

2

1

39

13

Rabbit

Maranville

2

0

4

2

1

39

14

Art

Fletcher

1

2

2

0

3

33

15

Al

Dark

2

1

0

1

3

32

16

Donie

Bush

0

2

3

1

2

29

17

Glenn

Wright

0

3

2

0

0

29

18

Phil

Rizzuto

2

0

0

2

4

28

19

Joe

Tinker

0

3

1

0

3

28

20

Eddie

Joost

1

1

2

1

0

27

21

Ray

Chapman

0

3

1

0

0

25

22

Roger

Peckinpaugh

1

1

0

3

2

25

23

Bill

Dahlen

1

6

4

4

0

24

24

Bobby

Wallace

0

1

6

2

3

24

25

Johnny

Pesky

1

1

3

0

2

19

 

              That’s ranking the top 25 by career value.   I was also ranking them by peak value.   That list is as follows:

 

Rank

First

Last

YEAR

HR

RBI

Avg

OPS

Peak

1

Honus

Wagner

1908

10

109

.354

.957

51.97

2

Arky

Vaughan

1935

19

99

.385

1.098

38.53

3

Joe

Cronin

1933

5

118

.309

.843

33.61

4

Rogers

Hornsby

1917

8

66

.327

.868

32.26

5

Luke

Appling

1943

3

80

.328

.825

30.97

6

Ernie

Banks

1960

41

117

.271

.904

30.37

7

Lou

Boudreau

1948

18

106

.355

.987

29.54

8

Vern

Stephens

1945

24

89

.289

.825

29.49

9

Johnny

Pesky

1946

2

55

.335

.827

29.32

10

Eddie

Joost

1949

23

81

.263

.883

28.46

11

George

Davis

1906

0

80

.277

.694

28.05

12

Pee Wee

Reese

1949

16

73

.279

.806

27.78

13

Freddy

Parent

1904

6

77

.291

.719

27.62

14

Dave

Bancroft

1922

4

60

.321

.815

26.98

15

Phil

Rizzuto

1950

7

66

.324

.856

26.71

16

Joe

Sewell

1926

4

85

.324

.832

26.10

17

Gil

McDougald

1956

13

56

.311

.848

25.06

18

Joe

Tinker

1908

6

68

.266

.699

24.98

19

Art

Fletcher

1914

2

79

.286

.711

24.56

20

Bill

Dahlen

1904

2

80

.268

.662

24.48

21

Donie

Bush

1909

0

33

.273

.694

24.47

22

Al

Dark

1953

23

88

.300

.823

24.45

23

Woody

English

1931

2

53

.319

.804

24.38

24

Rabbit

Maranville

1916

4

38

.235

.620

24.23

25

Harvey

Kuenn

1956

12

88

.332

.857

24.05

 

              Rogers Hornsby is on this list, whereas he is not on the other one.   The reason for that is that Hornsby, while he was playing shortstop in 1917, was not a career shortstop.  Not being a career shortstop, he’s not eligible for the shortstop list—but he is eligible for the peak list based on his peak value as a shortstop.   That make sense? 

 

115.  The Base Stealer

              In article 112 I had gotten us through the era in which Ernie Banks was the best shortstop in baseball.  That era ended in 1960; it ran through 1960. 

              Maury Wills had been trapped in the minor leagues a long, long time, not reaching the majors until he was four months away from his 27th birthday.  The story, well told in a 2004 article by Jared Ravich, features Bobby Bragan, then managing Wills in the minors.   Bragan was an Alabama native who had been on the Dodgers when Jackie Robinson was signed, and he was one of the players who had refused to play with Jackie.   The Dodgers’ had said, "Oh, like we care", and Bragan re-evaluated his place in the universe.  Ten years of experience in a black and white world had changed his heart or at least his habits, and when his shortstop was struggling in early 1958, he pulled him aside and wrapped his arms around him. 

Bobby Bragan put his arms around me in Spokane in 1958 and suggested that I become a switch-hitter because I was afraid of the curve. He said, 'You can run, Maury. You can throw and you can field. But you're afraid of the curve.'

"Now, no man wants to admit that he's afraid of anything, especially a baseball player saying he's afraid of a curveball. But for some reason, God must've touched me right on the shoulder and said, 'You just keep quiet,' because I was able to muster enough humility to listen to him and I knew deep down in the innermost part of myself that I was afraid of the curve."

             

              Quote is from the Jared Ravich article.  A year later Don Zimmer, the Dodger shortstop, was struggling with a toe injury, and the Dodgers were trying to trade for a shortstop.  Bragan convinced them to give Wills a shot.  Wills was in his 9th season in the minor leagues.  He had played 1100 minor league games, an extraordinary number.  In an odd note, Ty Cobb had been in the stands and had seen Wills’ last minor league game, and had been quoted in the newspaper on the day that Wills was called up, saying that he liked the way that Wills’ slid. 

              In his first month in the majors Wills played 14 games, hit .143 and was caught stealing the only two times he attempted to steal.  He scored two runs.   And he won the starting shortstop job, or at least a shot at it.  As bad as he was, and as little confidence as the Dodgers had in him, he was better than Zimmer, who was limping around the infield and was in a 2-for-36 slump at the plate.  Wills held the job, started to hit a little, and the Dodgers won the World Series. 

              Three years later he was the MVP, which was kind of a joke; anybody who thinks that Wills in 1962 was a better player than Willie Mays or Frank Robinson. . . .   He wasn’t, but he was good, and he was the first man in modern baseball to steal 100 bases, breaking Ty Cobb’s record of 96.  It was a big story at the time.  He was the best shortstop in baseball from 1961 to 1963, or at least I have him ranked as such. 

              Wills was intense, and he had a tremendous desire to be a great player.  His offensive game was really simple; he just bunted and slapped the ball around and ran like hell.   The way he explained it, it sounded like genius.  He would give the writers seminars on how to get the largest possible lead off of base, and he was inclined to expand on his expertise whenever he had an audience.  He played the banjo on the Johnny Carson show; the banjo is now in the country music Hall of Fame in Nashville.  He dated Doris Day, and bragged to reporters that he had scored with her. 

              I explained, about Ernie Banks, that he won a Gold Glove Award because somebody has to, and it was an odd league in which the three best defensive shortstops (Roy McMillan, Ruben Amaro, and Alex Grammas) were all banjo hitters and all riding the bench.   There wasn’t a Gold Glove shortstop to be found, so the award went to Banks in 1960 and to Wills in 1961 and 1962, although neither man was what you would ordinarily describe as a Gold Glove shortstop. 

              I kind of don’t like Wills—you might have picked that up—but I don’t mean to deny him credit for what he was.  He was an intelligent player.   He was intensely competitive, and he was resourceful.   He took a limited skill set and an unpromising start to his career, and turned it into a near-Hall of Fame resume.   And he was not truly a bad person; he was a sensitive man, and he had been badly scarred by the racism with which he had dealt.  

First

Last

YEAR

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

Value

Maury

Wills

1961

1

31

.282

.346

.339

.685

22.47

Ernie

Banks

1961

29

80

.278

.346

.507

.852

21.39

Woodie

Held

1961

23

78

.267

.354

.468

.822

20.66

Dick

Groat

1961

6

55

.275

.320

.367

.687

19.81

Dick

Howser

1961

3

45

.280

.377

.362

.739

18.57

Luis

Aparicio

1961

6

45

.272

.313

.352

.665

17.54

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maury

Wills

1962

6

48

.299

.347

.373

.720

27.61

Dick

Groat

1962

2

61

.294

.325

.361

.686

22.31

Tom

Tresh

1962

20

93

.286

.359

.441

.800

22.23

Eddie

Bressoud

1962

14

68

.277

.329

.444

.773

19.81

Woodie

Held

1962

19

58

.249

.362

.406

.768

19.37

Leo

Cardenas

1962

10

60

.294

.341

.411

.752

16.79

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maury

Wills

1963

0

34

.302

.355

.349

.704

27.66

Dick

Groat

1963

6

73

.319

.377

.450

.827

25.25

Eddie

Bressoud

1963

20

60

.260

.329

.451

.780

20.63

Jim

Fregosi

1963

9

50

.287

.325

.422

.748

20.43

Woodie

Held

1963

17

61

.248

.352

.435

.787

19.84

Ron

Hansen

1963

13

67

.226

.330

.351

.681

19.31

 

I will be in New York this week for the Edgar Awards; The Man From the Train was nominated for an Edgar Award.    I may have limited contact with the site, I don't know, but I will post this article and the next two entries in this series before I leave, so there should be another one on Wednesday and another on Friday.  Thanks for reading.  

 

 

 
 

COMMENTS (27 Comments, most recent shown first)

thedanholmes
When I hear the name Leo Cardenas, two things come to mind. Both stem from my time in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame. First, in his player file there are numerous clippings in which Cardenas is quoted in the vernacular of his native tongue, as was frequent in those days. It's quite demeaning and racist to see that type of reporting in retrospect, it really stands out. Cardenas is invariably quoted as saying "beeg" instead of "big" and "mon" instead of "man" and so on. It's bad enough to see that, but the coverage of Latin players was clearly prejudiced in those days (and it didn't get better for a long time, actually). Cardenas was usually referred to as a lovable character and a hot head. You heard that a lot about Latin players. It was easier for sportswriters to portray Latin players as caricatures rather than as whole people, people who were living in a society where they did not speak their first language and were away from family and friends, etc.

The second thing I recall about Cardenas is that he figures prominently in a series of audio interviews that are available in the HOF collection. The HOF has hours and hours of audio interviews, and someone (I can't recall who) in Cincinnati was famous for getting interviews with players in the late 1950s and into the late 1960s. It wasn't a regular broadcaster or sportswriter, this was some guy who had a tape recorded and loved audio and loved baseball. Someone who was prescient enough to recognize that taped recordings of conversations with ballplayers would helped preserve American history. Cardenas is on one of those tapes for about 30-45 minutes and it's great. Many of the tapes are with Reds players, but there are others from different teams too. If you ever go to the HOF Library, I urge you to ask to listen to some of those tapes. It's a treasure.
10:05 PM Apr 24th
 
LesLein
Don't forget another banjo hitter from the 1960s, Bobby Wine. He won the gold glove in 1963. Amaro won in 1964 though he played more at first. Wine was brilliant fielder. He might have been a brilliant hitter but he suffered a bad beaning in the minors.
7:33 PM Apr 24th
 
Manushfan
Yeah these are what Bill does best. At least I think so. Great stuff. In case he doesn't know.
6:21 PM Apr 24th
 
wilbur
A great series of articles, Bill, and thank you for your response on the Maury Wills drop play.
4:10 PM Apr 24th
 
shthar
I can't remember the last time I had my Woodie held...
4:01 PM Apr 24th
 
DavidHNix
Chico Cardenas played in the first game I can actually remember, for Class C Tucson Cowboys in 1956. I think he was always known as Chico ("Kid") until well established in the majors, and from the article his friends still use that nickname.
12:32 PM Apr 24th
 
klamb819
I'm glad you can't delete it. My previous post was kind of rough on him, but Cardenas was otherwise an excellent fielder, eventually as solid as he was flashy. He 's part of 54-year string of Reds shortstops from 1951 through 2004: Roy McMillan, Cardenas, Concepcion & Larkin. Only in 1969 did they play without at least one of those four on the roster, and the four were either starters or injured in 51 of the years. (Each change had a transitional year: Eddie Kasko in '61, Woody Woodward/Darrell Chaney in '69, and Kurt Stillwell in '86.)
12:12 AM Apr 24th
 
bjames
There's a note about Cardenas in the next article, or maybe the one on Friday. It seems kind of dated now that you guys have already discussed him. . ..I guess I would take it out except that it's already posted.
9:35 PM Apr 23rd
 
klamb819
Cardenas was a very excitable player -- played with his emotions out front, for better or for worse. I'll never forget one play I saw him not make that may have cost Cincinnati the 1964 NL pennant.

The Phillies came to Cincinnati with a 10-game losing streak, dropping from a 6-1/2 game lead to third place, 2-1/2 behind St. Louis. The Reds had won 12 of 13, climbing from 8-1/2 behind to a one-game lead, but then they lost 2 of 3 and entered the two-game Philadelphia series a half game behind St. Louis. Chris Short was the Phillies' pitcher, on regular three-days rest after losing his previous two starts on two days' rest. (After the Reds swept three in Philadelphia to start that losing streak, Philly manager Gene Mauch famously panicked and gave Jim Bunning and Short two starts each on two days' rest -- losses 4, 5, 7 & 8 of the streak, with the twin aces allowing 19 runs in 21 innings.)

The Reds led 3-0 in the bottom of the 7th when Short hit Cardenas with a pitch and Cardenas yelled at Short all the way to the Phillies' dugout, where Mauch had sent him. The next batter grounded into an inning-ending double play, and Cardenas was still noticeably fuming as he took the field for the top of the 8th. When pinch hitter Frank Thomas The Earlier hit a short fly to center, Cardenas broke for the ball late. The ball fell in, and now it was second-year second baseman Pete Rose doing the yelling and gesturing, making his point clear even if Cardenas didn't understand any of Rose's English.

Four of the next five Phillies reached base. Back-to-back rookies Dick Allen hit a two-run triple, Alex Johnson hit the go-ahead single, Philly reliever Jack Baldschun nailed down the 4-3 win, and the Reds did not move into first with a magic number of 2 when Mets pitcher Al Jackson out-pitched Bob Gibson for a 1-0 victory a little later that Friday evening. Two days later, St. Louis won the pennant by a game over the tied Phillies & Reds.
8:27 PM Apr 23rd
 
ajmilner
Glad to see this series return.

There's an excellent recent book on the mid-1960s Dodgers by Michael Leahy, THE LAST INNOCENTS, which describes why Wills was abruptly traded after the 1966 season and how his loss, as much as Koufax's retirement, doomed the ballclub.
8:04 PM Apr 23rd
 
Manushfan
Oh I remember the incident involving Cardenas and the car, couldn't remember when or exactly what happened. Yeah that's too bad. He was a fine player, but like with many others, has trouble adjusting to the 'real world' afterwards.
4:27 PM Apr 23rd
 
wovenstrap
I'd just like to say that if that is true about Dodger Stadium in Wills' heyday, then that is a considerable achievement all on its own, to make baseball that exciting.
4:10 PM Apr 23rd
 
steve161
Quiet and dull he was not:

reds.enquirer.com/2002/10/27/wwwredb1lede27.html


3:24 PM Apr 23rd
 
Manushfan
Sad thing here is, until I was reading Bill back when, I had never heard of Leo Cardenas. He's a really solid player. And if I remember right, Bill was the one that mentioned that in any and all Pete Rose bios, Cardenas, his DP partner for some years in Cinci, is almost NEVER mentioned. Which makes little sense. I'm curious as to what kind of player he was, besides the numbers. Was he quiet, dull, brash, up and down? I haven't a clue.
3:02 PM Apr 23rd
 
DanDanDodgerFan
Anyone who wasn't present at Dodger Stadium when Wills was on first, and second was unoccupied, wouldn't believe the electric atmosphere. The year (1962) when he stole 104 bases produced unequalled sustained ballpark excitement which I've not seen matched since: 55,000 Dodger fans screaming in unison "GO! GO! GO! GO! GO!" while Maury stretched his lead and the pitcher sweated. And, although everyone KNEW he was going, invariably he WENT!

Junior Gilliam, batting second, has always received lots of credit for being willing to take so many pitches that enabled Maury to steal. And every time Tommy Davis came to bat, there was Maury already on second base--153 RBI.

It's true that Maury Wills was never the player that Mays, Robinson, Aaron, et al, were; but that year especially, he was valuable in a way that had been lost for half a century. Although I still haven't gotten over losing to the Giants in that playoff series...
12:34 PM Apr 23rd
 
pgaskill
Yes, Kubek was in the Army in '62 for some significant period of time, and Tresh was his substitute shortstop. I can tell you the exact date that Kubek returned from the Army to the Yankees, because that was also the date of my first major-league game ever: Yankees at Kansas City, August 19, 1962. I had won a free trip to the game by selling the most subscriptions to the Wichita Eagle, and I remember that it was Kubek's first game back.

Some game, too. First inning: Left-fielder Tresh singled. Richardson singled. Maris homered. Mantle walked. Says I to myself, Wow, 100 to nuthin', here we come.

Boy, was I wrong. That was IT. A's 7, Yankees 3. Homers by Ed Charles and Jerry Lumpe, those ol' sluggers. Elston Howard struck out twice and grounded into two double plays. After the game, I got {THIS} close to Yogi on the field (yep, they let you get on the field back in those days), but Yogi wouldn't acknowledge me at all (I was almost 18) because he was PISSED because they F--in' LOST the GAME.

What a way to celebrate your "star" shortstop's return from the Army. (He went 0 for 4 hitting 6th, right after Howard, by the way, lowering his season's average to .304.) Maris went 3 for 4. Mantle went 0 for 2 with, of course, 3 walks. And I totally forget whether it was Tresh's outfield debut. Probably not.
11:57 AM Apr 23rd
 
bearbyz
As a Twins fan I hated Halsey Hall as an announcer. Michael Jordan was the definition of intensity as a player.
11:21 AM Apr 23rd
 
bjames
"Intense" has a different meaning than "jerk", because you can be a very laid-back person and be a jerk. I've heard scouts say many times that "he's not a bad guy; he's just intense." The thing is that, from a front office standpoint, intensity is not a negative if a player is a regular or particularly if he is a star; that's fine, he has an intense desire to succeed, that's great. But you can't have bench players or role players on the team who are intense, because they drive everybody crazy and it makes the game too hard. Bench players HAVE to roll with the punches; it's just part of the job.

Brett Lawrie was super-intense. When he came up it was fine, because he was playing well, but once his level of play slipped a little bit then it became a huge problem because you couldn't have him around when he wasn't playing well. Justin Smoak for a long time was too intense, but he finally beat it. I suspect--I do not know--but I suspect that he must have gotten medication or counseling or something, because he went from being a player who was beating himself up to a guy who could handle the game a lot better.
11:07 AM Apr 23rd
 
bjames
The relevant rule is 5.09 (a) (12), which reads:

An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third, occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original bases.


Then there is clarifying language added which says that if the infielder simply lets the ball drop, without touching it, then this rule does not apply unless the infield fly rule would apply. In other words, if you simply let the pop up drop in order to get a force out rather than a pop out, you can do that. But if you catch the ball and THEN drop it, then you can't do it. Apparently that is what Wills did (and Bernie Allen, in the other play I described), which is why the forceout was not allowed.
10:50 AM Apr 23rd
 
bjames
Tresh moved to the outfield in '63 because Mantle was hurt and missed most of the '63 season. In '62 Kubek was, as I recall, in the Army; I think Kubek had joined a Reserve Unit to take care of his military responsibility, and the reserve unit had been activated. Tresh, a minor league outfielder I believe, stepped in for Kubek and was brilliant. But in '63 Kubek was back and Mantle was gone, so the natural thing was to give shortstop back to Kubek and put Tresh in Center Field.

Tresh in '63 was really good; I know I have done calculations in some particular way that lead to the conclusion that Tresh was actually the MVP in '63. Depends on how you approach it; nobody actually had what you would call an MVP season in the AL in '63, so you can wind up with the conclusion that the MVP should have been Elston Howard (who won it) or Bob Allison or Tresh or somebody else. I agree that, in retrospect, it would have been best to leave Tresh at shortstop, but that's 20/20 hindsight, I think.

I have never quite understood the rule about the Wills play. I don't think that is the Infield Fly Rule. My understanding is that there either is or used to be a SECOND rule in the books, a different rule, which prohibits an infielder from deliberately dropping a pop up to confuse the runner. I remember a play (from listening on the radio) about 1964, when Bernie Allen with the Twins did that and was not allowed to do so. Halsey Hall, broadcasting the game, hated the Infield Fly Rule anyway, and was absolutely apoplectic on discovering that there was ANOTHER rule in the books that applied with only one runner on base. But I know that on-line discussions I have had about this in the past get very confusing very fast, in part because people keep bringing up the infield fly rule, which actually doesn't have anything to do with the play.
10:34 AM Apr 23rd
 
Marc Schneider
I always wondered why Mickey Mantle didn't have more 100 RBI seasons (I think he had only four) and I guess it was because (1) poor hitters ahead of him, and (2) walking a lot. It's stuff like this that I think is the true value of sabermetrics, ie, debunking silly stuff that teams did in days of yore (such as having Kubek and Richardson at the top of the lineup). But it proves that you can still do stupid stuff and win if you have enough talent.
10:30 AM Apr 23rd
 
3for3
IIRC, intense is/was sportswriter code for 'jerk'. As usual, with these sorts of lists, I always find a player I had never heard of who was a legitimately good player. Freddy Parent.
10:30 AM Apr 23rd
 
wilbur
@ r44fletch

I agree with what you said, but that's not what happened. Wills looked like he dropped the ball but the umpire called the batter out, I suppose ruling that Wills had the ball long enough to rule it a catch. The runner could have stayed on first but was fooled into thinking Wills had dropped it, then ran to second because he thought the force play was on.
9:38 AM Apr 23rd
 
BobGill
Very glad to see this series coming back. At this point I thought it had fallen by the wayside.
9:01 AM Apr 23rd
 
r44fletch
with only a runner on first, infield fly rule does not apply. a smart player who notices the batter lollygagging down to first can pick up a double play by letting it drop or can get a faster runner off the basepaths by doing the same.
8:55 AM Apr 23rd
 
wilbur
I saw Wills more at the end of his career. When he was with the Expos in early 1969, I remember him fake dropping an infield popup with a runner on first.

IIRC, the batter was called out, and the runner on first ran (or more accurately, jogged) to second, mistakenly thinking the force was on. Wills flipped the ball to second and the runner was tagged out by a mile.

I'm still not fully clear on the rule, and I'm sure someone will enlighten me. But I was very impressed with Wills' presence of mind to try the play.
7:31 AM Apr 23rd
 
337
Cue MarisFan's objection to characterizing Richardson and Kubek as "terrible"--3,2,1...GO!!!

The ranking of Tresh as the #3 ss in 1962 (Kubek in the Army) is interesting, in that the Yankees could have put him there for the rest of the decade, and as a shortstop he would have had very strong numbers, possibly strong enough to extend his career through the 1970s even with the sharp decline in his offense, sort of a pre-Jeter Jeter, a great Yankee who held onto the position for a decade or more. I'm sure Kubek coulda played LF, which he did when he came up some, or been dealt off for spare parts in the mid 60s.
7:00 AM Apr 23rd
 
 
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