The Fictional Baseball Encyclopedia

April 12, 2016

COMMENTS (36 Comments, most recent shown first)

This series of articles brings to mind one of my favorite older quotes from the Abstract:

“A chart of numbers that would put an actuary to sleep can be made to dance if you put it on one side of a card and Bombo Rivera’s picture on the other.”
6:53 PM Apr 15th
@Dave. You know, all the best things I read as a kid seemed to have a group that did "_____" AND SOLVED CRIMES.

We should solve crimes. The foremost statistical online baseball crime-solving internet community.
9:06 PM Apr 14th
I don't care what you say, jdw, Sa-Lute was always the best on the field whenever he played. I guess you had to see him play to appreciate him.
5:35 PM Apr 14th
Growing up, I used to watch re-runs of old episodes of The Graham Crackers. For those who don't remember it, the show followed the adventures of the Graham family, a mom and dad with seven boys who roamed around the middle states playing pick-up baseball games and solving crimes. Mom was the catcher. Hank Salters played the dad of the show, a sort of sixties version of the stern-but-kind fatherly figure. A precursor to the dad from the Brady Bunch, I suppose..more taciturn, more thoughtful.

I always liked the show, though the plots sometimes strained credulity: why did people in these small towns keep asking the weird baseball family for help when an hierloom went missing ("The Case of the Ming Vase"), or when someone fell down a well ("Timmy Come Home"). The baseball scenes were terrible of course, and I'm glad they phased them out in later episodes, but when they showed Hank you could tell he had been a real player.

I think all of the seven boys ended up in rehab at one point or another, except for the youngest one. Little Johnny Edwards...I think he ran for Congress at one point...
3:44 PM Apr 14th
On Ike and George Sutherland: which one is dad's kid, and which one is the postman's?

I'm guessing Jackrabbit is the postman's kid....hard to imagine a 305-lb mail carrier.

3:33 PM Apr 14th
A potential HOF career that got screwed up somehow was Bonus Boy Wojcik, with one of the odder careers of the 20.

Forced to be on the MLB roster, he struggled as a 19 year old, but was the starting SS for the O's at the age of 20. Look at that 1961 season: that's a 21 year old SS. Granted, it's the expansion season in the AL, so there's a little inflation in there. Yet that's still All Star SS level for the era, at the age of 21. But who wouldn't want to take a flyer on that?

Obviously the O's didn't, especially their defense loving manager. So he went to the Halos in a blockbuster deal. His number feel off in 1963, but remember two things:

* the Halos moved (along with the other LA team) into Dodger Stadium that season
* he was freaking 22

I think a lot of teams would be happy with a 22 year old SS who hit .252 with 73 BB and hittin 14 HR while playing half his games in Dodger Stadium. That's a promising player.

He appears to have gotten hurt in 1963, which forced a move off SS to 3B. He had issues staying healthy from 1963-67, his age 23-27 seasons. He had a terrific 1963 campaign that was destroyed by the inability to stay in the line up (and even in games when playing). His 1967 campaign was sublime coming in the penultimate season of the Pitchers Era.

His 1968 looks light but was terrific: .255/.367/.374 in a .230/.297/.339 league, he was 6th in OBP and his .741 OPS was 100 points above the league average.

Oddly, his numbers didn't bounce back with the rest of hitters in 1969. Some minor injuries, but the Halos had enough and left him exposed in the expansion draft.

He had a terrific season his first year in SD, and was very good in his second season there hitting .284/.403/.437 after a move to 1B. He was 31 at seasons end, and was hero of the expansion Padres, so he had a decent future ahead of him while the club tried to build something.

That something odd again happened as he completely lost his power and ability to hit. Possibly an off season injury or spring training one. Possibly so bad that he walked away, as he didn't even get a flyer in 1973 to see if he could still hit, despite it being the first year of the DH.

Woj was hurt by a lot of things:

* Pitchers Era
* injuries gutting his prime
* injuries moving him off SS to 3B
* injury cutting off his career after 31

One can see some of the foundation of what could have been a HOF career, but "stuff happened".
1:15 PM Apr 14th
Not sure if I agree with Studes' comment about Gus Zimmerman losing a HOF chance due to the war. Zim didn't establish himself as a sustained starter in the bigs until he was 24, actually turning 25 later in that season. He had his pre-war "star" seasons at the age of 25/26 and 26/27. There probably wasn't a much higher ceiling than the .307-25-85 & .310-32-113 numbers he put up, and then likely decline. He would have been 27/28 - 30/31 in the years he missed, along with 31/32 in 1946 where he missed the early part of the season.

He's missing in the range of 112 HR and 360 RBI (28 HR & 90 RBI) for 1942-45, and another 10 & 40 for the part of 1946 missed. 370+ career HR and 1200+ RBI in 18 seasons for a LF who got shipped from the Giants to the two Siberias of the American League would have an uphill struggle getting into the HOF. His BA would have been helped by those four seasons being in the .290-.300 range, but probably wouldn't drive his career number much above .280.

He did probably lose several All Star level seasons, and a .280-370-1200 LF career would have at least left him a remembered player rather than one lost in time with most of it spent in the AL backwaters.
12:33 PM Apr 14th
1973 Mash looks a lot like the real 1973 Schmidt...
12:33 PM Apr 14th
(N.B. Below comment is of course fictional.) :-)
10:44 AM Apr 14th
Funny seeing the number of comments. Who knew there was so much pent up interest in baseball fiction. I'm just the total opposite. Once I realized this was all made up, I totally lost interest.
10:11 AM Apr 14th
Gus Zimmerman retired after the 1953 season and was immediately hired by Baltimore to manage the Orioles. Gruff, a hard-ass, but intensely devoted to his players. It broke his heart -- not that he would ever admit to having a heart -- when the plane carrying his three young stars went down in Arizona.​
8:37 AM Apr 14th
Chuck - you're correct. I took a look at the park home/road splits before posting, and while they went up, it wasn't a mind boggling increase. The problem was that the team was a Paul Richards team with little power in those years, which masks in the team numbers a chunk of the jump. But looking at the one power hitting in the era, there is a jump: Triandos. Schorte's age, went from a 3/9 split to 10/11 & 9/10 the next two year before the next jump to 13/17.
2:21 AM Apr 14th
OBS: this is an entire alternate universe. There is no Eddie Murry. Just like there's no Mike Schmidt taking playing time from Mash in 1973-74. Or Jake Meyers vs Bob Boone for the catching spot in CAL not happening since they're in different baseball universes.
2:06 AM Apr 14th
Stopwatch is, because he is LISTED at 305, so who knows. Obviously, when the Indians signed Eddie Murray for DH in '94 and then won the pennant in '95, they got tired of waiting for him to hit the last damn eight home runs to 600 and clogging up the bases and the toilets...
1:30 AM Apr 14th
jdw, it’s not impossible that Schorte was corking his bat. But a plausible explanation for the HR surge is that the power alleys at Memorial Stadium came in by over 40 feet in 1956, so one would expect home runs to go up.

The alleys were still a distance away that year (405 feet), but much closer than previously (447 ft). What is strange is that in 1958, when the alleys came in yet again, this time to 380 feet, Schorte’s home run tally reverted back to his 1955 level. THAT’s the year I’d have expected his homers to take off, not 1959. What happened to his power in 1958?
12:33 AM Apr 14th
I can recommend Roberto Bolano's Nazi Literature of the Americas, which is a fictional biographical encyclopedia of various rogues and ne'er do wells.
12:30 AM Apr 14th
Schwarzie: You must have missed the stories about Rosty's family connections. His fielding wasn't really that great but his uncle Dan pulled some strings to keep him in the lineup. Went to jail for it too.
10:21 PM Apr 13th
Mash Burgess, your record has me laughing out loud! This is high comedy. You were amazing! It's like no matter how many or few games you played, you got like 28 HR's and 88 RBI's. Uncanny! And your baserunning had a whim of its own -- you run, you don't run, then you run again.....

And it's a shame that your Fountain of Youth finally ran out. If it hadn't, we know you'd still be playing yet. I remember that you also got called Ponce, even though the encyclopedia doesn't list it.
10:07 PM Apr 13th
I don't want to speak ill of a trio of All Stars who tragically lost their lives, but the 1956-59 O's were rather infamous "inside" the game for corking their bats.

Jambalaya never had power in the minors or in the bigs prior to that, and instead was slap hitting 1B chasing his Batting Average with a wild free swing. Magically in 1956 he started hitting them long, taking it to another level in 1957. He wasn't happy with the BA drop in 1957 and focused on slapping the ball around again in 1958, but still retained more power than he flashed prior to 1956. He reverted back to trying to pull the ball in 1959, and with his corked bat was having an MVP campaign before the tragedy.

Some historians like to write off the corking by Jambalaya as instead just turning 26 in 1956 and getting "stronger". That would be wrong, but it also wouldn't explain Frances.

Frances had long been a BA man in Cincy, and remained one after getting to BAL. Then suddenly in 1957 he jump from a career high of 9 HR all the way to 20. He did this while not losing a lick of BA. So did Frances happen to turn 26 or 27 and was simply peaking? No: he was 33. He had the three best OPS of his career from the age of 33-35, along with the three best Isolated Power numbers of his career. He didn't lose a lick of his BA: he hit .311 in those final three seasons, above the .303 he hit prior to 1957. Saint Frances my eye!

Then there's Little Paulie, who saw his OPS set new career highs each season from 1956-59 while corking his bat. Little Paulie was a speedster whose job it was to set the table, so he didn't focus on hitting the ball out of the park after his initial power surge in 1956, and instead upped his BA from hitting .256 every year from the age of 24-25 to hitting .294 & .293 at the age of 28-29 before meeting his maker.

This was a dirty team, taught a bag of dirty tricks when their new manager arrived in 1956. The tragic deaths wiped away all their sins from the public eye, but it's right there in the record books if one looks hard enough.

7:24 PM Apr 13th
Mash's 1959 season is another mystery, which trails a bit into 1960 as well. Only things that I can think of are:

* injury reducing him to long stretches at PH
* usage by a manager that resulted in a lot of partial games for such a star

Killebrew in 1968 had an injury prone season that reduced his games and his PA/G well be his usual levels, but even that wasn't close to this:

3.73 1960 Mash
3.71 1968 Killer
3.25 1959 Mash

Mash was "healthy" in 1960: he played in 154 games in a 154 game schedule. But somehow got just 499 AB+PA, which is incredible to get at the age of 28 while playing every game when you've been an All Star level 3B since the age of *20*.

The 1959 number is even worse.

My guess is that Bill is doing a "Joe Adcock" on Mash in those seasons, though Adcock wasn't down at 3.25 at the age of 28: he was at 3.66, and up at 3.86 in the famed 1959 season that Bill likes to write about. Adcock's 1958 (3.32) was close, but it's not Adcock was as good of a hitter as Mash... or that they couldn't have moved Mash to 1B if they were unhappy with his 3B defense. Given Mash spent another 14 seasons as the Phils' legendary 3B after the odd 1959-60 seasons, his defense must not have been that horrid.

Yeah... fun odd thing in the record there. :)
6:39 PM Apr 13th
Stopwatch Sutherland's seasons are a bit messed up: 1992 --> 1994 --> 1993 --> 1994 (a second one).

It's not clear if there was an intended missing 1993 season, that the first 1994 was correct and then the formula got screwed up in the "1993" and second "1994".

It is a bit strange to stop at 592 HR at the age of 38 when 600 isn't far off. The last three seasons are injury plagued and in decline, but it is close.

Going backwards, he was just 10 & 11 HR behind the pace of Aaron at the ages of 34 & 35. An indication of how badly what looks like an injury at the age of 36 triggered his decline: from 543 HR and just 11 behind Aaron at the age of 35, he couldn't get over 600. Killebrew fell off, but he was younger (34 at his last 40 HR season) and further from 600 (487 HR at that point rather than 543). To stop at 592, especially when he'd played his entire career in CLE and you'd think they'd let him go for it in one more season... that would be an interesting story.

Stopwatch is a hell of an interesting story.
6:06 PM Apr 13th
I was just going to comment on the Malmedy Massacre...interesting historical twist thrown in there by Mr. James....
1:20 PM Apr 13th
Pinetop is a winter ski area and summer getaway in the White Mountains of Arizona. In July, when it might be 100 in Tucson and 110 in Phoenix, it would be about 80 in Pinetop. As a Tucson resident I know people with modest cabins there. It is on the Navajo reservation.

All in all there is no reason for three Orioles to be there July 29, so I lean to a small plane crash.
1:19 PM Apr 13th
Looks like Bad Billy Hagerson was killed in the Malmedy Massacre by the 1st SS Panzer division during the Bulge. Based on his birth date and nicknames, I imagine he was a hardscrabble southerner, who could name all his male relatives who died in the "War of Northern Aggression", and whose conception was probably his dad's going away present from his high school sweetheart before he himself died in the Ardennes during the First World War. Bad Billy probably wouldn't have been too keen on integration, but also the type to risk his life for a black soldier if said soldier were in his platoon. A man of his time, and a great hitter.
12:58 PM Apr 13th
It appears that the Player's League (?) might contain weaker pitching or maybe more offensive-minded ballpark as the only two PL hitters seemed to have very good numbers.

Also, Jude Rostenkowski must have been one helluva defensive catcher to get 16 seasons with those offensive stats.
12:47 PM Apr 13th
The tragic deaths of Long, Schorte, and Frances in ’59 have kept me thinking all morning. What we know:
They died on Little Paulie’s birthday, in late July, in Pinetop, AZ.
They were all in the midst of excellent seasons.
Presumably they died in the same incident, and the elevation of the area (6,800 ft) suggests a plane crash.

What would members of an AL team then be doing in Arizona in late July? My first thought was that they had had a rainout on the last day of a road trip, in Kansas City, and that the three (Little Paulie and Jambalaya being an Odd Couple best of friends) had decided to go to Disneyland- then very new- for Paulie’s birthday, and return to Baltimore in time for the next game.

But at that time, there were also 2 all-star games per season, the 2nd coming around this time of the year. This makes more sense. All three were on a plane that went down, either going to or coming from L.A., where the actual 2nd All-Star game was played that year.

The name Michael Collins Frances calls to mind the astronaut and test pilot Michael Collins, who was the one left in the orbiter while Armstrong and Aldrin made the first moon landing. Another possibility, then, is perhaps that this Colin Frances was also a pilot and flew the other 2 players to the game, going down in the fog or from a sudden burst of turbulence as they were in high country. Possibly his plane was unbalanced, if it just carried Long and Schorte in the back.
10:35 AM Apr 13th
Oh, the tragic destruction of the Baltimore Orioles on July 26, 1959. So many killed. But at least it launched a few careers.
9:35 AM Apr 13th
Must have been tough to see Jake Myers have such a successful career after being traded by Kansas City, and for players that really did not do much for KC.

But California really blew it - thinking he was done at 39. Seeing him have those MVP type seasons for those great St. Louis teams probably contributed to the front office massacred of the mid-80s in Anaheim.

Unfortunately, over-reacting to that experience led California to hang on to has-beens for some years later in fear that they were giving up on players who were still valuable, loading them up with payroll and keeping them out of pennant races for years.

All because one 40-year old hit .330 for a come-from behind pennant-winner in 1986.
9:16 AM Apr 13th

I like the Sutherland brothers; one who could only hit and one who played shortstop. Of course, the one who could hit and only DH had the longer (HOF) career.
8:32 AM Apr 13th
Edmund Barnes died too young.
3:09 AM Apr 13th
Guys, there's no reason for them to be IN Arizona in July of a baseball season. You're not seeing it. (Is there a Manchester United F.C. in this universe?)
1:59 AM Apr 13th
We all thought Edgar Martinez' path to the Hall of Fame would be cleared once George Sutherland got in. So what's the hold-up now? It can't be just the home runs, can it?

Also -- I can't wait for Bill to publish "Paulie's Pinetop Party." Baseball. Unsolved crimes (I don't think it was an accident, either). This will be his greatest book, if he ever gets it done.
12:45 AM Apr 13th
So on his 30th birthday Paulie Long went postal? Or got too drunk and rolled the car with his teammates in it? Or maybe they rented a cabin in Pinetop and the gas heater malfunctioned...
12:05 AM Apr 13th
You have to love a guy who can hit 550+ home runs in a career in which he never once hit 30 or more in a season.
And frankly, I think "Mash" is a much better nickname than "Hubber."
9:12 PM Apr 12th
I've always said Gus Zimmerman would have been a strong Hall of Fame candidate if he hadn't lost four years to the war.
8:58 PM Apr 12th
Thanks for the Dwayne "Bruiser" Baker reminder. The greatest September call-up player of all time, but exposed when utilized in any other month.
7:10 PM Apr 12th
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