Monthly Archives: July 2009

Don’t let anyone tell you any different; the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.  Babe Herman was well aware of this.  Although he was a top hitter during his playing days, New York scribes employed a massive amount of ink in creating in Herman a boob with more deficiencies than strengths.  Because of the pen – which has destroyed more reputations than any sword – Herman is regarded as little more than a clown that happened to wonder into Ebbetts Field.

Floyd Caves “Babe” Herman made quite a splash at the Major League level.  As a rookie in 1926, Babe hit .319 – leading all National League first basemen.  Yes, the Babe began as a first baseman but is best remembered for his misadventures in right field.  Much was written about Herman’s ability to judge flyballs.  It was said that Babe would circle around an area on the field where he thought the ball might drop and blindly stick out his glove, hoping against hope, that some divine entity would deposit the pill in his awaiting mitt. 

Poor fielder or not, Herman was a wizard with the lumber.  Moved to right field in 1928, Babe hit .340 while leading his position peers with 91 RBI.  He drove home 113 runs in 1929 while leading all right fielders with a blistering .381 batting average.  It was a monster year for Floyd Caves, who posted a remarkable offensive line of 105 runs, 217 hits, 42 doubles, 113 RBI, .381 BA, .436 on-base % and a slugging average of .612.  You may find this hard to believe, but Babe was even better the next year.

Herman was the runner-up in batting with a terrific .393 batting average.  His magical 1930 season saw him post an amazing offensive line of 143 runs, 241 hits, 48 doubles, 35 homers, 130 RBI, .393 BA, .455 on-base % and a slugging average of .678.  However, what plays against Herman is that these two years are considered the single greatest two years for offense in baseball history.  With all those lofty numbers, none led the league.

Babe paced NL right fielders in the homeruns and RBI departments in 1931 and then led the league with 19 triples in 1932.  After the 1929 and 1930 seasons, offense went down considerable across the league and Herman was no exception, however, Babe remained a productive bat on into the mid-1930s.  He and Hall of Famer Joe Medwick were the only two National League outfielders that posted double digit totals in all the extra base hit departments: doubles, triples and homeruns during the 1933 season.

Babe hit .335 for the Reds in 1935 and then slugged .458 for them in 1936.  he played briefly for the Tigers in 1937 before embarking on a rather lengthy minor league career.  He played for the Pacific Coast League (which was practically a Major League back then) from 1939 to 1944, returning to the majors during the World War II era to play the 1945 season – his last as a professional – for his old Brooklyn Dodgers.


G 1,552/R 882/H 1,818/2B 399/3B 110/HR 181/RBI 997/BB 520/SO 553/SB 94/BA .324/SA .532

With more wheels than a Firestone dealership, Rock Raines raced his way through the 1980s, racking up large stolen base totals and gathering plenty of All-Star support.  A fixture in left field at Montreal, Raines saw more time in left for the Expos than boats seen by our beloved Statue of Liberty.  Wheels was Tim’s game and he could motor with the best of them.

Fast-tracked to the big leagues, Tim was a 19-year old kid when the Expos first called him up.  He only played in six games and wasn’t allowed to bat, but he saw more playing time in 1980.  Slapping just one hit in 20 at-bats, Tim gave little indication of what was to come and with an outfield trio of Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine and Ron LeFlore, it seemed that Rock was blocked.  But the rock was removed in 1981 and Raines took Valentine’s job – leading the NL with 71 steals as a rookie.  Speed wasn’t that big a part of the game, but Raines brought it back.  Omar Moreno was Raines’ runner-up in the theft department with 39 steals.

An everyday player for the first time in 1982, Raines paced the senior circuit with 78 steals.  He made the second of what would be seven straight All-Star appearances that season.  Raines put it all together in 1983 and had his breakout season, leading the NL with 90 steals and 133 runs scored.  Just two points off the .300 mark, Raines wasn’t just a runner – he was a baseball player.  He drew 97 walks which accounted for his solid .393 on-base percentage, which in turn allowed him to lead the league in runs scored.

For the fourth straight year Tim led the NL in steals in 1984 when he swiped 75 bases.  Also, Rock paced the senior circuit with 38 doubles and posted another .393 on-base percentage which enabled him to lead NL outfielders in runs scored.  When Vince Coleman made his debut, Tim’s days as the stolen base king came to an end.  He never again led the league in steals.  Although he lost his stolen base title to Coleman, Raines posted a terrific .405 on-base percentage while hitting .320.

Raines won the NL batting title in 1986 when he hit .334 and also copped the on-base title with a .413 mark.  The following year his 123 runs scored paced the senior circuit and he reached his highwater mark in on-base percentage with a .429 mark.  Proving that his game wasn’t all about wheels, Raines also slugged at a respectable .526 clip.

An off season in 1988 disrupted Tim’s streak of All-Star appearances, but he rebounded in ’89 by finishing third with 41 steals.  As a 30-year old, Rock swiped 49 bases – his last thefts in an Expos uniform.  Just two days before Christmas, Tim was dealt to the White Sox for slugger Ivan Calderon and pitcher Barry Jones.  Joining the ranks of the American League in 1991, Raines struggled to adapt to the new environment and hit below .270 for the first time as a regular.

Looking to rebound after a poor first year in the junior circuit, Raines did just that when he led AL left fielders in runs scored during the 1992 campaign.  A .300 hitter for the first time in the American League in ’93, Rock hit .444 in an ALCS loss to Toronto. 

Three days after Christmas in 1995, Tim was traded to the New York Yankees for a minor leaguer.  With the Yankees, Tim’s playing time was restricted since their roster was stocked with talent.  However, this enabled Tim to play often in October.  He saw postseason action with the Yankees in 1996, 1997 and 1998.  His last great year was in 1997 when he was a member of New York’s all .320 hitting outfield with Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill.  Passed his prime in 2001, Tim, just like Ken Griffey, was able to play on the same Major League roster as his son Tim Raines Jr.


G 2,502/R 1,571/H 2,605/2B 430/3B 113/HR 170/RBI 980/BB 1,330/SO 966/SB 808/BA .294/SA .425

When the bugle sounds, you can expect the Phillies to be the first to pickup muskets and join the fray.  The Phillies were the first team to lose a Major League player to the military draft in World War II when Hugh Mulcahy was summoned by Uncle Sam.  Mulcahy’s induction hurt the Phillies, but a greater pain rocked the club when the Korean War began plucking Major Leaguers.  In the heat of a pennant race, the Phillies had their star southpaw Curt Simmons drafted into service and his loss forced the Phillies to use relief ace Jim Konstanty as a starter during the World Series.

Simmons was just an 18-year old kid when the Phillies first called him up in 1947.  In his Major League debut, the slender southpaw went the distance, fanning nine batters in the process.  He was brought back down to earth in 1948 when his ERA wasn’t too flattering, but at 19, he had plenty of good years left to look forward to.  In 1949, Curt was the Phillies top strikeout pitcher, averaging 0.634 whiffs per inning.

The Phillies, long the National league’s doormat, began to put things together in 1950 behind a core nucleus of young kids nicknamed The Whiz Kids.  The Whiz Kids sprinted their way to an NL pennant in 1950 with Simmons going 17-8, but the wind was taken out of their sails when Simmons, a member of the National Guard, was called into active duty late in the season.  He missed the stretch drive to military training but was able to take leave to attend the World Series.  Although he wasn’t allowed to play – Curt was more than eager to suit up for the contest – he tossed batting practice to his teammates and watched the games as a spectator.  The Phillies were trounced in the Series as Curt could do nothing to support his team.

He missed the entire 1951 season to military service before returning to Philly in 1952.  He showed Phillies fans that he still had his stuff, tying for the league lead in shutouts while teaming with Robin Roberts to give Philly the top right/lefty tandem in the Major Leagues.  The two combined for 289 strikeouts and 42 wins.  Curt won 16 games in 1953 and led the Phillies with a 2.81 ERA in 1954.

The Phillies were no longer a contender by 1956 but Curt managed to win 15 games for a team that finished below .500.  An All-Star in 1957, Simmons walked just 50 batters in 212 innings.  He bore the brunt of the Phillies punchless attack in 1958 when he had an unflattering .333 winning percentage.

A dead arm sidelined Curt in 1959 and the next year the Phillies gave up on him after just two starts.  The Cardinals picked up Simmons and were rewarded when Curt fashioned a nifty 2.66 ERA.  His 3.13 ERA in 1961 was tops among Redbird moundsmen.  He perfected his accuracy in 1962, averaging just 0.208 walks per inning.  Hall of Fame peers Bob Gibson (0.406), Don Drysdale (0.248) and Sandy Koufax (0.310) weren’t the marksman that Simmons was.

Curt had one of his finest campaigns in 1963 when he won 15 games on a staff best 2.47 ERA.  He eclipsed 200 innings for the first time since 1957 and threw a dozen more innings in 1964.  That year, Simmons won 18 games for the NL champs.  Fifteen years after missing his first opportunity at World Series play, Simmons finally got his long awaited second chance.  This time, the bugles were silent and Simmons laced up his spikes to take his place on the hill.  He made two starts for the Champion Cardinals, leading their starting pitchers with a 2.51 World Series ERA.

The Cubs purchased Curt’s contract from the Redbirds in 1966 and he threw one of the two complete game shutouts for the Cubs that season.  He finished his career with a 2.57 ERA out of the 1967 Angels bullpen.


W 193/L 183/PCT .513/G 569/CG 163/IP 3,349/H 3,313/BB 1,063/SO 1,697/SHO 36/ERA 3.54

Harvey Kuenn’s bat was the place where fastballs went to be punished.  When you needed someone to reprimand a pitcher for standing batters on their ears, Kuenn was the proper selection.  The terrific batsman was an annual batting champion threat who rarely allowed his batting averages to dip below .300. 

Kuenn was signed by the Tigers in 1952 and only played 63 games in the III-League (the extent of his minor league career) before receiving the come-hither sign by the Detroit brass.  Detroit’s weakest spot on the field in ’52 was shortstop and they felt Kuenn could solidify their club at the post.  Named the everyday shortstop in 1953, Kuenn wasted little time establishing himself as a legit Major Leaguer.  As a rookie, the sweet-swinging shortstop led the AL with 209 hits on his way to a landslide victory in Rookie of the Year voting.  Kuenn may have led the AL in hits but he separated himself significantly from his positions peers.  He led AL shortstops in hits, runs, doubles, triples, stolen bases, batting average and slugging average, making him a shoo-in as an All-Star as well.

The Sophomore Jinx has been known to sideline some players but Kuenn kept the pest at bay.  Eluding the jinx, Harvey again paced the AL in base hits, sounding 201 mortar blasts off his lumber during the season.  The shortstop hit .306 and made the second of what would be eight consecutive All-Star teams.  He was the only .300 hitting shortstop in the American League.

For the first time in his career Harvey didn’t lead the league in base hits during the 1955 season, but still knocked out 190 hits – 38 of which were doubles (a league leading total) – while scoring 101 runs and leading AL shortstops with a .306 batting average. 

Most people like to tread familiar territory and the top of the leader board in base hits was as familiar to Kuenn as water is to fish.  Harvey led the AL with 196 base hits in 1956 and paced all Major League infielders with a lofty .332 batting average.  He had his fluke year in 1957.  Unlike most players who enjoy their fluke seasons, Kuenn suffered through his.  1957 was the only year in his first eight seasons that he failed to hit .300. 

Putting a poor 1957 season behind him, Harvey two-bagged his way through 1958, leading the AL with 39 doubles after shifting to the outfield.  His .319 batting average was the second best mark by AL outfielders, proving that he could hit on par with the fellows from the pasture as well.  Still walking those familiar trails, Kuenn led the AL in base hits and doubles again in 1959 but this time explored new territory – territory usually rented out to Ted Williams – when he copped the batting title with a robust .353 average.

The baseball world was rocked after the season when Detroit sent their batting title winner to Cleveland for long-ball swatter Rocky Colavito – the darling of Indians fans.  The fanbases of both teams hated the trade, but the trigger was pulled and the fanatics had to live with the repercussions of the fired transaction.  In his only year in Cleveland, Harvey made his eighth trip to the All-Star game – hitting .308 during the season – but he was shipped off to San Francisco for pitcher Johnny Antonelli and outfielder Willie Kirkland.

Joining the ranks of the senior circuit for the first time, Kuenn struggled through a difficult 1961 season.  After acclimating himself to the National League, Harvey returned to his usual .300 hitting ways, helping the Giants to a World Series.  The 1962 World Series was Kuenn’s first and only taste of postseason play as a player.  His Giants fell to the New York Yankees and Harvey was limited to an un-Kuenn like .083 average.

Harvey hit .290 in 1963 then began to slow down, hitting just .262 in 1964 and .232 in 1965.  He split his last season, 1966, between the Cubs and Phillies, hitting .296 between the two teams.

With his playing days in the bag, Kuenn embarked on a coaching career that saw him manage the Milwaukee Brewers to an AL pennant in 1981.  He only managed at the Major League level two years, guiding his fabled Harvey’s Wallbangers to a World Series, but suffered a leg amputation and died shortly thereafter.


G 1,833/R 951/H 2,092/2B 356/3B 56/HR 87/RBI 671/BB 594/SO 404/SB 68/BA .303/SA .408

Considered a one-year wonder by many folks, Cash had a season players only dream about in 1961.  He posted numbers so lofty that Edmund Hillary would have been adverse to climbing them.  But Cash was more than just a man of one season: he was a consistent power threat who coupled solid on-base percentages with high slugging averages.

Originally property of the Chicago White Sox, Norm was blocked at the Major League level by the underrated Earl Torgeson.  Although The Earl of Snohomish was an aging veteran when Norm was called up, the Sox opted to deal Cash for Minnie Minoso and solid little relief pitcher Don Ferrarese.  Cash didn’t last long under the rule of the Indians and was traded in a steal to Detroit before the 1960 season began.  The Tigers inserted Cash as their regular first baseman and the kid slugged .501 with more walks than strikeouts.

The Tigers harvested the full crop of their trade for Cash in 1961 when the left-handed hitting slugger set the American League ablaze.  This was, as I’m sure you remember, the year that Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season homerun record, but Cash topped the AL with 193 hits, a whopping .487 on-base percentage and won the batting title with a .361 mark.  Although Maris and Mantle got all the headlines with their long ball swatting, Cash put together a season that can be seen as more remarkable than the New York boys.

Of course, trying to repeat a season that monstrous was too much to ask for.  His batting average fell sharply but he still had the stuff that made balls fly – swatting 39 homeruns (2nd in the American League).  Cash also finished fourth in the league with 104 walks and he was the only AL first baseman to slug over .500.  He elevated his batting average to .270 in 1963 and led all first basemen in walks while punching 26 homeruns.

Cash slugged over .500 again in 1965 when he blasted 30 homeruns (2nd in the AL) while leading  AL first basemen in walks and runs scored.  His ability to take a walk – something lost on too many modern day mashers – allowed him to post an on-base percentage above .370 in ’65 (he had eight such seasons, while Andres Galarraga had three such seasons). 

In 1968 Norm led AL first basemen in base hits while leading Detroit to an AL pennant.  Cash had a terrific season in the heart of the pitching era, slugging 32 homeruns and driving home 93 runs for the Tigers.  Packing his big bat for the World Series, Norm hit St. Louis pitchers at a .385 clip while driving in five runs in a Fall Classic victory over the Cardinals.

Raising his batting average to .280 in 1969, Norm swatted 22 long balls and had an on-base plus slugging of .831.  After a down year in 1970, the aging Cash, at the age of 36, rebounded nicely in 1971 when he finished second in the AL with 32 homeruns.  The veteran first baseman hit .283 on the season while driving in 91 of his mates.

Norm made his last All-Star appearance in 1972, leading Detroit to an AL East title but his club fell victim to the strong Oakland A’s attack and Norm was denied his third trip to the World Series.  He played two final years in Detroit – a fixture in Motown much like Al Kaline – before ending his career.


G 2,089/R 1,046/H 1,820/2B 241/HR 377/RBI 1,103/BB 1,043/SO 1,091/BA .271/SA .488


A closer’s best weapon isn’t his overpowering fastball or his hard slider, but something more difficult to master.  There have been many men that have come to Major League baseball with the ability to light up the radar gun, but weren’t successful in the late-inning role because they lacked that one special ingredient – that most important of all weapons – intimidation.  Lee Smith, with his Mount Everest physique, could intimidate a grizzly bear with a lifetime membership to the Guild of the Not-Easily Intimidated.

Originally a second round draft selection by the Cubs in 1975, Smith was initially groomed as a starter but his poor accuracy kept him from climbing the organizational ladder as a long arm.  Only when he was switched to relief work did he begin to shine.  Lee was called up to the Cubs in 1980 and saw limited action during a season spent predominately in the bushes.  He became a regular member of the Cubs bullpen in 1981 but didn’t have his breakout season until 1982.  Working in a closer-by-committee situation, Lee saved 17 games in a strong pen that also featured Guillermo Hernandez, Bill Campbell and Dirty Dick Tidrow. 

The closer’s role was his in 1983 when he led the NL in saves, making his first All-Star team in the process.  Smtih surrendered just 70 hits in 103 innings (Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter averaged a hit coughed up an inning)while posting an amazing ERA of 1.65.  He appeared in 66 games but exceeded 100 innings, unlike the one-inning gunslingers that cluster the game today.  Lee finished 59 games for the Cubs in 1984 and was second to Sutter in games saved. 

An overpowering pitcher, Lee fanned 112 batters in just 98 innings during the 1985 season, making him the only NL closer to average more than a strikeout per inning.  His overall worth to the Cubs presented itself tenfold in 1986 when he not only led the Cubs in saves but wins as well.  An All-Star for the second time in 1987, Smith finished as the NL’s runner-up in the saves department with 37.  Although Lee had proven himself an adept closer (with four straight years of 30 or more saves) the Cubs traded him to Boston in the offseason for pitchers Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi – two men with longer arms.

In his first taste of American League play, Lee saved 29 games for the BoSox while fanning 96 batters in 84 innings.  He was even more overpowering in ’89, sitting down 96 batters on strikes in just 71 innings of work.  Early in the 1990 season, the Red Sox dealt their strikeout artist – Picasso with a fastball – to the Cardinals for heavy-hitting right fielder Tom Brunansky.  He would save a combined 31 games during the season but had his finest nail-in-the-coffin seasons the next two years.

With the Redbirds in 1991, Lee had an NL leading 47 saves.  Unlike most power pitchers – and unlike himself in the minors – Smith showed great accuracy in ’91, issuing just 13 walks in 73 innings.  He liked the top of the leader board so much that he made certain he found his way there agian in 1992, pacing the NL with 43 saves.  Traded to the Yankees at the end of the 1993 season, Lee nevertheless had his third straight year of 40 or more saves when he notched a combined 46 saves between the Redbirds and Bronx Bombers.

During the strike shortened 1994 season, Lee, now with the Orioles, led the American League with 33 saves.  He joined the Angels as a free agent in ’95 and added another 37 saves to his resume in sunny California.  Lee pitched two  more seasons split between three teams before ending his career in the Astros chain during the 1998 season.  When he retired, Lee was the career record holder for saves but has since been passed on that list by Trevor Hoffman.  However, he still holds the record for most games finished – another record that Hoffman looks to break soon.


W 71/L 92/PCT .436/SV 478/G 1,022/IP 1,289/H 1,133/BB 486/SO 1,251/ERA 3.03

With yet another Hall of Fame election in the books, the voters that enshrine former ballplayers once again showed their penchant for power.  Former New York Yankee second baseman Joe Gordon made his way into the hallowed museum this summer while his peers – many of which were better players – were slighted because they didn’t have the power numbers posted by Mr. Gordon.  Lonny Frey is the classic example of the player slighted because he didn’t hit a ton of homeruns.

Linus Frey came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1933 as a shortstop.  As a rookie, Frey hit .319 filling in for injured shortstop Buckshot Glenn Wright.  His strong showing in ’33 allowed him to take Wright’s job full-time in 1934.  That year, Lonny finished second among NL shortstops in the stolen base department.  Frey’s trademarks throughout his career was his above average speed and his classic leadoff hitter batting eye.

Frey had his breakout season in 1935 when he and Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan were the only two middle infielders in the Major Leagues to post double digit totals in all the extra base hit categories: doubles, triples and homers.  Lonny’s 88 runs scored were second most by an NL shortstop, trailing Vaughan.  In 1936, Frey was the shortstop positions top base stealer in the senior circuit.  His high total of walks allowed him to post a solid on-base percentage of .369.

After the ’36 season, Frey was traded to the Cubs for Woody English and spent one year in Chicago before having his contract purchased by the Cincinnati Reds.  It was with the Reds where Frey had his finest years.  Switched to second base in Cincy, Frey was the runner-up in runs scored among NL second basemen in 1938.

In 1939, Frey had a terrific year leading his Reds to an NL pennant.  Named to his first All-Star game, Frey did all the little things right.  His 25 sacrifices that year led the league and he posted a nifty .388 on-base percentage (Joe Gordon only eclipsed the .375 on-base % once in his career – Frey did it three times).  Also, Lonny was the only second baseman in the NL to swat over ten homeruns and he led his position peers in free passes as well.  Despite his fine showing during the season, his Reds were swept in the World Series by the New York Yankees of Joe DiMaggio.

Named the NL’s stolen base king in 1940, Frey eclipsed the 100 runs scored plateau (he was 4th in the league in runs scored) while leading NL second basemen with 80 walks.  His Reds beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Frey finished third in the senior circuit in the stolen base department in 1941 while drawing the most walks by an NL second baseman.  The eagle-eyed middle infielder honed his batting eye to perfection in 1942 when he had more than twice as many walks as strikeouts.  Lonny was 32 years old in 1943 and was named to his third All-Star Game but he would miss the next two years to service in the military during World War II – much like his Hall of Fame peer Joe Gordon.

When he came back from the war, Lonny was in his mid to upper 30s and began to slow down on the ball diamond.  Although he missed two pivotal seasons to the war, Frey retained his batting eye after a two year layover, posting a 2-to-1 walk to strikeout ratio in 1946 – his first year back from the war.  With the Yankees in 1947, Frey went to the World Series as a reserve for the AL Champions and drove in a run in his only game played for the World Champs.  He ended his Major League career in 1948 with the New York Giants.

Lonny Frey was a gifted second baseman whose career numbers are all in close proximity to the newest member of the Hall of Fame, Joe Gordon, with the lone exception of the power stats.  Gordon smacked more balls over the fence and slugged for a much higher average than Frey, but the remainder of their career stats mirror one another.  They rest close to one another in career runs, hits, doubles, triples, walks, on-base percentage and batting average.  Although much has been written about Gordon’s defensive wizardry, his fielding percentage his lower than Frey’s and, also, is lower than league average.  If Lonny Frey had more muscle, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right beside Gordon.


G 1,535/R 848/H 1,482/2B 263/3B 69/HR 61/RBI 549/BB 752/SO 525/SB 105/BA .269/SA .374