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Monthly Archives: April 2010

Clay Carroll, a stellar fireman for the Big Red Machine, was named to two All-Star squads during his career and was a go-to guy in October.  In 22 career postseason games, Carroll had a cumulative ERA of 1.39 with a World Series ERA of 1.33 in 20 innings.  One of the finest relief pitchers of the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s, Clay “Hawk” Carroll had the stuff that killed enemy rallies.

Carroll was originally signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1961 and made his Major League debut with the club in 1964.  He showed promise that year by going 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA.  The next year was a little more rocky for Hawk who was shuttled to AAA Atlanta.  Carroll remained in Atlanta the following year, but the Triple-A Crackers were no more as the Braves relocated from Wisconsin to Georgia.  Clay had his breakout year in the Braves first year playing in the South.  He led the National League with 73 games pitched on a nifty 2.37 ERA.

Carroll regressed in 1967 and early in the ’68 season the Braves packaged him to Cincinnati for Milt Pappas and two other players.  Clay got back on course with the Reds and never again lost his rudder.  After the early season trade, Carroll flourished with the Reds, chalking up 17 saves on a 2.29 ERA.  Not your typical one-inning gunslinger, Hawk racked up 151 innings in 1969 with a .667 winning percentage. 

The Reds won their division in 1970 and Clay got his first taste of postseason action that October.  During the regular season, he saved 16 games and didn’t surrender a single earned run in 10.1 postseason innings.  He threw nine innings in the World Series against Baltimore, with eleven punchouts, but his Reds lost the contest to the Birds.  The closer wasn’t a well-defined role in the 1970s and Sparky Anderson used what they call a closer-by-committee setup in 1971.  Clay led the Reds with fifteen saves but Sparky also got eleven saves apiece from Wayne Granger and Joe Gibbon with a young Milt Wilcox also nailing down a game.

Carroll’s finest year came in 1972 when he made his second All-Star team.  Hawk led the National League in games pitched and saves (37) while taking the Reds back to the postseason.  He won the deciding game of the NLCS against the Pirates.  In the Fall Classic, Hawk fared well against the A’s, but was again a member of the losing outfit.  In 1973, Sparky Anderson gave his super fireman a few starts but knew that Hawk was best suited in the bullpen.  Clay helped lead the Reds to the NLCS again in 1973 and was his usual Mr. October self, holding the Mets to one run over seven innings, but the New York boys won and went to the World Series.

Sharp as a tack in 1974, Hawk posted a 2.14 ERA and fashioned a tidy 12-5 record.  For his fine work, Hawk brought in a few Cy Young Award votes but he was itching to get back to the Fall Classic.  His itch was scratched in 1975 when the Reds rolled their way to the World Series.  During the regular season, Carroll had a nice 2.62 ERA but he was almost perfect against the Pirates in the NLCS and did a nice job against the Scarlet Hose in the World Series.  Clay won the deciding game of the World Series.

After recording the final out of the World Series, the Reds traded their aging fireman to the White Sox for Rich Hinton.  Hawk’s ’76 season was cut short due to injury but he bounced back in 1977 with the St. Louis Cardinals.  In his last full year at the Major League level, Carroll had a 2.75 ERA in 101 innings of work.

THE NUMBERS

W 96/L 73/PCT .568/SV 143/G 731/IP 1,353/H 1,296/BB 442/SO 681/ERA 2.94

www.beckett.com

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Eddie “The Brat” Stanky, also known as the Greek God of On-Base Percentage, was a fine little second baseman who got the most out of his modest abilities.  Former Chicago White Sox outfielder Eddie Carnett once told me that Stanky couldn’t hit, he couldn’t run and he couldn’t throw, but he was a helluva second basemen.  Where he was viewed lacking in physical tools he more than made up for in baseball intellect.

Stanky made his professional debut as a 19-year-old with the Greeneville Buckshots of the East Dixie League in 1935.  By the early 1940s, it appeared that The Brat would be a minor league journeyman, but when World War II took Major Leaguers away from the diamond, some minor league veterans were given their chance.  Stanky made the most of his.  Eddie joined the Cubs in 1943 and led National League second basemen in walks and runs scored as a 27-year-old rookie.  Early in the ’44 season, the Cubs traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers where he’d enjoy some of his finest seasons.

Stanky enjoyed his breakout year with the Dodgers in 1945.  That season he paced the National League in runs scored (128) and walks (148).  The Alabama native posted his first .400+ on-base percentage that year–there would be six more years of that to follow.  When World War II ended, the stars came back to the diamond and players like Stanky–minor league veterans–were scrutinized in 1946 to validate their status as Major Leaguers.  The Brat validated his status by leading the National League with 137 walks, a .436 on-base percentage and 20 sacrifices.  Although he was generally regarded as lacking in tools, he finished seventh in MVP voting.

He posted his third straight season of 100+ walks in 1947 and was named to his first All-Star team that season.  Eddie finished second in the league in bases on balls while leading NL second basemen in runs scored.  Because of his presence, the Dodgers used Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson at first base and the duo led Brooklyn to the World Series in ’47, which they ultimately lost to the Yankees.  The Dodgers wanted to move Jackie out from first base and cleared second base for him by swapping Stanky to the Braves for Bama Rowell.

Determined to prove that the Dodgers made a bonehead play by trading him, Stanky had a terrific year in Boston.  He was hitting a mighty .320 with an otherworldly on-base percentage of .455 when an injury sidelined him.  Eddie only played in 67 games for the Braves in ’48 but was back in time to help them out in the World Series.  He hit .286 with an astronomical on-base percentage of .524 in the World Series, but the Indians of Gene Bearden beat the Braves.

Healthy again in 1949, Stanky led Major League second basemen with 113 walks.  He hit a nifty .285 and posted a great on-base percentage of .417.  But his finest hour came the following year after a trade sent him to the New York Giants.  Traded with shortstop Alvin Dark for sluggers Sid Gordon and Willard Marshall, The Brat made the NL All-Star again by leading the senior circuit in on-base percentage (.460) and walks drawn (144).  Stanky hit an even .300, scored 115 runs (the only NL 2B to score over 100) and reached his highwater mark for stolen bases.  He and former teammate Jackie Robinson were the only two .300-hitting second basemen in the Majors.

The Giants were NL Champions in 1951 with Stanky still his brilliant on-base percentage self at the age of 35.  The Brat posted his fourth straight year of an on-base percentage over .400 and also showed uncommon pop that season by swatting 14 homeruns–the only year he eclipsed ten.  But for the third time in three tries, Stanky was a member of the team that lost the World Series.

Stanky’s days as a regular were essentially over after 1951.  The Cardinals acquired him in 1952 to be their player/manager, but Stanky did far more managing than playing, thanks to Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst entrenched at second base.  He managed the Cardinals for three and a half years before his firing.  Later, in the 1960s, the White Sox named Stanky manager and he piloted the Pale Hose for two and half seasons.  His last managerial work came with the Texas Rangers in 1977, when he won the lone game he piloted.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,259/R 811/H 1,154/2B 185/3B 35/HR 29/RBI 364/BB 996/SO 374/SB 48/BA .268/SA .348/OBP .410

www.vintagecardtraders.com

The perfect case study to show that Bill James’ similarity scores are bogus, the most similar player to McCormick is listed as George Kelly.  Kelly was a poor natural hitter who struck out twice as much as he walked while McCormick walked twice as much as he struck out.  Although Frank was named to nine consecutive All-Star teams, he received very little support for Hall of Fame induction.

McCormick made his Major League debut in 1934 with the Reds, but Cincy had future Hall of Famer Jim Bottomley stationed there.  McCormick didn’t stick in the Majors until 1938.  That year, Frank set the National League ablaze with his flaming lumber.  He made the first of nine straight NL All-Star teams while kicking off a string of three straight years in which he led the senior circuit in base hits.  The Cincy first baseman was a terror at the plate as a rookie in ’38.  He finished second in the league in doubles and paced National League first basemen with 106 RBI.  His most notable trait was his ability to make contact.  In 640 at-bats, Frank fanned just 17 times.

McCormick finished fourth in MVP voting in 1939 when he paced the National League in base hits (209) and RBI (128).  He led the Reds to the World Series in 1939 with a robust season batting average of .332 and slugging average of .493.  The New York Yankees manhandled the Reds in the Fall Classic but Frank hit an even .400 in the contest.

The Reds returned to the World Series in 1940 with Frank winning the MVP Award that season.  The National League’s Most Valuable Player led the league in hits and doubles, as he put together an amazing three-year span of 40+ doubles, 100+ RBI, 190+ hits and .300+ batting averages.  Frank  finished second in the NL with 127 RBI and was one of two (Johnny Mize being the other) first basemen to hit .300.  The Reds rushed to the World Series and won the title, downing the mighty Detroit Tigers in seven games.

His numbers fell in 1941 but Frank nevertheless made the NL All-Star team and drove in 97 runs.  World War II began to take players away with machine gun rapidity but the aging McCormick, in his early 30s, stayed in the Major Leagues.  The fact that he was able to remain on the diamond and play has possibly hurt his Hall of Fame induction status, since he played through the fighting and still failed to net 2,000 career base hits.

Frank reached .300 again in 1943 but his power numbers fell, like everyone else in the game, because supplies were needed for the war and balls were made with a less lively core material.  That ’43 season, McCormick paced National League first basemen in doubles.  He flourished in 1944, his last great season, when he paced National League first basemen in homeruns and doubles.  He also enjoyed his fourth 100 RBI season in ’44. 

When the boys returned from the war, the Reds sold their aging slugger to the Phillies for $30,000.  A woeful organization, the Phillies were hoping Frank would instill much-needed thunder in their lineup, but they acquired him a year or two too late.  The Phillies released him early in the 1947 season and he caught on with the Braves of Spahn and Sain.  McCormick helped the Braves reach the World Series in 1948 and he ended his career with on an NL champion squad.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,534/R 722/H 1,711/2B 334/3B 26/HR 128/RBI 954/BB 399/SO 189/SB 27/BA .299/SA .434

www.sabr.org

An anomaly during his playing day, Candy Nelson was a player during baseball’s early years who actually drew a walk.  Most guys in the 1800s swung the bat and rarely kept the splinter on their shoulder.  Nelson on the other hand wasn’t adverse to accept a base on balls.  The left-handed hitting shortstop led his league three times in walks drawn and had five Top Two finishes in the department.

Nelson, an elite defender where ever stationed on the field, made his Major League debut with the old Troy Haymakers of the National Association.  He only played in four games for the Haymakers before he was moved to the Brooklyn Eckfords.  The following year, 1873, Candy joined the New York Mutuals and played for early baseball legend Joe Start.  Candy and Jim Holdsworth formed a fine double-play combo for Start’s Mutuals as both men hit above .320.  Nelson finished second on the team with a .327 batting average and he slapped out 55 hits in 36 games–the schedules were lighter in the 1800s (he only played three seasons in which he reached 100 games played).

Candy paced the old National Association in walks in 1874.  Used primarily as a second baseman, Candy tied with Doug Allison for the team lead in triples.  When his bat dried up in 1875 the Mutuals cut ties with Nelson and his offense remained a concern for several years.  He returned to Troy in 1879 and had his bounce-back year with the Trojans.  A terrible team, the Trojans finished 19-56 with Candy hitting a respectable .264.

It wasn’t until 1883 that Candy established himself as a premier Major Leaguer.  Nelson, who had bounced around from team to team throughout his career, caught on with the New York Metropolitans of the American Association that season.  He hit a robust .305 for Jim Mutrie’s brigade.  Mutrie rode his ace Tim Keefe for 41 wins but Candy was the only .300 hitter in the lineup.  In top form in 1884, Candy paced the AA in walks and fielded his position twenty points higher than the average shortstop.  Keefe was brilliant again and with Dave Orr and Dude Esterbrook helping Candy out in the lineup, the Metropolitans copped the American Association title.  Nelson’s 114 runs scored was good for fourth in the league.

Candy made it back-to-back years of leading the league in bases on balls drawn in 1885 when he accepted a league best 61 free passes.  But with their ace Tim Keefe gone, Mutrie’s boys fell drastically in the standings.  Candy finished fourth in runs scored again but New York, minus Keefe, fell to seventh place.  In 1886, Candy finished fifth in the American Association in walks, but his batting average was rather weak–his on-base percentage was 100+ points higher than his BA. 

Jim Mutrie joined the National League in 1885 and lured Candy to his Giants at the end of the 1887 season. In his upper thirties at this time, Candy missed out on Mutrie’s glory years when he won back-to-back titles with the Giants in 1888 and 1889.  Nelson played one final year with the American Association’s Brooklyn Gladiators in 1890; a year in which he posted a decent .365 on-base percentage as a 41-year-old veteran.

THE NUMBERS

G 817/R 648/H 833/2B 93/3B 27/HR 3/RBI 208/BA .253/SA .300/OBP .330

 www.baseball-fever.com

The first man to master left field in Boston, the area he patrolled became known as “Duffy’s Cliff.”  Before the Green Monster stood out in Fenway Park, Lewis had to man a tricky piece of pasture with a slope that gave many outfielders headaches.  Although it was a daunting task, Lewis accepted it and performed sensationally.  His first five years in Boston he notched 20 or more outfield assists.

Duffy joined the Red Sox from the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks squad and quickly established himself as a star Major Leaguer.  Although left field in Boston gave Lewis fits at first (indicated by a poor .944 fielding %) he didn’t take his frustrations to the dish.  Duffy dined with delight as a rookie, feasting on big league pitchers by finishing second in the AL in the homerun department.  Duffy paced American League left fielders in hits and doubles–he was the lone junior circuit left fielder to eclipse 20 doubles: he legged out 29.

Duffy elevated his game as a sophomore, driving his batting average up 24 points from his rookie season.  The power he showed as a rookie remained as he led left fielders in the long ball department.  His finest year may have come the year after when he had his lone 100 RBI season.  His 109 RBI was good for second in the league and Lewis was the only Major League left fielder to reach 30 doubles.  He enjoyed his third straight year of a .400+ slugging average and also reached his highwater mark for runs scored while pacing the American League with 31 sacrifices.

Duffy failed to swat a homerun in 1913 but his triples total increased to a career high of twelve.  The top left fielder in the American League, Duffy led his position peers in batting average, slugging average, hits, doubles, and RBI.  Duffy drove in 90 runs for the Red Sox.  When the Federal League established itself in 1914 it began raiding rosters of the two older leagues.  Lewis remained loyal to Boston and spurned the offers of the upstarts.  It was a wise move on his part since the Red Sox went to the World Series in 1915.

Duffy hit a robust .291 during the regular season in 1915 while also posting his fifth consecutive season with 30 or more doubles.  His BoSox club took on the surprise Phillies in the World Series and Duffy owned Philadelphia pitching by hitting them at a .444 clip with a .667 slugging average.  The Red Sox repeated as AL champs in 1916 and Duffy continued his Fall Classic heavy-hitting by ravaging Brooklyn pitchers for a .353 World Series batting average.  Duffy took part in three World Series for the Red Sox and brought a title to Boston each year.

The Red Sox failed to take the AL pennant in 1917 but Duffy was a .300 hitter.  After the season, with the war raging overseas, Duffy cast his lot with the military and missed the entire 1918 season to service in World War I.  He would never again play another game for the Red Sox.  When he returned stateside he was essentially sold to the New York Yankees with star pitchers Dutch Leonard and Ernie Shore for a bundle of cash and a handful of middling players, the best of which was pitcher Ray Caldwell.

Duffy blasted seven homeruns (a fine total then) for the 1919 Yankees while also chasing 89 mates across the plate.  Although a new livelier ball was introduced in 1920, Lewis was one of the few players who didn’t benefit from its introduction.  His slugging average reached an all-time low and the Yankees, with some kid named Ruth in the lineup, were beginning to establish themselves as a slugging outfit.  So out the door went Duffy in 1921 and he played one final Major League season with the ’21 Senators.  After his stint with Washington, Duffy returned home and was a player/manager in the Pacific Coast League for a number of years.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,459/R 612/H 1,518/2B 289/3B 68/HR 38/RBI 793/SB 113/BA .284/SA .384

www.baseball-reference.com

Known for his World Series exploits, Pepper Martin personified the old St. Louis Cardinals Gashouse Gang better than any one player.  He was gritty, uneducated and full of piss and vinegar.  A madman on the base paths, Pepper was a fiery competitor who could outrun a frightened gazelle.  His speed and base-running savvy became that of legend in the 1931 World Series when he single-handedly wore out A’s backstop Mickey Cochrane.

Pepper, born in the untamed regions of Oklahoma, joined the Cardinals for a few games in 1928.  The Redbirds roster was full and Pepper didn’t have a regular assignment so it was back to the bushes for Martin.  He resurfaced with the Cardinals in 1931 and pieced together a terrific rookie season.  Used as a center fielder in ’31, Pepper led Major League middle gardeners in stolen bases while hitting an even .300.  NL Champs in 1930, the Redbirds repeated in 1931, as did the Athletics in the American League.  The A’s were victorious in 1930 but the Cardinals had a new weapon in Pepper.  Martin hit .500 in the World Series with four doubles and five steals, single-handedly bringing a title to St. Louis.

An injury limited Pepper’s playing time in 1932 but he was back at full speed in 1933.  That year, Pepper led the NL in runs scored and stolen bases and was named to the National League All-Star team; a rather new honor.  Used as a third baseman (he rotated between third base and the outfield throughout his career), Martin paced all hot corner custodians in doubles, triples and batting average.  The stolen base was a lost art form in the 1930s but Pepper tried to bring it back.  He paced the NL is thefts again in 1934.  He would steal at least 20 bases ever year from 1933 to 1936. 

The Cardinals went to the World Series again in 1934 with Pepper leading Major League third basemen in triples.  Although he wasn’t as amazing in the ’34 World Series as he was in the ’31 Fall Classic, Martin was nevertheless on fire.  He hit Detroit pitching at a .355 clip and scored eight runs with three doubles and a triple.  It took them seven games, but Pepper and The Gashouse Gang downed the Tigers.

An All-Star for the third straight year in 1935, Pepper finished second in the National League with 20 steals and was the only Major League third baseman to reach 40 doubles.  His 121 runs scored were third in the senior circuit.  The following year, Pepper scored an identical 121 runs which was good for second in the NL.  He enjoyed his third .300 hit season while pacing the National League in stolen bases for the third and final time.

Pepper made his final All-Star appearance in 1937.  As his age reached the mid 30s, he began to lose a step and thus became a part-time player.  Used as an outfielder and third base substitute in 1939, Martin hit .306.  He had his final .300 hitting season in 1940 and with his playing time diminished, he ventured west and signed on with the Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League.  Pepper had a successful minor league managerial career after putting his playing spikes in the closet.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,189/R 756/H 1,227/2B 270/3B 75/HR 59/RBI 501/BB 369/SO 438/SB 146/BA .298/SA .443

One of the game’s top average hitters just before World War II, Taft Wright could hit with the best of them.  A late start in baseball and a three-year absence to WWII kept Taft’s career numbers lower than they could have been, but he nevertheless amassed some nice career stats: notably his high batting average and on-base percentage.

The North Carolina native began his professional career in his home state with the Charlotte Hornets in 1933.  The Hornets were an unafiiliated team but the Washington Senators bought his contract in 1935.  After three years on the farm with the Senators, Wright was called up to Washington in 1938.  As a 26-year-old rookie, Wright spelled a trio of .300 hitting outfielders in Hall of Famer Al Simmons, the fleet-footed George Case and ballhawk Sammy West.  But Taft paced the Senators with a .350 batting average as a rookie, proving that he was ready for regular duty.

The Senators let Al Simmons go in 1938 and gave Taffy his right field post.  Wright drove in 93 runs in his first year as a regular and led American League right fielders in fewest strikeouts: he whiffed 19 times in 499 at-bats.  At the top of his game in 1940, Taft led Major League right fielders with a robust .337 batting average while socking 196 base hits (fifth in the AL).  Always a difficult strikeout victim who accepted his share of walks, Wright’s on-base percentage was a flattering .385.

Taft enjoyed his best year for power in 1941 when he posted his only double-digit figure in his career.  Never the blaster of the Jimmie Foxx mold, Wright was a hard-hitting spray hitter who drilled hits all over the field.  Taffy led Major League right fielders in doubles that year while hitting at a .322 clip with 97 RBI.  He hiked his on-base percentage up to .399 and was handed a few MVP votes for his fine season.

Wright was in top form in 1942 when he hit .333 before joining the military during World War II.  The sharp-eyed hitter took his keen batting eye (he walked 48 times in ’42 with just nine strikeouts) to Uncle Sam and missed the next three years to service in the military.  At a cursory look at Taft Wright’s career, it would appear that he is ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration (all eligible players must have played ten years) but with his three-year service hitch, Wright would have twelve years in the Majors.

Wright returned to the White Sox in 1946 and had trouble shaking off the rust.  In his five years before the war, Taft never hit below .300 but when he returned after three years of wearing military threads he wasn’t as sharp.  His batting average fell to .275 but he still managed to lead American League right fielders in stolen bases. 

Taft’s bat came back in 1947 when his batting average returned to its usually lofty regions.  The left-handed hitter slapped the apple at a .324 clip and missed the elusive .400 on-base percentage by two little points.  At the age of 36, Taffy’s batting average fell to .276 in 1948 and the White Sox sold their aging outfielder to Connie Mack’s Athletics.  He played one final year with the A’s before embarking on a minor league playing/coaching career.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,029/R 465/H 1,115/2B 175/3B 55/HR 38/RBI 553/BB 347/SO 155/BA .311/SA .423

www.baseball-reference.com