I suppose it's possible I'd think otherwise if I'd been in Atlanta for Hank Aaron's 715th home run—I'm not one of those folks who claims Barry Bonds is not the all-time home run leader, I just think Aaron's moment seemed more special—or Pete Rose's 4192nd hit (even though, in hindsight, he had broken Ty Cobb's hits record with his 4190th hit).
But, that's a moot point, so I can't possibly know for sure what it felt like to be there for those moments. But, I do know how it felt to be present for these, my personal top five baseball milestones/moments:
5. September 30, 1978: Ed Figueroa becomes the first (and only) Puerto Rican born pitcher to win 20 games in a season.
I've always thought adding this to a list of milestones is a bit of a stretch, that it only qualifies because I don't have anything better to replace it. But, thinking about it further, Figueroa is the only player from his native land to ever win 20 games in a season. And, it's not like he's from Sweden either. Puerto Rico has produced the fifth highest total of major leaguers, behind only the United States, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Canada. On the other hand, it's never really been much of a pitcher factory, as Javier Vazquez is the country's all-time wins leader.
Figueroa is tied for fifth with Juan Guzman on that list, trailing Juan Pizarro, Jaime Navarro and Joel Pineiro, in addition to Vazquez.
I was pretty young at the time, so all I really remember is we sat on the lower level, just beyond first base, and I was aware of the history—insignificant or otherwise—I was witnessing, unlike a couple of the moments that follow. Oh, and I missed CCD to go to the game, and my classmates were envious...even while they were being taught not to be.
4. September 15, 1990: Bobby Thigpen becomes the first pitcher to save 50 games in a season.
My buddy Joe and I road-tripped to Chicago to see old Comiskey Park in its final season. Joe drove from Hartford to Syracuse to pick me up, and the next morning I drove almost the entire distance from Syracuse to Dubuque, Iowa. You see, this adventure included a little side trip to the Field of Dreams, during which Joe and I had a catch in the outfield, then wrote our names on the baseball and chucked it into the cornfield.
We also got robbed in Chicago when we naively handed a $20 bill to some street kid we thought was a parking attendant. When he literally ran to get us change, we knew we'd been had.
The interesting thing about this milestone is we knew Thigpen had 49 saves and had already broken Dave Righetti's all-time record (for what that's worth) going into the game. But, we weren't fully aware of one of the three rules of save eligibility: the one that awards a reliever a save for pitching one inning with a lead of three runs or less. I was under the impression, at the time, that the rule which requires the tying run to be in the on-deck circle applied to such a situation—meaning the lead would have to be one or two runs—but I was wrong. My recollection is Joe had it wrong too, but I really can't speak for him 22 years after the fact.
Two of my college pals and I embarked on a cross-country trip immediately following graduation. In hindsight, I'm disappointed to say we only hit two ballparks on that 3 1/2-week long trip: Wrigley Field, on our way out west, and Candlestick Park. We were going to hit Anaheim as well, but we never made it, although I can't remember why.
My friends were both Phillies fans, so it worked out well that we got to see them play the Giants in San Francisco.
Mike Schmidt was closing in on his 40th birthday and struggling, especially by his Hall of Fame standards, as his batting average barely hovered above .200 and he wasn't making up for it with his usual power (6 HR in 41 games).
Schmidt had a rough game that day (0-for-3 with an error in the field, his 8th on the season), but honestly my most lasting memory was of how cold Candlestick was. We had just come from seeing a game in Chicago, of course, but I was convinced they should call San Francisco the windy city.
The next day, we were watching ESPN in our motel room, which is how we learned Schmidt made the decision to hang it up after the game. No farewell tour, no final goodbye to the hometown fans. This was it. He'd played his final game, and we learned after the fact we were there to witness it.
I went to college at Penn State. There used to be a time when people asked me if the school was in Philadelphia, but as a result of recent events, everybody pretty much now knows that it's in the middle of nowhere. The exact geographic center of Pennsylvania, in fact: 2 1/2 hours from Pittsburgh and almost four hours from the city of brotherly love.
I'm going to stereotype a bit here, but the folks I met from "the city of brotherly love" didn't generally treat their western Pennsylvania brethren like siblings. There was definitely a rivalry between natives of the state's two largest cities and I have to say folks from Philly I knew were generally more insulting and, therefore, annoying about it. I'm sure that statement won't be controversial among baseball fans who've interacted with fans from both cities.
But, I digress. The point here is I had friends who were Pirates fans and friends who were Phillies fans. So, it made sense that when we planned to road trip to a game, it was to a Phillies-Pirates game. This particular time it was my first visit to Three Rivers Stadium.
Schmidt began 1997 at 495 home runs, five short of the milestone, so when we purchased the tickets, we knew there was a chance we could witness his 500th. But, the game was the Phillies' 11th of the season, so it seemed unlikely he'd get off to that fast a start.
He hit his first and second homers of the year on April 10 and 11, in games three and four, providing us a glimmer of hope. But, he hit just one in the next six games and was sitting at 498 with just the Friday night game to play before our Saturday trip to the park.
Of course you know what's coming. It's not like there's any way I could build any suspense around this story. We woke up from our drunken haze on Saturday morning to learn Schmidt had belted #499 the night before. So, there was definitely some excitement in the air that afternoon, and as you know, Michael Jack delivered:
[The following is excerpted from the post I wrote back in July, which essentially inspired this one.]
Early summer after my high school sophomore year, my best friend and next door neighbor's dad offered to take us on the 1 1/2 hour trip from our Dutchess County, New York neighborhood to the South Bronx. My dad was also invited, but he declined, so it was just the three of us.
We had pretty mediocre seats down the left field line, but it didn't matter, of course. We were at Yankee Stadium, and pretty soon the excitement of just being there was surpassed by the suspense of a chance for what certainly seemed like, and probably was, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I don't remember if we talked about the fact a potential no-hitter was in progress. I suspect we did, as we were two teenage boys and an adult who wasn't quite fanatical enough to buy into the superstition that we could actually jinx the thing.
What I do remember is that the buildup to the game's ultimate moment was just as suspenseful and exciting as game seven of just about any World Series I've seen, and that the final out—Dave Righetti's second strikeout of Wade Boggs on the day—was surreal.
Looking back at the box score, I realized Righetti walked Jim Rice twice in three at bats. Looking further, I also noticed Tony Armas didn't provide much protection for Rice in the order. On the day, he struck out and grounded into a double play in three at bats. More importantly, he was in the midst of a frustrating first season in Boston, in which he would hit 36 homers and drive in 107 runs, but with a .218 batting average and a paltry .254 OBP.
Upon returning home, I wondered if my dad realized what he'd missed. He hadn't watched the game on television so he didn't know, but honestly didn't seem as disappointed as I expected. You see, dad grew up only a subway ride away from Yankee Stadium and, in fact, had previously witnessed one of Allie Reynolds's two no-hitters in pinstripes.
It's fall—well, technically not until tomorrow, but it sure feels like it—and that means it's officially new release season. Of course, in the music industry, this season comes twice a year, with the first being in the spring. [Imagine if there were two baseball seasons a year. That would be awesome.] What this also means is I've got some serious catching up to do with a lot of new albums that have piqued my interest, but here is what I've been listening to leading up to this point.
Bloc Party - Four
This band produced three really good albums in their first four years, but it's taken another four to get to this one. In the meantime, lead singer Kele Okereke released a pretty lackluster solo record, so I wasn't sure what to expect here. What I got was a harder rocking affair than their previous efforts, and one that does not disappoint, even if it might rank fourth in their discography, in my opinion
Bill Fay - Life is People Lee Mazzola and I love to engage in various nonsensical music-related discussions—although he's better at it—like bands named after someone other than the lead singer, bands who replaced a significant member and became better in the process, etc. One that recently occurred to me thanks to this album—although I think it's actually a spinoff of one of our previous topics—is cover songs that are better than the original, with the qualification that the original is good too. Worded differently...covers that blow you away by the realization they're better than the already excellent original. Fay's rendition of Wilco's "Jesus, Etc." falls into this category for me.
Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal
I read somewhere this six-piece chamber pop outfit from Iceland are being called the next Arcade Fire. I'm not sure about that, but everywhere I looked, the band kept turning up, so I figured it was a sign I needed to check out this April release, even if I was a bit behind the curve. It turned out to be a good idea.
Passion Pit - Gossamer
I loved their debut, but this is one of those bands I kind of figured would be exposed by extended playing time. You know the type; good in a platoon role, but not a legitimate full-time performer. There's no doubt more time is needed to officially make that assessment, but they've made significant progress towards proving they're no Joe Charboneau.
Stars - The North
This is more of the same from the Canadian outfit who Of Monsters and Men remind me more of than they do Arcade Fire. When I say "more of the same," I basically mean that in the best way possible.
Sun Kil Moon - Among the Leaves
Pre-LC, my commute typically consisted of a nearly 20-minute walk home from the T station in the afternoon (in the morning, there was a bus that fit nicely with my schedule). This allowed me the opportunity for a little quiet time with my music, without it having to compete with the sounds of the train, people talking (and otherwise being annoying) on the train, the conductor yelling over the loudspeaker on the train, etc. Recently, I had a day in which I didn't have to take LC to or from day care. As a result, I was able to spend that 20 minutes with this album, allowing me to further appreciate the lyrics of a couple of its better songs: "Song for Richard Collopy," an ode to Mark Kozelek's late guitar tech; and "Track Number 8," which name-checks troubled singer-songwriters who passed prematurely, including Elliot Smith, Shannon Hoon and Mark Linkous. I kind of miss that 20-minute walk, but I wouldn't have it back for anything.
Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
I've been listening to this one on and off all year, never to the extent that made it legitimately Frequent Spin-worthy, but enough in total to make it finally worthy of the distinction.
For those of you who haven't been able to keep up with the goings-on of AfroDan Progressive Brewers, my family's move from the very-urban to the less-urban suburbs of Boston two years ago resulted in the need to annex our operations.
Last year, we opened the first of our two new facilities, AfroDan North. It took longer than expected, but last month the Emerson, Lake & Palmer-inspired Fanfare for the Uncommon Man Stout marked the inaugural brewing effort of our AfroDan South operation.
Actually, our new brew's namesake song "Fanfare for the Common Man" is an Aaron Copeland original, but as ELP was known to do, they took the classical composition and made it their own.
There was a time when I thought ELP's version was the theme song for ABC's Wide World of Sports. But, this myth was dispelled a few years ago. It may have briefly (or occasionally) been used as the theme, but the show's primary intro music was a Charles Ira Fox number.
But, those ideas about "Fanfare for the Common Man" were apparently not completely unfounded:
This beer was influenced by a recipe of mine from 17 years ago which I called Mr. Pither's Imperial Stout. But, several factors resulted in its evolution to this particular creation bearing a different name.
First, not all of the original ingredients were available at our local home brew store. A minor change to the recipe is one thing, but a few changes makes giving this one the original name feel a little wrong to me.
Second, we've been partial to naming our beers after prog-rock songs ever since we formed this brewing partnership in late 2007. Mr. Pither's was named after the main character in the Monty Python's Flying Circus classic episode "The Cycling Tour." While that's equally nerdy as prog-rock, it still strays from our mission.
Lastly, it didn't really turn out worthy of being considered an imperial stout. Despite using enough malt and fermentable adjuncts to reach upwards of 9%, it came in at 5.6% by our calculations. We thought we had solved the mystery of projected high octane brews not quite fermenting to their potential by using super high gravity yeast, but this brew's original gravity reading was mysteriously too low to come anywhere near the ABV we were expecting. Hopefully further research will be able to reveal the reason for that shortcoming.
This past weekend was the unveiling of our latest endeavor and we're quite pleased with the results. In fact, this one might be technically our best, even if it's not necessarily our favorite. What I mean by this is we love our 21st Century Schizoid Ale, and the 2010 edition is the consensus pick as our best brew to date, but it's extremely high alcohol content makes it not so easy on certain palettes. On the other hand, a lot of people—the wife included—aren't really big fans of stout, so who knows.
Anyway, we look forward to maybe sharing a Fanfare for the Uncommon Man Stout with some of you in the near future. If you're not one of those beer drinkers who hold certain prejudices against dark beers, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. You might not appreciate having to listen to a steady stream of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the process—just like stouts, they're not for everyone either, I realize—but sometimes we have to make sacrifices in life.
Finally, here's the recipe for a five-gallon batch:
1/2 lb. roasted barley (steeped 20 mins.)
1/2 lb. chocolate malt (steeped 20 mins.)
1/2 lb. Belgian de-bittered black malt (steeped 20 mins.)
9.9 lbs. amber malt extract (boiled 75 mins.)
1 lb. dark brown sugar (boiled 75 mins.)
3 oz. Chinook hops - 13% alpha (boiled 75 mins.)
1 oz. Warrior hops - 13.7% alpha (boiled 75 mins.)
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract (boiled 30 mins.)
1.6 oz. Cascade hops (boiled 10 mins.)
1 1/2 oz. WLP099 (super high gravity ale yeast)
This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2005- )
Anaheim Angels (1997-2004)
California Angels (1965-1996)
Los Angeles Angels (1961-1964)
An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer. Statistics
referenced for each player are plate appearances (for hitters), innings
pitched (for pitchers), Baseball-Reference WAR and Wins Above Average (WAA), OPS+ (for hitters) and ERA+ (for pitchers).
C - Brian Downing (1978-1990, 6912 PA, 35.3 WAR, 15.8 WAA, 126 OPS+)
He only caught for two-plus seasons with the Angels, but I had to find a
place in the starting lineup for the player who ranks third in team
history in position player WAR and among the top five in numerous
offensive categories (including OBP, runs, hits, total bases, home runs,
RBI, and OPS+).
1B - Darin Erstad (1996-2006, 5789 PA, 30.4 WAR, 12.9 WAA, 96 OPS+)
Erstad just as easily could have been the center fielder, but I opted
for him here, because I liked this team's other center field option
better than its remaining first base options.
2B - Bobby Grich (1977-1986, 4876 PA, 32.9 WAR, 19.1 WAA, 124 OPS+)
The greatest player who should be wearing an Angels cap on a Hall of
Fame plaque, in my opinion, and certainly that of a lot of other folks.
Grich ranks 7th among eligible non-Hall of Famers in wWAR.
[He's actually 6th--not counting Pete Rose and Joe Jackson--on the list
this link directs to, but I believe he's now 7th based on the
as-yet-unpublished newest calculation of wWAR.]
SS - Jim Fregosi (1961-1971, 5945 PA, 43.3 WAR, 26.5 WAA, 116 OPS+)
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Fregosi is the Angels' all-time leader in position player WAR.
3B - Troy Glaus (1998-2004, 3479 PA, 20.8 WAR, 10.3 WAA, 120 OPS+)
The 2002 World Series MVP earns the nod at the hot corner.
LF - Garret Anderson (1994-2008, 8480 PA, 23.7 WAR, -1.7 WAA, 105 OPS+)
The advanced metrics don't think as highly of the Angels' all-time
leader in numerous categories (including runs, hits, total bases and
RBI) as he was regarded when he was hitting 3rd, 4th and 5th in the
team's lineup all those years, but he's still good enough to earn a
CF - Jim Edmonds (1993-1999, 2951 PA, 19.1 WAR, 10.3 WAA, 119 OPS+)
Edmonds was better in St. Louis than Anaheim, but he still played well enough for the Angels to make the starting nine.
RF - Tim Salmon (1992-2004, 2006; 7039 PA, 37.1 WAR, 16.1 WAA, 128 OPS+)
The team's career home runs leader is also the longest tenured career Angel on this team.
DH - Vladimir Guerrero (2004-2009, 3606 PA, 20.9 WAR, 10.0 WAA, 141 OPS+)
Since almost 80% of the team's existence has been in the DH era, this
lineup needs a DH, and the Angels' all-time leader in OPS+ is the
perfect candidate for the job.
Chuck Finley (1986-1999, 2675 IP, 48.7 WAR, 27.1 WAA, 118 ERA+)
The underrated Finley is the team's career leader in pitching WAR and wins, and earns the spot as the ace of the rotation.
Nolan Ryan* (1972-1979, 2181 IP, 37.6 WAR, 20.3 WAA, 115 ERA+)
No offense to Texas, but Ryan should be wearing an Angels cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Frank Tanana (1973-1980, 1615 IP, 32.5 WAR, 19.7 WAA, 118 ERA+)
I had Frank Tanana's autograph as a kid, but that didn't influence my decision. He seriously deserves to be here.
Jered Weaver (2006- , 1292 IP, 27.2 WAR, 16.5 WAA, 128 ERA+)
The only active Angel among the starters on this team is under contract
until 2016, so if he keeps it up, we could eventually see him at or
near the top of this rotation.
Mark Langston (1990-1997, 1445 IP, 24.4 WAR, 12.6 WAA, 109 ERA+)
Langston still carries around the dubious distinction of being the key
piece the Expos got in return when they traded a young Randy Johnson,
but he had a nice career otherwise.
Francisco Rodriguez (2002-2008, 452 IP, 15.5 WAR, 8.9 WAA, 189 ERA+)
I'll wonder aloud if Percival would be the popular pick among Angels
fans, but I can't help but favor K-Rod's 189 to 157 ERA+ advantage as
the deciding factor, considering the two are virtually equal based on
the value metrics.
C - Bob Boone (1982-1988, 3391 PA, 10.8 WAR, 1.2 WAA, 71 OPS+)
1B - Rod Carew* (1979-1985, 3570 PA, 16.2 WAR, 6.2 WAA, 119 OPS+)
IF/OF - Chone Figgins (2002-2009, 4075 PA, 20.8 WAR, 8.5 WAA, 99 OPS+)
3B - Doug DeCinces (1982-1987, 3268 PA, 17.5 WAR, 8.5 WAA, 117 OPS+)
OF - Torii Hunter (2008- , 2913 PA, 18.7 WAR, 9.8 WAA, 121 OPS+)
sure there are some who would have Boone and Carew as starters. But, I
prefer Downing's offense to Boone's defense, and Carew provides a good
example of my all-time team philosophy of not letting a player's entire
career overshadow his performance with the team in question. Figgins'
inclusion might seem a bit surprising at first, but his Angels years
were quite good and his versatility was invaluable.
John Lackey (2002-2009, 1501 IP, 22.9 WAR, 10.5 WAA, 116 ERA+) Troy Percival (1995-2004, 587 IP, 16.2 WAR, 8.2 WAA, 157 ERA+) Dean Chance (1961-1966, 1237 IP, 19.1 WAR, 10.3 WAA, 122 ERA+) Jarrod Washburn (1998-2005, 1153 IP, 18.7 WAR, 9.2 WAA, 114 ERA+) Scot Shields (2001-2010, 697 IP, 11.4 WAR, 5.5 WAA, 139 ERA+)
Mike Scioscia (2000- , 1143-943 W-L, 1 WS)
Scioscia's teams haven't had much postseason success, other than
winning the 2002 World Series, but he could be building himself a nice
Hall of Fame case.
I'm quite pleased to share I've been selected as a new writer for what's become my favorite blog of late, High Heat Stats.
High Heat Stats evolved from the Baseball-Reference.com blog, with the latter's primary author founding and taking on the role of Editor-in-chief at the new site, which launched almost a year ago. It's a great community that engages in a lot of insightful discussion about baseball, with an emphasis on statistics, of course, but not overwhelmingly so.
Although plans often change, my thoughts right now are that I'm going to take my All-Time Teams series over there, while continuing to link to the posts here. I'll also be maintaining the page where they're all compiled. And, of course, I'll continue to write about everything else in this space.
So, I hope you'll follow those links over there and maybe leave a comment or three. Although I probably should make a note-to-self that the two most frequent commenters in this series to date are also new/newish writers at High Heat Stats.
In the late '90s, I was a fan of a Providence-based indie band called Purple Ivy Shadows. I knew of them and got to know the band members through friends who were mutual inhabitants of a similar music scene, but I've remained friendly with, and a fan of subsequent projects by, singer/guitarist Chris Daltry, a charming southernish gentleman who once was a batboy for the Richmond Braves.
I'm pretty sure Chris used to live—and maybe still does—in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He still plays music, currently in a rootsy band called the 'Mericans, when he's not running What Cheer Antiques and Vintage, the store he co-owns and operates with his wife.
Purple Ivy Shadows' most acclaimed record was probably 1997's No Less the Trees Than the Stars—although 1999's White Electric is probably my personal favorite—and its opening track was a song named for the aforementioned Providence suburb. It's a good song, no doubt, but the thing about it that has stuck with me for all these years: Daltry's raspy/twangy song-closing rendering of the word Pawtucket, whether intentionally or not, sounds an awful lot like "aww fuck it."
Alright, so I'll admit that was a rather pointless intro to a post about an outing to baseball game, but KJ and I took the boy to his second game this past weekend, a Labor Day trip to McCoy Stadium, home of the AAA International League Pawtucket Red Sox.
Their opponent for their final regular season game was the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (or Empire State, whichever it is) Yankees. In the alternative reality that is the International League, the Yankees did not squander a comfortable division lead and the Red Sox also qualified for the playoffs as a wild card. In fact, this game was just a tune-up for a postseason series between the two teams.
I'm really curious as to why this matchup is happening in the first round, considering Indianapolis finished with the league's best regular season record. In most playoff systems, that would draw them the wild card. I even asked Tamar Chalker (@jeterian on Twitter), who writes about the Yankees minor league system for It's About the Money, Stupid, but even she didn't know the answer.
It then occurred to me that, with the exception of the players involved and the fans in those smaller cities and towns, nobody really cares about the minor league playoffs. Even a writer covering those teams for a major league team-oriented blog is really only interested in how the prospects are doing. But, Tamar's interest in finding the answer seemed seriously piqued, so maybe this mystery will eventually be solved.
Monday's game was Little Chuck's second professional baseball game and he was just as well-behaved as the first, lasting until around the 8th inning before he started acting a little overtired. This time he stayed awake, though, but mom and dad had work to do back at the home front, so we left early.
I'm not even going to try to give the impression I paid much attention to the game. I saw former Boston Red Sox Darnell McDonald hit a solo homer for the Yankees, but beyond that I can't really recount the highlights. I could look them up, of course, but so could you, and minor league game recaps are not what you're here for. (What are you here for, while I'm on the subject?)
At this point, a ballgame is basically just a family outing to a place we enjoy spending time. McCoy Stadium is a great little park, with an added bonus being—for parents who might otherwise be stressed about whether or not they sufficiently applied sunscreen to their pale little baby of German, Irish, English and northern Italian descent—a good percentage of seating is in the shade.
While we're on the subject of family-related amenities, the changing station in the men's room was adequate and, more importantly, situated in a spot that wasn't over-run with traffic. There was also a family restroom, which we strategically used so we could take turns holding LC while the other took care of business. (I'm sure KJ will be pleased I included that detail.) The concourses were quite congested, however. Actually, they weren't that crowded, but since New Englanders walk like they drive, we felt like we were constantly trying to avoid people running into us while carrying the little guy. In fact, at one point KJ used her arm to shield LC from being brushed by a bag of garbage carried by a PawSox employee. Needless to say, she was not pleased.
Overall, though, Little Chuck's second baseball game was a successful adventure. We did finally find an infant-sized ball cap suitable for a boy and it looks nothing like the Bosox ripoff that is the standard PawSox cap: