Tag Archives: Baseball Hall of Fame

These Are The World Champion 1908 Chicago Cubs

Players on the 1908 World Champion Chicago Cubs In High Definition Photographs

Joe Tinker Second Baseman of the 1908 Chicago Cubs

Joe Tinker, Shortstop 1908 Chicago Cubs

For the moment it seems all of America is talking about the Chicago Cubs. As everyone now knows it has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series four games to one against the Detroit Tigers.

But what do you know of the 1908 Cubs team?

Maybe you’ve heard of Tinker to Evers to Chance the famous Cubs double play combination immortalized in a newspaper poem by the once legendary Franklin P. Adams. It should be noted that off the field Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers refused to speak to one another. Besides the trio of Cubs Hall-of Famers, you probably know little of the 1908 Cubbies.

Johnny Kling, Catcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Kling, Catcher 1908 Chicago Cubs (check out that bat!)

The 1908 Cubs are comprised of forgotten names. Their achievements are just dusty remnants that reside only in the record books. There is no one alive today who actually saw the 1908 Chicago Cubs play.

They were a hardened lot, these players. They usually had to work at other jobs in the off-season. It was a time when baseball players scrambled for a job on one of 16 ball clubs. They had to be constantly looking over their shoulder because there was always some youngster trying to take their $2,000 a year baseball job.

At least we can see what they looked like. We’re bringing the Chicago Cubs of 1908 back to you in high definition photographs. All photographs are from the Library of Congress and can be clicked on for enlargement in great detail.

With their heavy flannel uniforms, small fingered gloves, heavy bats and grizzled looks, here are some of the 1908 Chicago Cubs:

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown, Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown, really only had three fingers, his index finger was a stump that was the result of catching his hand in a corn shredder when he was seven-years-old. That accident gave Brown an odd spin on his fastball which confounded hitters. He won 239 games while losing only 130 in his career. His ERA was 2.06, the third lowest in history for pitchers with over 2,000 innings.

In the 1908 World Series Brown was one of two star pitchers, winning two games against the Detroit Tigers. Brown was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.

Orval Overall Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Orval Overall Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

You would think anyone named Orval Overall would be remembered just because of his name. A short career doomed Orval to obscurity despite a 108-71 lifetime record with a 2.23 ERA. There was no Tommy John surgery when Overall hurt his arm and his career was over in 1913 at age 32.  Overall won the other two games for the Cubs in the 1908 World Series.

Johnny Evers Shortstop 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Evers Second Baseman 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Evers was considered one of the scrappiest and smartest players to ever play the game. Evers batted .300 in 1908 and .350 in the World Series. If you enlarge the photograph you will see a man who had lived quite a bit. This photograph of Evers is from 1913 when he was only 32. Continue reading

Minnie Minoso Remembered

Minnie Minoso – Speed, Power and Grace

White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso scores on a short pop fly hit by Nellie Fox. Kansas City Athletics catcher Haywood Sullivan tries to apply the tag,  The White Sox won this first game of a doubleheader 5-3. (Sept 20, 1961) photo: UPI

White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso scores on a short pop fly hit by Nellie Fox. Kansas City Athletics catcher Haywood Sullivan tries to apply the tag, The White Sox won this first game of a doubleheader 5-3. (Sept 20, 1961) photo: UPI

Months after the Chicago White Sox acquired Orestes “Minnie” Minoso in a three team trade from the Cleveland Indians in 1951, White Sox manager Paul Richards said, “Technically the deal helped everyone.

Minnie Minoso and Eddie Robinson examine Ted Williams bat

Minnie Minoso and Eddie Robinson examine Ted Williams bat

Actually we got the best of it. I wouldn’t trade Minoso for anyone in the league.”

Minnie Minoso and Castro 1958Minoso was a star in Cuba before coming over to the United States and he never forgot his Cuban roots.

Minoso was signed by Indians owner Bill Veeck after being alerted to his ability by Abe Saperstein, the Harlem Globetrotters impresario, who was always on the lookout for black baseball talent. Minoso had been with the Indians since 1949 but had only gotten into nine games in two years. By 1950 Veeck was out as Indians owner, forced to sell the team to fund his divorce. The new owners considered Minoso expendable. That decision possibly cost the Indians several pennants throughout the 1950’s.

In his rookie season in 1951 Minoso batted .326 and led the league in stolen bases with 31 and triples with 14. In his career Minoso batted over .300 in eight seasons and had one unusual statistic – he led the league in being hit by pitches ten times. Minoso ran the bases with abandon and fielded as gracefully as any player in baseball.

When he retired in 1964 Minnie Minoso’s career average was .298 and he had hit 186 home runs while driving in 1023 runs.

Bill Skowron, Minnie Minoso Nellie Fox and Mickey Mantle July 24 1957 photo: AP

Bill Skowron, Minnie Minoso Nellie Fox and Mickey Mantle July 24 1957 photo: AP

Minoso died Sunday, March 1, 2015 at a gas station in Chicago after suffering a tear in his pulmonary artery, at the age of either 90 or 92. There had always been some doubt to the Cuban star’s actual age.

Continue reading

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ralph Kiner

Ralph Kiner, Mets Longtime Announcer And Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Dies At 91

Ralph Kiner (r) holds several bats while watching the Braves young slugger Eddie Mathews (l) before a game - 1953

Ralph Kiner (r) holds several bats while watching the Braves young slugger Eddie Mathews (l) before a game – 1953

For many New Yorker’s who grew up watching or listening to baseball, a part of their childhood ended today February 6 2014, with the death of Pirates slugger and Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner.

Ralph Kiner had a brief, yet great playing career followed by a long TV and radio career where he had been with the Mets broadcast team since their inaugural season in 1962.

Besides announcing Mets games, many baseball fans enjoyed watching Kiner through the Mets post-game TV show Kiner’s Korner.

The obituary writers will surely cover Kiner’s career thoroughly, but here are five things you might not have known about Ralph Kiner:

Ralph Kiner slides safely past Phillies catcher Andy Seminick at Shibe Park May 7, 1949

Ralph Kiner slides safely past Phillies catcher Andy Seminick at Shibe Park May 7, 1949

1. In the 1940’s Chicago Cubs scout Dutch Ruether found two bright prospects he wanted to bring to the Cubs. He got Ralph Kiner and Ewell Blackwell to agree to be signed for what he thought were bargain price bonuses. The Cubs didn’t sign Kiner saying it was too much money. The cost? $3,000!  Blackwell wanted only $750 and the Cubs passed on him too!

2. Ralph Kiner came up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946 and had one of the most extraordinary starts to a career, leading the National League in home runs for seven consecutive years.

3. In 1947 Ralph Kiner became just the fifth player in the history of baseball to hit 50 or more home runs in a year.

4. In his short career which spanned only ten years (1946-1955) Kiner hit 369 career home runs and walked 1,011 times, but struck out only 749 times.

5. According to Pirate teammate Joe Garagiola, Kiner was one of the great practical jokers in baseball. Kiner’s frequent victim was Pirates trainer Doc Jorgensen. One day Kiner removed all of the bottles and bandages out of Jorgensen’s medical kit. Later during a game when a player got spiked, Jorgensen ran out to the field and opened his bag to treat the player, and found that it was filled with sandwiches courtesy of Ralph Kiner.

Frank Chance, Chicago Cubs Player-Manager circa 1912

Frank Chance, Subject of Baseball’s Most Famous Poem

Frank Chance 1912These are the saddest of possible words:

“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,

Tinker and Evers and Chance.

Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble

Making a Giant hit into a double –

Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:

“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Just what is a “gonfalon” anyway? It is a pennant or a flag.

When columnist Franklin P. Adams wrote the poem “That Double Play Again” (later retitled “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon”) in 1910, Frank Chance was the manager and first baseman of the Chicago Cubs. With double play partners Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker, the three would be immortalized first in the popular poem and later in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Chance played for the Cubs from 1898 -1912 and was claimed off waivers by the Reds after the 1912 season. A month later he was claimed off waivers again from the Reds by the Yankees. In 1913, Chance became the manager of the New York Yankees and played a few games at first base.

He managed the Yankees for two seasons, leading the team to 7th place in 1913 and 6th place in 1914.

Frank Chance died at the age of 48 on  September 15, 1924. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946, 22 years after his death by the Old Timers Committee.

Two Baseball Greats Pass Away- Stan Musial & Earl Weaver And Remembering An Infamous Interview

Cardinals Superstar Stan Musial Dies At 92, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver Dies At 82 And One Very Dirty, Funny Radio Show

If you are like me, Saturday, January 19, 2013 will be remembered by baseball fans as a very sad day because two Hall of Famers died.

Stan Musial was one of the greatest players to ever play the game and was a gentleman on and off the field.

Earl Weaver was supposedly a gentleman off the field. On the field he could be a terror to the umpires.

I’ll leave the comments of greatness to others on both of these legends. While both of these men will get accolades and fond remembrances in the obituary pages, few will mention the outtake reel from “The Manager’s Corner” with Earl Weaver and Tom Marr.

This pre-game show that usually aired 20 minutes before every Orioles game never made it on the air for obvious reasons. I first heard this about 15 years ago. It had me rolling on the floor with laughter. I’d like to remember Earl as having a funny enough sense of humor to purposely make a radio show un-airable. Here is the story of how this 1982 “interview” transpired.

WARNING – EXTREMELY STRONG LANGUAGE – Play in the presence of children if you swear like a sailor.

How To Throw A Spitball

Burleigh Grimes Demonstrates How To Throw A Spitter – July 12, 1929

The spitball was officially banned from baseball in 1920. Existing spitball pitchers were grandfathered to be allowed to legally throw the pitch. Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes was the last of these legal spitball pitchers playing when he retired in 1934 after winning 270 games over 19 seasons. Grimes pitched for nine teams during his career and is one of only fourteen players to play for all three New York teams: the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and New York Yankees.

In this news photograph, which looks like it was taken in a backyard rather than a ballpark, Grimes demonstrates his method for throwing the spitter.

The news caption reads:

World Wide Photos

The National League’s Leading Hurler

Philadelphia, PA. – Burleigh Grimes veteran spitball pitcher of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who is leading the National League throwers with 14 wins and one defeat, demonstrates how he starts to throw his famous ‘spitter’ 7/12/29

illustration New York Times

Grimes won only three more games for the rest of the year and ended up with a 17-7 record. The Pirates finished in second place, ten and a half games behind the Cubs.

The object of the spitter is to have it sink. You first apply a good amount of saliva to an area of the ball. The two top fingers go over the wet part of the ball. The rest of the hand grips the ball tightly. You control the direction of the drop by tilting the top of the fingers slightly to the left or to the right. In order to be effective, your wrist must be straight and rigid when releasing the ball. This combination will give the ball a reverse spin. Controlling the location of the pitch is difficult and that is why when it was outlawed in 1920 there were only 17 pitchers using it effectively and they were grandfathered to keep using it.

Even though it has been banned for over 90 years, there are still many managers and batters who swear there are pitchers who throw the illegal pitch. In a 1967 Sports Illustrated article it was estimated that approximately 25% of pitchers were throwing spitballs.

Nellie Fox In A Strange Pose

Hey Nellie, Will You Please Lay On The Tarpaulin? 

I sometimes wonder if every photo of Nellie Fox shows him with a chaw of chewing tobacco bulging out of his cheek. Was he born with the chewing tobacco permanently attached inside one cheek?  This photograph of Nellie Fox shows that ballplayers were much more accommodating for publicity photographers back in the 1950’s, as Nellie lies on his stomach on a tarpaulin in an empty ballpark.

Nellie was a smooth defensive player and today is mostly forgotten, except by older White Sox fans who saw him patrol the keystone base for 14 of his 19 professional baseball playing years from 1947-1965.

The twelve time all-star hit over .300 six times, had 2663 career hits, won the MVP award in 1959 and struck out only 216 times in his entire career!

You need 75 percent of the vote to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America.  In his final year of eligibility in 1985, Nellie barely missed getting into the Hall by getting 74.7 percent of the vote. Finally in 1997 Nellie was selected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee.

Nellie Fox died from skin cancer at the young age of 47 on December 1, 1975.