Stuff You Didn't Know

Ruth's Called Shot

On the subject of the "called shot," some people have cited obscure incidents where a player predicted in the clubhouse he would do something,
then went out and did it.  I could recite literally dozens of these instances, but there is a huge difference between saying something
half-jokingly to your teammates (and having it remembered only if you deliver), and going out on a limb in front of your opponents and spectators.

        As for the Ruth incident, other posters have quoted one eyewitness or another, as if the testimony shifted the burden of proof.  But there seem
to be as many versions of the event as there were witnesses.  Here's a sampling of quotes I've collected, most made decades after the fact:

        "Ruth pointed toward the center field fence, but he was pointing at the pitcher. Someone asked him, 'Babe, did you call that home run?' Babe
answered, 'No, but I called Root everything I could think of.'" -- Ben Chapman, Yankees' teammate.

        Ruth's finger "just happened to be pointing to center field" when he indicated he had one strike remaining. -- Frank Crosetti, Yankees' teammate.

        "I really didn't notice it, but I seem to recall that the story originated in New York several days after the game." -- Chicago American
writer James Gallagher.

        "I had a good friend who was at the game, and he swore to me later that Ruth pointed to the bleachers.  'Forget it,' I'd tell him, 'I don't
want to hear about it.' .(Cubs' pitchers Guy) Bush and Bob Smith . tyrated (sic) Ruth because he had two strikes.  They said 'What are you going to do
now?'  Then Ruth pointed his finger at the Cubs bench and said 'I've got the big one left.'" -- Burleigh Grimes, a Cubs' pitcher on the bench.

        "Bush, leading the tirade from our bench, turned a blast on the Babe . Babe pointed straight away and turned toward our dugout - no doubt
for Bush's benefit . I hesitate to spoil a good story (but) the Babe actually was pointing to the mound.  As he pointed, I heard Ruth growl (to B
ush), 'You'll be out there tomorrow, so we'll see what you can do with me.'  -- Cubs' first baseman-manager Charlie Grimm.

        "If he'd pointed to the bleachers, I'd be the first to say so." -- Cubs' catcher Gabby Hartnett.

        "Ruth did point, sure.  He definitely raised his right arm . He indicated (where he'd already) hit a home run.  But as far as pointing to
center, no he didn't . You know darn well a guy with two strikes isn't going to say he's going to hit a home run on the next pitch." - Cubs' shortstop
Mark Koenig.

        "I'm not going to say he didn't do it.  Maybe I didn't see it. Maybe I was looking the other way." -- Yankees' manager Joe McCarthy.

        "I thought Ruth raised his finger to indicate the number of strikes, and did not make a pointing gesture." -- Chicago Herald Examiner writer
Edgar Munzel.

        "Of course I didn't see him point.  Nobody else saw him point, because he didn't . Charlie would've thrown it right at his head.  I knew
that and so did all of the ballplayers." -- Dorothy Root, widow of the pitcher and spectator at the game.

        OK, so we're agreed that Ruth didn't really call his shot?  Well, Munzel adds that sports editor Davis Walsh shouted "Hey, he hit it exactly
where he had pointed!"  Photographic evidence shows that Hartnett's back was turned when Ruth made his gesture.  And Gallagher's claim that the story was concocted several days later is belied by the next morning's New York newspapers:

        "Very soon the crowd was to learn its lesson.  A single lemon rolled to the plate as Ruth came up in the fifth and in no mistaken motions, the
Babe notified the crowd that the nature of his retaliation would be a wallop right out of the confines of the park." -- John Drebinger, New York TIMES.

        "He pointed to the spot where he expected to send his rapier home." -- Paul Gallico, New York DAILY NEWS.


        And, then there are these versions:

        "Ruth pointed with his bat in his right hand, to right field, not center field.  But he definitely called his shot." -- Yankees' teammate
Lefty Gomez.

        "When Babe got back to the bench, (the Yankees' Herb) Pennock said, 'Suppose you would have missed.  You would have looked like an awful bum.' Ruth . laughed.  'I never thought of that,' he said." -- Yankees' trainer Doc Painter.

        "Don't let anyone ever tell you that Babe didn't point.  In our hotel room that night Babe told me what a sucker he had been to point.
'Look how many ways they could have gotten me out,' he said." -- Yankees' coach Cy Perkins.

        "Don't let anybody tell you differently.  Babe definitely pointed." -- Cubs' broadcaster Pat Pieper.

        "Yes, he pointed to the fence, and I have a mental picture of the ball going out of the park in center field, through a tree loaded with small
boys seeing the game.  I had just (made an out and returned) to the bench, got a drink of water . Our old coach, Jimmy Burke, was fussing at Babe for
taking the strikes, and I sat down by Jimmy . Ruth, after two strikes, got out of the batter's box, dried his hands off, got back in the box with his
bat in his left hand, and two fingers of his right hand pointed in the direction of center field, looking at the Cubs' bench all the time.  Then,
on the next pitch, he hit a low ball, like a golf ball, that rose all the way to the tree . Regardless of what anyone says or writes, that is the way
I saw it all happen . I will always remember that Series, and that one special game." -- Yankees' teammate Joe Sewell.

        But we no longer have to rely solely on the eyewitness accounts. Two home movie films of the event have surfaced in recent decades, one taken
by Matt Kandle, the other by Harold Warp.  Of course, there is no sound to accompany the grainy images, but Ruth clearly makes a cocking and pointing gesture of some sort just before hitting the mammoth home run.  From the body language, one can easily imagine Ruth engaging in some trash-talk exchange with Root and his teammates, driving home his point with his finger -- something along the lines of, "Just throw the damn ball in there
and let's see what happens."

        Did Ruth point to the outfield wall and announce "I'm going to hit the next pitch over that fence"?  Probably not.  But he did make a brazen
gesture toward his opponents, and followed it up with a long, game-winning home run.  That's about as close to a called shot as any of us will ever

Three-Pitch Innings

        One of my pet research collections, three-pitch half-innings, came up on SABR-L last week and, judging from the private responses, it is a
topic of interest.  So, here is my collection of 36, with the warnings that it is in no way meant to convey an all-inclusive list, and that many of
these have not been thoroughly checked:

06/05/1894  Duke Esper, Washington (NL) vs. Cleveland
05/22/1895  George Hodson, Philadelphia (NL) vs. Chicago (Wilmot doubles but overruns second and is tagged out, next two batters retired on first
08/07/1899  Vic Willis, Boston (NL) vs. Washington in the 2nd
08/22/1903  Addie Joss, Cleveland (AL) vs. Philadelphia in the 2nd
10/08/1908  Mordecai Brown, Chicago (NL) vs. New York in the 9th
04/14/1910  Jumbo Vaughn, New York (AL) vs. Boston in the 10th (Vaughn also had two four-pitch innings in that same game)
06/27/1911  Walter Johnson, Washington (AL) vs. New York (1st game)
10/09/1912  Christy Mathewson, New York (NL) vs. Boston (AL) in the 11th (World Series Game #2)
10/16/1912  Christy Mathewson, New York (NL) vs. Boston (AL) in the 5th (World Series Game #8)
05/26/1913  Walter Johnson, Washington (AL) vs. Philadelphia in the 6th
08/19/1915  Fritz Coumbe, Cleveland (AL) vs. Washington in the 6th
08/29/1915  Walter Johnson, Washington (AL) vs. St. Louis
06/01/1917  Walter Johnson, Washington (AL) vs. St. Louis in the 2nd
06/27/1917  Ed Klepfer, Cleveland (AL) vs. St. Louis in the 1st
09/21/1917  Molly Craft, Washington (AL) vs. Detroit in the 6th
06/03/1919  Hooks Dauss, Detroit (AL) vs. Chicago in the 6th
09/21/1919  Slim Sallee, Cincinnati (NL) vs. Brooklyn in the 9th
05/01/1920  Joe Oeschger, Boston (NL) vs. Brooklyn in the 7th
08/11/1923  Sam Jones, New York (AL) vs. Detroit in the 6th (2nd game)
10/14/1929  Rube Walberg, Philadelphia (AL) vs. Chicago (NL) in the 7th (World Series Game #5)
10/06/1941  Ernie Bonham, New York (AL) vs. Brooklyn (NL) in the 7th (World Series Game #5; he had thrown only four pitches in the previous inning)
05/11/1969  Sonny Siebert, Boston (AL) vs. California in the 2nd
05/25/1969  Joe Niekro, Chicago (NL) vs. San Diego in the 8th (2nd game)
06/25/1972  Burt Hooton, Chicago (NL) vs. Pittsburgh in the 4th
08/20/1979  Jerry Terrell, Kansas City (AL) vs. New York in the 9th (in his first professional inning pitched)
07/21/1987  Jimmy Key, Toronto (AL) vs. Texas in the 2nd
05/15/1989  Floyd Bannister, Kansas City (AL) vs. Minnesota in the 2nd
04/09/1990  Tony Fossas, Milwaukee (AL) vs. Chicago in the 6th
07/26/1992  Bruce Hurst, San Diego (NL) vs. New York in the 8th
08/12/1992  Scott Sanderson, New York (AL) vs. Detroit
09/11/1995  Jack McDowell, New York (AL) vs. Cleveland in the 9th
05/11/1996  Al Leiter, Florida (NL) vs. Colorado in the 8th (during his no-hitter)
06/09/1998  Brad Radke, Minnesota (AL) vs. Chicago (NL)
04/14/2000  Randy Johnson, Arizona (NL) vs. San Francisco (NL)
04/20/2000  Randy Johnson, Arizona (NL) vs. Colorado (NL) in the 7th
06/28/2000  Jay Witasick, Kansas City (AL) vs. Cleveland
10/21/2001  Mariano Rivera, New York (AL) vs. Seattle in the 9th (ALCS Game #4)
06/08/2002  Kazuhisa Ishii, Los Angeles (NL) vs. Baltimore (AL) in the 6th
04/19/2003  Mike DeJean, Milwaukee (NL) vs Houtson in the 10th inning
05/28/2003  Jeff D'Amico, Pittsburgh (NL) vs Chicago (NL) in the 3rd inning
06/15/2003  Mariano Rivera, New York (AL) vs St. Louis (NL) in the 9th
06/26/2003  Wayne Franklin, Milawukee (NL vs Chicago (NL) in the 6th
09/21/2003  Travis Harper, Tampa Bay (AL) vs New York (AL) in the 7th inning
09/27/2003  John Parrish, Baltimore (AL) vs New York (AL) in the 6th inning

        Six of the 1910-19 incidents are listed in the 1920 edition of SPALDING's OFFICIAL BASE BALL RECORD, while two others are from the book WALTER JOHNSON, BASEBALL's BIG TRAIN.  Other contributors include, alphabetically, Cliff Blau, Mike Bojanowski, Jim Charlton, Gil Craker, Ed Ho, Jeff James, Scott Longert, Peter Morris, Tom Ruane, Eric Sallee, Stew Thornley, Dixie Tourangeau, and Wayne Townsend.

        If anyone knows of any other three-pitch innings in the majors, I would appreciate information about them.  Thanks.

Rose & DiMaggio

        John Pastier asked, "Does anyone know what Rose's BA and OBA were during his big streak? I recall (incorrectly?) that DiMaggio hit a bit under
.400 during his streak. (Less than what Williams hot that year over the full season.) And would anyone know who holds the longest string of games during which his aggregate BA was .500 or better?"

        Pete Rose was 70-for-182 (.385) with a .424 OBP with a during his 44-game streak.  Joe DiMaggio was 66-for-174 (.379/.435) through 44 games but wound up 91-for-223 (.408) with a .463 OBP for his 56-game streak.  Ted Williams out-hit DiMaggio(.412) during that period and most other periods. And David Stephan, a former SABR member, has done research which would answer just such a question as John's last one.  Stephan's documented such things as 50-hit months, players who averaged .500 over 100 at bats, and players who averaged .450 over 200 at bats; he calls them streaks, booms, rampages, etc.  As I recall either Ty Cobb or Rogers Hornsby maintained a BA of .500 over a spell of close to 300 at bats, something like 145-for-289.

Stephan informs me that this research was presented during the 1993 SABR Convention, and should be available through the SABR Library.  He didn't have his data readily-available, but recalled that Ty Cobb had the longest stretch of at bats maintaining a .500 batting average (85-for-169), but that Rogers Hornsby, from June 28-August 28, 1924, averaged .489 over a stretch of just over 300 at bats.  George Sisler had a 58-for-101 streak, also.

Mantles's Speed

        Steve Reiss wrote, "According to lore, Mantle ran from home to first in 3.0 (lefty) and 3.1 (righty). Is this humanly possible or realistic. An
olympic runner might not be able to do the first thirty yards in three seconds."

        During the 1950s, reporter Lou Miller regularly clocked major leaguers on their sprints from home plate to first base.  In 1956 he
reported Mickey Mantle as the quickest down the line, requiring just 3.3 seconds from the left side of the plate (Mickey had been timed at 3.1 four
years earlier).  The fastest from the right side?  Mantle again, at 3.4. Other fast times: Bill White (3.4), Willie Mays (3.5), and Richie Ashburn
(3.5). Ernie Banks, Hank Bauer, Ken Boyer, Don Larsen, and Billy Martin -- none remembered for their foot speed -- all checked in at 3.6, faster than
the likes of Jackie Robinson (3.7) and Hank Aaron (3.8).  And, veteran catcher Yogi Berra (3.8) beat out 21-year-old flychaser Al Kaline (3.9),
according to Miller.

Mantle's Final Years

        Regarding Mickey Mantle's retirement, although it didn't become official until the spring of 1969, it was announced in a New York DAILY NEWS
exclusive on November 17, 1968.  "I just can't hit any more," Mantle explained, also describing his frustration at such things as not being able
to go from first to third like he used to, although his legs felt better than they had in years.  The article pointed to Mantle's paltry .245 and
.237 batting averages of the past two seasons, dropping his career mark from .305 to .298.  Mantle later said that losing his .300 lifetime average was
his biggest disappointment in baseball.

        Others have pointed out that Mantle's career averages were better than the American League averages (.236 and .230) in those years, and that
Mantle scored well in more-important measures.  Mantle finished second in the league in walks, and in the top five in OBP, both years.  He played 144
games both years, his most since 1961, and did adequately at first base.

        In fact, he was probably still the best hitter on a team that finished with an 83-79 record.  The Blunderers' Row batted .214 as a team in
1968, with only one player out of 34 batting higher than .245 (Roy White, .267).  Mantle led the team in homers, walks, and OBP.

        Using league norms, SABR member Neil Munro has devised a program to "translate" the statistics of one era to another.  I don't think the program
adjusts for the DH, but I used it to convert Mantle's 1967-68 numbers to what he might have done under the 1997-98 AL environment.  Following, if I
calculated correctly, are Mantle's translated numbers

       AB   R   H   2B 3B  HR RBI   BB   AVG
1997  440  84  128  26  0  33  73  122  .291
1998  435  84  127  23  1  29  79  120  .292

        It's hard to imagine Mantle feeling any pressure to quit at age 37 after seasons like that.  But, because the 1967-68 offense was so depressed,
and neither Mantle nor the press made any allowance for it, it was time for the Commerce Comet to fade into the night.