Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on the first of June, 2016.
It had to happen, and it finally did. The Cubs didn’t win a game which Jake Arrieta started. Jake didn’t lose, but the Cubs had won 23 starts in a row when he had been “carrying the mail” (an old-fashioned term for the starting pitcher’s role.) Not last night. Jake went 7 and left in a scoreless tie, after which the Dodgers put up 2 in the 8th and 3 in the 9th for a 5-0 win. He mostly left because he walked the bases full in the 7th. If he’d retired the Dodgers 1, 2, 3 that inning the Cubs might have left him in considering the state of their bull pen. On Monday, the pen had to work 7 innings when their starter left with cramping in his right hamstring.. The relievers only gave up a hit, but that didn’t leave manager Joe Madden much to work with last night as the Dodgers’ bats proved. Corey Seager sealed the deal with a 3-run home run in the 9th.
On a night punctuated by several demolitions, the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts (yes, there’s a Mookie playing in Boston,) hit 3 home runs as his team wiped out the Orioles. In Denver The Rockies matched a team record 7 home runs as they crushed the Reds 17-4. The last was a grand slam in the 7th inning by Charlie Blackmon which reached the home bull pen. They put up 14 extra base hits, something they hadn’t done since the team began in 1993 in spite of the high air in Denver. The other time they hit 7 in a game, they weren’t even home. They hit 7 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal back in April, 1997. Two of last night’s shots were hit by Nolan Arenado who is tied at 16 with the White Sox’ Todd Frazier for the big league lead. The Reds tied a record they’d rather not. Twice in their time, the last in Los Angeles in 1979 their pitchers have uncorked 7 goper balls.
From the ridiculous to the nauseating, the Padres had to use not one but two position players as they were defrocked by the Mariners 16–4. Catcher Christian Bethancourt was the first Christian thrown to the lions as he took the hill in the 8th. One of his tosses went a respectable 96 MPH. He also threw a knuckleball at 53 MPH that had to make Jim Bouton cringe. With the bases full his manager Andy Green had to turn to another position player Alexi Amarista to end the 8th and work the 9th.
The game of the night, however took place in Los Angeles where the Angels lost a 7-run lead but defeated the Tigers 11-9 on a walkoff home run by CJ Cron. The Tigers unloaded 5 home runs to the Angels’ 4 but Cron’s second long shot of the night ended things. The Angels had a 9-2 lead after 4, usually the signal for fans to hit the exits. But a 7th-inning grand slammer by Ian Kinsler and an 8th-inning wallop by Victor Martinez had things level at 9-9. So it stayed until the last of the 9th when, off Tigers’ reliever Mark Lowe Albert Pujals drew a leadoff walk and Cron sent the Angels’ faithful home happy.
Wednesday brings its usual share of afternoon baseball to fans with the opportunity to tune in. The White Sox will send former Oriole Miguel Gonzalez to the hill at Citi Field against Jacob DeGrom of the Mets. The Cardinals will face the Brewers and the Twins face Oakland in daylight. The Tigers and Angels start at 7 Eastern, 4 Pacific meaning the shadows will be a factor at Anaheim Stadium. That will help Matt Shoemaker as if he needs it. The last two times out he’s struck out 10 in each game and walked nobody.
We rarely mention in this space items which happened today in baseball history, but today we must. On June 1, 1925 the streak of 2,130 games in a row played by the Yankees’ Lou Gehrig began. The Yankees were on their way to an awful season, the worst they would have until 1965. Babe Ruth had been on the shelf since spring training with the infamous “bellyache heard ’round the world.” June 1 happened to be the day he came back. Gehrig wasn’t a starter that day but came in to pinch-hit. The legend has it that the next day, first baseman Wally Pipp begged off with a headache, Gehrig took his spot and that was that. In fact, Pipp among others were slumping and manager Miller Huggins made wholesale changes, replacing his catcher, first and second basemen. Gehrig’s record was thought to be the most durable in history. A number of factors made it easier for Cal Ripkin to break it when he did in 1995. To start with, by then no major league teams played exhibition games on off days. As late as the ’70s that still happened. In Gehrig’s time it was a needed way for the teams to make money, and like Ruth he was heavily advertised so he had to play in meaningless games in small towns. Second, by the time of Ripkin the doubleheader as a regular part of the schedule had been phased out. As now, doubleheaders only happen when rain makes them necessary. In Gehrig’s day most Sundays and some Wednesdays meant doubleheaders and he played both games for nearly 14 years. Third, DH meant doubleheader and not designated hitter in Gehrig’s day. By the time Ripkin broke in the designated hitter was a fixture in his league. Fourth and most abominably of all, in Gehrig’s day it would have been unthinkable for the players to strike as they did in August, 1994. So, Ripkin got a ton of unscheduled time off between the early end of 1994 and his first game of 1995.
Randy Hundley is 74 today. Recently we mentioned the birthday of his son Todd Hundley, former Mets catcher. Randy is best known as catcher and parttime radio broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. He would fill in at the mike when Ron Santo was unable to go. Cecil Randolph Hundley, a Martinsville, VA native broke in with the Giants late in 1964. His first stint with the Cubs ran from 1966 to 1973. After that he was with the Twins and Padres, then back to the Cubs. He took a gold glove in 1967 and was an All-Star in 1969 when the game was played at newly-christened RFK Stadium in Washington. With him as team leader the Cubs finished third in both 1967 and 1968 (unfamiliar turf for the Cubs at the time,) and might have won the 1969 NL East but for the Miracle Mets. He lost 3 months of 1970 and nearly all of 1971, all due to a collision at the plate with Carl Taylor of the Cardinals. Even on returning, the left knee he injured in that collision damaged his remaining career. The idea of “Baseball fantasy camps” was unknown until Hundley began the first one. Now many teams have them and charge a fat fee for participants.
Thanks to a facebook post by former Yankee Fritz Peterson, Bud Metheny gets a birthday mention. He was born this day in 1915 and died in January 2003. His full name was Arthur Beauregard Metheny and he hailed from St. Louis, making the majors before either Yogi Berra or Joe Garagiola (both natives of St. Louis,) who were in the Navy at the time. So was Joe DiMaggio, and Tommy Henrich was also serving his country. Without their center fielder and right fielder the Yankees turned to Metheny, a 28-year-old rookie to fill the bill. He claimed a World Series ring in 1943. He played in games 2 and 5 of that World Series which they won against the Cardinals. From 1948–80, he served as baseball coach at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. The baseball stadium now in use there, which opened in 1983 bears his name. He also served as basketball coach and athletic director there during that time, but he had left the athletic director’s position before their women’s basketball team came to fame.0