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July 7, 2004
You Could Look It Up
1) FRANCONA MANAGES CLEANLY BUT NOT WELL
Sheffield's first chance came on a Kevin Millar grounder. The outfielder looped the throw over first base for an error; it was clear that he had forgotten both the range and the mechanics of playing the position. The Red Sox, already up by a run, had Dave McCarty and Cesar Crespo due to bat. An obvious strategic question presented itself: could the Red Sox run up the score by bunting the ball at Sheffield?
In the event, Francona let his batters swing away. McCarty walked, then Crespo grounded to short for a double play. Why didn't the Red Sox bunt? Maybe because Sheffield told them not to, just like Pepper Martin used to do.
2) JOHN LEONARD ROOSEVELT MARTIN
Like Mora, his best position was the outfield but if the Cards asked him to play the infield he shrugged his shoulders and gave it his best shot. Such was the case in 1933, when the Cardinals added Joe Medwick to their outfield and asked Martin to move to third base. The problem was Martin was a terrible third baseman with a scattershot arm. The opposition took to bunting on him, and Martin hated it. Each bunt he fielded was a personal humiliation. Eventually, he decided he couldn't take it anymore. Prior to a game against the Boston Braves, he made it known that the Braves had better not bunt on him or there would be dire consequences.
Naturally, the Braves took this as a challenge. The leadoff hitter bunted to third. Martin fielded the ball and dropped the runner with the throw. The second batter bunted as well. Martin laid him out on the first base line. After that, the Braves didn't bunt anymore.
The Braves should have taken him seriously. Martin was a very good guy to have as a friend, "one of nature's noblemen," Branch Rickey called him, emphasis on "nature," like Rickey had bagged him on safari. But Martin was sensitive and emotional. As a minor league manager in later life, he was suspended for taking an argument with an umpire a bit too far.
"Pepper," he was asked during a league hearing, "when you had your hands around that man's throat, what could you have been thinking?"
"I was thinking I'd choke the son of a bitch to death," Pepper replied. But Pepper was not an angry man. As a manager, he once walked out of the ballpark because he couldn't handle the booing. "They hurt my feelings," he said. "I'm not a good manager. I'm too thin-skinned and tender-hearted." Later, he quit a job as sheriff because the job was too depressing. "When I had to take the boy to jail," he said after arresting an army deserter, "the family cried and I did too."
3) BLACK MIKE'S BLACK MOODS
After the Series, it was suggested that Martin stole not on Cochrane's arm but on his brain: "There were other mitigating circumstances that contributed to Cochrane's below par World Series play," Fred Lieb wrote. "He was heavily involved in the depression stock market...and there was a bad break in the market during the Series. Several urgent margin calls from his brokers were delivered at the Athletic bench. Unable to meet them...he saw much of his early baseball earnings go down the drain....By nature, Cochrane was a worrier and a fretter, and teammates said he did not sleep the last three nights of the Series."
Cochrane's worrying finally knocked him out of the lineup in 1936. After hitting a grand slam at Philadelphia on June 4, Cochrane collapsed upon reaching the dugout. It took an hour for doctors to revive him. "His nervous system is backing up on him," wrote John P. Carmichael. "The burned-up energy of a high-strung youngster, trying to carry the baseball world on his shoulders another year, has left Cochrane spent and gasping." It was revealed that Cochrane had suffered fainting spells (panic attacks?) after games on several occasions. A thyroid disorder may have caused or exacerbated Cochrane's emotional problems, but this connection was never fully explored.
Cochrane was hospitalized, then sent to the Wyoming ranch of a Henry Ford associate to recuperate. "The Tiger manager is riding and shooting and otherwise forgetting the cares of baseball. The length of his absence remains undetermined." He returned in mid-July for a series with the front-running Yankees, but went back into the hospital four days later after fainting on the train back to Detroit. "The same old trouble," Cochrane said. He played in only 44 games. He was just 33. The next season, pitcher Bump Hadley of the Yankees hit him in the head with a fastball, fracturing his skull in three places. His career was over.
The best story about Cochrane's leadership dates from his days with the A's. Catching Rube Walberg one day, Cochrane became convinced that the pitcher was not giving his best effort. When Walberg loaded the bases, Cochrane stalked out from behind the plate, grabbed Walberg, spun him around, and kicked him in the ass. Walberg settled down after that. Memo to Jorge Posada: please consider this tactic the next time Jose Contreras pitches.
4) CIVIL WAR BASEBALL/SEVEN DAYS
"Dang it, Johnny! That's another ball lost in the Rappahannock! Go get it!"
"No way, Zeke! Them Reb pickets done shot the three boys we sent after the last ball!"
"Good point, Johnny! Let's see if we can drill out a cannonball and invent us some bowling!"
George McClellan was a moral coward who continually flattered himself for the great things he was doing for the country while keeping his vast army in neutral or reverse. When Robert E. Lee became McClellan's principle opponent on the eve of the former's siege of Richmond, the "Little Napoleon" did a little dance. He thought Lee "cautious and weak under grave responsibility...likely to be timid and irresolute in action." Actually, this was a near-perfect description of McClellan himself.
In the famous "Seven Days" of battle after Lee took charge of the Army of Northern Virginia, McClellan won six of seven battles but somehow convinced himself that he had lost all of them. Despite thwarting Lee at every turn, McClellan retreated after every battle, thereby allowing Lee to fulfill the purpose of his campaign, which was to get McClellan away from Richmond.
G AB R H 2B HR BB K AVG SLG OBP 6 24 10 13 1 10 1 4 .542 1.833 .560Howard got Detroit southpaw Mickey Lolich three times in two starts.
6) YOU CAN'T FOOL THE FAT MAN
Whereas Lolich was a fat pitcher who was into pastries, Wilbert Robinson was a fat catcher who was into meat. Trained as a butcher before starring with the old Baltimore Orioles of the National League, in 1902 Robinson found himself stuck in the unenviable position of managing the tattered remnants of the American League version of the Orioles after Robinson's supposed best pal John McGraw had taken all of the best players, including Roger Bresnahan and Joe McGinnity, and jumped to the New York Giants. Robbie, as he was universally known, compiled a 24-57 (.296) record, then went home. Finished as a player at 40, apparently uninterested in managing, Robinson opened up a butcher's shop and started vending choice cuts.
Eventually, Robinson and McGraw reconciled. Robbie was the Giant's pitching coach from 1911-1913, when an argument over a missed sign in the 1913 World Series forever alienated the two. Robinson moved from Harlem to Brooklyn, becoming manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
7) YOU KNEW HE WAS COMING
Stengel's main job in 1934 was to help the Dodgers play spoiler in a tight pennant race between the New York Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. The main enemy was the Giants, whose manager, Bill Terry, had insulted fans by asking if Brooklyn was still in the National League.
8) WITH DIZZY DEAN, THE PROFESSOR, AND MARYANNE
9) EVERYTHING RIGHT IS WRONG AGAIN