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October 31, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

Ask, and You Shall Be Answered

by Jim Baker

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Whenever somebody would proudly show off an especially ugly baby to my grandmother, she would, after suppressing a gasp, give a standard response: "That's a baby, all right."

It's both truthful and diplomatic. So, in the interest of honesty and diplomacy, I'll just say this about the recently completed Cardinals-Tigers meeting. "That was a World Series, all right."

Here then are the answers to last week's trivia quiz that covers two Tigers-Cardinals World Series that people will continue to talk about for decades to come.

General Questions

General.1: How many stadiums have hosted a Cardinals-Tigers World Series game?

Answer: Five. Tiger Stadium in 1934 (known as Navin Field then) and 1968, Sportsman's Park IV (a.k.a. Busch Stadium I) in 1934, Busch Stadium II in 1968, and Busch Stadium III and Comerica Park in 2006.

I would have also accepted Happy Tiger Funland and Beer-Soaked Gardens. Here's another bit of trivia you can use to break the ice at the next sorority mixer you're invited to: reader James Kushner reports that 2006 is the first World Series to end on a Friday since the Washington Senators closed out the New York Giants on October 10, 1924.

General.2: The Cardinals won the World Championship on their very first trip to the World Series in 1926. How many tries did it take the Tigers before they won one?

Answer: Five again. The Tigers won their first in 1935 (over the Cubs) after previously losing to the Cubs twice and the Pirates from 1907 to 1909 followed by then their loss to the Cards 25 years later. Had Ty Cobb played in modern times, you know the press would have said he didn't know how to win. That, and he needed lots and lots of anger management and sensitivity training, of course.

General.3: True or False? Heading into 2006, neither the Tigers nor the Cardinals have a winning record in total World Series games.

Answer: That's true. The Tigers were 26-31 and the Cardinals 48-52. Now St. Louis is just one game under .500 in their World Series history, although they've got a nice 10-7 record in terms of winning Series titles. This was their easiest win since 1942, when they took down the Yankees (also in five games). They've never swept anybody, and usually win four games to three, hence their struggle to reach .500 in total games. The Tigers, meanwhile, will have to sweep their next two World Series appearances to get to .500. They started out 7-16, though, so it's been a long road back.

1968 Questions

1968.1: In the course of their six starts in the 1968 Series, Mickey Lolich and Denny McLain nearly swapped each other's regular season ERAs. (1.96/3.24 for McLain and 3.19/1.67 for Lolich). So then, what Tiger pitcher started the one game that neither McLain nor Lolich did?

Answer: Earl Wilson started Game Three and flirted with disaster in the first four innings, walking five men and allowing two singles. Fortunately for him, the Cardinals were caught stealing twice and he escaped without allowing a run. His fate changed in the fifth, however, when he surrendered a run and was charged with the two men he left on when Pat Dobson couldn't hold the fort. Wilson's line was 4.1-4-3-3-6-3, and St. Louis went on to win 7-3.

He wasn't called on to pinch-hit in the Series, but Wilson would have been a more viable option than just about anybody on the Tigers bench other than Gates Brown. Famous for being one of the most slugacious pitchers in history, Wilson was especially murder on righthanders in 1968, going .270/.303/.540 against them in 67 plate appearances. How good a hitter was Wilson? Consider that he only had one sacrifice bunt all year, but why lay it down-he had a higher Equivalent Average (.274) than everyone on the Tigers bench save for Brown.

1968.2: This Cardinal regular managed a .115 World Series batting average over the course of his St. Louis career, including no hits at all in the '68 contest against Detroit.

Answer: Dal Maxvill went 0-for-22 in '68, and not much better in the two previous Cardinals Series appearances in 1964 and 1967. It would have been very interesting if St. Louis manager Red Schoendienst had mimicked Detroit manager Mayo Smith's famous shortstop flip. What if, instead of starting Maxvill, Schoendienst moved Curt Flood to shortstop? Who would he have stuck in the outfield instead, though? Bobby Tolan was hanging around; he was on the verge of breaking out and would do so the following year. However, in 1968 Tolan had a lower EqA (.246) than Maxvill (.260), so scratch that crazy revisionist gambit. Maxvill just had a bad Series-or series of Series.

1968.3: This future Hall of Famer and 1968 All-Star was exiled from the St. Louis rotation for the '68 Series.

Answer: Steve Carlton had started Game Five of the 1967 World Series and surrendered just one unearned run in six innings. He was relegated to the bullpen for the '68 version, though, when he was less than stellar after the All-Star break while Ray Washburn had a great second half.

1968.4: This man spent his entire twelve-year big league career with Detroit , and was an awesome pinch-hitter in 1968, going .450/.531/.830 in that capacity in 49 plate appearances. However, he only pinch-hit once in the World Series. Who was it?

Answer: Lest you think that being a pinch-hitter deluxe is something to which players aspire, think again. As Gates Brown told George Cantor in The Tigers of '68, he wanted out of Detroit. "I pleaded with them to trade me. I'd go in to (general manager) Jim Campbell's office and tell him I heard that Cleveland was interested in me and please, please make a trade. He told me that no one wanted me. I was just the twenty-fifth man on the roster."

1968.5: As everyone knows, Bob Gibson set the mark for most strikeouts in a World Series game in Game One of the '68 Fall Classic. Whose record did he break?

Answer: The record had only recently been set by Sandy Koufax, in Game One of 1963 vs. New York. The only Yankees who did not strike out that day were Clete Boyer (who went 1-for-4) and opposing starter Whitey Ford, who fouled out in his only at-bat.

1968.6: Ed Spiezio got into one Series game with the '68 Cards while his son Scott is now playing for the 2006 edition. Name one of the other two '68 Cardinals Series participants who had sons go on to play in the major leagues.

Answers: Julian Javier and his son Stan Javier, as well as Dick Schofield and his son, Dick Schofield. The younger Javier played in the World Series with Oakland in 1988 and 1989, while the younger Schofield didn't get to one.

1968.7: Roger Maris will probably never make the Hall of Fame, but he had his big-league swan song in Game Seven. Name the Hall of Famer who made his last big league appearance in Game Four of this Series.

Answer: It was former Braves hot corner great Eddie Mathews. When Mathews came to the Tigers in 1967 fresh off of hitting his 500th career homer while playing for the Astros, rookie John Hiller nicknamed him "New Guy." Now that's baseball irony at its best.

1969.8: While the Cardinals had just been to the World Series the year before against Boston, only four members of the Tigers had previous postseason experience. One of the four is the answer to the previous question. Name just one of the other three.

Answers: Beyond Mathews, there's Dick Tracewski, 1963 and 1965 with Dodgers. Tracewski was one of the three shortstops-along with Ray Oyler and Tommy Matchick-who lost his relevance when Mayo Smith boldly moved Mickey Stanley from center field to their position with a week to go in the season. Tracewski had gone .133/.188/.133 against the Yankees and Twins in his two Series appearances, but in '68 he appeared in just two games and had no official at-bats.

Or, you could have named Norm Cash, who was in the Series in 1959 with the White Sox. By the time Cash entered the public consciousness with his loud 1961 season, he was already 26 years old. Two years before, he had four unsuccessful pinch-hitting attempts against the Dodgers. The White Sox got rid of Cash that winter, along with a number of other young players who would go on to be All Stars in the early '60s: catchers Johnny Romano and Earl Battey, and outfielder Johnny Callison.

And lastly, there was Don McMahon, who played in 1957 and 1958 with Braves as a teammate of Eddie Mathews. You would think that a generation of sportswriters and broadcasters who came of age after seeing this particular World Series would never mention "experience" as being a factor in postseason outcomes. Of the four Tigers who had been in a World Series, Tracewski didn't bat, Mathews came to the plate three times, and McMahon pitched two innings. Only Cash made a major contribution. Yet, despite their victory over a team that had 155 combined World Series games under its belt, we are still treated to appeals to the experience god in most postseason previews. It didn't matter to the '68 Tigers, it didn't matter to McMahon's Braves 11 years earlier when they beat the Yankees (in spite of having only 28 combined games of postseason experience), and it doesn't matter now.

1968.9: Picking from among Tigers Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Dick McAuliffe, and Al Kaline, and Cardinals Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Orlando Cepeda, and Tim McCarver, name two of the three who were All-Stars in 1968.

Answers: Rarely does an All-Star Game act as a microcosm of a season the way the '68 version did. There it was, all 1,620 major league games boiled down to nine innings. Willie Mays scored on a double play in the first inning for the only run of the game. On hand for the fun were Freehan, Horton, and Flood.

1934 Questions

1934.1: Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean and his brother Paul combined to pitch about two-thirds of the Cardinals' innings in the 1934 World Series. Name one of the two future Hall of Famers on the Cardinals staff who combined for just two innings of relief work in the Series. (Hint: Neither is Burleigh Grimes, who pitched for them in the regular season but not in the Series.)

Answers: Jesse Haines was 40 that year, and would pitch another three seasons as a reliever and spot starter. He is one of too many Cardinals from that period in the Hall of Fame, and one of the first guys you would go to if you're looking for a low-threshold example when trying to make a case for a borderline pitching candidate. Dazzy Vance, on the other hand, is baseball's greatest late-start story. He was 31 with a career record of 0-7 when the Dodgers gave him a chance in 1922; by the time he pitched for the Cards in the '34 Series, he'd notched 194 wins and had earned fame as the dominant strikeout pitcher of the 1920s.

1934.2: The Deans were the fourth set of brothers to play in the same World Series. Can you name just one of the three pairs that preceded them? Note: two of the three previous pairs weren't on the same team.

Answers: Doc Johnston (Indians) and Jimmy Johnston (Robins), 1920; Bob Meusel (Yankees) and Irish Meusel (Giants), 1921-23; Lloyd Waner and Paul Waner, 1927 Pirates

I'll bet you've heard of Doc Johnson but not Doc Johnston. Jimmy, the younger, had the better career, but Doc got the ring in 1920. Irish, the elder Meusel, got the better of Bob as his Giants beat the Yankees in two of their three meetings. He also took individual family honors, going .297/.316/.514 to Bob's .250/.278/.355; Irish also drove in 16 runs to Bob's 13. I'm still waiting for baseball researchers to find the letter wherein Paul Waner writes to the Hall of Fame election committee and says he won't accept their nomination unless they take his brother Lloyd as well. "You can wait a few years so it won't look obvious, but this is a twofer deal only," it will probably read.

1934:3: Who was the player removed for his own safety from Game Seven of the 1934 World Series by Commissioner Landis? (Bonus points: can you name the man who replaced him? If you can, we are not worthy to be in your presence.)

Answer: This is a pretty famous bit of World Series lore, so I'm expecting that most of you came up with Joe Medwick as the answer. He was replaced by Chick Fullis. Medwick came in hard on a slide to third, rousting the ire of the locals and causing them to hurl much flotsam and jetsam at him. It's interesting to speculate how a situation like this one would be handled in modern times. I think they'd forfeit the game before they'd force the other team to remove their player. Certainly the score at that point in the game (11-0) influenced Judge Landis's decision.

1934.4: Name three of the four Hall of Famers in the 1934 Tigers starting lineup.

Answers: Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, and Goose Goslin.

If you were starting the Hall of Fame all over again from scratch, Goslin probably wouldn't make it. He had a career EqA of just .291 and only had two seasons in which he had a WARP3 of 9.0 or higher, and only two others in which he cracked 8.0. The other three '34 Tigers are safe, though.

1934.5: Which of the following is not a real nickname of a 1934 World Series participant? Tex , Spud, Ripper, Barnyard, Submarine, Chief, General.

Answer: From Tales of the Gas House Gang by C.H. Woodby:

This one time we were taking the train back from Cincinnati and it threw a connecting rod and we stopped for repairs out in farm country. Most of us got off and stretched our legs 'til the crew finally got things right and it was time to go. Nobody could find Johnny Walburt, though. We formed search parties and off we went looking for him. It was my group that found him on one of those farms near the tracks. Sheep farm it was. We came upon him, making himself at home if you know what I'm saying. After that, we called him plenty of names, but Barnyard was the only one you could put in a newspaper.

Okay, I'm kidding-there was no Barnyard Walburt. It was these six: Tex Carleton, Spud Davis, and Ripper Collins of St. Louis and Elden "Submarine" Auker, Chief Hogsett, and Alvin "General" Crowder of Detroit.

1934.6: What is the last name of the '34 Tiger who set the single-Series record for doubles (six) that still stands today? Hint: if you're watching the World Series while you work on this, you're probably seeing the answer before your very eyes!

Answer: Pete Fox is the answer-hence the hint. Fox scored only one time in the Series, and it followed one of his two singles. His fate after doubling:

Game Two, fourth inning: Two-out RBI; stranded.
Game Four, sixth inning: Leading off; moved to third on sac; stranded.
Game Five, second inning: Two-out RBI, scoring Hank Greenberg from first; stranded.
Game Six, seventh inning: Leading off; moved to third on sac; thrown out at home by Leo Durocher on a grounder.
Game Seven, fifth inning: Moved Greenberg from first to third with one out; both were stranded.
Game Seven, eighth inning: Leading off; stranded.

Batting in the eight-hole didn't help his scoring chances, although the pitcher did get him as far as third twice. Only the one in Game Six could have made a difference, though, as the final score in that contest was 4-3 St. Louis. The Tigers won Games Two, Four and Five anyway, and were blown out 11-0 in the finale.

Given that doubles occur (very) approximately over one-and-a-half times more often than home runs, it's a little surprising that nobody has ever tied Fox's record, considering ten players have hit four home runs in a Series (including Reggie Jackson with five).

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