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March 31, 2010

You Can Blog It Up

Dead Player of the Day and Other Notes #3

by Steven Goldman

DEAD PLAYER OF THE DAY

In which I pick a page from the encyclopedia at random and riff on what I find.

GEORGE CASE-OF-1937-1947 (1915-1989)

With six stolen base titles, New Jersey’s George Washington Case is one of those players who looks better at first glance than he actually was; he was a Scott Podsednik type, though better than Podsednik himself. Like Pods, he was a corner outfielder without a corner outfielder’s bat. There is a significant “but,” which is that as a Washington Senator, he spent his career in a park in which his batting average (.282 career, peaking at .320) and steals had some extra value, because in his years there the Senators’ park simply didn’t permit home runs. He also had the advantage of being a basestealer in an age where catchers, unused to aggressive runners, just couldn’t throw, so his stolen base percentages are excellent—76 percent for his career, 88 percent in his best year, 1942, when he stole 44 bases in 50 tries (“And three of those I was thrown out of the game for arguing the decision,” Case told Donald Honig). He was clocked circling the bases in 13.5 seconds, thought to be a record (Hans Lobert had done it in 13.8 seconds); Bill Veeck once had him race Jesse Owens (Case lost, but it was close). Unfortunately, the constant sliding meant constant injuries. He had a chronic shoulder problem (which kept him out of the military), the requisite ankle injuries, and finally had his career ended by back problems. As such, Case’s career was rather short, though he spent a lifetime in the game scouting, coaching, and managing in the minors …As basestealing great Clyde Milan coached a young Case, so Case coached a young Rod Carew.

I’M GLAD THAT JAMIE MOYER DOESN’T QUALIFY FOR THIS FEATURE, AND SO IS HE

Jamie Moyer turned 47 in November. Yesterday he also turned five, as in being named the Phillies’ fifth starter. As you will no doubt be hearing repeatedly in the coming days, this is something unusual. Three pitchers have started a game at age 47 or older: knuckleballer Phil Niekro, who actually made it through the entire season in fairly good order and went on to pitch at 48, Satchel Paige, who made a one-game comeback for the A’s at age 58, and the legalized spitballer Jack Quinn, who started his final game at age 47 in 1931, then hung around in the bullpen until he was nearly 50.

As with Paige, who went to great lengths to obscure his age, there was some question about Quinn’s actual vintage. By the time he landed with the Dodgers in 1931 he had been pitching in the bigs since 1909, and there were people who were willing to swear that he had been around even longer, that they had seen him duel Old Hoss Radbourn or Tony Mullane. Those accusations were obviously made in jest, and Quinn could afford to dismiss them. More dangerous to Quinn if he wanted teams to keep taking chances on him was the rumor—one that was true—that he was old enough to have fought in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Quinn claimed that he was born in 1885, which would have ruled him out—the Rough Riders weren’t recruiting any 13-year-olds. However, they would have been fine with 16-year-olds, and if Quinn had been born in 1883 and lied about his age so as to pass, well, then he might very well have faced the Spanish at Guantanamo.

The war was apparently a sore subject for Quinn, and if anyone brought it up around him he would excuse himself or bury his head in a newspaper or pretend not to know what they were talking about. “Really? We did? Where? Golly! I had never heard the name ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ before now. The things you learn… Well, excuse me. I think I hear Connie Mack calling.”

Funny thing about that… You never do hear Jamie Moyer talking about the Mayaguez Incident. Hmm.  

CHAT REMINDER

Just to clarify, because one reader misunderstood: tomorrow’s chat won’t be exclusively about the annual. We’ll talk baseball and whatever else you feel like discussing. However, in the course of the chat I would like to hit you with some questions about next year’s book and float some purely hypothetical changes, as well as address any questions or suggestions you might have. Those of you who just want to talk about Even Longoria or Joe Mauer or Willie Bloomquist, there’s plenty of room for you too.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

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