Jose Canseco was the first Major League player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in one season. He reached the milestone on Septeber 23, 1988. The Cuban born Canseco was 24 at the time, playing for the Oakland A’s in his third season in the Majors.
On September 18, Canseco hit his 40th home run of the season in the first inning against Kansas City’s Brett Saberhagen. At that point Canseco had 37 stolen bases. He stole his 38th base against Minnesota on September 20th.
Then on September 23, Canseco took his 39th stolen base after singling off of Juan Nieves. Canseco became the charter member of the 40/40 Club, when while still facing Nieves, he again singled and stole second base.
Canseco did not steal any more bases in 1988, but he did hit two more home runs. For his career, Canseco hit .266, but in 1988 he hit .307 knocked in 124 RBIs. Both marks were career bests for him.
If you’re from Philly and you’re over 60, then you probably know that Chico Ruiz stole home and started the Phillies epic 10-game losing streak in 1964.
And if you’re from Philly and you have not yet celebrated your 60th big one, you’ve still probably heard about this, because your Mom and Dad, and your Grandma and Grandpa, and all your aunts and uncles still talk about it, because even though it happened 50 years ago, they still haven’t totally gotten over it.
20,067 watched it happen on a Monday night at Connie Mack Stadium in North Philadelphia. There was a radio broadcast, but the game was not televised. Most Phillies’ fans (myself included) didn’t even know what happened until they read about it in the paper the next day. And when we learned about it, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Sure, it’s not every day of the week that your team loses a game because some rookie no-name steals home, but at the time, nobody considered it to be any kind of horrible, ominous event.
The Phillies were in first place, 6.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and the Reds, who were tied for second. So when they lost to Cincinnati that night, the Phillies were still leading the National League by 5.5 games – Nothing to get excited about. They were still well on their way to winning their first pennant in 14 years. (By the way, When you’re a 14 year-old kid, as I was, that’s a lifetime.)
So they lost a game. Big deal.
The stealing-home-plate thing didn’t really become a thing until after the Phillies blew their next nine games, and the pennant as well. It was only then, that the sportswriters, and fans, and later bloggers, began to deconstruct the 1964 Phillies fiasco.
Even though the losing streak lasted 10 games, The Phillies actually fell out of first place on September 27, after the Milwaukee Braves beat them 14-8; their seventh straight loss. On that same day, the Reds took a double header from the Mets and went a full game ahead of the Phillies. The Cardinals, who went on to win the National League Pennant and the World Series that year, were still lurking in third place, but were only a game and half behind the Reds.
With only five games left, and the pennant within their grasp, the Reds decided to join the choke-fest and went 1-4 the rest of the way. The Phillies finally won their last two games, against the Reds no less, but it was two little too late.
The Cardinals couldn’t have picked a better time to get hot. Just while the Phillies were tanking, they won eight straight (including a three game sweep of the hapless Phils). But at the very end, even St. Louis tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The final weekend of the season began on Friday, October 2. the Cards led the Reds by a game, and the shell shocked Phillies by 2.5 games. Just to tie, the Phillies had to win their remaining two games with the Reds, and, they needed the Mets to sweep a three-game set against the Cards, in St. Louis. The Mets at that point were sporting a record of 51 wins against 108 losses. They were 41 games out of first place.
So just to make sure that we’d still be talking about it a half century later, The Mets won the first two games in the series with the Cardinals, and the Phillies won the first of two games with the Reds. With a 161 games down and one to go, St. Louis and Cincinnati were tied with records of 92-69, and Philadelphia was a game back at 91-70. If the Mets beat the Cardinls and the Phillies beat the Reds, it would have forced a three-way tie.
One last gasp
On that Sunday afternoon, the last day of the baseball season, I was at Franklin Field watching the lousy Eagles beat the even worse Steelers, 21-7. Everybody at the football game was following the baseball games on their transistor radios.
The Phillies cruised past the Reds, 10-0, and lowly Mets made it interesting. They scored two in the top of the fifth inning to take a 3-2 lead, and all the Eagles fans roared. Then in the bottom of the fifth, the Eagles fans groaned when the Cardinals scored three. The Mets scored another run in the top of the sixth and were only down by a run, but St. Louis put up three in the bottom the sixth, and put a lid on our hopes and dreams with three more runs in the eighth.
Then of course, the postmortem of the Phillies debacle began, and it continued ad nauseam. By the following Wednesday, around the time when the Cardinals were taking the opener of the Series from the Yankees, the words “Chico Ruiz” started making their nasty descent into the collective consciousness of Philadelphia.
Seven and half years later “veteran utility infielder” Chico Ruiz was killed when he drove his car off Interstate 5 in California, and hit a sign pole. The AP report of Ruiz’s death failed to mention that night in Philadelphia, when he was dancing around third base in the top of the sixth – two outs – the game tied 0-0 – Frank Robinson, one of the most prolific RBI guys in the Majors was batting.
In Philadelphia we remember what happened.
Bobby Cox was ejected for the 158th and last time on September 17, 2010. It was the 152nd game of the season for the longtime Atlanta Braves skipper, who was able to manage his way through remaining ten games of his career without having an umpire inviting to leave.
Cox played two undistinguished seasons for the Yankees in 1968 and 1969, but earned his way into the Hall of Fame on the strength of a 4,508-game managerial career that lasted from 1970 to 2010.
Cox “cruised” past the legendary John McGraw’s heave-ho record when he notched his 132nd toss on August 15,2007. At the time, Cox commented, “It means nothing. It just means I’ve been around for a long time. That’s all.”
Braves Retire Bobby Cox Number 6 Jersey and he gets tossed a “ceremonial” 159th time
Mickey Mantle his 49th and 50th home runs of the season on September 3, 1961. He joined Roger Maris in “the 50 home run club”. Maris at that point already had 53 homers. Both Mantle and Maris were now ahead of Babe Ruth’s 1927 60 home run (in 154 games, per Commissioner Ford Frick’s edict) pace.
Bob Holbrook, in the Boston Globe wrote.
Luis Arroyo said it nicely “You got those home run heeters, you don’t get hurt too much. You don’t get beat by one run.”
What Holbrook was referring to with his early sixties-era, pre-politically correct depiction of the Yankees’ star reliever’s Puerto Rican accent; was that in the ninth inning against the Tigers, Arroyo had blown a 4-3 lead. but the Yankees’ home run “heeters” bailed him out.
Mantle led off the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 5-4. He homered to right field and tied the game. Yogi Berra singled and Arroyo sacrificed him to second. Moose Skowron was intentionally walked and Elston drove everybody home with a three run blast into the left field stands.
Arroyo got the win, but he would have also been tagged with a blown save if anybody had been tracking those statistics in 1961.
This was the only time in baseball history when two players hit 50 or more home runs in a season for the same team.
It was a pretty good game for a guy who the Chicago Tribune described as “The Magnificent Invalid”. Mantle commented on his performance, “Give the iceman an assist” he said, “The arm pained me considerably especially when I swung and missed. The ice really helped between innings”. The slugger explained how he managed to hit his two homers, “I was trying to swing hard most of the time”, he said, “but the times I did swing hard, I missed the ball. Both times I really tried to swing easy, the ball went out of the park.”
For the last thirteen years the Yankees have led Major League Baseball in payroll spending, but all streaks eventually come to an end, and this one looks like it’s going to end this year.
USA today reports:
NEW YORK (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers are on track to become only the second major league team with a $200 million payroll and could end the New York Yankees’ streak of 14 years as baseball’s biggest spender.
Keeping things in perspective, It’s not like the Yankees are about to implement an austerity program. Their 2013 payroll will probably exceed the $198 million they spent in 2012. (which bought them another Eastern Division title, and a quick exit in the playoffs) Thirteen years of spending championships produced only one baseball championship for the blue pinstripes.
Travel a couple stops south from New York, on Amtrak, and you’ll find the guys in the red pinstripes, trying to recover from last years’ debacle. The Phillies with their $175,000,000 payroll, second only to the Yankees’ in 2012, had to finish strong. just to wind up the season at 81-81.
Now stay in Philly, but go back a hundred years or so, and you’ll find A’s owner-manager Connie Mack and his “$100,000 Infield”. “The 100,000 Infield” consisted of Stuffy McInnis at first base, Eddie Collins at second, Jack Barry at shortstop, and Frank “Home Run” Baker at third. All four played for the A’s during the 1910 season, but McInnis wasn’t a starter until 1911.
Between 1910 and 1914 McInnis hit .321 and was among the league leaders in slugging and on base percentage.
Barry, better known for his flashy fielding, was a serviceable hitter. He had a .260 batting average for the five seasons between 1910 and 1914. In 1913 he was fifth in the AL in RBI’s. Barry was sold to the Red Sox in 1915 and wound playing yet another World Series in Philadelphia, as the Sox faced the Phillies and beat them in five games.
Frank “Home Run” Baker is the best example of how tricky it can be to compare athletes from different times. Baker played in the dead ball era, and even though he never hit more than 12 round trippers in a season, he legitimately earned the right to his nickname by winning the American League home run crown in consecutive years, between 1911 and 1914. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Baseball statistician Bill James, ranks Eddie Collins number two behind Joe Morgan among all second basemen (so much for not comparing ball players from different eras). Morgan didn’t play major league ball until 1963, so for about fifty years, James would say that Collins was greatest second baseman in the history of the game. Every year between 1910 and 1914 he was among the top ten in the American League in hits, on-base percentage, stolen bases and batting average. Collins hit.344 during the five year reign of “The Hundred Thousand Dollar infield”.
While Mack’s infield got the benefit of branding, his no-nickname pitching staff was just as stellar, maybe more so. From 1910 to 1914, his three aces, Eddie Plank, Jack Coombs and Chief Bender, had a combined record of 269-103.
In 1910 the A’s team ERA was 1.79. Compare that to the 2012 Yankees staff which posted an ERA of 3.85.
In 1910, Plank was actually the number four guy in Mack’s rotation. His record was 16-10 and he had an ERA of 2.01. Cy Morgan was 18-12 with a 1.55 ERA. Bender, sensational at 23-5 with a 1.58 ERA, was bettered by Coombs who was 31-9 and had an ERA of 1.30.
What’s most ironic about “The $100,000 Infield” is that the figure probably refers more to the sale value of the four players than it does to their salaries. Hall of Famer Eddie Collins was the highest paid of the group, and made $6,000 a year. Mack probably paid his whole infield less than $25K a year. The average annual salary for a major league player then, was $3,000. Give or take a couple thousand, the entire payroll of the A’s came in at around $100,000. Of course you could say there’s been a lot of inflation since 1910 and you’d be right, sort of.
A 1910 dollar would buy you $40 worth of goods and services in 2012. So take $100,000 and multiply it by 40 and you get $4,000,000. That’s a little less than what Alex Rodriguez will make – – in April. In other words, since 1910, baseball salaries have gone up a lot more than say, pork bellies.
Baseball salaries, as well as the salaries for just about every other professional sport, were held in check until 1975 when the reserve clause was abolished by Major League Baseball. (Football, basketball, and hockey eliminated their reserve clauses shortly thereafter.) Under the reserve clause, when a professional baseball player’s contract reached its termination, he had the right to earn his living any way he saw fit, but if he want to play Major League Baseball, only the team that held his contract was permitted to negotiate a new deal with him. Free agent bidding wars which are so common today, did not exist as long as the reserve clause was in force.
The exponential growth in player salaries isn’t the only thing that separates the twenty-first century Yankees, Dodgers, and Phillies from their early twentieth-century counterparts. The Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since they beat the A’s (from Oakland by way of Philadelphia and Kansas City) in 1988. In the last five years the Phillies have made two World Series appearances. They won it in 2008, but lost to the Yankees who won it in 2009. Since then, none of the highest paid teams has has even made it to the World Series.
The 1910-1914 A’s on the other hand, were true champions. With an adjusted-for-inflation payroll that adds up to maybe two percent of the modern high rollers, “The $100,000 Infield” et al, won back to World Series in 1910 and 1911. In 1912 they slipped to third place in the American League. Then they came back and won another World Series in 1913, and one more American League pennant in 1914.