Larry’s pack, eh, teammates; story far below
Anyone who knows me, or has read the “About” section of my blog, knows I love baseball. A website I came across, www.baseballspast.com explains Craig R. Wright’s work. He has been turning out stories about baseball for a long time. His articles are unique and interesting. Here are some comments by me about 3 of his stories I’ve found in his twice a week column or his book containing other original work.
The Story Behind the Midget Batter, Pages from Baseball’s Past, 7/17/17. You may know part of the story already. Bill Veeck was known for stunts to increase attendance at baseball games when he was owner of a ball club (eg, St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians). For example: his home park had an exploding scoreboard; he had fans hold up signs telling the manager what to do; and more important, he signed the first black player in the American League (Larry Doby) and the sport’s oldest rookie (Satchel Paige). In 1951, he sent a midget into a game as a pinch hitter. His name was Eddie Gaedel (see above), age 26, height 3’7”. He didn’t get a hit. He didn’t make an out. He walked on 4 pitches. So, his lifetime stats were: Games: 1; Plate Appearances: 1; On Base Percentage: 1.000. Wright’s article explains why Veeck wasn’t the first or second person to have that idea. Plus, why fans enjoyed the stunt, but it didn’t surprise them. There’s more to the story than Bill Veeck’s creativity.
The Master of Two-Strike Hitting, from Wright’s website. A number of players have been called a”clutch hitter.” But Wright tells you who, according to baseball’s statistics, IS the finest two-strike hitter. You’ve heard of him: Tony Gwynn (see above). In a 20 year career, he batted .338. In his rookie year, his batting average was .289 –and he hit from .309 to .394 in each of the next 19 years. He won 8 batting titles. From 1993-1997, he batted from .353 to .394. The closet a batter has come to hitting .400 since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. But for those five years, with 2 strikes on him, Tony hit .337. No one has ever done better. And how many players hit .337 in their total at bats from 1993-1997 = no one.
Larry, from Wright’s book in 2013. In 1912, the baseball team in Cleveland had a mascot: a bull terrier the team named Larry (after the team’s finest player, Napoleon “Larry”Lajoie). A player, Jack Graney, was injured for much of a season and he trained Larry. Larry would chase and retrieve foul balls, and jump through a “hoop” Graney made with his arms. The crowds loved when Larry played leap frog going from the back of one player who was bent over to a line of players in the same position. Larry joined the players on a train traveling from town to town or rode in Shoeless Joe Jackson’s car. Once, when the man coaching at third base was thrown out of the game, Larry decided to fill the coaching box and “cheer” on his teammates. If Larry needed a “vacation” during the long season, Graney taught him to go on a ferry boat which went from Cleveland (on Lake Erie) to Graney’s parents’ home in St. Thomas, Ontario. Larry stayed with the ship’s captain until the boat reached port. The crew then placed him on a street car and Larry knew when to get off and run to the home of Graney’s parents. When the team played in Washington, D. C. in 1913, Larry met President Woodrow Wilson –and chased a squirrel up a tree on the President’s lawn. Unfortunately, Larry became sick in 1917 and died on July 25 …exactly one hundred years ago.
Jack and Larry
I don’t work for Mr. Wright or get money for suggesting you consider subscribing to his publication. But as he says on his website: “The basic principle of Pages from Baseball’s Past is simply to tell a good baseball story that is also true and well researched. The final key component is to keep it brief … but I would consider it a failure if it weren’t also gently teaching the readership about the history of the game.”