TODAY in BASEBALL HISTORY - Feb 21: Ted Williams' new role

Best leads the worst

WASHINGTON, D.C. | FEBRUARY 21, 1969 - Ted Williams was officially named manager and part owner of the Washington Senators (today's Texas Rangers) on this date in 1969 - one of the the greatest hitter of all time leading a struggling expansion franchise that had yet to finish a season with a winning record. It lost at least 100 games in four of its first eight seasons.

This was the new Washington Senators, a 1961 expansion team after the original Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.

They say those who can't teach. How about those who can? Williams knew it would be a difficult task, telling the Associated Press (AP), "This may be a long, hard grind for a while." And what about when he has to deal with a young player wound as tight as he was in his younger days? Would he tolerate a player with a temper, "If he can hit like Ted Williams, yes," said Ted Williams.

Williams' presence brought immediate results. The franchise had its first winning season in 1969, Williams' first year as manager. They finished the season 86-76, but it was back downhill after that. They lost 92 games in 1970, lost 96 in 1971.

Attendance got so bad the team moved to Arlington, Texas in 1972 and became the Rangers. That first year in Texas the Rangers finished with a record of 54-100, the worst year of their history (the 1972 season was shortened by a strike). Williams retired after that season and went back to fishing and hunting.

Contributing Sources
New York Times, February 22, 1969
Washington Senators 1961-1971
Year to year results
Ted Williams

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TODAY in BASEBALL HISTORY - Feb 20 - The ever changing strike zone

In the Zone

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA | FEBRUARY 20, 1963 - Many consider baseball an unchanging game of tradition allowing fans to compare the statistics of today's stars to yesterday's, but it's a myth. For example, the strike zone has changed numerous times over the years, and many
believe it changes depending on who's calling balls and strikes.

On this date in 1963 the manager of the San Francisco Giants, Alvin Dark, bemoaned the fact that the strike zone had been raised from the top of the batter's arm pits to the top of the shoulders. Dark told the Associated Press (AP) that he was worried that his pitchers will have trouble keeping the ball down even though the bottom of the strike zone had not changed, "It's the way they [the umpires] stand that raises or lowers the strike zone. If they're up higher [to see the higher strike] it may pull the strike zone up."

Each umpire's strike zone notwithstanding, here, according to mlb.com, are the "official" rule changes over the decades to just the strike zone:

1876 - One foot above the ground to the shoulders, and the batter calls whether he wants the pitch low or high.

1887 - Knees to shoulders, and batter could no longer call for high or low pitch (Well, he could call for it but the pitcher didn't have to listen.)

1950 - Top of the knees to the armpits

1963 - Knees to the top of the batter's shoulders

1969 - Top of batter's knees to the armpits

1988 - Top of the knees to the midpoint between the shoulders and the top of the pants

1996 - Bottom of the knees to midpoint between the shoulders and the top of the pants

There have also been changes to how many balls resullts in a walk, whether foul balls are counted as strikes, the makeup of the baseball, the height of the pitcher's mound, just to name a few.

Contributing sources:
Associated Press (AP), San Francisco, California, February 21, 1963
Official changes to strike zone

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A STORY from September 2nd in baseball history: Stieb finally throws a no-hitter

Pitching dominance

CLEVELAND, OHIO | SEPTEMBER 2, 1990 Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Dave Stieb finally threw a no-hitter on this date in baseball history after coming amazingly close at least 3 other times. He beat the Cleveland Indians 3-0. Steib made it interesting in the 9th. He got the first two batters out before walking the third. The last out came on a line drive to the right fielder.

But the stretch David Andrew Stieb went through two years earlier was a remarkable string of pitching dominance, and heartbreak. He came very close to tying - and even breaking - a record many view as unreachable.

On September 24, 1988 (box scores/play-by-play below), also in Cleveland, Stieb did not allow a hit for 8 and 2/3 innings when Indians 2nd baseman Julio Franco came to bat. With a 2-2 count, Franco got a base hit to centerfield. Stieb retired the next batter for a 1-0, 1-hit shutout.

On September 30, 1988, Steib's very next start at home in Toronto, he did not allow the Baltimore Orioles a hit going into the 9th. He induced two groundouts, bringing pinch hitter Jim Traber to the plate. Again, on a 2-2 count, Traber got a base hit. The next batter grounded out and Dave Stieb had his second consecutive 1-hitter after not allowing a hit for 8 and 2/3rds. He came amazingly close to tying Johnny Vander Meer's streak of two consecutive no-hitters, but still had none.

The following spring, April 10, 1989, in New York, Dave Stieb threw his third 1-hitter in two seasons. It wasn't quite as dramatic this time as Stieb gave up the 1 hit in the 5th inning when Yankee catcher Jamie Quirk singled.

Considering Steib's September 24th and 30th starts of 1988 were his last two of the season, and April 10, 1989 was his second start of the next season, he threw 3 one-hitters in 4 starts. Has there ever been a more dominating stretch by a pitcher in major league history?

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
September 24, 1988 box score & play-by-play
September 30, 1988 box score & play-by-play
April 5, 1989 box score & play-by-play
April 10, 1989 box score & play-by-play

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Aug 24th in baseball history: Pete Rose banned

"...sad end of a sorry episode"

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK | AUGUST 24, 1989 • With those words, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti announced the lifetime ban of Pete Rose from baseball for gambling. An investigation showed Rose bet on many sporting events, but what forced the hand of Giamatti was evidence that Rose bet on baseball, including the team he managed, the Cincinnati Reds. Giamatti described Rose's gambling as the most serious allegation against the integrity of baseball since the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Despite Giamatti's announcement, and the fact that Rose signed a document the night before accepting the ban, Rose insisted that he had not bet on baseball. He stuck to that position, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, until 2004 when Rose finally came clean (while promoting a book), but he said he never gambled against his team.

Rose certainly has the statistics to get into the Hall of Fame. He's the all-time major league hits leader. He won three batting titles, three World Series rings, was Rookie of the Year, MVP and appeared in 17 All-star games. But the odds of a manager (and former player) who bet on baseball getting into the Hall of Fame are not good.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Statement of Commissioner Bart Giamatti, August 24, 1989  
ESPN.com

More on Pete Rose

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August 12th in baseball history: Olympic baseball attracts crowd

"Springtime for Hitler..."

BERLIN, GERMANY | AUGUST 12, 1936 - The largest crowd ever to watch a baseball game, up to that point, saw a “demonstration” game at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin on this date in baseball history. A crowd in excess of 90,000 saw two teams of amateurs, both from the U.S., play a 7-inning contest of America's pastime. The final score was 6-5.

German fans had to be helped along with the nuances of the game. According to Baseball in the Olympics by Pete Cava, not until the announcer told the crowd that a batter making it all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run was a good thing for the batter did they cheer.

The Berlin attendance record stood until 93,103 fans showed up for an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees in honor of former Dodger catcher Roy Campanella at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1959. The Dodgers, new to Los Angeles, made the Coliseum home for a few seasons waiting for Dodger Stadium to be built.

Speaking of international baseball, did you know more than 100 countries belong to the International Baseball Federation? For example, Argentina has 355 teams/3,500 players. Australia has 5,000 teams/57,000 players. Canada has 6,621 teams/119,178 players. Czech Republic has 60 teams/2,668 players.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
1936 Olympics
Baseball attendance records
Los Angeles Coliseum attendance records
Baseball in the Olympics, by Pete Cava, 1991

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