SMaRt Talk

In 1995, Greg Maddux won 19 games while giving up only 23 walks. Has a pitcher ever had more wins than walks allowed? Yes! In fact, it's been done four times, most recently by Bret Saberhagen in 1994 (14 wins, 13 walks).

Art Imitates Life Department:
Remember the scene in "Brewster's Millions " when Richard Pryor had to stop pitching while a train went through center field? That's not as far-fetched as it might seem. Former pro baseballer Warren Simpson, who now works part-time at PSA, recalls his semi-pro days in Arcadia, California. "We had to stop at least once a game to let a train come through the outfield," Simpson said. "You could get some really mean hops off of those railroad tracks."

While looking at a '49 Bowman rookie card of Richie Ashburn, we recalled two incidents from his playing days that were...well, kind of weird. In fact, the first may be a major league record. With the count 3 and 2, Ashburn once fouled off 14 consecutive pitches in a game. The 15th pitch was high and Richie took his base.

The second incident involves Ashburn's famous "Great Throw" from center that cut down Cal Abrams at the plate and kept the Phillies from losing the 1950 pennant on the last day of the season. "We set up a pick-off play on Abrams", Ashburn related years later, "and I snuck in behind second. Instead, Robin [Roberts] went to the plate, and I was completely out of position. The single came right to me on one hop, and it was an easy throw home."

Even with the season shortened by 18 games, 1995 was a statistical bonanza. There were many records and/or firsts set in both the regular season and playoffs. First player with 50 doubles and 50 homers in one season, first time a player hit home runs from both sides of the plate in a game three times in a season, first pinch hit grand slam in post season play, and on and on.

In a real oddity, 1995 was the first year in history that a pitcher with 20 or more decisions achieved a .900 (or better) winning percentage. Remarkably, two pitchers (Maddux and Johnson) did it in '95.

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over Department:
On July 12, 1951, Yankee pitcher Allie Reynolds pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. On September 28 of that year, Reynolds had a chance at a second ho-hitter. Facing the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, Reynolds got through eight innings with no problem. After retiring the first two in the ninth, none other than Ted Williams stepped to the plate. The Splendid Splinter hit Reynolds' first pitch 400 feet -- straight up. Yogi staggered under the ball for what seemed like an eternity, then....dropped it! On the next pitch, Williams popped up again behind the plate, and Yogi squeezed it for the final out of Reynolds' second no-hitter.

Not Bad for a Beginner Department:
John Paciorek's first game in the majors was also his only game, so he made the best of it. The 18 year old phenom got to the plate five times, pounded out three hits, walked twice, drove in three runs and scored four time.s. He retired with a 1.000 batting average after a career-ending injury.

Speaking of getting off to a good start, Bobo Holloman of the St. Louis Browns spun a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics on May 6, 1953, in his first major league start. Eleven weeks later, he was back in the minors. Holloman isn't the only pitcher to debut with a no-hitter. Charlie Jones did it in 1892.

Well, Gosh, Maybe Next Time Department:
It took 170 votes to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. Players not deemed worthy included: Nap Lajoie(146), Tris Speaker (133), Cy Young (111) and Rogers Hornsby (105).

"Oh, Shut up" Department:
The award for the worst call of a home run we heard all year goes to Linda Cohn of ESPN. "With the sacks juiced, Belle cranked a Jones that easily went yard."

In the 1950s, a television show called the $64,000 Question featured a baseball category. The $16,000 question asked the contestant to name the five players that Carl Hubbell struck out in succession in the 1934 All-Star game. SMR readers are asked to do the same, then name the pitcher (still active in 1995) who tied Hubbell's record. The answer is below.

Card #20 of the 1952 Topps baseball set features Billy Loes, who's best remembered for his colorful Yogi Berra-like answers to reporters' questions. When asked why he muffed an easy grounder back to the mound in a game, Loes answered,"I lost it in the sun."

What's That Name Again?
In his 14 major league seasons from 1921 through 1934, he hit over .318 twelve times. His lifetime batting average is in the top 20 of all-time, surpassing such greats as Al Simmons, Paul Waner, Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, and Honus Wagner. His name? Riggs Stephenson!....WHO?! Speaking of Honus Wagner, THE CARD has been in the news again, resold by Wayne Gretzky for over $450,000. It's a good thing the offer wasn't made to Wagner himself, or it might have sold for less. When a $2,000 annual salary was proposed to him, Wagner refused, snapping, "I won't play for a penny less than $1500." Answer to trivia: Hubbell struck out Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, and Cronin in succession. The All-Star record was tied by Fernando Valenzuela.