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Monday, July 25, 2011

Don Malcolm: WHEN SWOBODA WAS A STAR…

Or as the non-Fillpot faced Quaid brother said in Frequency...“Man, I’ll love Ron Swoboda till the day I die.”

You will read that headline, and think that we have ingested some mind-altering (make that mind-destroying) substance.

Ron Swoboda. A star? Clearly some kind of in-poor-taste joke served up by someone named Shirley. Ron Swoboda? The guy nicknamed “Rocky” (and this was well before Sly Stallone gave that name some cachet—“Rocky” was a nickname for the state of Ron’s career). He was up there, shining in the firmament?

Clearly, booby-hatch time for Ye Olde Kinge of Vitriol.

But consider this chart of the best hitters in baseball (compiled via David Pinto’s Day by Day Database). It captures about five-eighths of a season, across the time frame that spans from July 15, 1967 to May 10, 1968. It lists all the hitters in both leagues in descending order of OPS. We’ve color-coded the OPS ranges because…well, because that’s what we do here.

There, on that list, sitting in the seventeenth position, is Ron Swoboda.

...So, now, you too can remember when Ron Swoboda was a star. ‘Twas a Warholian moment, maybe an Andy-esque parsec, in fact. But there it was—a glimmer in the gloaming.

Repoz Posted: July 25, 2011 at 12:40 PM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, mets, sabermetrics

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   1. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:29 PM (#3884652)
Back in 1963 I played in a Fourth of July game against Swoboda when he was one of the more famous amateur players on the East Coast, playing for a team called Leone's in Baltimore. He must have been famous because his reputation had preceded him all the way to Washington, decades before ESPN made every high school prospect a national celebrity. The game was played in some park in Baltimore (Patterson?) that had a bank of trees in left field, sort of like a row of God's Green Monsters, that made for a lot of easy doubles. The main thing I remember other than the trees is that I had four hits when I came up in the ninth with a chance to tie or win the game, but instead I lined a shot to the second baseman for a game ending double play. Swoboda got a couple of hits but didn't seem nearly as good as his reputation, and when he reached the Majors I was more than a little surprised.
   2. bjhanke Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:19 PM (#3884690)
Referencing Don's and my adventures in our schoolday years, Swoboda was a STAR and also THE THING (our personal nickname for him). Andy Etchebarren was The TREAT. Don't ask. Your head will stay on much more securely. I mostly remember The Thing for hitting two homers to win Steve Carlton's 19-strikeout game from him. (And yes, I believe The Thing did strike out the other three times he came up.) - Brock Hanke
   3. Chicago Joe Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:33 PM (#3884703)
They apparently won some sort of national championship. Leone's was a Boys and Girls Club-sponsored team. A search of the Baltimore Afro-American turned up a note about an all-star game in late July at Memorial Stadium. Still working on this "tracer".
:)
   4. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:49 PM (#3884722)
All I know about Leone's is that it was a restaurant, and that the team was supposed to be pretty good. The game was a slugfest, something like 12 to 10, but a lot of that probably had to do with those awkwardly positioned trees. The contrast between 1963's and 2011's playing fields for college-aged baseball players is like the contrast between Baker Bowl and Citizens Bank Park. It wasn't that uncommon for tourists on the Ellipse to wander right across the outfield in the middle of a game and say "Oh, I didn't know you were playing a game" when you asked them to move out of the way.
   5. whoisalhedges Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:15 PM (#3884813)
Andy Etchebarren was The TREAT. Don't ask.

I'm afraid I have to....
   6. phredbird Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:16 PM (#3884815)
i met ron swoboda a bunch of times when i lived in new orleans. he was the sports guy for one of the local channels. a nice guy.
   7. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:24 PM (#3884820)
Re: #2:
Close. Swoboda vs. Carlton: 2-for-4, 2 Ks.
   8. Mike Emeigh Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:43 PM (#3884832)
I mostly remember The Thing for hitting two homers to win Steve Carlton's 19-strikeout game from him. (And yes, I believe The Thing did strike out the other three times he came up.)


Two for four, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 Ks.

The Mets committed four errors in that game and still won.

-- MWE
   9. Mike Webber Posted: July 25, 2011 at 07:59 PM (#3884915)
I was hoping Don would show up at SABR in LA, if you were there Don, sorry I missed you.
   10. Don Malcolm Posted: July 26, 2011 at 12:47 AM (#3885144)
Andy Etchebarren was The TREAT. Don't ask.

I'm afraid I have to....


Don't worry, Brock, I'm not talkin'.

EDIT: Mike, was ~90 miles north in WPP at that time. If you still have the same phone # as before, let me know, I'll give you a call one of these days.
   11. bjhanke Posted: July 26, 2011 at 07:24 AM (#3885537)
Heh. Here's a hint for #5. "Etchebarren" has the same number of syllables and has the same rhythmic feel as "Rice-a-Roni". It's worth remembering that one of the things that bonded Don and me together as baseball fans is that we both see the inherent humor and absurdity in the game, especially when it's being taken too seriously. So we occasionally come up with tropes that are just plain silly and have no real meaning, but that make us laugh. I think we came up with The Thing as an homage to the Marvel Comics character, because Swoboda was very strong, but not terribly agile. The Treat was not from San Francisco, but his name works in the jingle. Nothin' more than that. - Brock

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