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Friday, February 21, 2014

Ferkovich: Cobb almost lost his third .400 season due to a scorekeeping controversy

“Eureka! Who ####### cares?”

Only three players have hit over .400 in a season three times: Rogers Hornsby, Ed Delahanty, and Ty Cobb. The Georgia Peach hit .420 in 1911, .409 in 1912, and .401 in 1922.

That last one, however, almost didn’t happen, and was the subject of controversy at the time.

Rewind back to May 15, 1922, at a rainy Polo Grounds in New York. The Detroit Tigers were playing the New York Yankees. Cobb hit a ground ball to shortstop Everett Scott. According to one newspaper account, Scott “fumbled and kicked the ball into center field.” Official scorer John Kieran of the New York Tribune ruled it an error. Also in attendance that day was sportswriter Fred Lieb, who put it down in his scorecard as a hit. Unaware of the discrepancy between his scoring and Kieran’s, Lieb sent his box score, giving Cobb two hits on the day, to the Associated Press. Kieran’s box score, showing Cobb as getting only one hit, was delivered to the Tribune.

At season’s end, the official batting averages showed Cobb finishing with a mark of .401 (19 points behind batting champion George Sisler). However, American League statistician Irwin Howe admitted that in figuring Cobb’s average he had used Lieb’s unofficial box score, rather than Kieran’s official one.

...Ironically, Lieb himself deplored Johnson’s decision. “(Nobody) begrudges Cobb a .400 batting average, but the use of baseball records will be undermined when records are deliberately tampered with in order to favor any batsman, whether he be a star or a mediocre player.”

Still protesting the decision, the BBWAA put the matter to a vote of the writers. Lieb, as president, had to preside over the vote, putting him in the awkward position of having to argue against his own box score. In a close vote, the BBWAA chose not to accept the additional hit. Nevertheless, Cobb’s .401 average remained in the record books. Later, Lieb pointed out that the whole brouhaha never would have happened if Howe “hadn’t been so darn honest” in admitting he used the unofficial box score. Ironically, years earlier, there had been controversy surrounding Cobb and the 1910 batting title, resulting in rulings from the league office that awarded the crown to The Peach.

In the end, Cobb had his 211 hits for 1922, but a statistician’s honesty nearly cost him his third .400 season.

Repoz Posted: February 21, 2014 at 08:04 AM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, tigers

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   1. McCoy Posted: February 21, 2014 at 09:55 AM (#4660133)
   2. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:32 AM (#4660201)
An infinitely bigger scandal was the final day Cleveland - St. Louis doubleheader that decided the 1910 AL batting race, where the Browns gave Nap Lajoie 8 gift bunt hits by deliberately positioning their third baseman back on the outfield grass, in an attempt to throw the batting title his way. Ty Cobb wasn't all that popular back in those days.

That transparent attempt at title fixing got the Browns' manager and coach kicked out of baseball, but it didn't negate those 8 bogus hits from the record book, which gave Lajoie the title after it was discovered in 1978 that Cobb had been mistakenly credited with 2 extra hits. I've never quite understood how those phony "hits" of Lajoie were allowed to stand**, rather than being scored as team errors.

**Even in BB-Reference

   3. AROM Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:33 AM (#4660202)
If WAR had been around at the time it would be a non-issue. Either way, Cobb puts the ball in play and reaches base. Whether it shows up in his batting runs or reached on error runs, he still gets credit.
   4. AROM Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4660206)
It's a good thing that situations like that 1910 batting race are no longer part of the game. Closest I can think of are these:

Mike Piazza, 2004 All Star game. Catching the hated Roger Clemens, he might have tipped off the AL batters who batted around in the first inning.

Cal Ripken, 2001 All Star game. In his final season the pitcher might have intentionally grooved one for Ripken to hit out.

Both of these are pure speculation and may not have actually happened, unlike the obvious intent of the Browns' defense in 1910.
   5. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:50 AM (#4660212)
Denny McLain supposedly grooved a pitch to Mickey Mantle at the end of the 1968 season (which would be Mantle's last), allowing him to pass Jimmie Foxx on the all-time homer list.
   6. Ron J2 Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:53 AM (#4660215)
#2 Though there's no proof that Ban Johnson intended it, Cobb got the batting title due to an administrative error.

I've always believed that it was Johnson's way of making sure the title went to the right guy.
   7. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: February 21, 2014 at 11:56 AM (#4660220)
It's a good thing that situations like that 1910 batting race are no longer part of the game. Closest I can think of are these:


1982. Willie Wilson went into the final game of the year with a comfortable .332 to .328 lead over Robin Yount. Wilson sat out the final game, while Yount's Brewers were playing a do or die game against the Orioles. Yount goes 3 for his first 4, bringing his average up to .331, and will possibly bat one more time (due up 5th in the top of the 9th). Meanwhile, the A's game in KC is coming to a close, and will likely end before a still possible Yount AB. A hit by Yount will give him the title over an idle Wilson. A hit by both would give Wilson the title. A no AB by Yount and an out by Wilson would give Yount the title. An out by Yount and it doesn't matter. Bottom line is, Wilson doesn't want to risk a PA until the result of a possible final Yount PA is known. So, with the help of A's manager Billy Martin, the game goes into slowdown mode. Yount does bat, and is hit by pitch, so Wilson remains in the dugout and keeps the title.
   8. TDF, situational idiot Posted: February 21, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4660224)
Johnson admitted that the New York chapter of the BBWAA “insisted that I must accept the official score, because if I didn’t, the entire foundation upon which official scoring rests would be shattered.” Johnson found this logic “mystifying and extremely peculiar,” citing that it was an established fact that official scorers often showed up late for games, left early, and sometimes didn’t show up for “several games in a row,” and relied on “hearsay” in the scoring of contests.
Is this true or the rantings of a guy who wants to disparage the official scorer?
   9. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 21, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4660225)
and there was this in 1976. Got a lot of play at the time
   10. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: February 21, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4660233)
and there was this in 1976. Got a lot of play at the time


Looking at the box scores from that time, neither Brett nor McRae played in game 161, but Carew did, and went 3 for 4, bringing his average to .329, within striking distance of Brett and Mac at .331. I wonder if Carew goes say 1 for 4, do the other 2 play the last game?
   11. AROM Posted: February 21, 2014 at 12:44 PM (#4660253)
Tim Salmon's last game, 2006. It's a meaningless game as far as standings are concerned. 8th inning, Angels tie it up, 2 runners on base with no out. Sac bunt moves them to second and third. Salmon up with a chance to give Angels the lead, but also keep in mind he's stuck on 299 homers (and will be forever).

Do you walk him to set up a force at the plate or possible DP? Doing so means pitching to Adam Kennedy (86 OPS+ that year, also 15 GIDP). Huston Street on the mound, Salmon is righty and Kennedy a lefty. Odds probably say no to the IBB, but some people might to it in that situation.

Ken Macha had Street pitch to Salmon, which I was happy for. He popped up to short anyway.
   12. Traderdave Posted: February 21, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4660257)
I was in the cheap seats for Johnny Bench night in 1983. It was among his last home games, if not the last, before retirement. The Astros ran on him in top of the 1st, the runner was gunned down by a mile to thunderous applause. Then in his first PA, Bench hit one out. Just moments before, I heard Brenneman say on transistor radio that we always brought to games what a thrill a homer would be...

At the time it seemed serendipity, but in middle age I'm not so sure that wasn't staged. And I'm fine with that. In a late season game btw 2 bad teams, why the hell not?

EDIT:

After posting, I checked BBREF and found my memory is as imperfect as an old ballplayers'. It was a SB, not a CS, though I do distinctly recall the crowd noise. Perhaps the call was argued? And the dinger was his second PA, not first. And the Astros were less bad than I recalled.
   13. Shibal Posted: February 21, 2014 at 12:56 PM (#4660262)
Looking at the box scores from that time, neither Brett nor McRae played in game 161, but Carew did, and went 3 for 4, bringing his average to .329, within striking distance of Brett and Mac at .331. I wonder if Carew goes say 1 for 4, do the other 2 play the last game?


Brett was leading in the race at the time, right? Not sure why McRae would sit out the last game.
   14. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 21, 2014 at 02:28 PM (#4660347)
Not sure why McRae would sit out the last game.


To make sure his teammate Brett won the batting title.

In 1986, Wade Boggs sat out the final four games against the Yankees while Don Mattingly was trying to catch him for the batting title. Mattingly got within striking distance after a homer and a double in his first three AB of the last game, and Boggs supposedly was ready to pinch hit late in the game if Donnie had gotten two more hits, but it didn't come to that.

Of course, this sort of thing isn't remotely close to deliberately allowing cheap bunt hits, or even pitching around a guy for that matter.
   15. Shibal Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:05 PM (#4660379)
To make sure his teammate Brett won the batting title.


I'm still confused. Why would McRae want Brett to win the batting title over McRae?

It's one thing to sit out the last game to keep your lead. Quite another to sit out the last game to stay in second.
   16. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:09 PM (#4660386)
Why would McRae want Brett to win the batting title over McRae?


Let me clarify. McRae wasn't filling out the lineup card. Herzog wanted Brett to win the batting title.
   17. Sunday silence Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4660387)
this page contains a nice post from a Total Baseball article that summarizes many of the stat controversies from the old days:


http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?64523-Ty-Cobb-didn-t-bat-401-in-1922/page2&s=3624758fe1001f8ab405256fcc388211

not sure what others are saying about the McRae/Brett race. McCrae was not sitting out to help Brett he felt at the time that Steve Brye had let Brett's fly ball drop for an inside the park HR. Brett made some conciliatory remarks at the time and said he felt bad if that is what had happened. So the two of them were locked in a race and I dont see why McRae would try to help Brett.

Also the news story (its linked here somewhere) had Gene Mauch (manager of Brye's team the Twins) saying that "this is the worst thing that happened to me in 35 years of basebal." Ha ha funny!

Also why did anyone give Hal McRae a manager job. I liked McRae but he obviously had a short fuse.
   18. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:13 PM (#4660393)
Also the news story (its linked here somewhere) had Gene Mauch (manager of Brye's team the Twins) saying that "this is the worst thing that happened to me in 35 years of basebal." Ha ha funny!


1964 was a distant memory and 1979 hadn't happened yet.
   19. Shibal Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:25 PM (#4660408)
Let me clarify. McRae wasn't filling out the lineup card. Herzog wanted Brett to win the batting title.


that's absurd.
   20. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 21, 2014 at 03:37 PM (#4660420)
that's absurd.


But saying that Mauch wanted to make sure that Brett won, and that his motivation was racism, isn't? Recall who finished third, what team he played for, and what color his skin was.

Brett was leading in the race at the time, right?


Upon further review, McRae was leading after game 160. So the original question is baseless.
   21. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: February 21, 2014 at 04:08 PM (#4660439)
But the point is that both sat out the penultimate game, while Carew went 3 for 4 to get back into the race.
   22. Robinson Cano Plate Like Home Posted: February 21, 2014 at 04:13 PM (#4660444)
Ferkovich Cobb would be a great baseball player name.
   23. Shibal Posted: February 21, 2014 at 04:41 PM (#4660459)
But saying that Mauch wanted to make sure that Brett won, and that his motivation was racism, isn't? Recall who finished third, what team he played for, and what color his skin was.


McRae said something stupid in the heat of the moment, with some facts that influenced his opinion. The Twins hated him with a passion. The fly ball that was misplayed; the Twins' history of racism (owner, no clue about the team in general), and Mauch's warm relationship with Brett. Blaming racism for this favoritism may not have been accurate, but it is certainly a reasonable assumption.

What is not a reasonable assumption is that Herzog would be willing to bench McRae and rip his playoff team apart in order to gift-wrap the batting title to a 23 year old kid. That is absurd.
   24. Sunday silence Posted: February 21, 2014 at 05:24 PM (#4660480)
Its also a bit of a stretch to think that the Twins had some conspiracy to get Brett the crown. They couldnt have known Brett would hit a FB to Brye so what did McRae think that all of the outfielders agreed to let a ball drop and the infielders too? Not saying its impossible, McRae had a sort of nasty reputation at some pt. but its far fetched.
   25. Mike Webber Posted: February 21, 2014 at 06:32 PM (#4660522)
Also why did anyone give Hal McRae a manager job. I liked McRae but he obviously had a short fuse.


I think it has only been like the last half decade where guys with short fuses - FIERY! - guys stopped getting managerial jobs. You could probably date it to the minute Ozzie Guillen got fired in Miami.

Hal McRae was a real leader of men type or guy, a David Ortiz type.
   26. bigglou115 Posted: February 21, 2014 at 06:56 PM (#4660537)
Am I the only one who reads this and comes away deciding that in the future I'm only considering Cobb as a guy who hit .400 twice and .399 once?
   27. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: February 21, 2014 at 07:37 PM (#4660557)
The Royals clinched the division the day of game 160 in 1976, so that might be why Brett and McRae sat out 161.
   28. Shibal Posted: February 21, 2014 at 08:27 PM (#4660574)
This is from the Minnesota paper the next day.


Kansas City’s George Brett won the American League batting championship by half a point over teammate Hal McRae and by three points over four-time defending champion Rod Carew of the Twins Sunday as Minnesota beat the Royals 5-3 in the last game of the regular season.

Afterward McRae, who is black, strongly implied that for racial reasons the Twins allowed Brett to collect the inside-the-park home run that won the title on his last at-bat. Brett is white.

The home run occurred in the ninth inning as Brett came to bat trailing McRae by four-tenths of a point in the batting race. Brett lofted a short fly to left field. Outfielder Steve Brye hesitated, came in slowly and stopped. The ball hit 10 feet in front of him and caromed crazily, high over his head, rolling to the left field corner. Brett beat shortstop Luis Gomez’s relay to the plate.

McRae, the next batter, was jammed on an 0-2 pitch from the Twins’ Jim Hughes and bumped an easy grounder to shortstop. That gave Brett the batting title, .33333 to McRae’s .33270. Carew finished at .33058.

As McRae ran past first base and turned toward the Royals’ first base dugout he looked toward the Twins dugout and raised his folded arm in an obscene gesture, presumably intended for Twins Manager Gene Mauch. He pointed at the dugout, gestured again and pointed two more times.

Mauch, 50, charged out of the dugout and got past the first-base batting circle before he was restrained by Kansas City players. He eluded them, as both dugouts emptied, and had to be restrained by two umpires and then by three as he churned to get to McRae.

McRae, meanwhile was forcibly restrained by three of his own teammates and Manager Whitey Herzog as he struggled repeatedly to break away.

An out later the Twins won the game, 5-3, and McRae was sitting on his stool in the Kansas City locker room sobbing and blowing his nose into a towel. Beside him Royals owner Ewing M. Kauffman was on one knee, his hand on McRae’s shoulder. “You won it… That’s all right,” he was heard to say as Royals officials shooed reporters away.

Things have been like this for a long time,” McRae said later after regaining his composure. “It’s changing gradually. But I know how things are, so I can accept them. … It’s too bad things like that have to happen in 1976.. …

“If the shoe was on the other foot, I’m sure they wouldn’t let the ball drop for me. I know what happened, but I don’t think everybody else is going to find out.”

McRae, surrounded by a huge gathering of reporters, said repeatedly that he didn’t want to get specific because “it wouldn’t do any good.”

Many of Kansas City’s other black players also were resentful over the home-run play but refused public comment.

“I don’t think he lost it in the sun. You can say that,” said Dave Nelson seated next to Amos Otis, who expressed similar skepticism.

Brett also wondered if the Twins had given him the title-clinching hit.

“I didn’t think anything about it until I hit the dugout,” he said. “Then I thought about it and I thought he (Brye) could have given it a little bit better effort. I know Gene Mauch likes me and the Twins players seem to like me.”

Mauch was still boiling mad over the incident after the game.

“I would protect the integrity of this game at any cost,” he said angrily, yanking off his uniform. “This game has taken me out of the dust storms of western Kansas and made it possible to live in Palm Springs (Calif.) and play golf for the rest of my life if I want. Oh, man, that hurts. That hurts. …

“I told Steve Brye right before the game to play Brett shallow the whole game. Oh, God. To go home and sit on that instead of a beautiful summer.” Mauch sat in his office chair and stared into the distance for a moment.

Brye was told later, at the airport, that McRae had inferred that the play was racially motivated.

“Whew,” he said, exhaling slowly and sadly. “No way. … If any error was involved it was mine. Gene Mauch had nothing to do with it. Gene told me to play in shallow. The last couple of innings I played deep not to allow a ball to get over my head and keep alive the possibility of a double play if a man got on base.

“I was indecisive. I didn’t get a good jump on the ball. All during the series balls I thought would fall in front of me were going over my head. Cookie Rojas was jammed and hit one over my head once. It’s tough to pick up the ball here because there’s a gray background, plus you don’t hear the ball off the bat that well. It’s a very dead sound. When I play center field, which I usually do, I follow the pitch and the sound of the bat has a lot to do with the way I react. Then after I ran in I stopped because I didn’t think I could get to the ball.”

Carew and Larry Hisle of the Twins, who also are black, said racism was not involved in the incident.

“Gene would never doing anything like that,” Carew said. “That’s a bunch of crap when they talk about racial stuff. Gene said he wanted me to win the championship. He was ticked off when the ball fell in.


“I was really disappointed that McRae did the type of stuff he did. He didn’t finish the season like the type of player he is. I can’t have respect for that type of person.”

“I know no one told me to drop it,” said Hisle. “If it had been hit to me in center field I would have done everything possible to catch it, and the same if McRae had hit it.”
   29. GregD Posted: February 21, 2014 at 08:49 PM (#4660580)
That is some strong language by Carew.

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