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Monday, February 25, 2013

Reusse: Baseball Reference ruins another fine yarn

If Charlie Spikes nettles Reusse…how do you think the Indians feel?

The No. 1 reason to endorse the arrival of the Internet in the mid-‘90s is that it brought us baseballreference.com. This has made covering the Grand Old Game easier than a hanging slider, compared to the days of looking through old scorebooks and microfilm to find details of a long-ago ballgame.

One drawback of Baseball Reference is this: It has been the ruination of many tall tales.

...This is brought up as a way of making a confession: Baseball Reference has caught another person in a storytelling lie.

Me.

It goes like this: Phil Miller has a story in Monday’s Star Tribune on MLB’s new rule outlawing the fake-to-third, throw-to-first pitcher’s maneuver that consumes time and doesn’t fool base runners. I was in the Strib office on Sunday afternoon, talking with Kevin Bertels, the domo of the sports desk, about Miller’s story.

And I repeated a tale that I spread as gospel for over three decades: Gene Mauch was the godfather of this maneuver. And in the hundreds of times I saw the Twins try it in Mauch’s years as manager, I saw one runner get picked off _ Cleveland’s Charlie Spikes, twice in the same series at Met Stadium.

I decided to find the games on Baseball Reference. Turns out, I owe Charlie Spikes an apology ... sort of.

On April 27, 1976, Cleveland had a runner on second and Spikes at first, and Charlie was picked off as the trail runner by Twins reliever Bill (Soup) Cambell.

On July 18, 1976, Cleveland had a runner on second and Spikes at first, and Charlie was picked off as the trail runner by Twins starter Jim (Bluegill) Hughes.

It is a grievous sin against baseball to be picked off as a trail runner, but Spikes wasn’t done in by fake-to-third, throw-to-first, so ... sorry Charlie. I promise to stop spinning that yarn.

Repoz Posted: February 25, 2013 at 06:19 AM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. John Northey Posted: February 25, 2013 at 08:01 AM (#4375510)
That it does. For years I thought the first Jays game I went to was in 77 against the Yankees, but then I checked the game logs for the 11-3 thrashing the Jays got that day and found it was in 1978. Very useful to confirm/deny memories. Same with Cecil Fielder's games at 2B/3B (alternating with Kelly Gruber) - luckily those I recalled correctly...geez did Jimy Williams do odd things back then.
   2. Greg K Posted: February 25, 2013 at 08:30 AM (#4375517)
One of my favourite games I attended was a Jays-Yankees game...would have been 2005-2007? It went to extra innings, Catalanatto got on base, then got picked off by Rivera. But Vernon Wells hit a walk-off home run on the next pitch.

I've consciously decided not to look that one up at baseball-reference because I'd hate to ruin my fond memories.
   3. Greg K Posted: February 25, 2013 at 08:35 AM (#4375518)
Couldn't resist as it turns out. July 20, 2006.

Apparently I was off a bit, Catalanatto was thrown out stealing, not picked off. Maybe it was a botched hit and run?
   4. bobm Posted: February 25, 2013 at 09:01 AM (#4375526)
http://web.yesnetwork.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060720&content_id=1405542&vkey=4

But in his second inning of relief, Rivera allowed a leadoff single to Frank Catalanotto, putting the winning run on base. With Wells at the plate, the Jays put on a hit-and-run sign, but Rivera's first pitch jammed Wells inside. Catalanotto took off for second and was caught stealing, giving Rivera the first out and erasing the baserunner.

But his next pitch, an inside cutter, caught too much of the plate, allowing Wells to deposit it over the left-field fence for the game-winner.
   5. sunnyday2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 10:32 AM (#4375552)
Wow, Reusse has been spreading "fine yarn" forever and has never been one to let the facts get in the way. If this were really that "fine" of a yarn, Reusse woulda kept the truth to himself.
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 25, 2013 at 10:45 AM (#4375561)
I distinctly remember an O's road game against Oakland in the late 70's or early 80's where Tippy Martinez picked a runner off first with the bases loaded, two outs, and a 3-2 count to seal a one run win. I'm totally convinced that BB-Ref. has Trotskyed that game it order to make me think I've gone mad.

And no, I'm not mistaking it for that home game against Toronto in 1983 where he picked off three batters in one inning with Kiko Sakata catching. I ain't that senile (yet).
   7. DL from MN Posted: February 25, 2013 at 10:59 AM (#4375568)
It is impressive to see Reusse concerned at all about spreading BS. Maybe he's thinking of quitting since that's pretty much all he does anymore.
   8. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:00 AM (#4375570)
Without bbref, I wouldn't have known the first game I ever attended featured a Hall of Famer starting against a future Cy Young winner. I remembered that the Sox were losing to the Orioles most of the game and then they took the lead with a big inning. I don't see any evidence that Luzinski's home run did not travel well over 7000 feet, like I told everybody else the next day.
   9. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:12 AM (#4375576)
Lets give Retrosheet some credit here too ...
   10. mathesond Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:20 AM (#4375581)
Grr...I know the first game I ever saw ended up 4-0 Cleveland over Toronto, when I was but 7 years old. I went to look it up in bbref, and there are 2 games that fit the bill - and they both occurred in the same series. One was a double complete game that lasted all of 1:47, so maybe I'll pick that one

Game the 1st

Game the 2nd
   11. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:27 AM (#4375588)
This guy is writing about using technology (the internet) in a responsible way - ain't nothing wrong with that.
   12. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:44 AM (#4375600)
Isn't this common? I remember threads about some columnists faulty memories being common. Didn't Neyer take apart some guys memory of some big game?
   13. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 25, 2013 at 11:54 AM (#4375607)
Tracers, yeah.
   14. Esoteric Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:22 PM (#4375621)
I don't know anything about the columnist, but #5 and #7 seem to be weirdly out of place to me. This is a nice column about how technological advances have made it possible to correct faulty memories. What's so bad about that?
   15. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:25 PM (#4375622)
Lets give Retrosheet some credit here too

Yeah, I was wondering about that. I guess I didn't realize that B-R had game logs, I always thought people went to Retrosheet for game logs and B-R for stats.
   16. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:41 PM (#4375630)
I just stopped by to say that bobm is a freakin' national treasure.
   17. SavoyBG Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:45 PM (#4375634)
Apparently I was off a bit, Catalanatto was thrown out stealing, not picked off. Maybe it was a botched hit and run?


If he was picked off and headed toward second, got into a rundown, etc... it would be scored as a caught stealing.

   18. DL from MN Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:54 PM (#4375641)
This is a nice column about how technological advances have made it possible to correct faulty memories. What's so bad about that?


Reusse is a noted curmudgeon and usually has nothing positive to say unless the athletes are high school kids.
   19. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4375642)
Isn't this common? I remember threads about some columnists faulty memories being common. Didn't Neyer take apart some guys memory of some big game?
   20. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 25, 2013 at 12:57 PM (#4375643)
double
   21. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:14 PM (#4375657)
Does B-R let you sponsor individual game pages? Because if they don't, they should.
   22. Greg K Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:17 PM (#4375662)
If he was picked off and headed toward second, got into a rundown, etc... it would be scored as a caught stealing.

Covered in #4 but it's actually listed as "Caught Stealing, C-2B".
   23. Mike A Posted: February 25, 2013 at 01:21 PM (#4375666)
A few years ago, I looked up a game I attended in 1988...second game of the season, Cubs vs Braves. The game log says 6,122 in attendance, but that's generous. We sat behind home plate for 5 bucks and even chatted with Tommy Lasorda.

What I didn't know is who pitched that day for the Cubs. At the time, he was just some no-name random starter so I paid little attention. 20 years later, thanks to retrosheet, I learned it was some kid named Greg Maddux. There was also a young Rafael Palmeiro in the Chicago lineup, who I had forgotten even *played* for the Cubs. Yes, a mediocre (77-85) Cubs team had 3 Hall of Famers in the lineup that day (Maddux, Dawson, Sandberg) and one who probably should be in (Palmeiro).

So, yeah, it's kinda cool to see the facts about these games, because it's easy to forget or 'misremember.' I did remember the Braves lost, because, well...they always lost back then.
   24. dr. scott Posted: February 25, 2013 at 03:16 PM (#4375761)
What was Lorsorda doing at a Cubs/Braves game in 1988?
   25. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: February 25, 2013 at 03:28 PM (#4375771)
For years, I thought the first game I went to was on my birthday. Then Retrosheet came along, and it turns out that while it was FOR my birthday, it was actually a couple of weeks later.

I almost never read somebody's recollection of an old game without trying to look it up myself.
   26. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: February 25, 2013 at 03:29 PM (#4375773)
I remember a double header that the A's had against the Rangers in the late 80's that Sports Illustrated did a partial story where during the 2nd game , there was an inside the park grand slam by Rangers player. I had the box score for that game but it got lost in the move.
   27. Mike A Posted: February 25, 2013 at 03:42 PM (#4375780)
What was Lorsorda doing at a Cubs/Braves game in 1988?

Dodgers were in town the next day, so Tommy was 'scouting' in the stands. I think he was just hanging out and enjoying the game myself. Being it was Atlanta, he was pretty much left alone, though he was certainly friendly and chatty to those who came up to him. The stadium was so empty (I'm guessing 2-3k tops) there wasn't anyone sitting near him, and he was sitting alone. You probably wouldn't see too many managers hanging out in the stands today.

Maddux threw a 3-hit shutout that day against a pretty putrid Brave lineup, though he did walk 6 batters. It's amazing that Braves team finished last in runs scored despite hitting in the Launching Pad. Wow, were they bad. Bad bad bad.
   28.   Posted: February 25, 2013 at 03:56 PM (#4375785)
Isn't this common? I remember threads about some columnists faulty memories being common. Didn't Neyer take apart some guys memory of some big game?


Neyer wrote a big book on these, which I greatly enjoyed.

Its fascinating to me. Memory is terrible, amd the research has shown that memories described as vivid,or with 100% confidence are no more reliable than the typical memory.
   29. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: February 25, 2013 at 04:32 PM (#4375813)
Dodgers were in town the next day, so Tommy was 'scouting' in the stands.


It would have been cooler if you'd just learned via Retrosheet that Lasorda never managed the Braves.
   30. Swedish Chef Posted: February 25, 2013 at 04:44 PM (#4375829)
I was disappointed to learn that Rasputin wasn't poisoned, shot and stabbed before finally drowning after superhuman resistance like a real son of satan. Turns out he was shot in the head with a heavy revolver and died instantly, the stories were something the killers cooked up to paint him as a demon (and themselves as big damn heroes for taking him on). And then the autopsy report got lost in Soviet archives even though they presumably had little interest in protecting the story.
   31. Walt Davis Posted: February 25, 2013 at 05:14 PM (#4375849)
But to the point of the story ...

Getting picked off first base with a runner on seoond? I never thought I'd say this but that is 10 times stupider than getting suckered in by the third-to-first move. I mean, how does this even happen? The 1B is not even holding the runner on in this situation. Somebody put a tracer on this tracer because I don't think I've ever seen a runner picked off first with a runner on second.

Yes, a mediocre (77-85) Cubs team had 3 Hall of Famers in the lineup that day (Maddux, Dawson, Sandberg) and one who probably should be in (Palmeiro).

The nice thing about the Cubs is that they've almost always featured at least one star, often a big star. The mid-late 70s were a bit dry but even then we had Madlock, Reuschel and Sutter (who was kinda amazing when he first came up). Until 2005, this was the main difference between the Cubs and White Sox history -- the Sox just never had truly great players, never set any milestones. The Cubs were as bad or worse a team but we had somebody to be proud of.

   32. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 25, 2013 at 05:34 PM (#4375861)
Memory is terrible, amd the research has shown that memories described as vivid,or with 100% confidence are no more reliable than the typical memory.

American judges generally claim that memory's fallibility is common knowledge - so common that defense attorneys in an eyewitness case are barred from putting on expert testimony to explain just how fallible our "memory" really is (because that would be a total waste of time, on account of it is so obvious).
I do think people understand this in the abstract, but we tend to make exceptions for ourselves. And for people who cry, or use a phrase like "I'll never forget that face."
   33. Ron J2 Posted: February 25, 2013 at 05:38 PM (#4375869)
#27 That was the team that inspired the last SI article that I can recall enjoying. Among the anecdotes I can recall is a stolen base. Forget who the baserunner was, but somebody fasr. Pitcher paid no attention to him and he lit out for second. Ozzie Virgil got off a perfect throw, but nobody was covering second.

I think the same article had a line I've always loved. Talking about Oquendo's 4 inning pitching performance: (almost words for word) The Cardinals conceded in the 16th. The Braves won 4 innings later.
   34. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: February 25, 2013 at 05:49 PM (#4375876)
The SI Vault shows Ron J2's memory isn't bad:

It sounds like the punch line of a bad joke: The St. Louis Cardinals conceded a game to the Atlanta Braves in the 16th inning—and Atlanta won it in the 19th.
   35. dr. scott Posted: February 25, 2013 at 06:24 PM (#4375914)
Maddux threw a 3-hit shutout that day against a pretty putrid Brave lineup, though he did walk 6 batters. It's amazing that Braves team finished last in runs scored despite hitting in the Launching Pad. Wow, were they bad. Bad bad bad.


Late 80's were a tough time to be a baseball fan in Atlanta. I was a in High School in '88 north of Atlanta and remember nothing but crap coming from the launching pad.
   36. Repoz Posted: February 25, 2013 at 06:50 PM (#4375931)
Due to a high school arrest and subsequent lifetime disappearance of my friend that I went to the march/game with...It has taken me years, but I was finally able to pin down (w/help from B-Ref, scuzzy yearbooks, and Bellevue's lost records) the exact date/game for my anti-Vietnam march/Coretta Scott King speech/Denny McLain's win #2 during his 30-win season game at Yankee Stadium, story I'm working on.
   37. bunyon Posted: February 25, 2013 at 06:51 PM (#4375933)
Late 80's were a tough time to be a baseball fan in Atlanta. I was a in High School in '88 north of Atlanta and remember nothing but crap coming from the launching pad.

I grew up watching on TBS. My high school basketball coach told us we had such a bad baseball team because we all spent out time watching the Braves. It was bad enough that in 1991 I never, ever believed they would win the division. I was in college by this point, had a girlfriend and a job, so I wasn't paying close attention. My roommate was a Dodger fan who kept being nervous. I would tell him not to worry. He and I were actually watching the game that clinched the division for the Braves and I said something like they'd still blow it. He hit me. It took that to shake me out of it and realize that they'd actually won the division. It is incredible, in hindsight, how fast they went from joke to dynasty*. Has any franchise ever been so different one decade to the next?

EDIT: From 1981-1990, the Braves average winning percentage was .4474. From 1991-2000, it was .6140. Striking. The highest 80s percentage (.549 in 1982) was lower than the lowest winning percentage in the 90s (.580 in 1991).


* if you so consider it. whatever it was, it was very different than the 80s.
   38. Bug Selig Posted: February 26, 2013 at 08:20 AM (#4376139)
Getting picked off first base with a runner on seoond? I never thought I'd say this but that is 10 times stupider than getting suckered in by the third-to-first move. I mean, how does this even happen? The 1B is not even holding the runner on in this situation. Somebody put a tracer on this tracer because I don't think I've ever seen a runner picked off first with a runner on second.


Level of play caveats aside, my son's high school team did this ~6 times last year. You have to have the 1B playing behind the runner. After a verbal cue, the pitcher - without ever looking at first, which I think is important - starts a count with a sudden head motion toward the guy on 2nd. If you get the timing aspect down between the pitcher and the first baseman, the ball is on the way before the runner even knows they are thinking about him, and it's a race to the bag that he can't possibly win.
   39. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: February 26, 2013 at 09:41 AM (#4376172)
I coulda sworn I saw Ron LeFlore hit a game-winning grand slam against the Orioles back in '76. Actually, I was watching cockroaches on the wall while in a Mexican prison after murdering a 12-year-old prostitute.

Damn it.
   40. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 26, 2013 at 10:31 AM (#4376201)
'91 was the year I started watching the Braves a lot less (I worked 70 hrs a week that summer, started college in the fall) - it took me a long time (mid '92?) to internalize that shift in fortune.

I think I'll remember that Oquendo game for as long as I live.

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