Willie Mays: There’s The Catch, and then there’s The At-Bat

Willie Mays ranks a home run in a 10-pitch at-bat in a key pennant race game between the San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros in late 1965 as his most memorable.

By Phil Ellenbecker
Great baseball players may be known by their careers, by their seasons, by their games.
Willie Mays was known for all. But perhaps more than anything, Mays is known for his moments — moments that produced great plays, at bat, on the bases, in the field. Like The Catch, his over-the-shoulder grab that robbed Vic Wertz of extra bases and the Cleveland Indians of their soul in the 1954 World Series.
That’s his best-known moment, but there are countless ones sprinkled throughout his career and throughout “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend,” by James S. Hirsch, the most comprehensive biography of Mays. Normally I don’t like it when baseball biographies get bogged down in play-by-play details, but in Mays’ case it’s pretty much essential, because he was so much about the plays, the moments.
One moment I wasn’t aware of before I read the book but that comes through as one of his finest was, for our purposes here, what I’ll call The At-Bat.
It came on Sept. 14, 1965, against the Houston Astros before a crowd of 15,415 at the Astrodome, the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” which had opened at the beginning of that season. Mays’ San Francisco Giants entered the game with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League.
The Astros led 5-2 entering the ninth inning. Orlando Cepeda struck out opening the Giants’ turn at bat. Bob Burda, batting for Warren Spahn, then drew a walk and gave way to pinch runner Tito Fuentes. Astros starting pitcher Bob Bruce was relieved by Claude Raymond, a native of St. Jean, Canada nicknamed “Frenchy.” Raymond got Dick Schofield to ground out to first baseman Lee Maye, with Fuentes advancing to second.
The Giants drew within 5-3 when Jesus Alou singled to center field, driving in Fuentes.      That brought up Mays.

Claude Raymond challenged Willie Mays with fastballs, and the legendary Hall of Famer tied the game with a homer on a 3-2 pitch to help the San Francisco Giants defeat the Houston Astros in a key game late in the 1965 season.

“Mays usually didn’t try for homers, but this situation was different, and everyone knew it,” Hirsch wrote. “Though he led the league in home runs (Mays hit a career high 52 that year), Raymond didn’t want to walk him, which would bring up (Willie) McCovey, the go-ahead run. So he challenged Mays with fastballs.”
And Raymond, although not imposing at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, was equipped to do so, with a good moving fastball that helped him finish in the NL’s top 10 in saves four times in the 1960s and earn an All-Star selection in 1966.
Mays worked the count to 3-2, swinging so hard he twice went to his knees. With Alou now running on the pitch, Mays managed to stay alive by fouling off the next four pitches.
“I kept waiting for a breaking ball,” Mays said. “A curve, a slider — something other than a fastball. But that’s all he threw. Nothing but fastballs.”
And here came another, on the inside part of the plate. And out it went, a line shot deep into the left-field bleachers on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
“TILT” went the huge scoreboard in the outfield, the flashing letters accompanying a ticking time bomb that always greeted a homer by the visiting team at the Dome.
Tilt, indeed, as the momentum had swung in the Giants’ favor, and they went on to win 7-5 in 10 innings, with Jim Davenport’s two-run single in the top of the 10th providing the final margin. Bob Bolin, relieving for Masanori Murakami (the first Japanese-born player in the major leagues) with runners on first and second, got the final two outs to nail down the win.
Mays’ homer just missed being not only dramatic but a milestone. The night before he’d hit the 500th homer of his career, leading off the fourth inning to tie the game at 1-1 in a 4-1 win.
(At the time Mays was just the fifth player in history to hit 500, trailing only Babe Ruth’s 714, Jimmie Foxx’s 534, Ted Williams’ 521 and Mel Ott’s NL-leading 511. Twenty-two others have passed 500 since. Mays finished with 660, fifth all time.)
So that’s the story, as Hirsch tells it. But digging a little deeper reveals that Mays and Raymond remember it differently. They remember not a 10-pitch at-bat, but 13, and other details don’t match.
Renowned baseball author Roger Angell wrote in a May 27, 1991, New Yorker article, “When I asked him to remember a home run,” Willie said, ‘Home run against Claude Raymond, in the Astrodome. Somebody was on first, and it tied the game. Jim Davenport won it for us in the eleventh or twelfth inning. Raymond threw me thirteen fastballs, and I fouled them off. The ball went over the fence in left-center field. What year? You’d have to look it up. Ask Claude Raymond — he probably knows it better than I do. That was the only dramatic type of home run I ever hit.’”
Thirteen fastballs? Raymond, when contacted by Angell, agreed.
“I threw Mays thirteen straight fastballs,” he said in the Angell article reprinted on the https://punkyg.wordpress.com website. “And he fouled off thirteen. Jay Alou was the base runner on first, and Mays was up there to hit a home run. All those fouls were nicks or little ticks back to the screen — nothing close to a base hit. Then I threw one more, a little inside, and Willie bailed out but opened up on the ball at the same time, the way only he could do, and it went out. I remember Paul Richards, our general manager, came up to me afterward and said how happy he was I’d gone fastball all the way. He said it was a great duel.”
So we have 10 pitches versus 13 pitches, and left field (Hirsch) vs. left-center (Mays). And four foul balls vs. 13. In the same Angell article the author quotes a Giants media person as saying Mays fouled off four pitches before “sending the ball soaring four hundred feet over the center-field fence.”
Since Hirsch devoted enough research to fill 560 pages, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt over Mays and Raymond. Players’ recollections have a history of being iffy, as noted baseball writers and analysts Bill James and Rob Neyer have made a habit of showing. Neyer wrote a whole book (“Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, the Lies, and Everything Else”) based on refuting such remembrances.
Hirsch, in his notes, did cite Angell for his account of the homer, and included Raymond’s quote on Willie’s turning on the pitch.
In a 2004 San Francisco Chronicle article by Charles Einstein, the writer says the count went to 2-0, then Raymond threw seven straight fastballs, two for swinging strikes, four for fouls, before Willie unloaded. And since Einstein was to Willie Mays as Boswell was to Samuel Johnson, and since this squares with Hirsch, maybe we should go with this.
But 13 pitches, 13 straight fastballs? That sounds good.
Regardless, it was quite a momentous moment, evidently so if it’s the homer that came up when queried by Angell. (But maybe he forgot the one he hit leading off the 16th inning to end a historic pitcher’s duel between Juan Marichal and Spahn on July 2, 1963, winning the game 1-0.) (And Einstein brings up a tiebreaking homer in Mays’ last at-bat in the last regularly scheduled game of 1962 that pushed the Giants and Dodgers into a three-game playoff, leading to a Giants-Yankees World Series.)
(Speaking of World Series, the Giants fell short of that in 1965 when the Dodgers overtook them in the final week of the season and won the pennant by two games.)
When a grand celebration of Mays’ 40th birthday, with 700 in attendance, was held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco in 1971, Giants announcer Russ Hodges’ call of Mays’ homer that night in 1965 “was dramatically played to a tearful audience,” Hirsch wrote.
So it was pretty special, even when ranked among many other special Mays moments.
And that was the magic of Mays. Any given game, any given inning, at bat, on base, in the field, you didn’t know what kind of awe-inspiring, slap-upside-the-head moment he might produce. And if you had to put a price on what player in history you’d pay to watch any player in history, many would say Willie would fetch the highest.              Sources:                                                                                                                                                        “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend,” James Hirsch, Scribner, 2010
Claude Raymond information: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/2dfd7bf5; http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/raymocl01.shtml; http://baseballhalloffame.ca/inductees/claude-raymond
San Francisco Giants vs. Houston Astros, Sept. 14, 1965: http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1965/B09140HOU1965.htm; https://punkyg.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/say-hey-happy-81st-birthday-willie-mays/; http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/The-majesty-of-Mays-2767534.php
Career home run leaders: http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/HR_career.shtml
San Francisco Giants’ 1965 season: http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/SFG/1965-schedule-scores.shtml

Further reading:
“6 Epic At-Bats,” by David K. Israel, http://mentalfloss.com/article/25285/6-epic-bats
“The 15 Biggest Plays in Baseball History,” by Rany Jazayerli, http://grantland.com/features/mlb-win-percentage-added-world-series-championship-kirk-gibson-bobby-thomson-david-freese-mariano-rivera-yogi-berra/

Swoonin’ A’s: Campy goes 9 for 9 in ’65

Bert Campaneris took the mound in the eighth inning and played every other position for the Kansas City A’s on Sept. 8, 1965. The A’s lost to the California Angels 5-3 in 13 innings.

By Phil Ellenbecker
Among all the promotional stunts A’s owner Charlie Finley trotted out during his infamous time in Kansas City, perhaps the most entertaining and intriguing occurred the night of Sept. 8, 1965.
Mechanical rabbits to deliver balls to the umpire, a mule mascot (dubbed “Charlie O”), sheep grazing beyond the outfield fence, green and gold uniforms — those were interesting diversions.
But that Wednesday night, before a crowd of 21,576 at Municipal Stadium, brought something more compelling, something that actually involved the playing of the game. That was the night Bert Campaneris, on “Campy Campaneris Night,” became the first player to attempt and complete playing all nine positions in a single game, against the California Angels.
Campaneris was a shining light for the A’s in Kansas City before they left for Oakland, where he became a mainstay on three world championship teams in the early 1970s. While not a superstar, he was quite solid, a six-time All-Star and six-time stolen base champion in a 20-year major league career.
That tenure shows he loved to play, and he was quite versatile, as he showed the night of Sept. 8, 1965. He started off the game at his regular position of shortstop and then moved, inning by inning, to second base, third, left field, center, right, first, pitcher and catcher. And when he took the mound, Campaneris threw right- and left-handed.
Campaneris got knocked out of game on a collision at home plate in the ninth in a game won by the Angels 5-3 in 13 innings.
Campy had only one chance in the field in the first three innings, becoming involved in the middle of a pickoff of Ed “Spanky” Kirkpatrick from his second-base position in the second inning, on a play that went 1-4-1-6.
The action picked up when Dagoberto went around the horn in the outfield in the fourth through sixth, as he caught a fly ball to left and center and then muffed a fly in right that allowed a run to score in the sixth. He caught a pop-up at first the next inning.
Things got kind of interesting when he toed the slab in the eighth. Campy reportedly went ambidextrous, so he switched from his normal righty to lefty to face righty-batting Jose Cardenal, Campaneris’ second cousin. (Cardenal said in an interview that they played baseball together constantly during their youth.) Cardenal went out second to first.
Campy then issued consecutive walks to Albie Pearson (back to right-handed) and Jim Fregosi (back to port side), followed by a single by Joe Adcock (Campy still southpaw) that scored Pearson. Campy got out  of the inning when Bobby Knoop (that’s kuh-NOP, not NOOP, and righty batty so Campy so spent most of the inning as a lefty) struck out, and Billy Bryan caught Fregosi trying to steal second.
Behind the plate in the ninth, Campaneris was tested by Kirkpatrick after a leadoff single, and Kirkpatrick stole second. After Campaneris walked Tom Egan, Paul Schaal lined out to center, Kirkpatrick advancing to third. While next batter Dean Chance was striking out, Kirpatrick and Egan tried to pull a double steal, but second baseman Dick Green cut off Campaneris’ throw and gunned out Kirkpatrick at home.
Kirkpatrick was out, and Campy was out, heading off for X-rays after a collision forced him to leave the field.
(Couldn’t find a report on extent of the injury, but Campaneris didn’t return to the lineup until the following Tuesday.)
By holding on to Green’s throw, Campy prevented Spanky from increasing the Angels’ lead to 4-1, and RBI singles by Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Green in the bottom of the ninth sent the game into extra innings. After the two teams went scoreless in the next three frames, the Angels pushed across two unearned runs in the top of the 13th, as pitcher John O’Donoghue botched a bunt to let in one run and Cardenal brought in the other with a sacrifice fly.
The A’s went out in order in the bottom of the 13th, ending what was probably one of the most memorable nights, as least by comparison, at Municipal in the 13 years the A’s called it home.
Things were back to normal at the stadium the next night, 1,271 showing up to watch the Angels beat K.C. 7-2. The A’s drew 528,344 in 1965, their lowest attendance during their K.C. tenure.
Perhaps Campy’s busy Sept. 8 night affected his concentration at bat, as he went 0 for 4. In the field, his line was five putouts, one assist and one error.
Three weeks later the A’s finished at 59-103, last in the 10-team American League, their second straight last-place finish and fifth during their time in K.C. The Angels went 75-87 and placed seventh.
Musical chairs
Besides posing a challenge for Campaneris, the night also kept A’s manager Haywood Sullivan busy scratching on his lineup card as he shuttled players with Campy moving around the field. Here’s a look at the changes to accommodate Campaneris inning by inning:
Second inning: Wayne Causey went from second base to shortstop in a simple position swap.
  Third: Another swap with Ed Charles moving from third to second.
Fourth: With Campy moving to left, Jose Tartabull went to right, Charles back to third, right-field starter Lou Clinton staying in the dugout, and Green going in at second and taking Clinton’s lineup spot. Got it?
Fifth: Tartabull goes back to left and Jim Landis moves over to right to make way for Campy in center.
  Sixth: Landis and Campy swap as Campaneris completes the outfield circuit in right.
Seventh: As Campy takes first, MIke Hershberger goes to right field to replace first baseman Randy Schwartz.
Eighth: Santiago Rosario comes in to play first and takes the place of pitcher Jim Dickson as Campy takes the mound.
Ninth: Aurelio Monteagudo relieves Campy and takes the lineup spot of Bryan, who leaves the game to make way for Campy behind the plate.
Take that, Earl
Moving on to later in Campaneris’ career, from Campy’s Society for American Baseball Research biography: “Campaneris had a great season at Oakland in 1972, leading the league in chances (795), at-bats (625) and stolen bases (52). He finished second in the AL to Boston’s Luis Aparicio in balloting for the All-Star Game. Even after Aparicio broke a finger and couldn’t play, AL manager Earl Weaver selected Texas shortstop Toby Harrah. Harrah was also unable to play because of a sore shoulder, and Weaver then selected Orioles shortstop Bobby Grich, who played the entire 10 innings in the game, much to Campaneris’ chagrin.
“Three weeks later Campaneris responded to the All-Star snub in a game at Baltimore: After collecting his third stolen base of the game in the fifth inning, he went to third on a throwing error by Orioles catcher Andy Etchebarren, then coaxed Jim Palmer into a run-scoring balk. While heading home, he looked into the Orioles dugout and tipped his hat to Weaver.”
As positive a factor as Campaneris was on the field, he’s perhaps best known for a bat-throwing incident that got him tossed out of the 1972 AL Championship Series. Again from the SABR bio:
“After the A’s won Game One, 3-2, fireworks erupted during Game Two. In the bottom of the seventh, Campaneris, who was already 3-for-3 with two stolen bases and two runs scored, was hit in the ankle by a pitch from Lerrin LaGrow. Campaneris threw his bat toward LaGrow, who ducked to avoid being hit.
With Detroit manager Billy Martin in the lead, the Tigers went for Campaneris.
“(Afterward, Martin said of his role in the fracas, ‘You bet I was after him! There’s no place for that kind of gutless stuff in baseball. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in all my years of baseball. I would respect him if he went out to throw a punch, but what he did was the most gutless thing of any man to put on a uniform. It was a disgrace to baseball.’)
“Three umpires held Martin back, and home-plate umpire Nestor Chylak ejected LaGrow and Campaneris. Explaining his actions, Campaneris said, ‘My ankle hurt so bad. I knew he was going to throw at me, but people now tell me it’s better to go and fight. I don’t know. I just lost my temper.’
“Oakland’s Joe Rudi said he thought LaGrow threw at Campaneris because ‘Campy had run the Tigers ragged in the first two games, and when (Billy) Martin gets his ears pinned down, he’s going to do something about it.’ Teammate Mike Hegan said he thought Martin “wanted to light a fire under his ballclub, and Campy was the guy that they were going after because he was the guy that set the table for us. There’s no question that Billy Martin instructed Lerrin LaGrow to throw at Campaneris.’
“American League President Joe Cronin suspended Campaneris for the remainder of the ALCS, fined him $500 and left the decision about a possible World Series suspension to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Kuhn ruled that Campaneris could play in the World Series, but would be suspended without pay for the first seven games of the 1973 season.”
Other notes
•  Campaneris was one of the last players to leave Cuba for the United States before the Castro revolution made emigration extremely rare.
• The highest praise for Campaneris may have come from his old boss Charlie Finley, who said in 1980, “You can talk about Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Sal Bando, all those great players, but it was Campy who made everything go.”
• Other players to go nine positions in a game: Cesar Tovar, 1968; and Scott Sheldon and Shane Halter, both in 2000.
Notes on sources: As with all of these “Swoonin’ A’s” articles, I relied extensively on retrosheet.org and baseballreference.com for play-by-play details. I also got some help filling in the blanks from sportseclopedia.com and parallelnarrative.com.
  And as be can seen above, I lifted profusely from Campaneris’ entry in the  Society for American Baseball Research’s Biography Project (saber.org/bioproject), from an article that originally appeared in “Mustaches and Mayhem: Charlie O’s Three Time Champions: The Oakland Athletics: 1972-74” (SABR, 2015), edited by Chip Greene.
  (Behind Baseball Reference and Retrosheet, SABR’s bio project may be the next-best contribution to the internet.)

Swoonin’ A’s: 7th come 11, via 10 walks in ’59

By Phil Ellenbecker
Almost three days to the day, three and four years after wild affairs took place between the Kansas City A’s and White Sox in April, the two teams were at it again on April 22, 1959.
On April 23, 1955, the White Sox clobbered Kansas City 29-6 at Municipal Stadium in just the 10th game for the A’s in their first year in the city after moving from Philadelphia.
On April 21, 1956, the A’s whipped the White Sox 15-1 at Municipal behind a 13-run second inning in which all the runs crossed the plate with two out to tie a major league record.
And on this Wednesday in 1959 the White Sox subdued Kansas City 20-6, again at Municipal. You could say clobbered, whipped, hammered, whipped, belted or any other verb associated with a barrage of hits, but subdued is more apt because of the manner in which the White Sox piled up 11 runs in the seventh inning to put this game away.
What did they actually do? Not much, at least with the bat. The Athletics put the 7,446 in attendance to sleep by issuing 10 walks.
While the ChiSox collected 16 hits in the game, they needed just one to push across the 11 in the seventh. That’s because besides the 10 walks, the Chicagos reached twice on errors, picked up more bases on a Roger Maris error, and got hit by a pitch.
The errors came on the first three batters of the inning. Only two of Chicago’s runs in the inning were earned. The White Sox drew eight bases-loaded walks in the inning. A’s pitchers had two strings of four straight walks and another of three, and one of the four-walk strings was interrupted by the hit by pitch.
The 10 walks issued by the A’s were one short of the major league record for an inning set Sept. 11, 1949, by the Washington Senators against the New York Yankees.
The A’s were actually in this one entering the seventh, trailing 8–6 after letting a 6-1 lead through two innings slip away.
Tom Morgan, Kansas City’s fourth pitcher on the day coming on in relief in the seventh, might have escaped with no damage with a little help. But Ray Boone reached leading off the inning on Joe DeMaestri’s error at shortstop, and both runners were safe when third baseman Hal Smith botched Al Smith’s sacrifice bunt attempt. Johnny Callison followed with a single for the lone White Sox hit of the inning, scoring Boone, and Al Smith scored and Callison moved to third on right fielder Maris’ error.
Luis Aparicio, pitcher Bob Shaw, Earl Torgeson (Mark Freeman relieving Morgan in the middle of Torgeson’s at-bat) and Nellie Fox drew four straight walks. Torgeson and Fox brought in runs to increase Chicago’s lead to 12-6. Jim Landis hit back to the pitcher for a fielder’s choice and first out of the inning, then the walk parade resumed with Sherm Lollar, Boone, Smith and Aparicio looking at free passes around Callison getting plunked by a pitch. Each of these at-bats brought in a run, making the score 17-6.
George Brunet relieved Freeman after Lollar batted and finished the inning. (Brunet was in the third year of a 15-year major league career that led to a 15-year career in the Mexican League that ended in 1989 at at the age of 54. Brunet is also noted in JIm Bouton’s “Ball Four” as the pitcher who didn’t wear underwear.)

George Brunet issued five of the 10 walks the Chicago White Sox drew in the seventh inning of their 20-6 rout of the Kansas City A’s on April 22, 1959. Brunet is pictured on his 1965 baseball card when he was with the California Angels, one of nine teams he pitched for in a 15-year major league career. The A’s were the first.

After Brunet struck out Shaw, Bubba Phillips and Fox drew two more bases-loaded walks to bring the score to 19-6 before the inning mercifully ended when Landis went pitcher-to-first for the third out.
So Landis was responsible for two outs in the inning, both on balls hit back to the pitcher.
Shaw got the victory in relief of his mentor and Hall of Famer Early Wynn, finishing with 7 1/3 innings of shutout pitching.
Bud Daley took the loss for the A’s. In 1 2/3 innings he gave up three runs that allowed the White Sox to go ahead for good, after Ned Garver allowed five runs over 3 2/3 innings and left with K.C. still ahead 6-5.
Chicago’s stellar double-play combination of Fox and Aparicio, besides drawing two walks apiece in the fateful seventh, otherwise shined with the bat. Fox, the American League MVP that year, was 4 for 5 with five RBis. Aparicio went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and three runs scored, including a three-run homer in the fourth inning off Garver.
The White Sox went on to win the AL pennant that year, ending a four-year Yankees string, and lost the World Series to the Dodgers in six games.
The A’s finished seventh in the eight-team AL for the third straight year, with a 66-88 record.

Ted Williams, always on base: Streaking from sickbed in ’57

Ted Williams hadn’t played in a game since Sept. 1 when he went on a steak in which he reached base 16 consecutive times from Sept. 17-Sept. 23 in 1957. He hit home runs in his first four official at-bats starting off the streak.

By Phil Ellenbecker
Former Kansas City Royals general manager John Schuerholz once said,  “George Brett could roll out of bed on Christmas morning and hit a line drive.”
With my limited Googling skills I couldn’t find any other citations, but I’d venture to say similar quotes have been uttered about other outstanding hitters. And in 1957, Ted Williams figuratively rolled out of bed and started hitting home runs, or taking a walk, or throwing in a single here or there. Whatever he did when he took his turn at bat, pitchers weren’t getting him out.
When Williams stepped up to the plate on Sept. 17, he hadn’t seen action in a game since Sept. 1, having been plagued by a chest cold that kept him in bed until Sept. 9.
“He went back to the Somerset Hotel and rested and stoked himself with vitamin pills and prescriptions and some potions of his own choosing, and browsed through his baseball and fishing literature, and tied a few fishing lines,” Edwin Pope wrote of Ted’s confinement in “Ted Williams: The Golden Year 1957.”
Williams returned to workouts Sept. 12 and suffered a slight relapse before recovering enough to pronounce himself ready to pinch hit five days later against the Kansas City A’s at Fenway Park.
Red Sox manager Pinky Higgins called on Williams to bat for pitcher Murray Wall leading off the eighth inning. Williams slugged his 34th homer of the season.
Thus began a string in which Williams reached base 16 consecutive times, including homers in his first four official at-bats.
Among many heroic feats in Williams’ career on and off the baseball diamond  — including crash-landing a fighter jet as a Marine during the Korean War — this has to rank right up there and was a fitting climax to a stupendous season in which Williams became the oldest batting champion of all time — with an average of .388, which is the third-highest to lead a league since Williams became the last player to hit .400 at .406 in 1941. He’s tied with Rod Carew in 1977, behind Brett (.390, 1980) and Tony Gwynn (.394, strike-shortened 1994.)
The four homers in four straight at-bats ties with several other players for the major league record. His 16 consecutive times on base falls one short of the record set by Earl Averill Jr. in 1962 and Piggy Ward in 1893.
But we know Averill wasn’t out for a spell before beginning his streak and have to suspect Ward wasn’t, although we have no records to show it. Nevertheless, neither one accomplished their streaks at the ripe old age of 39 as Williams did, having turned that age on Aug. 30.
(And Averill did benefit by reaching on an error and a fielder’s choice, to go with seven hits and eight walks. Ward reached on eight hits, eight walks and one hit by pitch, while Williams’ streak included six hits, nine walks and a hit by pitch.)
Here’s the rundown on Williams’ streak appearance by appearance:
  Sept. 17: Williams deposited a 2-1 pitch from Tom Morgan into the seats to tie the game at 8-8, and the Red Sox went on to win 9-8.
Sept. 18: Summoned off the bench again in the eighth, Williams batted for pitcher Frank Sullivan and was intentionally walked with a runner on first, two out and the A’s leading 2-1. Billy Consolo then ran for Williams. Boston didn’t score, and Kansas City’s lead held up as the final.
(The A’s flip-flopped consonants on pitchers of record this day, as a day after Tom Morgan was the losing pitcher for K.C., Tom Gorman was the winning pitcher this day, throwing a complete game. The pitching firm of Morgan and Gorman was together for this one year in Kansas City, and both were members of the New York Yankees during 1952-54. And according to LinkedIn there’s a nonprofit organization management professional named Morgan Gorman in Evansville, Wisconsin.)
Sept. 20: After the Red Sox had the day off and then traveled to Yankee Stadium, this time Williams came off the bench leading off the ninth, again batting for Wall, and he homered off Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. Williams sat on a 2-2 high fastball for his second pinch hit homer in three trips to the plate since coming back. It started a four-run inning that was too little, too late in a 7-4 loss.
“It was the only one he ever gave me,” Williams said of the pitch he received from the 5-feet-10 Ford, who usually kept the ball low and away from Ted. “And the only reason he put that pitch there at all was because he was tired and had lost a good deal of his control.”
It was the only homer Williams had off Ford in 45 at-bats against him over his career, although Ted did have a .378 average.
Sept. 21: Inserted into the starting lineup in left field for the first time since Aug. 31, Williams reached the seats in right off Bob Turley for a grand slam his second time up, after being intentionally walked in the first. Williams connected in a six-run second on a 2-0 pitch for his 15th career grand slam. Williams had two more grand slams in his career and is tied for seventh all time with 17.
So that made two homers in two straight at-bats off the Yankees’ prime hurlers. Turley was 34-13 with a 2.86 ERA in 1957 and 1958 and was the major leagues’ Cy Young Award winner (only one winner in both leagues at that time) in 1958.
Williams walked his next two times up and then left for a pinch runner in Boston’s 8-3 win.
Sept. 22: After drawing yet another walk in the first, Williams made it four homers in four straight at-bats with a shot off Tom Sturvidant in the fourth that gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. But that was it as the Yankees prevailed 5-1.
Williams finally kept the ball in the park after his fourth-inning homer with a single to right in the sixth, then walked in the eighth.
Sept. 23: In the opening game of a series in Washington, Williams singled to left field in the first and scored on a Dick Gernert’s single, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead on their way to a 9-4 win. He walked his next three times up, scoring twice, and was hit by a pitch before leaving for a pinch runner.
Sept. 24: The Senators’ Hal Griggs finally got Ted out, retiring him on a grounder to second in a 1-2-3 first inning. But Williams homered his next time up, leading off the fourth inning for his 38th and final homer of the season, to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. That proved to be the difference in a 2-1 win. Williams was called out on strikes and walked his final two times up.
Besides stopping his streak, the fact Griggs was able to get Williams looking in the sixth appears quite notable considering the number of walks Ted had been drawing and the respect he had from umpires on ball and strike calls (or perhaps how much he had said umps bamboozled). This was Griggs’ first start of the year after a September call-up. With a final 6-26 four-year record and 5.50 ERA, his face-downs with Williams this day, homer aside, might rank as a career highlight besides a two-hit shutout he had in 1959. (Williams was 5 for 11 off Griggs lifetime for a .455 average.)
Williams went 2 for 3 the next day and was 3 for 6 over Boston’s next three and final games, giving Ted his final mark of .388. He was 6 for 6 during his streak and 6 for 12 after that, giving him an average of .667 from Sept. 17 on.

With his hot hitting at the end of 1957, Ted Williams (left) overtook Mickey Mantle (right) for the American League batting title and became the oldest player ever, at age 39, to win a batting title. However, Mantle won the MVP award in a controversial vote.

Williams had been at .376 on Sept. 1, one point behind Mickey Mantle. With his time off and hot hitting once he came back, Ted was able to finish 23 points ahead of Mantle in the batting race. Besides winning his fifth batting title, Williams, who played in 132 games, also won his ninth slugging average crown (.731) and was second in homers,
It wasn’t enough to win him the MVP, though. Mantle took the honors, his second straight MVP and second of three, with six first-place votes and 233 balloting points to five first-place votes and 209 points for Williams. Two of the voting writers (neither one from Boston) placed Williams ninth and10th on their ballots.
The results met with disparagement from Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey and others, but this wasn’t the first time Williams might have been robbed of an MVP. He finished second to Joe DiMaggio in his 1941 .406 season and also was runner-up to DiMaggio after winning the Triple Crown in 1947. In the latter year one Boston elector didn’t even include Williams in his top 10.
The fact was, Williams’ strained relationship with writers probably cost him more than a couple MVPs. Six times he was the league leader in WAR (wins above replacement), the modern metric meant to measure a  player’s overall value (and this includes defensive ability, for which Ted was not noted).
Williams was named the Sporting News’ player of the year for 1957,  and MVP or not, the season was a remarkable one by his or anybody else’s standards, coming at ages 38-39 and just three years removed from the end of his career in 1960.
And it was more than Ted bargained for.
“His thoughts centered on making this his last year,” Pope wrote in “Golden Year.” “‘I hope I can just start 100 games,’ Ted was quoted, ‘and maybe play in 125, and hit .325 or a little higher.
“‘If anybody had even asked me three years ago if I would be in uniform in 1957, I’d have to say no. Sometimes, I guess, when you think you’re beginning to slip, you feel like packing up your bag and saying the hell with it. But when you get older, you think better of the game.”
Ah, the hell with it Ted, why not just go out and hit .388?
Truly Golden
As you can see, besides my usual sources — retrosheet.org and baseballreference.com — I relied on Edwin Pope‘s “Ted Williams, The Golden Year 1957” to flesh out this account. I had this sitting around because I was flipping through some early 1970s issues of The Sporting News a couple years ago when I came across an ad for the book. I thought, “That looks like it would be a good book, I wouldn’t mind having it.”
I remember when I used to look through old issues of magazines and coming across stuff I’d like to order and thinking I could actually order it. But of  course I couldn’t because THE MAGAZINE WAS 15 OR 20 YEARS OLD.
But that’s not the case anymore, thanks to the miracle of the internet and Amazon. If I wanted that book, by golly I could have it, right Amazon? Yes, they did have it. And it looks like they still do.
And for those of you who think you’ve read everything there is worth reading about Ted Williams, you might want to add this to your list. Pope seems to be one of those writers who did have a good relationship with Ted, and this gives the book some insight you might be missing elsewhere. And Pope, a Miami Herald legend who just died in January at age 88, did pick a heck of a season to write about, besides giving you a good overall view of Williams’ career and persona.

For consecutive times on base streaks: http://www.gammonsdaily.com/earl-averill-jr-the-batter-who-reached-base-17-straight-times/; http://bleacherreport.com/articles/934773-ranking-the-most-unbreakable-mlb-player-streaks-and-consecutive-game-records
For general information: retrosheet.org and baseball reference.com
For information on Ted Williams’ 1957 season: “Ted Williams, The Golden Year 1957,” Edwin Pope, Prentice-Hall, 1970 (available at amazon.com)

Magic Royals moments: 1976; Brett, the Royals take off

How locked in was George Brett, early in his third full year in the major leagues, from May 8-13 in 1976? He collected three hits in each of six games, going 18 for 26 during this span for a .692 average. His batting average rose from .277 to .396 en route to his first of three American League batting titles.

By Phil Ellenbecker
After rallying for a second-place finish behind the Oakland A’s in 1975, the Kansas City Royals broke through and took the American League West title the next year, holding off the team from the city that stole the A’s from Kansas City in 1968.
That breakthrough year also signaled the true emergence of a superstar in the making in George Brett, who’d given a glimpse of things to come by hitting .282 his rookie year of 1974 and by hitting .308 next year and leading the American League in hits and triples. The teachings of Charlie Lau were shining through.
It was perhaps the games of May 8-13 in 1976 when Brett showed he was truly something special.
Brett got three hits on May 8. And three hits again on May 9, and May 10. And May 11, 12 and 13. Six straight three-hit games. (The only other players to accomplish this feat, according to answers.yahoo.com: Sam Thompson in 1895 and Jimmy Johnston in 1923.) Brett’s average during the streak climbed from .277 to .396.
That was Brett’s high point of the season, but he was still up at .365 on June 15; at .371 on June 19; eventually tailing off to .331 on Sept. 26 before closing at .333 to beat out Hal McRae for the batting title by decimal points, on the last day of the regular season in a controversial finish. (After the game, McRae claimed that the Twins conspired to give Brett the title by letting a fly ball drop for an inside-the-park homer on Brett’s final at-bat.)
That was the first of three batting titles Brett won in separate decades, and his eruption from May 8-13 was the launching point. He went 18 for 26 during this span for a .692 average, with 16 singles, a double and homer.
During his streak the Royals went 5-1. It’d be nice to say this was the surge that sent K.C. into first place on its way to a first division title, but the fact was the Royals just treaded water during this time, as the Texas Rangers went 5-2 and remained in first place in the AL West. The Royals picked up a half-game during this time and moved within two games.
It’d also be nice to say Brett’s hits played a prominent role in the Royals’ victories. Maybe so, maybe not. In the first four games of the streak Brett either scored or drove in a run off three of his hits, with two leading indirectly to runs. In the last two games five of his hits figured directly in the scoring and one indirectly. But both of those games were blowouts, so the hits weren’t vital.
Nevertheless, 18 for 26 is 18 for 26.
Also of note is where the hits went. The play by play at retrosheet.org gives the direction for all but three of them. Nine singles went to left, or the opposite field; three singles went to center; two singles and a double to right. And note, all but three of the hits were singles.
So this indicates that Brett had yet to discover his power stroke. He hit seven homers in ’76 and 11 in ’75, although he did lead the league in triples in both years. He passed the 20-homer mark three of the next four years.
Here’s a game-by-game rundown of the streak (first two on the road, last four at home):
May 8: 3 for 5, 1 run in a 6-3 win at Baltimore
First inning: Brett singled to right with one out after Amos Otis singled, went to second on John Mayberry’s ground out and to third on Hal McRae’s single. McRae was caught stealing to end the inning.
Fourth: Grounded out leading off.
Sixth: None out, singled to left after Otis singled leading off, moving Otis to third; scored on Mayberry homer, giving Royals a 5-0 lead.
Eighth: Singled to left after Otis singled for third time; Otis scored on Mayberry’s sacrifice fly, giving Royals their final 6-3 margin.
May 9, 3 for 5, 1 run, 1 stolen base in 7-4 win at Baltimore
First: One out, Brett singled Tom Poquette to second; McRae singled in Poquette with two out, Brett moving to third; Al Cowens grounded to end the inning.
Third: Brett singled to left with one out, stole second and advanced to third on an error by catcher Elrod Hendricks; after Mayberry flied out and McRae walked, Brett scored on Cowens’ single, putting Royals ahead 2-1 in a five-run inning that gave them a 6-1 lead.
Fourth: Singled to center with one out; put out on Mayberry’s double-play grounder.
Sixth: Flied out to left leading off.
Ninth: Out at second leading off.
May 10, 3 for 5, a double, caught stealing once in 5-4 loss to Minnesota
First: One out, lined out to third.
Third: Two out, doubled to right; Mayberry grounded out; Royals were tied 1-1 after Otis’ homer coming before Brett’s at-bat.
Fifth: One out, singled to left; caught trying to steal second as Mayberry struck out to end the inning; Twins led 4-3.
Eighth: Singled to right leading off; forced at second by McRae for second out; Royals still down 4-3.
Ninth: Royals tied the game on a triple by Freddie Patek and double by Cowens; with one out and runners at first and and second, Brett grounded out to third and Mayberry flied out.
The Twins scored in the 10th and won 5-4.
May 11, 3 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 walk in 6-3 win over Minnesota
First: Two out, walked; Mayberry grounded out. Twins led 1-0 after one.
Fourth: One out, singled to left; went to third on Mayberry single; left stranded after McRae and Cowens made out. Twins led 3-0.
Fifth: Royals tied the game at 3-3 on a double by Poquette and a homer by Otis with two out; Brett followed with a single to left; Mayberry flied out to end the inning.
Seventh: One out, single to left scores Buck Martinez, puts Royals ahead 4-3; McRae singled in Otis to make it 5-3.
The Royals added an insurance run in the eighth for the final margin.
May 12, 3 for 5, 3 runs, 2 RBIs, reached once on an error, 1 stolen base in a 17-5 win over Minnesota
First: One out, singled to center, moving Otis to third; stole second; Brett and Otis scored on Cowens’ double, the start of a seven-run inning off Joe Decker.
Second: Led off with a single to center; scored on a McRae single, the start of a four-run inning vs. Decker and Vic Albury.
Third: One out, reached on an error by first baseman Rod Carew, Poquette scored; scored on a double by McRae; Royals now lead 14-0.
Fourth: Grounded out to end the inning, the first scoreless inning for the Royals in the game.
Sixth: Two out, singled in White to make it 16-4.
Eighth: Jamie Quirk pinch hit for Brett.
Besides Brett, other big bats in this 22-hit barrage included Poquette, 3 for 6, 4 RBIs, 2 stolen bases, a double and a triple; Mayberry, 2 for 5, 2 runs; McRae, 2 for 2, 2 runs, 2 runs scored, 2 RBIs and a double; Cowens, 2 for 4, 2 runs, 4 RBIs and 2 doubles; and Bob “Scrap Iron” Stinson, 3 for 4, 2 runs, 2 RBIs.
May 13, 3 for 4, 4 runs, a homer, 1 RBI, and a walk in a 13-2 win over the Chicago White Sox
First: Two out, single to left; after a single by Mayberry, two runs scored on McRae’s two-run triple to right; Cowens followed with a triple to left, giving the Royals a 3-0 lead.
Third: One out, solo homer, 4-0 Royals.
Fifth: After Otis’ leadoff double, grounded out to second, moving Otis to third; Otis scored on Mayberry’s single, the start of a three-run inning that gave the Royals a 7-0 lead.
Sixth: Walked with two out; scored on Mayberry’s two-run triple, expanding Royals’ lead to 9-2; they led 10-2 at the end of the inning.
Eighth: Singled to left leading off; scored on a three-run double by Cookie Rojas, 13-2 Royals.
Mayberry went 3 for 4 in the game with 3 runs, 3 RBIs and a triple; McRae was 3 for 4 with 3 runs, 3 RBIs, a double and a triple; Cowens was 2-4 with 2 RBIs. Lots of clout out of the 4-5-6 hitters in the lineup, behind Brett at No. 3. (Brett was in the No. 3 spot for each game of the streak.)
The beneficiary of all this offensive largesse was Dennis Leonard, who pitched a complete-game seven-hitter. He carried a shutout into the seventh inning as he improved to 2-1 en route to a season in which he went 17-10, the second of eight straight double-digit seasons including three 20-win seasons. (From 1975-1981, Leonard had 130 wins, most by any right-handed major league pitcher.)
As can be seen from the last two games of this streak, the Royals were capable of blistering the ball all over the park like a pinball game, with Brett and McRae in the middle of a lineup of line-drive hitters. The Royals led the AL in doubles and triples and were second in hitting in ’76. Illustrative of their attack was the opening inning of the May 13 game, when after back-to-back singles by Brett and Mayberry, McRae and Cowens followed with consecutive triples to opposite corners of the park.
The 17-5 and 13-2 pastings of the Twins and White Sox were the first of six games in which the Royals hit double digits in runs scored this season. On May 24 and 26 they routed the Texas Rangers 14-11 and 14-2 in consecutive games, the latter the first game of a doubleheader. (They lost the nightcap 5-4 in 10 innings.) On June 7 and 15, and Aug. 13, they bludgeoned Detroit 10-0, 21-7 and 15-3. On Sept. 12 they whacked the Twins again, 16-6.
So how was the May 8-13 surge by the Royals and Brett greeted by the Kansas City faithful? Not overwhelmingly. An average of 11,336 fans turned out at Royals Stadium for the four home games during the streak, topped by 13,657 for the last one on May 13. For the season the Royals drew 1,680,265, an improvement of 500,000-plus over 1975 and 300,000-plus over their previous best in 1973.
The Royals’ attendance, as they continued to establish themselves as an American League power, climbed to 1,852,603 in ’77 and topped 2 million for the first of three straight seasons starting in 1978. With the size of their stadium probably holding them back, they ranked third in the AL in attendance from 1976-80 except for ’79, when they ranked fourth.

Sources: primary:  retrosheet.org and baseballreference.com; 1976 batting race: http://www.royalsreview.com/2010/2/9/1303471/hal-mcrae-racism-and-the-disputed

Magic Royals moments: A fan’s personal history


By Phil Ellenbecker

Hi, I’ve been a Kansas City Royals fan since the time I started following sports on a regular basis, which is the year 1969, which was the year of their inception. So you could say I’ve grown up with the Royals.

Not that I can say I’ve always been a die-hard fan, following every game and sticking with them through thick and thin. I’ve been more a fair weather fan, which means lots of foul weather a lot of these years. But there have been a lot of great moments, too, and the Royals have been a big part of my sporting life, so I’d like to take this opportunity to take a look at my most memorable Royals moments and games. This is not a definitive look at their greatest moments, although some certainly qualify. Some have been done to death, some cannot be done to death enough. It’s just a personal look at what it’s been like to follow the Royals through the years.

Most of the details in these accounts came from retrosheet.com and baseballreference.org, which are the greatest contributions ever to the internet.

Swoonin’ A’s ’56: K.C. ties record for two-out thunder

By Phil Ellenbecker

Almost a year to the date after Chicago had pummeled the A’s 29-6, 11 days into their inaugural season in Kansas City, the Athletics offered some payback with a 15-1 drubbing of the White Sox on April 21, 1956. It came before a Saturday crowd of 15, 608 at Municipal Stadium.
As in the 1955 April blowout between the two teams, in which the Chisox took a 14-3 lead after three innings, this one was over early. And Kansas City’s knockout blow this day was even more emphatic. A 13-run second and one more in the third put the A’s up 14-1.
What made Kansas City’s second-inning outburst especially notable was that all of the 13 runs scored with two out. This tied the major league record for most runs scored with two out set by Cleveland in a 27-3 win over Boston in 1923.
Not that Art Ditmar needed that much help. The K.C. starter, who qualified as A’s ace this year with a 12-22 record and 4.42 ERA, threw a complete-game one-hitter, allowing no earned runs while striking out three and walking five, in winning his first start of the year.
The A’s sent 17 batters to the plate in the second, and mainly they stung the Sox to death with singles – 11 of them, along with two doubles, two walks and a triple.

Art Ditmar threw a complete-game one-hitter and benefited from a lot of run support as the Kansas City A’s blew out the Chicago White Sox 29-6 on April 21, 1956.
Forrest “Spook” Jacobs with 3 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs scored to spark the Kansas City offense.

Although all the runs scored with two out, the A’s jumped on Chicago starter Sandy Consuegra from the start. Jim Finigan led off with a single and advanced to third on Joe DeMaestri’s double. After consecutive ground outs by Ditmar and Vic Power, Forrest “Spook” Jacobs beat out a grounder to shortstop Luis Aparicio for a hit, bringing in the first run of the inning.
(Why Spook? Jacobs was dubbed “Spook” for his uncanny ability to dump baseballs just over the heads of opposing infielders. Also of note, he was the first  player to get hits on his first four at-bats in the major leagues.)
Enos Slaughter followed with another RBI single, and Harry “Suitcase” Simpson added a two-run single. (“Suitcase” because he played with a total of 17 different negro, major and minor league teams during his professional career.)
After a walk to Gus “Ozark Ike” Zernial (“Ozark Ike” after a popular comic-strip character), Bill Fischer relieved Consuegra and Joe Ginsberg greeted him with a run-scoring single. Hector Lopez, who’d come in for Finigan as a pinch runner after Finigan turned an ankle at third in his earlier at-bat, then delivered the big blow of the inning with a two-run, opposite-field triple to right field, making the score 7-0. DeMaestri followed with his second hit of the inning, a run-scoring single, and Ditmar singled him to second.
Goodbye Fischer, hello Harry Byrd, the AL Rookie of the Year in 1952 with the A’s when they were in Philadelphia.
And hello Byrd, said Power with a two-run double. 10-0 Kansas City. Jacobs’ second single of the inning scored another run. Slaughter walked, and back-to-back RBI singles by Simpson (also 2 for 2 in the inning) and Zernial made it 13-0.
Morrie Martin, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II and received two Purple Hearts, relieved Byrd and brought an end to the lesser carnage at Municipal this day by retiring Ginsberg to end the inning.
Ditmar gave up his only hit and only run in the fourth. Earl Battey singled with one out and came around to score courtesy two errors by Jacobs at second.
Ditmar breezed after that, facing the minimum 15 batters, helped by a double play, over the final five innings.
A’s manager Lou Boudreau substituted freely after the second. Jacobs was the only position player to go all the way and finished the day 3 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Simpson was 2 for 4 with three RBIs and Ginsberg 2 for 5.
The A’s went on to finish 52-102 in the American League that season, eighth and last, with a final record of 52-102, their worst record in their 13-year tenure in K.C. The White Sox finished third, 15 games back of the Yankees, who won won their seventh pennant and sixth World Series in eight years.


Swoonin’ A’s, Part I: Welcome to the bigs

By Phil Ellenbecker
Three weeks and nine games into the 1955 season, Kansas City received a rude how-di-do to major league baseball.
Not that the Athletics’ first season in the American League and Kansas City’s first in major league baseball, after a move from Philadelphia, had been a honeymoon up until then. The A’s entered their Saturday, April 23 game with Chicago with a 2-6 record.
Then the bottom fell out. The White Sox raked through six Kansas City pitchers for 29 hits en route to 29-6 shellacking before before a crowd of 18,338 at Municipal Stadium.
It got ugly before it got uglier. Chicago jumped on Kansas City for a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, but the A’s closed to 4-3 in the bottom of the inning. The White Sox responded with seven runs in the second and three more in the third for a 14-3 lead, then made it more unsightly with six more runs in the sixth and seven more in the seventh and eighth frames.
Starting pitcher Bobby Shantz, the American League’s 1952 MVP while the A’s were in Philadelphia, absorbed most of the damage, surrendering nine runs, eight earned, in 1 2//3 innings. But no one got off easy for the KC pitching staff this day. Lee Wheat (two earned runs in 1/3 inning), Bob Trice (5 ER, 1 1/3 IP), Moe Burtschy (6 ER, 2 1/3 IP), Bob Spicer (5 ER, 1 2/3 IP) and Ozzie Van Brabant (2 ER, 1 2/3 IP) all had hefty damage done to their ERA.

Bobby Shantz, the 1952 American League MVP, gave up nine runs in 1 2/3 innings of the Kansas City Athletics’ 29-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on April 23, 1955, nine games in the first season for the A’s in Kansas City.

(Season stats for those who mopped up for Shantz: Wheat, 22.50 ERA in two innings pitched; Trice, 9.00 ERA, 10 IP; Burtschy, 10.32 ERA,  11.1 IP; Spicer, 33.75, 2.2 IP; Van Brabant, 18.00, 2 IP. The A’s had the AL’s worst ERA that year of 5.35.)
(Wheat, Trice and Van Brabant were gone for good from the major leagues by next season. Burtschy and Spicer were gone after 1956. Burtschy, who had a blazing fastball but was constantly plagued by lack of control, actually wasn’t too bad in his final season: 3-1 record, 3.95 ERA in 43 IP; Spicer, on the other hand, 19.29, giving him a final major league ERA of 27.00 0 in 5.0 innings.)
Thirteen White Sox runs on April 23 came across courtesy of the long ball. Bob Nieman was the biggest basher, unloading a three-run homer in the first inning and a two-run shot in the third en route to a 3-for-4 day with seven runs batted in from his No. 5 slot in the lineup. Those were Nieman’s fourth and fifth homers of the season — nearly halfway to an 11-homer season with 53 RBI and a .283 average. (Nieman was a pretty solid hitter in a 13-year career with a .295 average and a best number of homers of 21 in 1959).
Sherman Lollar, the No. 8 hitter, also padded his stats with two solo homers, his first two four-baggers of the year, as he went 5 for 6 with 5 RBIs. Minnie Minoso went 4 for 5 with 5 RBIs, including a two-run homer.
Perhaps if Jim Finnegan hadn’t erred on Minoso’s grounder in the top of the first it might have been different. Maybe. Chico Carrasquel singled to center leading off the game and Nellie Fox flied out. Carrasquel scored on Finnegan’s error and two batters later Nieman unloaded his first homer, scoring Minoso and George Kell. Shantz retired the next two batters.
After the A’s came back with three in their half of the first, including a two-run homer by Bill Renna, Lollar led off the second with a homer as the White Sox began to pull away with seven runs.
And that’s about all you need to know. Ugly from the start. And the rest, you could say, is history. Ugly history. All the way through 1967. And then onto Oakland and better days.

The swoonin’ A’s: Glimpses at some lowlights and highlights of the Kansas City A’s, 1955-1967

By Phil Ellenbecker
Hi, welcome to “The Swoonin’ A’s.” I’ve never tried to be a blogger before but I thought I’d try it by trotting out one of my favorite subjects — the hopelessly hapless Kansas City A’s, who spend 13 ignominous seasons at Municipal Stadium The Athletics’ finishes in those years in the American League, in order — sixth, eighth, seventh, seventh, seventh, seventh (consistency!), eighth, ninth, eighth, 10th, 10th, seventh and 10th (AL was eight team through 1960, 10 teams after that). Five last-place finishes, never better than .500, best record 73-39, .474 winning percentage in 1958, good for seventh place; most wins, 74 in 1’66, also good for seventh place, best finish for K.C. since the AL went to 10 teams and equivalent to its sixth in the first year in the city in ’55. Those were the best finishes for the A’s in their 13 years.
(The title for this blog comes from “The Swingin’ A’s,” the Athletics’ slogan during the late 1960s and early 1970s and which appeared on their team logo.)
For a truly informed opinion on the A’s in those years, find Bill James’ 1986 “Baseball Abstract” and read his essay on what it was like to be a fan of the A’s back then. An excerpt:
“Under current conditions it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for any baseball team to become as bad as the Kansas City Athletics were … Thirteen straight losing seasons … not many teams have ever had thirteen … even the Browns. Even the St. Louis Browns, the hapless Brownies … yes, even the Browns never had thirteen consecutive losing seasons.
“This one fact, however depressing, testifies only to the duration of the frustration; there was more to it than that. The A’s not only never had a winning record, they never came close to having a winning record. They were never in any danger of having a winning record.”
The most entertaining parts of James’ essay were about Charlie Finley and all the crazy ideas he brought aboard when he became the A’s owner in the 1960s. There were many, but my favorite was Finley’s effort to move the fences in at Municipal Stadium, because he figured the reason the Yankees won so many pennants was their short porch 296 feet, down the right-field line. The new right-field dimensions would be named “Pennant Porch.” When informed that current rules prevented him from moving in the fences closer than 325, Finley had a line painted in the outfield where he wanted to have the fences placed. Then he instructed the public address announcer to, whenever a ball was caught past the  line, to say, “That would have been a home run in Yankee Stadium.”
When it became apparent that far more batted balls were flying beyond the pseudo fence line by opponents than Athletics, the order was withdrawn.

This is the logo the Kansas City A’s used from 1955-1962, inherited from the white elephant mascot Connie Mack used for the A’s in Philadelphia.
This is the logo the Kansas City A’s used from 1962-1967, incorporating the green and gold colors Charlie Finley brought to the team when he took over as owner.

I came along too late as a Kansas City baseball fan for the A’s (I started with the Royals in 1969), but I developed an early interest in them when I discovered some 8×10 photos of A’s player that my brothers had collected on visits to A’s games when they were kids. (I can still recall some of them — Hector Lopez, Joe DeMaestri, Virgil Trucks, Ned Garver; wish I know what happened to them.) The fascination kept growing through the years.
What added to the fascination was how well the A’s did after they left Kansas City. Three straight world championships from 1972-74, and added success since then.
Along the way I’ve collected a few stories and box scores through the years, and now I’m attempting to put them together in a written fashion. I’ve tried to have fun with this, going beyond a straight-forward account to throw in some what I thought to be interesting sidenotes and trivia. In other words, I just wrote what I damned well pleased. Isn’t that what blogging’s all about?
This is by no means meant to be anywhere near a comprehensive look at the highs and lows of the Kansas City A’s from 1955-1967. It’s just some things I’ve come across. If anybody out there reads this and has anything to add — either story ideas or stories you have written — feel free to chip in.
Hope you enjoy and that this wasn’t a complete waste of time.
P.S. It’s just a coincidence, I believe, that each of these game accounts involve the Chicago White Sox, although the White Sox are one of my favorites teams besides the Royals. When the A’s and White Sox hooked up back then, wacky things seemed to happen.
Also, all of the detail in these accounts came from retrosheet.org and baseballreference.com, which I consider to be the greatest contributions ever to the internet.