Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-7-7

7/7/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Top of the 1st
I’M IN LOVE WITH THE DOUBLE
Please don’t share this with Mrs. Ball, but I’ve doubled my love. I’m in love with the double. I sing, “Double your pleasure, double your fun!” (the Doublemint commercial, not REO Speedwagon). The only question I have is why did it take me so long to discover these feelings?

The double rules!

Of course, the homer is the glamour shot, but the double is much more prevalent and has great impact. The triple is a fluke of nature. It’s once in a blue moon. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s a freak.

But the double…it’s everywhere, and where ever it goes, its presence is felt. The double with the bases empty immediately places a runner in scoring position. It forces the pitcher to pitch from the stretch. It changes the way both the infielders and outfielders play as they defensively ready themselves to cut off the run. It puts the runner on first in the position to either score on the hit or be in position to score on the next hit. It changes the game. It forces you to sit up in your seat. It is an indicator that a pitcher might be weakening. It is all this and more, this wonderful double.

This brings me to the perennially underappreciated Earl Webb. What does a bowler have to do with this discussion? Earl Webb was no bowler, Earl Webb is baseball’s all-time record holder for doubles in a season with 67.

Earl Webb made his debut with the New York Giants on August 1, 1925. In three at bats that season, he had no doubles, in fact he had no hits. Webb was a slow a foot lefty batter who played the outfield. He returned in 1927 playing with the Cubbies and of his 135 hits those next two seasons, 25 were two-baggers.

Back to the minors in 1929, Webb was 31 when Boston traded Bill Barrett to Washington to get him in April of 1930. Webb immediately became the regular Red Sox right fielder in 1930 (the Sox lost 102 games) and in 1931, when he set the record. Webb thrived in his two seasons with the Red Sox. In 1930, he hit a career high 16 homers; he hit 14 in 1931. Both years that was good for 10th in the American League.

Webb hit .323 in 1930, with 30 doubles, and .333 in 1931, his magic year, also good for 10th in the league. That season, in 589 at bats, he struck out just 51 times. He had three triples to go along with 14 homers and 67 doubles and his 84 extra base hits were second in the league to Lou Gehrig and four more than Babe Ruth. I get the sense that he was like Manny in the outfield with 21 assists and an astounding 16 errors. But, nevertheless, he finished sixth in MVP voting that wonderful season.

Despite a rainy start, 1931 was great for Webb averaging a double every two games early that season. In a three-game span that included a make-up doubleheader on May 27, he hit six doubles and had 21 after just 34 games. He hit 18 doubles in July, and also lined into a triple play on the 23rd. By the time the Red Sox finished a 29-game homestand, Webb had 51 doubles and was hitting .370. The record was 64, set by Detroit’s George Burns (not Gracie) in 1926 and people were starting to notice. By the end of August, Webb had 53 doubles in 124 games.

The Sox went on the road for 17 games and 15 of them Webb didn’t double. The Sox came home then for 23 games. Home meant Fenway Park, without the Green Monster which had yet to be built (with dead center being more than 500 away) and on Sundays, Braves Field. Webb went doubles crazy. He hit four from Sept. 5-7 and had 59 after 133 games. On Sept. 13, in a 6-5 loss to the White Sox at Braves Field, Webb became just the second player to have 60 doubles in a season.

Starting on September 15, in a five game span, Webb went 11 for 21. On Webb’s 32nd birthday, on September 17, 1931, he tied George Burns’ double record at 64, in the first game of a doubleheader. In game two, a 2-1 Sox loss, Webb doubled again to set the record. He doubled the next day as well, but went into a slump and didn’t double again until the last day of the season in Washington and finished the season with 67.

Since 1931 there have been some threats to Webb’s record; Paul Waner had 62 in 1932, Hank Greenberg had 63 in 1934, and Ducky Medwick hit 64 in 1936. Charlie Gehringer had 60 in 1936 and these guys, along with Burns, are the only members of the 60 Double club. The closest since then were Colorado’s Todd Helton’s 59 doubles in 2000. Toronto’s Carlos Delgado had 57, in 2000. Boston’s Nomar Garciaparra and the Angels’ Garrett Anderson both had 56 in 2002, and Lyle Overbay had 53 for the Brewers in 2004, 37 by the All-Star break. Craig Biggio had 56 with the Astros in 1999, and Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, had 45 doubles when the 1994 season ended after 109 games.

Now we sit and wait and see what happens this year. Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell through 51 games had 23 doubles, which projects to 73 over the course of a full season. Through 83 games Lowell now has 30 doubles, as does Mark Young of Texas.

Webb finished his major league career after the 1933 season with a lifetime average of .306 and a career total of 155 doubles. He played in the minors for four more seasons. In 1934, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, Webb led the Double A (the equivalent of today’s Triple A) American Association in hitting with a .368 average. He died on May 23, 1965. It’s amazing to think that 41 years after his death, Webb has held the record for 75 years now.
In the meantime, Chipper Jones scored the winning run for Atlanta after his one-out double in the 10th inning. Jones has an extra-base hit in eight straight games, tying the longest streak in the major leagues this season. Morgan Ensberg and Kevin Mench each had eight-game streaks earlier this year.

You gotta love the double.

Top of the 2nd
ON THE SUBJECT OF HOMERS
Jim Thome and David Ortiz each had two home runs, a grand slam and six runs batted in Tuesday night. It’s the first time that two players had two-plus homers, a slam and six-plus RBI on the same day since Marcus Giles (Braves) and Rafael Palmeiro (Rangers) did it on July 28, 2003.

Both Sox teams were winners.

Top of the 3rd
SPEAKING ABOUT TRIPLES
Omar Vizquel has five for the season, giving the Giants two players, age 39 or older, with at least five triples. Steve Finley has eight. The Giants are the second team in major league history to have two players, each 39 or older, with at least five triples. The 1998 Twins featured Paul Molitor (42 years old at season’s end, five triples) and Otis Nixon (39, six triples).

Top of the 4th
WHY WE LOVE JOE GIRARDI
“Had some bad days didn’t he?” – Marlins’ manager Joe Girardi, after finding out he was 9-for-24 with a home run against Monday’s starter for Washington against his team, Pedro Astacio.

Bottom of the 4th
WHY WE LOVE DONTRELLE WILLIS
Dontrelle Willis has joined fellow pitcher Barry Zito’s “Strikeouts for Troops” program. With each strikeout that Willis throws, he gives $100 to benefit soldiers being treated at military hospitals. The fund provides the comforts of home to injured soldiers, and assists with travel and housing expenses for their families.

The left-hander has recorded 67 strikeouts so far this year.

Top of the 5th
BASEBALL’S BRAVE NEW WORLD
Baseball’s world of tomorrow was presciently written about 50 years ago today when Arthur Daley’s Sports of the Times” column published in the New York Times on July 7, 1958, titled “Matters of Policy,” Daley discussed the concept of interleague play which had been proposed by Hank Greenberg.

“I’m against it,” said Del Webb, co-owner of the Yankees, even though the Yankees could draw enormous crowds seeing NL stars like Musial, Mays, Aaron and others. “I’m opposed to tampering with baseball records. We’ve built them up over the years and they should be protected.” said Webb.

Birdie Tebbetts, then the Cincinnati manager, was quoted as being upset that there was no NL in New York any more. “This is something I just can’t conceive. Do you realize what this means? Some day there will be a whole generation of ballplayers who will have to say, ‘No. I never played in New York.’ I always looked forward to coming [to New York] all during my career as a player and as a manager. I feel I am losing an old and treasured friend.”

Daley added, “Expansion is at least many years away. But interleague play could be adopted swiftly and without one radical dislocation. The scheme is certain to be a boon in baseball’s brave new world of tomorrow.”

Top of the 6th
NEWS WE DON’T NEED
Sammy S*sa told a Korean newspaper he’s not retired and might return to action next season. S*sa broke his longtime silence by granting an interview to The Korea Times on Friday in Seoul, where he was accompanying Dominican Republic president Leonel Fernandez by saying, “I am not retired,” said Sosa, I am waiting for my time, to see if it is a chance for me to come back next year. … I am always ready.”

The paper said S*sa “became angry and taciturn” when he was asked if he used steroids in 1998 during his home-run chase with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Mark McLiar. “Excuse me, I don’t need to answer that question,” he said.

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 7/5/2006
Happy birthday to this perfect game pitcher
RANK REBEL – LEN BARKER

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA – 7/5/2006
Only one righthanded hitter born in the last 100 years has a career batting average over .330 and he’s still alive.
Send your answers to Bill@billy-ball.com

Bottom of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM ANSWER – 7/6/06
His homer in the 1942 All-Star game was the only one he hit all season.
I MOCK WEENY – MICKEY OWEN

BILLY-BALL-TRIVIA-ANSWER – 7/6/06
Not counting pitchers, five MVPs in the last 50 years hit fewer than 10 home runs. Three came in a four-year period, only one in the last 25 years. Name them.
Nellie Fox (1959), Dick Groat (1960), Maury Wills (1962), Rose (1973) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001).

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?

Top of the 9th
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
The Astros have some very bright pitching prospects on the horizon. Going into last night’s game for AAA Round Rock, Jason Hirsh, a 6-8 righthander had an eight-game winning streak and a record of 9-2 with a 2.42 ERA. He is 8-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his previous 12 starts. For the season, he has struck out 92 batters and allowed just 80 hits and 44 walks in 104 1/3 innings.

Double A Corpus Christi righthander reliever Paul Estrada, in 57 1/3 innings has struck out 94 batters and allowed 19 walks and 32 hits. He is 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA. Estrada has equaled his strikeout total of 94 last year at Class A Lexington — but that was in 90 1/3 innings.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Bottom of the 9th
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