Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-10-13

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Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Happy birthday, Trevor Hoffman

Friday, October 13, 2006

Top of the 1st
Have you noticed that the guy sitting next to you on your commute smells a little nasty these days? What about the person in the cube next to you who has been wearing the same outfit all week? What’s up with that?

Well, chances are you are dealing with a Detroit Tiger fan who does not want to change any of the positive vibes around his, or her, team of choice. Oh, and if you think that this is a good day to mention the silliness of superstitions, save it for another day because you are probably talking to someone who suffers from paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia…a fear of Friday the 13th.

We’re not talking about the movie series by the same name, we’re talking whammies and, to be honest with you, I’m a little nervous about talking about them.

You know what a whammy is, right? Whammies are magical spells that cause problems when you talk about them. For example, you never, ever talk about how well your car has been running. One doesn’t say, “My car has been great! No trouble!” You see if you say those last two words you might as well say it as you are fishing through your wallet looking for your AAA Membership card.

Baseball is filled with whammies with so many players who believe in whammies it’s hard to find some who don’t. The way it works is if you do badly, you believe in whammies and if you do well you believe in whammies.

For example, after going hitless in a game, White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso blamed his uniform. So still in cleats, he wore it into the shower. The next day after he got three hits, eight of his teammates joined him fully clothed in the shower.

In 1968, Tiger pitcher Denny McLain won 31 games, he felt his success was in part due to Pepsi. He would drink Pepsi before, during and after a game. It was not uncommon for him to down more than 20 bottles in a day. He wasn’t fussy, he would drink it warm or cold and he would go to bed with a bottle of it on the nightstand, sipping from it throughout the night. McLain must have run out Pepsi before he spent time in prison.

To say Hall of Famer Wade Boggs was superstitious, is like Noah saying, “It looks like rain.” Starting as a Little Leaguer, Boggs would draw the Hebrew word “Chai” in the batter’s box with his foot before each at bat. Boggs has said, “I saw it in the back of a magazine, and it was a symbol for life and good luck,” Boggs said. “Basically what I was doing was just wishing myself good luck before I would get in the batter’s box.”

You can’t “wish” yourself “good luck,” the only thing you can do is stay away from “bad” luck by avoiding whammies. So Boggs covered his bases (so to speak) by fielding exactly 150 ground balls before a game, taking batting practice for night games at precisely 5:17 p.m. and running his wind sprints at 7:17 p.m. on the dot and, finally, eating chicken before every game.

Yet, in the convoluted mind of Boggs, there was no such thing as the “Curse of the Bambino.” “I knew weird stuff went on, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a curse,” Boggs said. “I just think the times we lost, it was just circumstances out of our control. It’s impossible to blame Bill Buckner on that play because we had the lead in Game 7 and nothing really went wrong except they eventually came back to beat us.” Yeah, like that’s not a curse.

Boggs wasn’t the only Hall of Famer avoiding whammies. Mike Schmidt always credited his superstition of eating 3 pieces of buttered wheat toast before every game (unless it was a double-header, in which case he wouldn’t have any) for his success at the plate. In 1927, when Pirates manager Donnie Bush wanted future Hall of Famer outfielder Kiki Cuyler, to move from third to second in the batting order. Kiki refused to do it because he had a superstitious fear of batting second.

You’ll notice that many players don’t step on the foul line as they go to work. Now some may say that the habit began when players were showing respect to the work of groundskeepers, but we know better, don’t we? It’s a stretch but some say it comes from that old nugget, “Step on a crack and break your mother’s back.” On the other hand there’s no explaining why Joe DiMaggio would never run from the outfield to the dugout without touching second base.

Pitchers are definitely “careful.” Former Yankees pitcher Lefty O’Doul always stepped over the baseline: “It’s not that if I stepped on the foul line I would really lose the game, but why take a chance?”

Mel Stottlemyre, the former pitcher and pitching coach describes what happened the one time he stepped on a foul line, “The first batter I faced was Ted Uhlaender, and he hit a line drive off my left shin. It went for a hit. Carew, Oliva and Killebrew followed with extra-base hits. The fifth man hit a single and scored and I was charged with five runs. I haven’t stepped on a foul line since.”

Mike Cuellar, the former Orioles pitcher, insisted that the baseball be sitting on the mound when he went out to pitch. He refused to accept it from a player or umpire. Curt Schilling has what he calls “quirks” in his game-day preparation. He doesn’t like to give specifics, because “if I tell you, then it stops being one.”

The Minnesota Twins Frank Viola was a pretty good pitcher, not great but pretty good. But when he teamed up with Mark Dornfield in 1987, he was unbeatable. Literally.

Starting in 1984, Frank Viola noticed that when a banner that read “FRANKIE SWEET MUSIC VIOLA” was unfurled at the Metrodome, he pitched well. Viola and Dornfield, the sign’s creator, got to be friends in 1987 and that season Viola went 15-0, with four no-decisions (all Twins victories) in games that the banner waved.

Viola, Frank’s wife, Kathy, even arranged for Dornfield to go to Games 1 and 7 of the World Series. As Sports Illustrated wrote, “With the banner proudly unfurled, Viola won both games and was named Series MVP.”

Speaking of the Twins, manager Ron Gardenhire wears the same underwear, same shirts, and the same socks when he wins. Perhaps it’s not the worst thing that the Twins were eliminated by the A’s. Managers are more than a little whammy-crazy. In the 1905 Series, John McGraw had his New York Giants wear all-black uniforms (with white trimmings) as a psychological whammy against the poorly dressed Athletics were defeated. In the 2004 Series, Red Sox manager Terry Francona claimed he did not have any superstitions, “When things are going good, I don’t do anything different,” he said. “That’s sort of covering my rear end.”

Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine summed it up, “I don’t believe in superstitions,” Valentine remarked. “They’re bad luck”

Then there is the Chicago Cubs factor. You see on October 6, 1945, Chicago tavern owner Chicago tavern owner William “Gus” Sianis bought a box seat for his goat for Game 4 of the World Series and was escorted out of Wrigley Field. In retaliation Sianis cast a “goat curse” over the Cubs. The Cubs lost Game 4 and eventually the 1945 World Series.

In fact, the Cubs have not played in a World Series since 1945, the longest pennantless drought in major league history and have not won the series since 1908.

This whammy affects not only the Cubs, but the team with the most ex-Cubs reputedly won’t win the World Series.

So, what is the big lesson to be learned on this Friday the 13th? Simple – life is nothing more than a game show and it’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you don’t say. So all together now repeat after me those holy words from “Press Your Luck”:

“No Whammies…No Whammies… No Whammies…!”

Top of the 2nd
Oakland Athletics vs. Minnesota Twins
OAK wins 3-0

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
DET wins 3-1

St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Diego Padres
STL wins 3-1

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets
NYM wins 3-0

Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
Gm Date Site Time (TV)/Result
1 DET, 5-1 @ OAK WP Robertson (1-1) – LP Zito (1-1)
2 Wed. Oct. 11 @ OAK 8 p.m. (FOX)
Rogers vs. Loaiza
3 Fri. Oct. 13 @ DET 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
Haren vs. Verlander
4 Sat. Oct. 14 @ DET 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
Harden vs. Bonderman
5* Sun. Oct. 15 @ DET 4 p.m. ET (FOX)
Zito vs. Robertson
6* Tue. Oct. 17 @ OAK 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Rogers vs. Loaiza
7* Wed. Oct. 18 @ OAK 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Verlander vs. Haren

St. Louis Cardinals vs. N.Y. Mets
Gm Date Site Time (TV)/Result
1 NY, 2-0 @ NYM WP Glavine – LP Weaver
2 Thu. Oct. 12 @ NYM 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Maine vs. Carpenter
3 Sat. Oct. 14 @ STL 4 p.m. ET (FOX)
Suppan vs. Trachsel
4 Sun. Oct. 15 @ STL 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
5* Mon. Oct. 16* @ STL 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
6* Wed. Oct. 18* @ NYM 4 p.m. ET (FOX)
7* Thu. Oct. 19* @ NYM 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
* – If necessary

Gm Date Site Time (TV)/Result
1 Sat. Oct. 21 @ AL 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
2 Sun. Oct. 22 @ AL 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
3 Tue. Oct. 24 @ NL 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
4 Wed. Oct. 25 @ NL 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
5* Thu. Oct. 26 @ NL 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
6* Sat. Oct. 28 @ AL 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
7* Sun. Oct. 29 @ AL 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
* – If necessary

All games can be heard on ESPN Radio

Top of the 3rd
“Tommy was the key,” New York manager Willie Randolph said. “He’s quiet, goes about his business and is one of the leaders on our staff.” You will win championships when guys like Tom Glavine, step up, and pitch seven shutout innings. Back that with a 2-run homer from Carlos Beltran and strong relief pitching and the Mets have 1-0 lead in the best of seven NLCS with the St. Louis Cardinals.

New York won its eighth straight game, dating to the regular season defeating Jeff Weaver who really only made one mistake, “It pains me,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “No way to suggest that he’s a losing pitcher. … Jeff was outstanding. So was Glavine. We hit too many balls in the air. I mean, it’s tough to win when you do that.”

By the way, Carlos Beltran’s home run broke a tie with Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons, Jeffrey Leonard and Lance Berkman for the second-most postseason homers vs. St. Louis. Only Babe Ruth hit more (seven). Of course, Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons, and the Babe hit their in something called the World Series.

It was Glavine’s 16th LCS start, the most in major league history. He lowered his career postseason ERA to 3.27. He extended his scoreless streak to 13 innings in this postseason.

Top of the 4th
Major League Baseball said that concerns about the weather Friday night in Detroit prompted the switch from the original start time of 8:19 p.m. to 4:30 pm.

“This is when the boys of summer turn into the men of fall,” Detroit pitcher Jamie Walker said in regards to the climate the Oakland A’s will be facing this weekend in Detroit.

“It’s definitely not going to be baseball weather,” said Dave Gurney of the National Weather Service in Michigan. “Around 45 degrees, wind gusts up to 35 mph and some snow showers.”

The A’s picked through the parkas, turtlenecks, gloves and long johns — thin and thick versions — that equipment manager Steve Vucinich packed for the trip.

Yesterday, Detroit set a record for its earliest measured snow, breaking by one day the mark set on Oct. 13, 1909. The Tigers, coincidentally, played a World Series game on that afternoon, with Ty Cobb getting a hit and scoring a run in an 8-4 loss at Pittsburgh.

This all brings to mind 1981 when a lot of this cold weather nonsense began under the commissionership of Bowie Kuhn who had the Kuhn system for temperature conversion discovered by Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe. When the temperature in Montreal on November 1 for the last game of the World Series is 0 Celsius and 32 degrees Fahrenheit, what is the temperature in degrees Kuhn?

The post season is always 72 degrees Bowie.

Top of the 5th
Three ex-Red Sox, Mark Bellhorn, Scott Williamson, and Manny Alexander are now ex-Padres as they were all released by San Diego yesterday.

Bellhorn is also an an ex-A, an ex-Cub, an ex-Rockie, and an ex-Yankee.

Williamson is also an ex-Red, and an ex-Cub.

Alexander is an ex-Oriole, an ex-Met, an ex-Cub, and an ex-Ranger.

Top of the 6th
The A’s received permission from Commissioner Bud Selig to remove the tarps that cover the upper deck seats in the McAfee Coliseum if they reach the World Series.
Those seats aren’t used during the regular season, when the capacity is 34,000. With the tarps gone, capacity will increase to about 47,000.

Top of the 7th
On October 13, 1960, Bill Mazeroski wrote his ticket to the Hall of Fame. Maz opened the bottom of the 9th with a home run off Ralph Terry of the Yankees to give the Pittsburgh Pirates a 10-9 victory and the World Series in seven games.

Top of the 8th
Willie Randolph became the first manager in major league history to win a postseason game against an opposing manager for whom he had played in the postseason. Randolph was a member of the 1990 A’s — managed by Tony La Russa — who were swept by the Reds in the World Series.

The only other postseason managers to face a manager for whom they had previously played in the postseason were Charlie Grimm and Gabby Hartnett. Both played for Joe McCarthy’s Cubs in a 1929 World Series loss to the Philadelphia A’s, and both later managed the Cubs in a World Series against McCarthy’s Yankees — Grimm in 1932, Hartnett in 1938. The Yankees swept the Cubs in both Series.

Top of the 9th
It feels so good to be back with you each day.

Thank you for everything and don’t don’t walk under any ladders today.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports,,, and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.