Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-4-27

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Top of the 1st
Today and tonight throughout all major and minor league ballparks, prior to the start of the game, we will hear the public address announcer say this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, will you all please rise as I read this statement from the Commissioner of Baseball – `We are gathered in the baseball parks and on the playing fields of America to pay tribute to and to say a prayer for an American boy who learned to play, honestly and fairly, the national game of his people and become a national hero.

God grant that this resource may always remain with us and that the spirit of baseball, the spirit of Babe Ruth, and the Spirit of God may be with us always as we build a new generation of young Americans, humble in the sight of God and fully capable of protecting our heritage as a free people.’

May I please have a moment of silence in memory of Babe Ruth and then will you all remain standing for our National Anthem.”

You won’t be hearing that today.

Those words were said however by the commissioner, 49 years ago today, April 27, 1947, as A.B. “Happy” Chandler and all of baseball honored the ailing Babe Ruth. During the fall of 1946, Ruth was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his neck. His health began to decline quickly and baseball decided to honor the man that meant so much to the game, the country, and the world.

Wherever baseball was played that day they stopped to honor Ruth and listen to the invocation by Francis Cardinal Spellman and the speeches made by Commissioner Chandler, American League President Will Harridge, National League President Ford Frick and 13-year Larry Cutler representing the American Legion players, for whom Ruth was consulting. The ceremony was heard by the crowd of 58,339 at Yankee Stadium and broadcast to every major league ballpark and throughout the world including Latin America and Japan where they observed “Babu Rusu Day.”

The speeches were heartfelt and the Yankee players like Joe DiMaggio, Frankie Crosetti, and Bucky Harris who approached the Babe for his autograph were sincere, but the most moving moment came when the Babe spoke in a gravelly, raspy voice:

“Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “You know how bad my voice sounds. Well it feels just as bad. You know this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth. That means the boys. And after you’ve been a boy, and grow up to know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing themselves today in our national pastime.”

The New York Times wrote the next day, “Now the Babe’s big smile was visible to everyone. Still a very sick man, he emphasized his remarks with a clenched, fist and a wave of the hand.”

“The only real game in the world, I think, is baseball.” he continued. “As a rule, some people think if you give them a football or a baseball or something like that, naturally, they’re athletes right away. But you can’t do that in baseball. You’ve gotta start from way down at the bottom, when you’re 6 or 7 years old. You can’t wait until you’re 15 or 16. You’ve gotta let it grow up with you, and if you’re successful and you try hard enough, you’re bound to come out on top, just like these boys have came to the top now.

“There’s been so many lovely things said about me. I’m glad I had the opportunity to thank everybody. Thank you.”

No, Bud Selig did not declare today “Babe Ruth Day” but would it have been such a terrible thing if he had?

Top of the 2nd
“Closers who do not close” sounds like the title for a show on the E Network, but it really is a report of games yesterday.

Mets closer Billy Wagner was facing pinch-hitter Barry B*nds with a runner on base and a two run Mets lead in the 9th inning yesterday in San Francisco. B*nds sent a 99 mph fastball from Wagner into the seats in left-center for his third homer of the year, second in as many games and 711 of his tainted career to force extra innings. The Mets eventually won 9-7 in 11 innings.

It was B*nds’ fourth career pinch-homer and his first since Aug. 23, 2001, at Montreal. Wagner became the 418th pitcher to surrender a homer to B*nds — and blew his second chance save in the process.

Wagner could only take solace as his compatriot on the Cardinals, Jason Isringhausen allowed a tying home run to Jose Hernandez in the top half if the 9th against the Pirates, in a game won by the Cardinals. Isringhausen picked up the win (1-2) but has allowed three homers in eight innings this year, two resulting in losses, and has a 6.75 ERA.

The Rangers’ Francisco Cordero blew his third consecutive save chance, the second in less than 24 hours, and fifth already this season, when Oakland’s Dan Johnson led off the 9th with a home run. Jay Payton’s two-run single in the 10th to gave the Athletics a 6-4 victory. The fifth blown save set a major league record for April, and the team record for any month of a season. That matches the number of blown chances Cordero had in all of 2004, when he set a Rangers record with 49 saves.

Kevin Mench set a Texas Rangers record by homering in his sixth consecutive game. His grand slam is the second in his homer streak, and the third of his career. He has 20 RBI this season, all in the last seven games. Carl Everett (April 2003), Alex Rodriguez (August 2003) and Mark Teixeira (July 2004) all homered in five consecutive games for Texas. The major league record for consecutive games with a home run is eight, shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. Nineteen players have homered in six games in a row, with Morgan Ensberg of Houston also doing it this season.

Carl Crawford delivered a tiebreaking double off baseball’s greatest closer Mariano Rivera in the 10th inning and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays beat New York 4-2 despite setting a team record by walking 14 batters. It was the first time in exactly 13 years that a team won when it walked at least 14 in 10 innings or less, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Philadelphia walked 14 and beat San Francisco 9-8 in 10 innings on April 26, 1993.

Top of the 3rd
Albert Pujols (who else but?) hit a game-winning single in the 9th inning giving the Cardinals a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates and a three-game sweep. Pujols, who leads the majors with 29 RBI, has the game-winning RBI in four of the Cardinals’ last five victories.

The Pirates now have a seven-game losing streak. They’ve been outscored 34-12 during the slump, have lost 12 of 13 on the road and are an NL-worst 5-18 with a 1-12 road record. But that only tells part of the story. They are already an amazing 11 games out of first place. So, you say, that’s not all that surprising considering they are in the same division with the Cards, Reds, Astros, Cubs, and Brewers all of whom have records above .500 and with exception of Milwaukee are all .600 or better. But that’s because they are getting fat on the Pirates who are an amazing 3-16 in their division.

Top of the 4th
You have to wonder how Terry Francona and Theo Epstein are feeling right now as they try to put together a bottom of the rotation that can win some games. Perhaps the Reds would accept Wily Mo Pena in a deal for Bronson Arroyo.

Perhaps not.

Arroyo was brilliant yesterday as Cincinnati defeated the Nationals, 5-0. Arroyo pitched 8 innings only allowing a Ryan Zimmerman’s single to right-center with two outs in the 4th to improve his record to 4-0. Arroyo struck out eight, walked two and faced just four batters over the minimum while lowering his ERA to 2.34.

Arroyo went 0-4 to lower his batting average to .154, but he still has 2 homers and 2 RBI on the year. Pena who went to the Red Sox, in the swap that right now appears very one-sided, homered for the lone run in the Red Sox loss last night and is hitting .258 with 2 homers amongst his 8 hits and 3 RBI. Pena has also struck out 13 times in 31 at bats. Plus, while he has officially made no errors, if not for some lenient calls by the home official scorer Pena could have three.

Top of the 5th
The fact that the Royals defeated the Twins, 3-1 or that the Twins have trailed in every game to date this season, becoming only the third team in American League history to trail at some point in each of their first 20 games in a season?

Jenny Craig poster child Runelvys Hernandez who was sent to the minors when he reported to spring training 280 and in Billy-Ball shape, allowed only two baserunners in seven sharp innings, leading Kansas City over Minnesota in his first start since returning to the majors a svelte (read: hefty) 263 pounds. Hernandez was 1-2 with a 10.67 ERA at Triple-A averaging five donuts per day before the Royals brought him back this week.

The Royals now have five victories on the season, one more than Bronson Arroyo.

The other teams besides the Twins who have trailed each game were: the 1910 St. Louis Browns (28) and the 1988 Orioles, who opened the season with 21 consecutive losses before posting a 9-0 win over the White Sox.

Top of the 6th
Billy-Ball received numerous responses to the one hit wonders column of yesterday, with many dedications, but let’s give it up for Jonas Altman-Kurowski who clearly has too much time on his hands. Here are his –
Here ye goes (most are not one-hit wonders though):
-Definitely not a one-hit wonder, but to the Royals, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington.
-To Manny Ramirez (and also not a one-hit wonder), Joe Jackson’s “Stranger Than You” (quite a hilarious song).
-To George Steinbrenner, the Kingston Trio’s “Greenback Dollar.”
-To the Chicago Cubs after their dismal series at New Busch, WC Handy’s “St. Louis Blues.”
-To the Yankees for their high hopes for their leadoff hitter, “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. Then again, that song is reserved forever at Shea for John Franco.
-To Doc Gooden, George Thorogood’s version of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer.”
-Also to the Royals: Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Helplessly Hoping.”
-To the oft-injured Griffey, The Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care.”
-To any Mets fan who watched Braden Looper screw the team over last year, Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy-Breaky Heart” (not only because of the title, but because the song stinks).
-To Bud Selig and everyone involved in the steroids investigation, the King’s “Suspicious Minds” (but not because they love him too much, baby).
-To Vince Coleman after his famed remark, “I don’t know no Jackie Robinson,” The Wizard of Oz’ “If I Only Had a Brain.”
-To Victor Zambrano because his pitches come and go (out of the park), “Karma Chameleon” by the Culture Club.
-To Jose Reyes or Chone Figgins, Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”
-To Julio Franco, Neil Young’s “Old Man.”
-To everybody on the Marlins payroll, Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had $1,000,000.”
-To A-Rod and his gargantuan salary, Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good.”
-Also to Manny Ramirez, David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?”
-To Barry B*nds for his repeated denial, Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
-To Kyle Farnsworth for his famous taking-out of Jeremy Affeldt last year, Carl Douglas’ “Kung-Fu Fighting.”
-To Pee-Wee Reese, Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got A Friend in Me.”
-And finally, to John Rocker, The Beatles’ “The Fool on the Hill.”

Top of the 7th
BILLY-BALL-A-GRAM – 4/27/2006
Happy birthday, Rajah.

Who is the only player in Angels’ franchise history to ever win an AL batting title?
Send your answers to

Bottom of the 7th
Forty-five years ago today, Roger Maris hit his first home run of the season on the way to setting the pre-steroidal record for most homers in a season. Who was the Tiger pitcher who was his victim?
UP FLAKY COAT – Paul Foytack

Who holds the Dodgers’ franchise record for the most hits in a season by a switch hitter?
In 1962, Maury Wills had 208 hits, steal a then MLB record 104 bases, and was named the NL’s MVP.

Top of the 8th
That the record for the most passed balls in a season (since 1900) is held by Geno Petralli of the 1987 Texas Rangers with 35 in 63 games caught. The fewest (since 1900 – 150 or more games) was 1 in 152 games caught by Gary Carter (1978 Montreal). Red Sox backup catcher Josh Bard, the personal receiver for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, had four last night and has 10 passed balls in just 51 innings this season, all of them during his 40 1/3 innings battling Wakefield’s knuckleball.

Wakefield’s catchers have committed a total of 191 passed balls over his 14-year career. No other active pitcher has even 50. Randy Johnson is the runner-up with 47; Tom Gordon and John Smoltz are tied for third with 25.

Top of the 9th
Billy-Ball, his ownself, will be on “Sports Pulse” with the fabulous Ed Berliner tonight. “Sports Pulse” can be seen on CN8, The Comcast Network in New England, tonight and each night Monday – Thursday from 10:00-11:00 PM/ET.

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.