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Friday, November 24, 2006

Today's Birthdays

John Balaz CAL b. 1950, played 1974-1975

Mike Edwards LAN b. 1976, played 2005. The flipside of the Baseball Prospectus principle that you're better off having journeyman minor leaguers play at the major league level; he hit well enough in the minors (.287/.384/.432 for Sacramento in his last full season in AAA before coming up with the Dodgers), but Jim Tracy overused him, and he never really figured out how to hit at the major league level, leading to longstanding abuse from some quarters.

Tony Giuliani BRO b. 1912, played 1940-1941, d. 2004-10-08

Dave Hansen LAN b. 1968, played 1990-1996, 1999-2002. Matt Welch blamed a leg injury, a mediocre season, and Tommy Lasorda for Hansen's career as a pinch-hitter, when he should have been a starter at third:

But the more important roadblock was Tommy Lasorda, who was one of the worst managers in Major League history when it came to dealing with the third base bag. After Ron Cey left in 1982, the Dodgers starting third basemen the next six years were, in order: Outfielder Pedro Guerrero, someone named German Rivera, career .318 slugger Dave Anderson, 35-year-old Bill Madlock, Mickey freakin' Hatcher, and Jeff Hamilton. If there was an outfielder who'd proven he couldn't handle ground balls (Cory Snyder, Candy Maldonado), or a banjo-hitting infielder lying around (Enos Cabell, Bob Bailor), Tommy'd throw 'em out there. Even Eddie Murray had to play three games at the hot corner under Lasorda.

At least Lasorda can't screw up the team from the dugout anymore...

Joe Medwick BRO b. 1911, played 1940-1943, 1946, All-Star: 1934-1942, 1944, Hall of Fame: 1968 (BBWAA), d. 1975-03-21. His nickname of "Ducky" (because of his appearance while swimming) ranks as one of the least applicable nicknames ever; not so "Muscles", so called by his teammates. He spent the better part of his career wailing doubles, triples, and homers, principally with the St. Louis Cardinals' Gas House Gang teams of the 1930's. He spent his last good year as a Dodger in 1941, helping to take that team to a National League pennant, despite a beaning from former teammate Bob Bowman that nearly cost him his life. Despite his nickname, Medwick was an antagonistic character, especially to newspaper reporters; his abrasiveness with them during his playing years postponed his election to the Hall of Fame by over 20 years.

He wasn't above the spikes-high slide, and did that once in 1947 to Jackie Robinson after Medwick had returned to the Cardinals, an act repeated two days later by Enos Slaughter. But probably the most famous moment in Medwick's career came during Game 7 of the 1934 World Series. The game having turned into a 7-0 rout by the third, Medwick slid hard into Detroit 3B Marv Owen, who slugged the left fielder. The two started brawling, and had to be separated before the game could continue. Upon Medwick's return to the field, Tigers fans pelted him with bottles and garbage, and commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, watching from the stands, had him removed from the game for his own safety.

Steve Mintz ANA b. 1968, played 1999

Randy Velarde CAL,ANA b. 1962, played 1996-1999

Tom Winsett BRO b. 1909, played 1936-1938, d. 1987-07-20

Steve Yeager LAN b. 1948, played 1972-1985. One of my favorite players on the 70's Dodgers, Yeager is related to Gen. Chuck Yeager. Yeager took over full-time catching duties from Joe Ferguson in 1974, the first of the great Dodgers teams of the 70's; with Yeager behind the dish, the Dodgers would collect four NL pennants, a World Series victory, and division title besides. Injuries in 1982 and 1983 to his knee and wrist ended his career with the Dodgers, who traded him to Seattle, where he played out the last season of his career.

Yeager owns one curious stat in franchise history: most outs recorded in a single game by a catcher, 22, in a 19-inning marathon on August 8, 1972, a game the visiting Dodgers lost to the Reds 2-1; it was Yeager's sixth game in the majors.

Ferguson invented the (now infrequently used) throat-protection flap after taking a broken bat to his neck while standing in the on-deck circle. He got married on the steps of City Hall with mayor Tom Bradley acting as best man. No stranger to controversy, he once posed nude for Playgirl.

"At least Lasorda can't screw up the team from the dugout anymore... "

Sure. It seems he's passed that honor onto Mike Scioscia.
Yeager, not Ferguson

In the last paragraph you wrote:
"Ferguson invented the (now infrequently used) throat-protection flap after taking a broken bat to his neck while standing in the on-deck circle." That should read "Yeager invented ..."

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