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Monday, December 25, 2006

Today's Birthdays

Lloyd Brown BRO b. 1904, played 1925, d. 1974-01-14

Ben Chapman BRO b. 1908, played 1944-1945, All-Star: 1933-1936, d. 1993-07-07. Chapman came up with the Yankees in 1930 as a 21-year old third/second baseman, switching to center field shortly thereafter. With the rise of Joe DiMaggio, Chapman and his hot temper became instantly expendable; the Yankees traded him to the Senators in 1936, along with another sometime Dodger, Bobo Newsom (q.v.). Thereafter, he played variously for the Red Sox, Indians, and Chisox before being released in 1941.

Classified as 4F by the draft board, he spent the war years managing minor league teams, earning a one-year suspension for assaulting an umpire in 1943. Reinventing himself as a pitcher, he stepped up for the 1944 Dodgers as a just-above-average reliever. His numbers fell apart the next year, and Brooklyn traded him to the Phillies for 35-year-old catcher Johnny Peacock; amazingly, Peacock shared starting duties with Mike Sandlock, a starting catcher having the only good year of his very short career.

After the trade to Philadelphia, Chapman began his managerial career with that team, at first in 1945 as a player/manager, and in 1947 as a manager only. While his irascibility at first led to improvement, he subsequently became infamous for his brutal racial taunting of Jackie Robinson, a move that backfired when the press turned hostile, and baseball commissioner Happy Chandler chastened him. To apologize, he, the Phillies, the Dodgers, and other league executives organized a photo-op reconciliation. Eventually, his intemperate remarks cost him his job, and owner Bob Carpenter fired him in 1948. He died of a heart attack in 1993.

Alta Cohen BRO b. 1908, played 1931-1932, d. 2003-03-11

Ned Garver LAA b. 1925, played 1961, All-Star: 1951. The St. Louis Browns' last 20-game winner and the last major league pitcher to win 20 on a team that lost 100 or more, all this while hitting .305. Garver was an original Angel, and not a terribly effective one, working out of the pen for a few innings before retiring.

Greek George BRO b. 1912, played 1938, d. 1999-08-15

George Haddock BRO b. 1866, played 1892-1893, d. 1926-04-18

Jack Hamilton CAL b. 1938, played 1967-1968

Rickey Henderson ANA,LAN b. 1958, played 1997, 2003, All-Star: 1980, 1982-1988, 1990-1991. Along with two other former Dodgers, Mike Morgan and Jesse Orosco, and Tim Raines, one of four players to play in the four decades of the 1970's through the 2000's. Perhaps the definition of what a leadoff man should be, he was fast, and smart at stealing bases; he currently owns the major league record for stolen bases with 1,401, and twelve times led the league in steals. He is the only man to have four 20-homer, 50-steal seasons. Twelve times he was in the top five for league OBP, four times led the league in walks, and five times in runs scored. His storied career took him through Oakland, New York (with both the Yankees and Mets), Seattle, Anaheim, San Diego, Boston — and finally Los Angeles, where he played only a few games as a 44-year old, a ghost chasing the dreams of youth.

Bill James said of him, "If you could split him in two, you'd have two Hall of Famers." He'll be eligible in 2009.

Luis Quintana CAL b. 1951, played 1974-1975

Bull Wagner BRO b. 1887, played 1913-1914, d. 1967-10-02


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