Stan Musial

OOTP Stan Musial resembled flesh and blood Stan Musial pretty closely. OOTP Stan Musial is a Dodgers legend and has some lesser counting stats due to retiring after the 1959 season while the real Musial stuck around and was pretty good for four more seasons. OOTP Musial did not go to war in 1945 so he gains back another year of prime production in that respect.

Our Musial was selected 4th overall in the 1940 draft. He was passed over by the A’s, Reds, and Senators for Sid Gordon, Tex Hughson, and Johnny Beazley, respectively. Musial did not spend a day in the minor leagues, debuting in 1941 with a 326/425/548 batting line in 131 games.

The Dodgers had won a World Series as recently as 1939 but dropped off significantly for 1940, allowing them the opportunity to draft 4th that year and select Musial. But even with Stan the Man’s instant production the team took a little more time to fully rebuild. Musial and Johnny Mize were a strong 1-2 punch in the middle of the Brooklyn lineup but there wasn’t much else to speak of at that time. 

A third place finish in 1943 showed the franchise making progress as Harry Brecheen fortified the pitching and then in 1944 they surged to a National League pennant. Musial only played 99 games that year as injuries to his groin and oblique limited his availability in the first half of the season. But Mize was the NL MVP that season and Claude Passeau went from an oft-injured average starter to ace, posting a 27-8 record with a 159 ERA+ in 324.2 innings. He would be the Cy Young winner for that season.

Musial did his usual good work when he was in the lineup, contributing plenty to the team’s success. And he picked up Mize’s slack in the World Series against the St. Louis Browns. Mize had hit an astonishing 8 homers in the five game 1939 World Series and was pitched very carefully this time around. So Musial hit .306 and drove in 12 runs in this one, including 4 in the clinching Game 7 win and the Dodgers were again champions.

They won it all again in 1946 and 1947. Musial hit even better in each of these World Series and both regular seasons were MVP years for him. He would win six MVPs in all during his career. But the 1947 World Series was the last time he tasted the postseason. The team was rarely bad during his reign, but they also didn’t participate in any pennant races either, finishing ten or more games out in all but two of his remaining years.

In addition to his six MVP awards (which included four straight from 1945-48) , Musial was also Rookie of the Year in ‘41, won three Gold Gloves, and was named to an incredible seventeen All Star games. His longest hitting streak stretched over April and May of 1942, ending up at 26 games.

He hit his 400th of 443 home runs on August 27, 1957 at home against the Cubs. It was a solo homer in the sixth inning of an ordinary 8-3 loss, but also a tender moment as it had been announced only weeks earlier that the team would be leaving Brooklyn for Los Angeles, of all places, at the season’s conclusion. Musial stayed on the field near the dugout for over five minutes after completing his trot around the bases as the fans paid tribute to him and said an early goodbye to their team at the same time.

The Los Angeles fans got to see Musial smack his 3,000th hit on May 7 of the following year. It was another loss, this time to the Phillies. It wasn’t lost on many that there were nearly twice as many Dodgers fans in attendance as for the big homer milestone in Brooklyn the previous year, but those people also noticed the generic feel to the cheers for Musial’s accomplishment. He would wrap up his career with 3,217 hits. That mark is 7th on the all-time list, between Rogers Hornsby and Wade Boggs.

Musial hit .321 for his career, 43rd on the lifetime leaderboard. His .401 OBP is 40th. 8th all time is his 1,053.19 VORP, eclipsing just barely that of Ty Cobb. He scored the 15th most runs of all time with 1,701, and his 1,679 runs driven in is 15th best. Although that mark is about to be surpassed by Vladimir Guerrero, currently one RBI behind Musial.

Musial’s best season by OPS+ came in his final MVP year of 1953. He hit 340/422/646 that year for a 194 OPS+. His 39 homers were the most of his career and his 114 RBIs only surpassed by the 119 he drove in in 1948.

Musial’s body began to show signs of breakdown during the 1959 season that would be his last. His worst injury of the year was a balky shoulder that sent him out of the lineup in mid-August with an estimated recovery time of six weeks. Musial worked hard to get back into the lineup, just in case this was the end and made it back with four games to play. He got in one road game as a tuneup, in St. Louis, and then played the final series of the year at home against the Cubs. The Dodgers swept the Cubs. Musial could only manage one base hit in the series, a single in the first game, but his eyes still worked and he scratched out a few walks as well.

Musial announced his retirement a week later and was easily elected to the Hall of Fame for the 1962 class. 

American League Pennants Won, 1901-2010

A simple list of franchise pennants won. St. Louis Browns pennants belong to the Orioles, and so on.

Chicago White Sox - 19 pennants

Boston Red Sox - 17 pennants

Detroit Tigers - 14 pennants

New York Yankees - 14 pennants

Baltimore Orioles - 10 pennants

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - 10 pennants

Oakland A’s - 9 pennants

Cleveland Indians - 7 pennants

Minnesota Twins - 6 pennants (all as the Washington Senators)

Kansas City Royals - 2 pennants

Seattle Mariners - 1 pennant

Tampa Bay Rays - 1 pennant

4/24/1985 - The Best Day Ever

Some other time I will give the career of Kent Hrbek its due, but for now let’s say he was berry berry good and leave it at that. I was looking at his career again and noticed something from his personal history that I either missed altogether when it happened or simply didn’t realize the full weight of.

In 1985 Hrbek was the main cog in a White Sox team that won 101 games and represented the American League in the World Series. It was a good team. And on April 24 of that year, they put the hammer down on the Milwaukee Brewers, 17-1.

Here is the Chicago lineup that manager Nino Escalera sent out to face Mike Krukow that day:

Kirk Gibson - RF

Tony Gwynn - LF

Kent Hrbek - DH

Ernie Whitt - C

Pete O’Brien - 1B

Wayne Gross - 3B

Bobby Valentine - 2B

Mike Davis - CF

Glenn Hoffman - SS

Now, the 17 runs put across by the White Sox was not because of some all-around team effort in which everyone had a hit and drove in a run. This was Gibson, Gwynn, and Hrbek going off. And Hrbek most of all.

Let us recount the ways:

1st inning - Gibson and Gwynn single. Hrbek parks a three-run homer over the right field wall.

3rd inning - Hrbek leadoff double. Goes to third on Whitt groundout. Pete O’Brien walks and then tries to steal second. The throw goes into the outfield and Hrbek scores.

4th inning - Hoffman, Gibson, and Gwynn single. Hrbek grand slam to left center.

5th inning - Two outs, Gibson and Gwynn aboard courtesy of a fielder’s choice and a single. Hrbek three-run homer, a line shot over the center field wall.

7th inning - One out single for Hrbek. Scores on a Pete O’Brien double.

At this point, Hrbek is 5-for-5 with 3 homers, 5 runs scored, and 10 RBIs!

He comes to the plate with two out in the bottom of the eighth and Gwynn on first, looking to keep his phenomenal day going. But Gwynn goes all Babe Ruth in the World Series and gets thrown out trying to steal second! Up 17-1!

And so Hrbek’s day concludes without getting to swing the bat again.

It was a slow start to the season to that point for Hrbek as he was hitting .154 with 1 homer and 5 RBIs before the game. .250 with 4 homers and 15 RBIs after it. He would finish the season at 320/415/591 with 42 homers and 140 RBIs and his second of two career MVP awards.

1935-38 Philadelphia Phillies, Part Three

Having coughed up the National League pennant at the last moment in the preceding two seasons, the 1937 Phillies were a disaster. Chalk it up to whatever you like, but mentally and physically they stunk their way to an 8th-place finish with a record of 63-91.

Larry French and Hal Schumacher fell apart, posting ERA+ figures of 93 and 87. Babe Phelps and George Selkirk were the only hitters with VORP numbers in the double digits. Supporting cast members from 1936 like Ernie Sulik made like French and Schumacher that year.

And so we’ll skip ahead to 1938. Phillies fans were back in a comfortable position, not expecting much from their team. The team hadn’t done much to improve. With what looked like very damaged goods amongst their starting pitchers, they traded the elderly Jimmy Dykes to the World Champion Reds for Al Hollingsworth. Dykes had been a midseason pickup in 1937 as he bounced all over baseball in his twilight. Hollingsworth didn’t look like much, but was at least capable and he had won 18 games for the World Series champions and was in the early days of his career.

But it would take more than that for the team to do anything of consequence, and most of the same players were back after sending loud signals that they were done. The team was going to have to rely on some of the old guard to bring them back.

Luckily, the team made quick work of their 1937 demons and in fact got things going early in the season to end June with a mark of 44-24, tied atop the NL with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Brooklyn sported a fearsome duo in the heart of their lineup in Johnny Mize and Rudy York. Mize would lead the NL in batting average that season at .355, while York led the field in home runs (41) and RBIs (129). 

And Brooklyn did lead the league in runs scored in 1938, but the Phillies lineup, without such marquee talent as Brooklyn, stayed right with them. The Phillies only had a player appear in the top five in the offensive categories, and not categories one associates with lots of runs. Billy Myers led the league in strikeouts with 106. Babe Phelps’s 8 sacrifice flies put him in a three-way tie for the league mark. And Hal Schumacher’s 23 sacrifice hits placed third. That’s it. But even with that, the team scratched out 798 runs to the 804 for the Dodgers.

And largely thanks to French and Schumacher, the Philadelphia pitching was far superior to Brooklyn’s. Their return to form at the top of the rotation supplemented by the newly acquired Hollingsworth and the unusually effective Spades Wood meant that the Phillies were equipped to stay in the hunt all season. And so even though they were a combined 2 games under .500 after July 1, they never swooned like the Dodgers did (8-19 in September). And they had the cushion to withstand a late charge from the Boston Bees to win the pennant by three games.

Their pitching depth would be important in the postseason as well. Larry French went down with a bum shoulder early in September and did not return until 1939. So the Phillies faced the AL Champion Cleveland Indians needing those reserves of pitching.

The Indians’ most notable players were Mickey Cochrane (354/480/533) and Dolph Camilli (281/407/539) at the plate, with Paul Derringer leading their rotation. Derringer would win his second consecutive Cy Young Award after this 26-9 campaign.

The 1938 World Series is best remembered for its fourth game. The Indians won the first two games of the series at home but Philadelphia got back into it with a 4-1 win in Game 3.

Game 4 was a tight affair, with the Indians taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Terry Moore led off that half-inning with a home run off of reliever Dick Barrett to tie the game and then the fans had to settle in for the big payoff.

In the top of the 17th, after two men were out, the Indians used four singles, an error, and a wild pitch to score three runs. Things got so bad for the Phillies that Al Hollingsworth recorded the last out of the inning after throwing a complete game to win Game 3 the day previous.

But the Phillies showed the could dink the ball around the yard in the bottom of the inning, their most desperate moment. Terry Moore walked, followed by a Babe Phelps single to set the table facing Bob Poser. Frank Skaff then singled himself, driving in Moore. Ripper Collins was then asked to bunt the two men over, and did so successfully, getting the tying run into scoring position with one down.

Hollingsworth, the pitcher, then singled, followed by another single from Lou Boudreau which plated the tying run. And with Hollingsworth on third and one out, George Selkirk drove a 3-1 pitch deep enough to center field to score Hollingsworth tagging up and the Phillies had miraculously tied the World Series. And Al Hollingsworth had recorded two wins in a row.

From there it was elementary as Schumacher beat Derringer 3-0. And when the series went back to Cleveland the whipped pitching staff of the Phillies, which had to resort to using relief pitcher Ivy Andrews in his first start all year, took advantage of four early runs from the offense off of Russ Bauers to secure a 5-3 win and a World Series championship for the Phillies.

And with that, most all of the pain of two gut-wrenching pennant choke jobs and a disastrous 1937 season was washed away.

1935-38 Philadelphia Phillies, Part Two

Having choked away the National League Pennant in 1935, the Phillies still carried an optimistic outlook into the 1936 campaign. Considering that the franchise had not finished over .500 since winning back-to-back World Series in 1925-26, the pedestrian 81-73 in 1935 was some feat. The 1936 team would return an in-his-prime Babe Phelps, coming off a 376/418/543 year. Hal Schumaker and Larry French would continue to hold down the rotation, and fans saw a real chance for improvement if only George Selkirk could remain healthy. In only 55 games in 1935, Selkirk had been a marvel, posting a 1.080 OPS.

Indeed, those pieces all fell into place for the most part and the team benefited from rookie centerfielder Ernie Sulik’s mature approach at the plate that yielded a 411 OBP.  And starter Jim Winford, deliverer of misfortune down the stretch in 1935, posted a 20-11 record for the club.

And so the Phillies entered September in the middle of a three-way race one game behind both the Cubs and the Boston Bees with a record of 72-57. Philadelphia got off to a good start in the month while the Cubs and Bees floundered and after the games of September 12 they carried a 1.5 game lead of Chicago and a 3 game advantage on Boston.

The Cubs would fall off from that point and it was a two-team race for most of September between the Phils and the Bees. Boston was led by Joe Medwich and Bill Dickey offensively and had a rotation of similar strength that featured Van Mungo and Tommy Bridges.

Both teams played well over the ensuing week, with the Bees winning every contest and the Phillies dropping only one. And so the clubs entered a head-to-head series the weekend of Spetember 18-20 with the Phillies holding a two-game lead and a chance to pull away. There would only be seven games left on the schedule after this series and that included two more games with Boston to conclude the season.

However, in the first two games of the series which pitted each team’s top two pitchers against their equal from the other side, it was Mungo and Bridges who were excellent compared to the merely good Schumaker and French. By scores of 3-1 and 3-0, Mungo and Bridges each secured their 20th win of the season and the National League race was a dead heat.

Shell-shocked, the Phillies fared even worse on Sunday, falling by a score of 6-2 and relinquishing first place entirely. Joe Medwick had started things off on the right foot in the series for Boston with a homer in the first inning of the first game, and ended up 6/13 with two homers and four runs scored.

To Philadelphia’s credit, they hung with things in the five games leading up to the final two-game set with Boston. They took two of three from the Giants and both games of a pair with Brooklyn. Unfortunately for them, the Bees put up the same mark with a sweep of Brooklyn and a split with New York. 

So the teams entered that final two-game series with the Bees holding on to a one game advantage. There would be no playoff to determine the champion of the National League. The Phillies would have to win both to get in. Schumaker and Mungo would square off as they did in the opener the previous Friday.

The opener was a tense, low-scoring affair. Almost 10,000 fans in the Baker Bowl watched nervously as the Bees took a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth. They woke up when George Selkirk led off with a double to left field and became giddy when Billy Myers followed with a hard-hit ball to right. The ball was hit hard enough that Selkirk was held at third base. This was followed by a fly ball to left-center that was caught but deep enough for Selkirk to score and tie the game. And while Myers made it to second on the ensuing groundout, Lew Riggs also grounded out to strand the winning run and send the game to extra innings.

The first two innings of extras were fairly quiet excepting a men on the corners with one out situation in the top of the tenth that Hal Schumaker escaped. Both he and Mungo were finished after the one additional inning and Boston turned to Clay Bryant while Philly countered with Red Lucas. 

Bryant was a relief ace sporting an ERA under 2.50. Lucas, on the other hand, carried a figure a full two runs higher. Even so, the events of the top of the twelfth inning were not wholly his fault. Or even mostly. Joe Medwick reached on an error to lead off the inning but the crowd was relieved when Bill Dickey followed with a 4-6-3 groundout. Jim Bucher then walked, and the next batter, Joe Hutcheson, was making his first trip to the plate in the major leagues that season after spending the rest of the year in AA. He looked out of place, too, when he rolled over a pitch on the outside corner and grounded it to Billy Myers at second.

This is where it should be noted that Myers was a shortstop. He moved over to second when Leo Durocher was pulled from the game for a pinch hitter. In his major league career to that point Myers had made one start at second base and only a handful of other relief appearances.

Given the above, you probably know by now that Myers let this ball through his legs, allowing the inning to continue and for Bucher to make third base. Hutcheson scooted in to second as well.

And so Bill Brubaker, the next batter, predictably laced a 2-2 pitch over the third baseman’s head to score both runners and put the Bees ahead 4-2. After a 1-2-3 bottom of the twelfth, the Bees were the National League champions.

The Phillies would win the finale just so history would remember that they lost consecutive pennants by a single game. Their record improved by six games, but their fate remained the same.

The Bees swept the MVP and Cy Young awards with Medwick (.372, 34 HR, 152 RBI) and Mungo (21-13, 2.50 ERA), respectively. Harry Gaspar, in his first season as Boston skipper after twelve years as the Yankees pitching coach, won Manager of the Year as well. And the Bees swept the A’s, who had returned to represent the American League for the third straight season.

Next time we’ll wrap this up with the 1937 and 1938 Phillies rolled into one post.

1935-38 Philadelphia Phillies, Part One

The Philadelphia Phillies of the mid-1930s are one of the more remembered teams in baseball history. Their fans, already beaten up by the Great Depression, took it on the chin a few more times with this club. But for those who could stomach the despair, there was a payoff at the end.

GUTPUNCH #1

The 1935 Phillies went about their business until September like the other teams of the decade had. They just sort of were there, and entered the final month of the season with a 64-64 record. September 8 is when things changed. The team strung together a remarkable 12-game winning streak, entirely on the road, to vault into contention in the National League. 

On September 21, the team came home and played in front of 9,267 fans at the Baker Bowl. Stars like Babe Phelps and Johnny Moore, who had played for the uninspiring teams of recent seasons, were cheered like they had never been before. That day’s crowd saw a whale of a game against the Boston Braves, with the home team scoring four in the bottom of the 8th to tie it at 10. Then, after surrendering three runs in the tenth inning, the team rallied to tie the game again. Even though the team ultimately fell in the twelfth, 15-13, the fans and the team could sense that this team was different. 

And indeed, the club won the next three game at home and entered the final series of the season with a one game lead on the Cubs in the NL and three games in Brooklyn against a Dodgers team not in contention. The Cubs would be playing the Cardinals, another team not in the race.

Friday the 27th was the date of the first game of the series with Brooklyn. Things went very well even with spot-starter Jim Winford on the mound. Winford was the pitcher who got roughed up in the 15-13 loss to Boston, but through eight innings he was on the mark against the Dodgers. With a 5-1 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth, even the leadoff home run by Danny Taylor didn’t seem like much cause for concern. 

Two groundball outs later, the team felt great about things as they could tell from the out of town scoreboard that the Cubs had already fallen to the Cardinals, 4-1. Then Mark Koenig doubled and Harry Danning followed with another homer and the lead was only one. Manager Bill Foxen was as stunned as anyone and had nobody prepping in the bullpen so Winford remained in the game even as Johnny Hodapp and Gabby Hartnett followed with singles, putting the tying run at third.

Hank Greenberg then walked, bringing Al Simmons to the plate. The 33-year-old Simmons had had a terrible season, one he would finish with only a 642 OPS. But Winford was done, even as he remained in the game, and Simmons was able to stroke a 1-2 pitch up the middle to score Hodapp and Hartnett and the Dodgers had pulled out a stunning victory.

Even with this loss, the Phillies were ahead in the National League by one game with only two to play. But on the next day, deja vu happened all over again. 21-game-winner Larry French took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning. With two outs and Carl Reynolds aboard, John Kroner hit his only home run of the season 372 feet to right-center and the Phillies lost their second walk-off in a row. This time the Cubs won to tie the league up with one game remaining.

On the final day of the season, a Sunday, the Phillies jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first and had their ace, Hal Schumacher, on the hill. Schumacher gave back two of the runs immediately, however. And then the Dodgers pounded out three more in the sixth on the way to a 6-3 win. The Cubs handled the Cardinals 9-5 and in absolutely gut-wrenching fashion the Phillies had been swept in the final series of the season and lost the National League pennant.

Not only did the Phillies lose the National League, Philadelphia lost out on the chance to celebrate an all-Philly World Series. The A’s, featuring Arky Vaughan, Vito Tamulis, and Red Ruffing, were the champions of the American League for the second straight year. This time, they captured the World Series championship, in six games. 

The Phillies would be back for more in 1936. And we’ll cover that club’s fortunes next.