I feel like I’ve been droning on about Madison Bumgarner in faux poetry for days now, but after racking my brain for all the other fantastic pitching performances I’ve seen in October and otherwise — Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Chris Carpenter — nothing compares to what this guy has pulled off.
What he accomplished in just this World Series is legendary, and just by the numbers. In three games, he threw 21 innings, gave up one run, one walk, struck out 17 and kept his ERA to 0.43 en route to two wins and his incredible five-inning save in Game 7. Factor in his entire World Series career, and the numbers get even more ridiculous: a 0.25 ERA, still only one run, five walks and 31 strikeouts over 36 high-intensity innings.
The numbers are for the historians and analysts, who will take into account the era in which Bumgarner pitched — one of pitch counts and controlled innings and proper rest between appearances — and place him among the greats like Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax.
But we watched this in real time. We saw Bumgarner carry the Giants through the Wild Card game, control the Cardinals in the NLCS and then dominate the Kansas City Royals with ease in Game 1. He topped himself in front of a home crowd in Game 5, shutting them out and finishing what he started. And then, after a shaky start to his first batter, with just two days of rest after throwing those nine innings, he settled down, firing nails into the championship dreams of every Kansas City Royals player, coach and fan. Continue reading
Ty Cobb didn’t need too many games to rack up 4,191 hits.
I haven’t been at 100 percent for most of this week, sidelined by a strong summer cold or a really weak version of the flu that’s been accompanied by an occasional fever and lots of tea and more than a couple of boxes of tissues.
So I’ve been on the couch, or in bed, mostly watching TV. With all that, this seemed like as good a time as any to re-watch Ken Burns’ documentary, Baseball. I’ve seen it enough that I wouldn’t feel bad about lapsing in and out of consciousness while it was on, and while I was with it, hey, there’s Cy Young and the Huntington Avenue Grounds.
This morning, again, half paying attention, the 1920s were coming to a close and Ty Cobb’s career was summed up. Cobb, as the documentary is sure to note, was a miserable human being and an amazing hitter and competitor, the likes of which just didn’t exist in his time.
But when they were running through his career statistics, one jumped out at me: in 3,034 games played, he tallied 4,191 hits. Continue reading
If we’re talking about the ’80s Red Sox, we’re talking about Kevin Romine’s five career home runs.
Sometimes, I feel that my borderline pathological need for Red Sox trivia might be a problem.
It’s not like I don’t know enough, or that I have any real need to know any more by heart. It’s not as if Baseball Reference is going to disappear.
When I’m at home and bored, absent-mindedly watching TV or listening to some record I’ve listened to a million times and will listen to a million more, I like to jump on Sporcle and take one of the dozens of Red Sox quizzes that I’ve taken a million times. It passes the 15 minutes and it keeps me sharp, in my lifelong effort to keep all of these jersey numbers and batting averages and starting rotations committed to memory for longer than could possibly be considered healthy.
It goes back to elementary school, lugging baseball almanacs around in my bag so that I could remember that George Brett hit .390 in 1980, that Bob Gibson was the MVP in the 1967 World Series that sunk the Impossible Dream Red Sox (he hit a home run in that Game 7 win in Fenway Park, of course), that the Yankees won five consecutive World Series from 1949-53 and that that was probably reason enough to never root for them. Continue reading
Mel Parnell has passed away.
Parnell was one of the stars of David Halberstam’s essential Summer of ’49, and that season was legendary. He racked up a league-leading record of 25-7 while also topping the junior circuit in innings (295.1) and complete games (27), while posting a 2.77 ERA, four shutouts and coming out of the bullpen to finish another five games.
He has more wins than any left hander in Red Sox history, and sits in the team’s top 10 list in wins, innings pitched, games started, complete games and shutouts.
But as a pitcher, his greatest legacy is his work in dispelling the myth that lefties couldn’t succeed in Fenway Park, due to the quick line and attractive presence of the left field wall. “Lefthanders have to pitch inside here,’’ Parnell told the Boston Globe in 1997. “Pitching inside, you keep the hitter’s elbows close to his body.’’
Parnell capped his career in 1956, throwing a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox at Fenway on July 14, winning 4-0. After that, an elbow injury on top of myriad ailments forced him out of the game at 34.
As a constant student of the history of the game, I’ve always enjoyed reading about Parnell, part of a post-World War II generation of players who helped bring the game to new heights, pitched with the right amount of determination and abandon and played the game with pride.
He’ll be missed by many, there’s no doubt.