Saturday, March 20, 2004

Moose Clabaugh 

In 1926, Moose Clabaugh hit 62 home runs for the Tyler Trojans of the Class D East Texas League. This feat broke the record set the previous year when Tony Lazzeri hit 60 at Salt Lake City. Tony had the advantage of 200 games that year; roughly half of them at an altitude of 4,400 feet. Moose hit hid 62 in 121 games; averaging more than one homer every to games.

This earned Clabaugh a callup to Brooklyn, where he went 1 for 14. It was his only big league experience.

I stumbled across Clabaugh's story while reading the 1995 edition of Baseball Research Journal last year. Wanting to know more about the man, I queried some SABR members about him. As it turns out, there is an essay about him in an upcoming book. Ninety Feet from Fame : Close Calls with Baseball Immortality will be released this spring. According to the books description, Journalist and baseball historian Mike Robbins tells the gripping stories of dozens of players who came this (hold fingers only slightly apart) close to baseball immortality.

Robbins was kind enough to allow me to excerpt his section on Moose Clabaugh here. Enjoy.

Moose Clabaugh

Moose Clabaugh's eyesight was plenty sharp at the plate, but apparently not up to the job in the field. Throughout his career, Clabaugh blamed his eyes for his poor pursuit of fly balls. Glasses failed to solve the problem.

"I'd make easy plays look hard," he'd later admit.

Clabaugh's minor league statistics fit right in with the other players on this list--.339 career average and 346 home runs in 17 minor league seasons. But his taste of the majors was even briefer--just 14 at-bats and one lone hit for the Dodgers at the end of the 1926 season. Those 14 at-bats would be his only chance; Clabaugh never even got an invitation to a major-league spring training.
"Those were disappointing days," he told the Arizona Republic in 1981. "I talked to the major league scouts. They all told me the same thing. They said my fielding was holding me back."

Clabaugh's minor-league home-run total would have been even more impressive,
except his playing career essentially ended at the age of 35. Clabaugh held out for the entire 1938 season in contract dispute with Portland of the PCL. When that didn't work, he held out the entire 1939 season as well, joining the Oregon State Police during his extended hiatus. Clabaugh finally returned to baseball in 1940, but retired midseason.

Bad eyes might have cost Clabaugh a shot at stardom, but they didn't stop him from spending the second half of the 1940 season as an umpire, one of the first in pro ball to wear glasses. Clabaugh might have made a career of it, too, but his wife wanted him at home. He took a job as chief of security at Dalles Dam in Oregon. Clabaugh retired to Arizona in 1965, and died there in 1984 at the age of 82.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Baseball Author Lawrence Ritter, 81, Dies 

Baseball Author Lawrence Ritter, 81, Dies

Reaction from Red Bird Nation and Baseball Primer. Frankly, I'm not surprised that Ritter's death hasn't had much buzz in the baseball blogosphere. Most baseball bloggers seem to be concerned with the here and now as opposed to the rich past of the game. (editorial comment: Of course, news of Ritter's death was overshadowed by a big trade involving the Rangers and Yankees.)

I finally had the opportunity to read The Glory of Their Times last year. It was quite a treat. Plus the book was definitely an inspiration to others who wrote about baseball; both fiction and non-fiction. Ritter was quite the renaissance man. He wrote a very popular money and banking textbook as well as numerous works on baseball.

RIP, professor.

In memory of Ritter here is what he considered the essential baseball library.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Death and Tacks 

Death and Tacks - I've been doing some research lately on a little known player by the name of Tacks Latimer. His story is one of murder and redemption.

Tacks was a journeyman catcher a little over a century ago. Although his major league career was brief (27 games and 86 at bats spread over 5 different seasons) he played professional baseball for over a decade and a half. His playing career to him south to Montgomery, Alabama; north to Montreal, Quebec; and west to Denver, Colorado among many other stops. He even spent some time with the Norwich Connecticut entry of the Connecticut League.

After his playing days, Tacks took a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad police force. Had he lived happily ever after, I wouldn't have much of a tale to write. However, he wound up getting into some sort of feud with his superior; one Lieutenant Charles Mackrodt. Accounts differ over what the dispute was about. Allegedly Latimer and Mackrodt agreed to a duel on November 26th, 1924 while they were near the courthouse in Xenia, Ohio. Mackrodt backed out but Latimer shot him anyways. Latimer was sentenced to life imprisonment a few weeks later even though he pleaded self-defense, "testifying that Mackrodt had many times threatened to kill him."

Latimer's new home was the Ohio Penitentiary. His record in prison must have been good because he was made a trusty less than two years after imprisonment. On November 8th, 1926, there was a big prison break which is described towards the bottom of this page. This was Latimer's chance to shine. The warden, a man named Thomas, had a residence within the prison walls. According to the November 10 Los Angeles Times, "Miss Amanda Thomas, daughter of Warden Thomas....heard the sound of shooting and started downstairs. Lattimer (sic) endeavored to persuade her to stay upstairs in safety. When she refused, he placed himself in front of her, it was said, to shield her from the convicts. It was said that he was in line for a pardon by governor Vic Donahey. It would take four years, but Tacks was finally pardoned by Donahey's successor Myers Cooper.

I think it's an interesting story and I'd like to investigate it more and write something publishable. Fortunately, I have been in contact with a relative of on of Latimer's descendants. Also digitized newspaper archives such as Paper of Record and ProQuest have been a lifesaver so far. I'd like to thank Dick Thompson for bringing this story to light in the 1996 edition of The National Pastime.

Sunday, January 25, 2004


Back in grade school, we used to play kickball all the time. Well some folks at the World Adult Kickball Association still play it well past their prepubescent days. As the song "Everybody Loves Kickball" says, "EVERYBODY LOVES KICKBALL
When the sun is out and the sky is blue
There is nothin' else that I would rather do
Than play kickball

There are other leagues, too. They include The Midwestern Unconventional Sports Association (MUSA)and The Kickball League of Baltimore. Something tells me that beer is involved. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

New documentary features Bay Area sandlot baseball 

"PlayBall -- Alameda's Sandlot Saga" debuts at 8 p.m. today at Auctions By The Bay movie house, 2700 Saratoga Drive, Alameda Point. You may want to check this out if you are in the Bay Area. Alumni of the Alameda Recreation and Park Department's baseball program include Dontrelle Willis, Willie Stargell, Tommy Harper, Curtell Motton and Chris Speier.

You're Listening to WALK 

"Mediabay Announces Yogi Berra Collection of Old Time Radio Baseball Classics - Marks First in a Series of Personality-Driven Anthologies - - Collection includes Abbott and Costello's World Famous 'Who's On First' - - Stars on the Collection include Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and Casey Stengel - "

I found this story on Yahoo! in the financial news section. It sounds like a pretty interesting gist for the baseball history buff in your life.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Ex-pitcher decries war in Iraq  

There was a Jim Bouton sighting in Texas Monday. Bouton spoke on various subjects including war, Pete Rose, and steroids. For another take on Bouton's appearance at Schreiner University, visit the Kerrville Daily Times. I love reading about Bouton's remarks because he always has an interesting take on things; even if I don't agree with him (which is often.)

He's like Bill "Spaceman" Lee in that respect. Speaking of Lee, he had some remarks in Sunday's Manchester Union Leader about Pete Rose and the recently departed Tug McGraw. McGraw was another guy who made good copy himself. Why are pitchers the most quotable players? My guess is it's because they have more time to sit around and think up stuff than position players.

Sandy Koufax and the 1965 World Series 

I hope that Repoz doesn't mind if I recycle his lead-in from Baseball Primer: A wonderful walk through Game 7 of the 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers-Minnesota Twins World Series, with play by play man Rich Lederer....as seen on ESPN Sports Classic.

Oh..to long for the days of the sweet swinging Don LeJohn ...

MLB Timeline: Best Players by Position 

In his book on the Hall of Fame, Bill James listed criteria to consider a player worthy, including "Was he the best player in baseball at his position?" This chart is an attempt to help answer that question, as well as showing duration. There are also inevitably some tough-luck cases, such as George Brett, whose career happened to coincide with that of another great third baseman, Mike Schmidt. Likewise, Tris Speaker's time in center field was mirrored by Ty Cobb, while Hank Greenberg played opposite Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx at first base.

The chart in question comes from Baseball Reality. I'm not sure if I agree with all the rankings, but the chart makes a good starting point for any discussions (arguments.) My thanks go out to TangoTiger at Primate Studies for tipping me off to this chart's existence.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Total Baseball's Baseball History Page 

Thanks to Internet Archive, dead webpages come to life! Total Baseball hasn't been online for some time. Fortunately many pages were archived. I'd like to thank Greg Spira for pointing this link out to me.

The link in the headline of this entry leads surfers to a history of baseball written by David Q. Voigt. Although it ends in 1996, it is a pretty comprehensive summary of the game's history. Total Baseball also featured biographies of baseball legends.

This internet version of The Wayback Machine is way cooler than the one that Peabody and Sherman used.

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