Weekly Pepper - Week 9

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
June 1, 2008

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Gregory Pratt shaved his beard to a soul patch and mustache for at least a couple of days.

Fair or Foul? -- The US Border Patrol Agency is advertising behind home plate at major league ballgames, as seen in Cleveland and Tampa. I can't be the only one who sees the irony.

It's The Economy, [Bleep!] -- With regard to the terrible 2007 season, I don't think there's a thing you can blame on Ozzie Guillen, as that team was bad and injured and there's little he could have done about that. This season, Guillen's Sox are in first place despite their mediocre offense, but Guillen has had enough of his hitters failing to get the job done after a 2-14 RISP performance on Sunday. "Just be ready because I expect movement Tuesday," he said, according to ChicagoSports.com. "I expect Kenny to do something Tuesday, and if we donít do anything Tuesday, there are going to be a lot of lineup changes. Thatís all Iím going to say about the offense." He went on: "It can be me. It can be [hitting coach] Greg Walker. It can be the players. It could be anybody. Iím sick and tired to watch this thing for a year and a half. Iím not protecting anybody anymore. [Bleep] it. If they canít get it done, Kenny should find someone to get it done. Thatís it." I hope so, because I don't want to watch my favorite manager get blamed for a lousy season because his offense is awful, and it's time these guys get called out on it.  

They Said It -- "Not having Jose Valentin might be the biggest difference between this team and the 2006 team," said one baseball man. "He not only played well. He's a tough guy. He kept other players in line. And he added to the toughness and the winning attitude of that team. You look around that clubhouse now, and there's not one guy like that."

Worse Damn Sports Show -- "Best Damn Sports Show Ever" had a special episode ranking baseball players all-time at each position, with special guests Harold Reynolds, Ken Rosenthal, and Rollie Fingers! Honus Wagner was not a candidate at short, which Rosenthal pointed out, but should have walked off the stage for. Rogers Hornsby was left out at second, and Rosenthal said that he didn't think they'd left anyone out. The other omission that stuck in my throat was Ty Cobb being left out of the centerfield picture. For best pitcher, they had Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver as possibilities, but no Walter Johnson, just Clemens and Maddux in addition. Harold Reynolds chose "Bob Gibson! They changed the mound because of Bob Gibson." Someone mentioned Nolan Ryan, and then someone else asked if they were missing anybody. Cue Rollie Fingers, who said: "Gaylord Perry!"

Johnson's The One -- Randy Johnson tied Roger Clemens on the all-time strikeout list, and will almost certainly pass him during his next start. Needless to say, the news made me very happy.

Hemorrhoids -- Carlos Guillen has hemorrhoids. It's worth noting, right? I have a theory that players with hemorrhoids make better fielders than those who don't have hemorrhoids because if they're not fielding, they're DH-ing or on the bench, and it hurts to sit around all that time. That's why we should ban the DH.

500 -- Manny Ramirez hit his five hundredth homerun this week. More exciting is what he said to a reporter recently about his birthday: "36 here. 39 in the Dominican." Manny being Manny!

Angels at the Plate -- LAAA had four walkoffs this week. How ridiculous is that? They had one more walkoff than the Dodgers had ESPN games this week, which is equally ridiculous but in the negative sense of the word.

"That'll make 'em forget about Jim Edmonds." -- That's what the ESPN announcer said after Rick Ankiel made a good diving catch onto the warning track in St. Louis on Sunday. It reminded me of my favorite Joe DiMaggio/Lefty Gomez story: The Clipper was playing shallow and said, "I'm going to make them forget about the great Tris Speaker." After a triple was hit over his head, Gomez said to him: "Roomie, if you don't back up a little, you're going to make them forget about the great Lefty Gomez!"

History of the Week -- The subject of this week's history is Ted Williams' temporary retirement after the 1954 season, and the two different explanations for his comeback in 1955. The first is like something out of a storybook, involving a man named Eddie Mifflin who met Williams at a train station and talked him out of retiring.

"You're not really going to retire, are you? You can't, you know. Your numbers aren't good enough." Williams was intrigued. "What do you mean my numbers aren't good enough? I've got a lifetime batting average over .350. I've hit home runs and knocked in 100 every year of my career. How can my numbers not be good enough? Good enough for what?" † Mifflin explained. The success of Williams's career would be measured one definitive way: Would he be elected to the Hall of Fame in the first year he became eligible? Williams had missed so much playing time in WWII and Korea that his career totals weren't yet impressive enough. And baseball writers [G.P. note: who he had a very rough relationship with] were the voters for the Hall of Fame. "Ted, you barely have 350 home runs. You don't have 1,500 rbi. You don't even have 2,000 hits. And these writers hate your guts; they didn't even vote you the MVP twice when you won the Triple Crown. You needs stats that are undeniable. These aren't." † Ted arranged to meet Mifflin again in New York later in the road trip. They stayed up all night discussing Williams's lifetime stats, where he stood in relation to Ruth, Cobb, Foxx, and Gehrig. Finally, Ted said, "What do I have to do?" Said Mifflin, "You've got to hit 500 home runs. Only three guys have done it: Ruth, Foxx, and Ott. Hit 500 home runs and they'll have to put you in on the first ballot." In May 1955 Williams rejoined the Red Sox. He went on to compile the most amazing statistics in baseball history for a hitter over 35. He won two more batting championships. And he had his new friend, Eddie Mifflin, encouraging him and marking his progress with telegrams and phone calls. "Congratulations, those two RBI yesterday moved you past Foxx."


This is a story that many baseball aficionados are familiar with, and it is certainly a true story. Eddie Mifflin was indeed a real man and a good friend of Ted Williams from that meeting on, but there is another version of events. The news that Williams would retire after the 1954 season was greeted with anger by New England sportswriters, who were upset that he would publish it in a New York newspaper, and precious little attention was given to the retirement itself. Still, "[s]omething seemed fishy from the beginning. Retirement made no sense. Williams obviously still could hit. He was making big money. He liked baseball, and was even a bigger star than when he left. Why quit? The unspoken, unwritten guess was that this all was related to his divorce proceedings. If his income were less, wouldn't the settlement be less to Doris?"*

Williams was true to his word and retired at the end of the season, but four days after his divorce was finalized on May ninth of 1955, he returned to Boston. The incident you believe held greater sway is a test of whether or not you're a romantic or a cynic.

*Taken from Ted Williams, by Leigh Montville (Great biography, by the way).

Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at gregory@baseballevolution.com.