Archive for March, 2006

Mining for Gold – Harvesting Turds

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

Almost every team experiences a stretch of seasons where the taste of the losing becomes all too familiar to the fans and very often the franchise as well. For an organization it’s usually around this time that finding a player amongst what you thought was nothing becomes the most realistic means to achieving immediate success. A fine example in this the Cardinals finding a surprise in Albert Pujols, especially after turning Kent Bottenfield into Jim Edmonds.

Rags to riches in the wink of an eye, a tale that is Dicksonian in nature, however more often than not it ends up being a story that is more worthy of a Big Boy Comic than a Dickens tale. One thing’s for sure; it entertains the fans active imagination in the off-season and buoys the hopes of the losers in the front office while they get their resumes ready for their next job. After making Orlando their home for the balance of the 1920’s the Reds were lured to Tampa in 1931 in an arranged deal with former Reds manager Clark Griffith (who owned the Senators and trained in Tampa) the two teams switched training sites to see what the other experienced each spring. The switch proved to be a great success for both parties and each team soon dug deep roots into their new spring homes. In Tampa the Reds would become a fixture for the majority of the years between 1930 and 1988, missing out only in 1936 when they went to Puerto Rico and during the war when travel restrictions created the Limestone League each spring. It was in Tampa that many a Reds prospect stumbled on to the fact that they were destined not for the greatness promised by their high school coach and girlfriend(s), but instead they were destined for the marked mediocrity and reality of the failed prospect. Yet, others found the exact opposite, and emerged from nowhere to the major league roster, many of them made the team before they even owned a suit or a pair of dress shoes. It’s quite a jump from the buses and fast food or the minors to the world of big league meal money, and the fall back there is perhaps an even harder reality to deal with.

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Today’s Dead Baseball Player

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Eddie Grant

After graduating from Harvard in 1905 and brief tryout with Cleveland Grant kicked around the minors until 1907, when he hooked up with the Phillies, a team that had finished 45.5 games behind the first place Cubs in 1906.Eventually Grant took over as leadoff batter in 1908, and even led the NL in at-bats in 1908 and 1909. Grant was a fine-fielding third baseman, in an era that valued that skill set more than it is in today’s game and an anemic bat often was part of the package. Grant’s other skills were that he was fast on the bases and said to be dependable in the clutch. His pedigree certainly indicates that he was smart. If they say he was fast we’ll have to take their word.

As for the clutch claim thanks to the wonders of www.retrosheet.org, we have Grants splits with the Reds from one year (1911, yes it is a small sample size, but it’s what we have)

Situation *    AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  AVG   OBP   SLG
None On       113   0  10   1   0   0   0i 13 .088  .183  .097
Men On         96  18  25   5   1   0  20i 11 .260  .333  .333
RISP           57  17  15   3   0   0  19i  8 .263  .348  .316
Bases Loaded    5   3   2   1   0   0   5i  1 .400  .500  .600

Compared to his ability that year with the bases empty I’d say anything is an improvement.

Grant was later traded to the Giants in a great trade that McGraw was sure to want to forget. When the Reds flipped him with Art Fromme to New York Giants in exchange for Red Ames, Heinie Groh, Josh Devore and $20,000.

Got to hand it to the Reds, good old Reds getting cash and bodies from the coastal cities to run the business. Groh ended up as perhaps the best Reds 3rd baseman of all time, this deal should be remembered as a steal, especially since both Fromme and Grant were out of the game by mid 1916.

After two-and-a-half seasons with the Giants, Grant retired in 1915 to practice law in New York City. and it is his post career life that he bmost remebered for. In World War I, he led a mission in the Argonne Forest offensive to rescue the “Lost Battalion” trapped behind German lines. When he met with machine gun fire, he became the only ML player killed in wartime action. A monument to his memory was placed in the Polo Grounds’ deep centerfield, and each Memorial Day there was a wreath-laying ceremony at his plaque.

Oddly enough the Memorial vanished after the dismantling of the Polo Ground, of course events like this get the conspiracy folks worked up and the Giants lack of title since 1954 is noted at the following link.