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Baseball 2000
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Cooperstown Confidential
by Bruce Markusen
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Looking For Help On Uniform Nicknames

Last week, I received a research call from Robert Buan, who was recently promoted to work the post-game show on A’s radio broadcasts and may be the first Asian major league broadcaster ever (though research is still incomplete on that subject). During the course of our conversation about the infamous Lew Krausse incident—in which Charlie Finley suspended the veteran pitcher for bad behavior aboard a team flight and later "fired" Ken Harrelson for calling the owner "a menace"—we began talking about another intriguing chapter in Harrelson’s career. In the spring of 1969, Harrelson was sent to the Indians in a mid-season trade, balked at reporting to Cleveland, and then decided to have the letters of his nickname, "HAWK," stitched onto the back of his uniform shirt. He thus became the first player to have something other than his last name emblazoned on his jersey. Here are other players who have also worn their nicknames (or their first names) on the backs of their uniforms:

Real Name Name on Uniform Team
Jim Grant "Mudcat" Oakland A’s
Vida Blue "Vida" Oakland A’s
Billy Conigliaro "Billy C" Oakland A’s
Tony Conigliaro "Tony C" California Angels
Carl Taylor "Carl Taylor" St. Louis Cardinals
Andy Messersmith "Channel" Atlanta Braves
Andy Messersmith "Bluto" Atlanta Braves
Earl Williams "Heavy" Atlanta Braves
Jimmy Wynn "Cannon" Atlanta Braves
Dick Allen "Wampum" Oakland A’s

Although the list above gives us a good start, we’re pretty sure that other players have chosen the nickname rout when it comes to uniforms. As a result, we’re looking for help. If any readers know of other players who have featured nicknames or first names on their jerseys, please e-mail us at HYPERLINK .

Not So Thrifty Shopping In Baltimore

What’s the difference between a 21-year-old and a 26-year-old? In the world of baseball prospects, just about everything. When the Orioles acquired hard-throwing right-hander Lesli Brea as part of the return package for Mike Bordick, they thought they were acquiring a young man who had barely reached the legal drinking age, a youngster that they could bring along slowly over the next two seasons. Then, some Baltimore writers noticed a photo of Brea in the Mets’ media guide and began speculating that the Orioles’ new prospect looked like he was closer to 30 than he was to 20. Finally, a reporter asked Brea how old he was. "Twenty-six," responded Brea, who had suddenly picked up five years of time on this earth. The pronouncement certainly came as disturbing news to the Orioles, especially considering that Brea had not managed a promotion past Single-A during the first four years of his minor league career… Although the Orioles have tried to shrug off Brea’s revelation, general manager Syd Thrift must be embarrassed (or at least he should be) over the lack of research done into Brea’s background. At 21, Brea was considered only a borderline prospect with a reasonable chance of contributing as a major league reliever. At 26, he might not be a prospect at all, given his wildness, lack of size, and absence of high-level minor league experience… While we’re on the subject of Thrift, this may be his last go-round as a major league general manager. The Brea situation, coupled with the injured status of pitching prospect Luis Rivera (the prime return on the B.J. Surhoff trade), has placed Thrift in the middle of a bulls-eye being drawn by the Baltimore media. Thrift also failed in his last tenure as a general manager, when his failure to get along with George Steinbrenner resulted in a quick departure from the Yankee front office… Unfortunately for Thrift, his legacy as one of the game’s better minds may be dwindling. The work that he did with the Pirates in the 1980s, when he acquired players like Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, and Doug Drabek in trades, along with his previous experience as one of Charlie Finley’s valuable advisors and as the head of the Royals’ Baseball Academy, seems like several lifetimes ago… As for the other players involved in the Bordick deal, the best one may be the oldest one that Thrift acquired: 28-year-old Melvin Mora. Although the Orioles have quickly come to the realization that Mora can’t play shortstop everyday, they’ve been exceedingly impressed by his live bat, base-stealing speed, and ability to play the outfield. If Mora can tackle center field on a day-to-day basis, the Orioles can switch Brady Anderson to left field fulltime, move top prospect Luis Matos to right field (where his strong arm makes him a better fit), and hasten efforts to find a taker for the contract of Albert Belle.

Pitching In A Pinch Colorado’s Brent Mayne made history on Tuesday night when he became the first major league position player to record a win as a pitcher in 32 years. With Rockies manager Buddy Bell having run out of pitchers, he called on Mayne, who worked a scoreless 12th inning in Colorado’s 7-6 win for Atlanta… Rocky Colavito of the Yankees was the last non-pitcher to pick up a win, turning the trick against the Tigers on August 25, 1968. Why did Yankee manager Ralph Houk turn to Colavito, who usually played the outfield? It seems that the Yankees had a doubleheader that day, just two days after having used five pitchers in a 19-inning marathon. So when elbow-plagued starter Steve Barber was pounded for seven hits through the first three and a third innings, Houk decided to call on Colavito, who was known for having a strong right field throwing arm. With the Yankees trailing the game, 5-0, Colavito entered the game and held the Tigers scoreless for two and two-thirds innings. By the time he left the mound, the Yankees had taken a 6-5 lead, putting Colavito in position to win the game… Ironically, Colavito’s only previous pitching experience had come 10 years earlier—also against the Tigers. On that occasion, he pitched three scoreless innings, making the Tigers wonder whether Colavito had cast some kind of spell on them.

Questions That Come Up

It’s time for our third installment of those commonly asked questions that infiltrate the Research Department at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Here are three more queries that come up with some degree of frequency:

1) Why isn’t Roger Maris in the Hall of Fame? Maris, who is still eligible for consideration by the Veterans’ Committee, spent the maximum15 years on the ballot of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He failed to receive the 75 per cent of the vote required for election by the writers, finishing with a high of only 43 per cent in 1988 (184 votes). While some have argued that Maris deserves election to the Hall of Fame based on his single-season accomplishment of 61 home runs in 1961, the Rules for Election do specify that no player should be elected automatically on the basis of "performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one year, pitching a perfect game, or similar outstanding achievement."

2)How did the bullpen get its name? The origin of the word "bullpen" remains a source of great debate in baseball circles. Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel provided one possible explanation in a 1967 interview with New York Times sportswriter Joseph Durso. "We used to have pitchers who could pitch 50 or 60 games a year and the extra pitchers would just sit around shooting the bull," Stengel told Durso. Other baseball experts have cited a connection to the Bull Durham Tobacco Co. In the early part of the 20th century, Bull Durham advertising signs were featured on the outfield fences of most major and minor league ballparks. Since the Bull Durham signs were generally located near the area where relief pitchers warmed up prior to entering games, the word "bullpen" could have resulted from this association. Although there are several other theories as to the origin of the term "bullpen," the two scenarios described above rank as the leading "contenders."

3)Who has played the most major league seasons without ever appearing in a post-season game? Not including those players who played most of their careers in the 19th century, three players have served 21 seasons without making the post-season—either the playoffs or World Series. They are Hall of Fame second baseman Napoleon Lajoie, starting pitcher Ted Lyons (also a Hall of Famer), and longtime reliever Lindy McDaniel.

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