Scott Ferkovich was the editor of Tigers by the Tale: Fifty Great Games at Michigan and Trumbull, published by the Society for American Baseball Research. He is the author of Motor City Champs: Mickey Cochrane and the 1934-35 Detroit Tigers, coming in 2017 from McFarland. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_Ferkovich.
On the eve of his team’s opening-day matchup with the Indianapolis Hoosiers, Manager Bill Watkins called a meeting with the players. The meeting served not only as a pep talk, but it also afforded him an opportunity to review the team rules. The pre-season discourse had become a budding tradition for the 28-year-old Watkins. He was in his third year of skippering the Detroit Wolverines of the National League. If the previous year was any indication, the 1887 team figured to be very good indeed.
In Major League Baseball today, the 20-game winner has become increasingly rare.
Five-man rotations, limited pitch counts, and the emergence of setup men (not to mention the alarming prevalence of elbow and shoulder injuries), are all key reasons why there are fewer 20-game winners than there were two decades ago.
Is the stolen base a dying art? The numbers clearly indicate that to be the case. In 2015, Major League teams swiped a total of 2,505 bags. That was the lowest total since 1974 (excluding the strike-shortened 1981 and 1994 seasons).
For 50 years, Major League Baseball’s landscape had remained unchanged. So when Lou Perini moved his Boston Braves a thousand miles west to Milwaukee in time for the 1953 season, he shattered the sport’s status quo, and paved the way for numerous other franchise shifts over the course of the next half-century.
It was called the Year of the Pitcher, and with good reason.
In 1968, Major League Baseball batted a collective .237, the lowest in history. Teams scored only 3.42 runs per game. The New York Yankees hit a pathetic .214 as a team. Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with a .301 mark. The Cardinals’ Bob Gibson set a post Deadball Era record with a microscopic 1.12 earned run average (and somehow lost nine games in the process).
If you were searching for Barry Zito in 2015, the former Cy Young Award winner would have been found toiling for the Nashville Sounds, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s. The 37-year-old Zito was on a mission to prove that he could still pitch in the Major Leagues.
In an alternate universe, third baseman Brooks Robinson dives for a hot grounder and comes up throwing a strong peg to first, his Browns jersey covered in fresh dirt.
Or Frank Robinson, the greatest Brownie of them all, launches a blast beyond the ivy-covered left-field wall at Wrigley Field, the ball bouncing against the front door of a bungalow on 41st Street.
I write about baseball a lot.
I write about the history of the game and the players whose names resonate down through the generations.
As a baseball researcher, one of my go-to websites is Baseball-Reference.com. It’s not just a convenience. It’s a necessity.
It is an occupation that likely has gone the way of the milkman and the bowling alley pinsetter. Yet its roots go back to the very beginning of professional baseball.
It is the once-ubiquitous player-manager.
Harry Wright of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the sport’s first openly professional club, was one of its earliest practitioners.