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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In my last blog posting I talked about the book, What I Learned from Jackie Robinson, written by the great Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine. If you have not read this posting I know you will be inspired by how he used what he learned from Jackie Robinson to raise his son Jimmy who was born with Down’s syndrome. This new blog posting will look at a second book written by Erskine titled, Tales from the Dodger Dugout. Carl Erskine pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the L.A. Dodgers from 1948 until 1959. He was a pitching mainstay on Dodger teams that won 6 National League Pennants and the 1955 World Series. Some of his notable teammates included Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Clem Labine, Billy Cox, Joe Black, and Don Newcombe. Roger Khan immortalized the Dodgers of the 50s with his 1972 book, The Boys of Summer. The early 50s was a time in New York when there were three teams, the Yankees, NY Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers. Each team had a great centerfielder, Mantle for the Yankees, Mays for the Giants and Snider for the Dodgers. The big question was: Who was the best centerfielder in NY? Of course, being a diehard Yankee fan, you know what my answer was.

Below is pictured Snider, DiMaggio, Mays and Mantle walking in from centerfield on July 16,1977, at Shea Stadium on Old-Timers Day.Centerfielders

I have chosen facts from Carl’s book that are related to my past blog postings. I wrote a blog posting about Dale Long, the left-handed power hitting first baseman for the Pirates in the 1950s. The reason for my blog about Dale Long was his grandson, also named Dale Long, was a student in one of my biostatistics classes at Quinnipiac University. Dale Long was also featured in my book, Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball, because of his record setting 8 consecutive games with a home run. Later, this record was tied by Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. However, what I did not know was that it was Carl who gave up the 8th home run in game number 8. In writing a blog about the Dodgers and Giants moving to Los Angeles in 1957 I failed to mention that it was Carl who pitched and won the opening day game in front of 78,000 fans in LA on April 18, 1958, the first game for the Dodgers as the LA Dodgers. The Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 6-5 and Carl pitched 8 innings giving up 4 earned runs.

Still in another blog posting I wrote about, “The Shot Heard Around the World,” the Bobby Thomson 1951 playoff home run that gave the NY Giants the 1951 NL pennant. The Giants won playoff game 2. In the deciding 3rd playoff game with Bobby Thomson at the plate representing the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dodger manager Charlie Dressen called the bullpen coach where Ralph Branca and Carl Erskine were both warming up. The bullpen coach said they are both ready but Erskine is bouncing his curveball. Dressen chose to bring Branca in to face Thomson. On Branca’s second pitch Thomson delivered a three-run home run to win the game and the pennant for the Giants. Whenever Carl was asked what his best pitch was he said, “The curveball I bounced in the Polo Grounds bullpen.” In his book there is a picture of Carl with Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, and Bob Gibson. These four pitchers totaled 10 no-hitters (Koufax 4, Feller 3, Carl 2, and Gibson 1). Carl writes, “The only distinction I can claim that the other three cannot---- I’m not in the Hall of Fame.” Carl’s 1956 no-hitter was the first nationally televised no-hitter. He also set the record for most strike outs 14 in a World Series game in 1953. This record was later broken by Koufax and then by Gibson at 17.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The following is a letter I just received from Mr. W. This letter details how 2 men, one a retired baseball player, the other a teacher/coach, along with their wives dedicated a large part of their lives to helping mentally and physically challenged children and adults.This is a follow-up to my previous blog and here is a photo of the night I met Mr. W.Whitey

Hi Stanley

I am hesitant to claim credit for helping those less fortunate. For me it is simply treating others the way I would want to be treated. A mutual friend and I had worked at a camp sponsored by the Salvation Army. The camp was in Wisconsin and the campers were teenagers from the inner city of Chicago. My friend, also a teacher/coach was the camp director and hired me to be the water front director.Through this experience he recommended me to Carl. I first met Carl Erskine when he was doing a "Baseball Camp" at Anderson University. He had just retired in 1960 after playing for the Brooklyn and L.A. Dodgers. He contacted me and asked if I would serve as an instructor and be the "Dean" at the camp and live in the college dormitory with the campers for the week they were on campus. I had played baseball at Anderson University and was a young teacher and coach in our community. I was also a life guard for the Anderson Country Club Swimming pool. Through that position I knew many of the community leaders and had taught their children to swim. These were members that had connections with leaders in our State Legislature. This opened opportunities for Carl to seek funding for a community workshop. It was called "The Hopewell Center", a workshop for mentally challenged young adults. Many businesses in our community provided work opportunities for the clients. Much of the work involved sorting, packaging, and assembly line projects.The clients were paid for their services and it was a savings for the companies that provided the work opportunities. Carl Erskine was the leader of this project and I was just a tag along.

Carl and I also worked together to secure funding to assist high school athletes to attend the camps sponsored by the "Fellowship of Christian Athletes". We took approximately 40 high schoolers each summer to camps at Estes Park, CO, Black Mountain, NC and Lake Geneva, WI. Again Carl could approach the leaders at General Motors Factories in Anderson, IN for financial help. He was never turned down. I always chaperoned these trips and took care of details.

When my wife and I retired to Naples, FL we heard about a group called "Foundation for Developmentally Disabled." This group had a bowling league for its clients. I was asked to be a lane captain and soon after was asked to be the coordinator for this group. My wife and I accepted this responsibility and have been doing this for 11 years. We have expanded the group and now have bowlers at 2 locations. They bowl every week for the entire year. We have a banquet for them each September at the Spanish Wells County Club in Bonita Springs. The Lions Club in Bonita Springs provides the funding to support this banquet and special recognition for each bowler. We now have expanded this group to include clients from both Collier and Lee Counties. We presently have 107 bowlers each week. This group is even larger when the part time residents return from the North for the winter months.

If you want information on starting a bowling group for the developmentally disabled email pellis415@gmail.com .

Stan, I have rambled long enough although it has brought back many fond memories. Our son, Dennis, is the one that has motivated us to help those less fortunate. He is a very special young man and he and his special friends have brought much joy to our lives.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

It was a sunny late spring day in Naples, FL when walking with my wife Tara we came upon a gentleman riding his bike. He stopped to say hello and of course the topic of baseball came up. He mentioned he was friends with a famous ballplayer in Anderson, IN. He asked if I ever heard the name Carl Erskine. I said I saw him play in the 1950s. For those of you who never have heard of him, Carl pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers and LA. Dodgers from 1948 to 1959. For his 12-season career, he posted a 122-78 (.610) record with 981 strikeouts and a 4.00 ERA in 1718 innings pitched. His prime years were from 1952 through 1957 when he appeared in 11 World Series games (1949-52-53-55-56) and made the NL All-Star team in 1954. He pitched 2 no-hitters, one in 1952 and one in 1956. ANYONE who remembers the Brooklyn Dodgers remembers Carl Erskine, the right-hander with the overhand curveball, who in 1953 had a 20-6 record striking out 14 Yankees in a World Series game.

I will refer to the gentleman I met that day as Mr. W. Mr. W. told me he had a book written by his friend Carl Erskine that I should read. He hopped on his bicycle,went home and retrieved the book and gave it to me. In the inside flap was a note from Carl Erskine to him stating how much he appreciated the years they spent together. Mr. W. told me how and why they connected up with each other. After retiring from baseball, Carl Erskine returned to his home in Anderson, IN. In 1960 his wife Betty gave birth to their 4th child a son named Jimmy, born with Down’s syndrome. What brought these 2 men together was Mr. W. also has a mentally challenged son.  The 2 men worked together to set up programs including swimming, bowling and even baseball for all the mentally challenged children in Anderson, IN. Today, in Naples, FL Mr. W. continues helping with programs for mentally challenged children. With the book in my hand I bid farewell to Mr. W.

I decided to do more research on Carl Erskine and Jimmy. What follows comes from Carl Erskine’s book titled “What I Learned from Jackie Robinson.” He compared the treatment Jackie Robinson received from society with what mentally challenged children had to endure in 1960. Jackie and Carl were teammates from 1948 until 1956 with the Dodgers. Over the years as Robinson's teammate, Erskine learned, as he wrote, "that life is all about making life better for the next generation." And, in the most important of Robinson's lessons for Erskine, that next generation would include his and his wife Betty's fourth child, Jimmy. "America had some of the same social attitudes toward people with disabilities as it had toward race relations," Erskine wrote. "Jackie made people look beyond race, inside their own souls, inside the depths of what made them human, and see the light." "I often felt," Erskine wrote, "Jackie came into my life to teach me how to channel energy and anger toward what was happening around me with Jimmy and society's non-acceptance of Down syndrome and other birth defects. I had played with Jackie for 9 seasons, living side by side with him in the clubhouse and on the road. Today I have a 44-year relationship with my son Jimmy."

Jimmy has worked for Applebee’s for over 8 years and the manager told Carl that the place runs better when Jimmy is there. Jimmy was predestined to be institutionalized. But, thanks to loving parents, today is living a productive life. Because of examples like Jimmy more and more businesses are hiring mentally challenged people.  As was true of Jackie Robinson people like Jimmy Erskine are responsible for creating a more loving and caring society. Erskine wrote, “Jackie and Jimmy, two of my best buddies, changed the face of America.

Carl and son
 


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

When my 5-year old granddaughter asks for a snack before dinner which her mother correctly say no to, on occasion what follows is a child’s temper tantrum. Of course, this is not considered unusual behavior for a 5-year old. Within the last three weeks two of the faces of the baseball David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Bryce Harper have been struck out on called third strikes. Not liking the call each player turned around and showed their displeasure with the home-plate umpire. Then both players proceeded to their dugouts. The episode did not end there. Both players then charged back out of their dugout to verbally assault the umpire while being held back by teammates and coaches. For this behavior both players were tossed out of the game which meant they had to leave their dugouts and spend the rest of the game in time-out mode in their dressing rooms.

You may ask why I am writing about this ballplayer bad behavior when it happens so many times that it is now considered acceptable behavior by many fans. Having managed baseball teams for boys between the ages of 6 to 15, one of the most important things I stressed was behavior on the field. I told the boys that I never wanted to see or hear any abusive behavior toward any other player, coach, or umpire. This brings me to the concept of role model. Many ballplayers have said they should not be taken as role models for children. Instead their teachers, parents and clergy should be their role models. Even though ballplayers correctly say this children do copy their favorite ballplayers. They wear the same batting gloves, hold their bat and adjust their hats just like their favorite ballplayer. Yes, their favorite ballplayer becomes their role model.

Baseball has put into law very severe punishments for using banned substances. The first offense suspends a player for 60 games, the second offense suspends the player for an entire year, and the third offense suspends the player for life. One of the reasons for these severe penalties is baseball wants to really stop this type of bad behavior. Baseball does not want children to copy their role models and take these banned substances. It has worked. Yes, a very few players have still use these substances and rightfully have been punished.

Baseball now has to stop these player temper tantrums. I am not suggesting the same harsh penalties as those for banned substance use. What I am saying is that a time-out of being sent to the dressing room for that one game is definitely too little punishment. For example, if an independent panel in viewing the game film decides a player was guilty of bullying an umpire a 5 to 10-game suspension without pay should be handed out to the player. During that suspension they should be required to enter an anger-management class. I believe this harsher penalty will reduce this type of player bad behavior.

To baseball’s credit they have setup rules for overturning certain calls on the field. This is done in a civil way by a manager stepping out on the field to request a review. These calls do not involve issues like balls and strikes which are based solely on an umpire’s judgement. Also, no player can say an umpire is out to get them because at the end of every game the umpires are graded on their calls.

The two players, mentioned at the beginning of my post, David Ortiz and Bryce Harper, for the most part, have been a credit to baseball. David Ortiz throughout his long career has done a great deal of charity work and was very important in the recovery in Boston after the terrorist attack. Bryce Harper, on the same day he verbally abused an umpire, while riding on the team bus spotted a homeless woman and took it upon himself to stop the bus to give money to the woman. Child bullying is very big problem today. Good sportsmanship not bullying is what children should see from their baseball heroes.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Yes, it has been a long time to be precise 107 years since the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series in 1908. Before this season began, in my blog of April 13, I picked the Cubs to win the 2016 World Series. I was not alone with this pick. In fact, 14 out of 31 ESPN reporters also picked the Cubs.

After their first 30 games the Cubs have a record of 24-6. Their run differential (runs scored – runs allowed) of +102 is the fourth best in the MLB modern era (going back to 1901). The Cubs are getting the job done by combing great hitting with great pitching. They lead all MLB teams in runs per game (6.13), in OBP (.368), in runs scored (184) and are second in OPS (.809) trailing the Cardinals by one point. The Cubs starting pitchers Arrieta, Hammel, Lester, Lackey and Hendricks have a combined ERA below 2.25. Their ace Jake Arrieta has been a dominant force on the mound. Since the start of last season he has made 39 starts and has allowed three earned runs or less in 35 of them. The Cubs overall pitching stats show they lead all MLB teams in the categories of ERA (2.48), runs scored (82) and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched 1.034).

In case you are wondering if this is the best start after 30 games for any Cub team. The answer is yes. But, the 1907 Cubs also ran off a 24-6 season starting record. The 1907 team had a record of 61-20 after 81 games and went on to finish the season with a record of 107-45 and a run differential of +184. In the 1907 World Series they defeated the Detroit Tigers 4-0. The Cubs went on to repeat as World Series Champions in 1908.

What about other teams who started a season with at least 24 wins in their first 30 games? Did they win the World Series? Here is the list since 1939:

WinningTeams

The above history is a good omen for the 2016 Cubs. Excluding the strike-shortened 1981 season, of the six teams who won at least 24 of their first 30 games all of them reached the World Series for that year. Four of the six teams actually won the World Series that year. Three of the six teams won over 100 games that year with the 1939 Yankees winning 106 games.

The record for most wins in a season is 116 achieved by the 2001 Mariners who broke the previous record of 114 established by the Yankees in 1998. Can the 2016 Cubs follow the 2015-16 Golden State NBA team who broke the season NBA record with 73 wins this year? To help answer this question I turn to my Linear Formula for Baseball. This formula will use the run differential based on the first 30 games to predict the final winning percentage for the 2016 Cubs. The calculation is as follows:

            Expected 2016 Cub Season Winning % = .001592*102 + .50 = 66.24%

            Multiplying .6624*162 = 108 wins.

The 108 wins would put the Cubs ahead of the 1939 Yankees but 8 wins short of the record. If the Cubs do win the 2016 World Series Harry Carey’s statement, “The Cubs someday will win the World Series” will come true and heaven will hear him singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame.


 


 
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