George Mitterwald Delighted Wrigley Field Fans

Still available on eBay: do you
think this game-used bat could
have been Mitterwald’s “Wonder Boy” bat?
Buy it now, only $795???
 

New Cub George Mitterwald stole the show early with his new team in 1974.

Check out the power-hitting highlights from the fine folks at www.Retrosheet.org. Three home runs and eight RBI in one game only begins to tell the story. Mitterwald recalled:

“My three homer, one double and eight RBI game was so memorable it is and was really hard to explain. It was only my fifth home game with the Cubs, and needless to say, a good start with a new ball club. I got at least eight standing ovations during the day. That was fun, also.”

This was an epic, fun letter from a player worth remembering. Thanks, G.M.!

Twins Pitcher Jim Strickland Missed Two Seasons In The Military, But He’s Not Complaining

Strickland debuted in 1971.
Why couldn’t Topps show
him in a REAL ballpark for
its 1973 set?

Pitcher Jim Strickland hasn’t been on the mound for more than 35 years. There’s still time to cheer for him.

This man of faith threw baseballs. He’s not throwing blame today. Strickland put his career on hold for military service. He’d be entitled to some bafflement, if not bitterness. His march to the majors became a march for Uncle Sam in 1967-68. I began with the “what if…” question. Strickland replied:

“The time off had an unknown effect. The experiences might have extended my career.”

Someone who sees what they gained, instead of what they may have lost? That’s worth a standing ovation.

I remember adding that Twins Rookie Stars card to my 1972 Topps set, seeing him with Rick Dempsey and Vic Albury. How did the card make him feel?

“All rookies got $5 to sign with Topps (1964). I don’t remember how I reacted (to the first card), because I never collected cards as a kid.”

There’s no doubt to how Strickland reacted on May, 19, 1971. That’s when he relieved Jim Perry at Anaheim Stadium, getting his first win as a Twin. The win wasn’t in Minnesota, but it did seem like pitching at home. Strickland added:

“My first game was very special. Being from southern California, I was able to pitch in front of family and friends. The most tense moment was the first batter (ground ball to short).”

How did Strickland fare versus the Angels? Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, you can see for yourself!

I thanked Strickland for his military service. He thanked me for being ME.

“Tom, Thank You for being such a fan. Thank you for the questions. God bless you.

Jim

Proverbs 3:5-6

Coming Wednesday: Tom’s latest ’10 Most Wanted’ contacts, St. Louis style

Phillies Ricky Jordan Confirms His Debut Homer

Same sweeping “R” and “J.”
Don’t expect to see the “y”
in current autographs…

I didn’t get a lot from Ricky Jordan. However, the former Phillie did one notable thing:

He autographed the letter ‘Rick Jordan.’

Imagine being told in middle school, “The name you choose right now will follow you the rest of your life.”

It’s that way in the majors.

I asked Jordan about his debut for the Phils, July 17, 1988. Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, I discovered that the premiere featured his first home run in his first game.

Q: Did any friends or family attend the game?

A: YES, father and mother.

Q: Did you get the ball as a souvenir?

A: Yes.

Did I miss one burning question that baseball historians haven’t attempted? How does someone born Paul Scott Jordan get the nickname of “Ricky?”

‘Class…Substituting Today For Your Teacher Is New York Yankees Pitcher Rich Beck!’

Sounds like a monster movie:
The Teacher Wore Pinstripes!
Looks like he’s pitching to White…

Would you rather face hungry American League hitters, or a classroom of ornery high schoolers?

Rich Beck has done well against both lineups. A veteran teacher, Beck’s career was cut short by military service during the Viet Nam War.

Beck writes like a great teacher. He began his reply with:

“Wow, Tom! You are testing an old fella’s memory but I’ll try to answer your questions.”

Then, in the first time in the history of this blog, I received a hand-drawn SMILEY FACE!

First, I asked about one of his most dominating games, striking out eight Senators. Did the Ks come from fastballs or breaking stuff? Swinging or called?

“Probably fastballs and sliders. Don’t recall called third strikes vs. swinging but there is a website (address escapes me but suppose you can Google it) that gives play-by-play of games back to that era and that would answer the called vs. swinging question.”

Beck is referring to http://www.retrosheet.org/. Here’s the recap of Beck’s brilliance.

The same amazing website has the vitals on Beck’s Sept. 19 shutout against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.
Beck added:

“I believe that was a 0-0 game going into bottom of 8th. I do remember Ray Barker, who was playing first base that day, hit a two-run triple in the bottom of 8th. As far as the stats you quote…it was ugly but we turned two DPs I believe. I remember getting out of one inning with a fly to left with the bases loaded.”

I never got to cheer for Beck the Yankee. However, the work he’s doing as a teacher is worthy of a standing ovation. In fact, I cheer for all educators. A good pitcher wins games. A good teacher changes LIVES. Beck commented:

“I have been a substitute teacher my whole teaching stint — 1992 fall to fall of Nov. 1998 and then against from Feb. 2007 to date after working for a market research firm, The Nielsen Company, from 11/98 to 12/06. Most subbing (95 percent) is done at middle and high school level.”

Learn more about Beck with this fascinating biography written by Joe Schuster, available as part of the SABR Biography Project.

One final thought: I read once that Phillies announcer Harry Kalas recorded answering machine messages for fans. Imagine how the late Yankee Stadium PA announcer Bob Sheppard would have sounded on a school intercom.

“Students…now entering the classroom…number 23…former New York Yankees pitcher, Rich BECK!”

Coming Wednesday: The milestone 500th post for Baseball By The Letters

Brownie Babe Martin Compares Two Homers

For years, Martin has signed
with both names for this card!

Boris “Babe” Martin proved my theory.

If you want to get a rise out of a former player, go deep.

Getting deep is another story. I’m talking long-balls, dingers…homers!

Martin had two in his career. He wrote:

Homer off Allen Gettel was a home run right on the line and off the handle of my bat, only about 295 feet.

Homer #2 was really a long one in left center field just ot the left of the bullpen, and I would say close to 400 feet. I forgot the name of the pitcher. Thanks for asking.

Sincerely,
Babe Martin”

Thankfully, http://www.retrosheet.org/ remembers. Good job, guys! Martin connected off Hank Borowy, who won 21 games that year. Both homers were off Yankee hurlers in Yankee Stadium in 1945.

Enjoy this superb SABR biography of Martin by noted researcher Bill Nowlin.

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