Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Les Mueller, who died earlier this week at age 93, had an unremarkable Major League career.
He posted a 6-8 record during his two seasons with the Tigers (1941, 1945), started 18 games and had a career earned-run average of 3.78. Yet, there’s no questioning that on at least one day he was nothing short of spectacular.
On July 21, 1945, Mueller started against the then-Philadelphia Athletics and pitched the first 19-2/3 innings, giving up just a single run.
That’s the equivalent of more than two complete games, impressive when one considers that Justin Verlander of Detroit led the entire Major Leagues in complete games this past season with six.
The Tigers and Athletics ended up playing to a 1-1 tie in 24 innings on that special day in 1945. Mueller gave up 13 hits and five walks during his ironman effort, and Tigers’ standout Dizzy Trout came in for the final 4-1/3 innings.
When Tigers manager Steve O’Neill took Mueller out of the game, the pitcher said, “Gee, Steve, the game isn’t over, is it?” according to the book Baseball’s Unforgettable Games, by Joe Reichler and Ben Olan.
There’s a great deal of talk about the “home-field advantage” in sports, but much less so about the home-field disadvantage.
Eddie Yost, the former Major League third basemen who died Tuesday at age 86, was well acquainted with the latter.
While playing for the Washington Senators between 1944 and 1953, Yost hit 55 home runs; however, just three of those round-trippers came at his home park, Griffith Stadium.
That’s because Griffith was anything but hitter-friendly. The dimensions for the Senators’ park included a left field line that was 424 feet from home plate, and nearly as far to center.
In addition, while the right field line was much closer at 326 feet, it featured a 30-foot fence which served to block the view from surrounding buildings.
The Georgia Peach made his pro debut as an 18-year old with the Augusta Tourists of the South Atlantic League on April 26, 1904, in a game against the Columbia (SC) Skyscrapers.
What’s conveniently forgotten is that Cobb’s first go-round with the Tourists lasted just two days, as the future Major League Hall of Famer was quickly cut.
He then signed with the Anniston (Ala.) Steelers for $50 a game and spent three months in the Tennessee-Alabama League before being recalled to Augusta in July by new owner and manager Harry Wingard.
Cobb’s first season with Augusta was less than auspicious, as he finished with a .237 batting average in 35 games.
The next year was a different story: by mid-summer Cobb was leading the Sally League in hitting and the Tourists sold him to the Detroit Tigers for $750.
No one disputes that newspapers are in serious decline: The question that remains unanswered is how far they will fall.
A recent conversation with a local attorney offered evidence of the industry’s decline. His is a family of six: two college-educated parents and four kids who all attend private school and will almost certainly go on to college themselves.
Yet, the family no longer receives a daily newspaper.
Such would have been almost unimaginable just a decade ago. Up until as late as 2000, at least, college-educated families, and many blue-collar families, took the daily paper as the best means to keep up with what was going on both locally and statewide.
No more, as the Internet and cable television have helped fragment the media market beyond anything imaginable even into the late 1990s.
Pondering the state of newspapers – where I spent a good bit of my career – brought me back to my formative years, when the medium essentially helped shape my life.
It did so by serving as the all-important conduit between me, beginning at age 9, and the first sports team I started following religiously, the Detroit Tigers.