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Only 13 more days until Opening Day!

March 20, 2019 [LINK / comment]

"Opening Day" (Japanese-style) 2019!

The real Opening Day is still eight days away, but for fans of the Oakland A's and the Seattle Mariners, today was the day! Playing in Tokyo, Japan, the Mariners beat the A's by a score of 9-7 in a game that featured five home runs altogether. The second and final game of the series gets underway at 5:35 AM EDT, less than six hours hence...

This marks the fifth time that Major League Baseball has had official games in Japan, all of which were played in the Tokyo Dome as part of a special Opening Day event. Just as a reminder, there will be four MLB games in Monterrey, Mexico over the next two months, and two more in London, England at the end of June. See the Anomalous stadiums page.

Tokyo Dome minor update

Tokyo Dome

The Tokyo Dome diagrams have been revised slightly, most notably in the expanded rows of box seats between first (and third) base and the right (and left) field corners. That modification was a good idea, since the Tokyo Dome has an unusually large foul territory: 30,300 square feet before the seats were added. (I'll recompute the new value soon.) Besides that, a dark line indicating a vertical discontinuity has been added in the upper deck along the lateral walkway, and the right and left field corners are bent less sharply than before.

Trout and Angels make a HUGE deal

Assuming all the unconfirmed reports are true, the Los Angeles Angels and outfielder slugger Mike Trout have agreed to a contract extension, for ten additional years on top of the two years remaining on his existing contract, a total of twelve years. It adds about $360 million to the $66.5 million which he was already owed for 2019 and 2020, roughly $430 million altogether. It's the biggest player contract in sports history, and $100 million more than the Phillies recently committed to paying Bryce Harper; see the Washington Post. Harper had publically invited him to join the Phillies after Trout became a free agent, dreaming of a world-class offensive powerhouse in Philadelphia. Oops: cancel that!

In Our Nation's Capital, meanwhile, no word on whether Anthony Rendon will sign a contract extension with the Nationals. Now that Bryce Harper is gone, Rendon has suddenly become the linchpin of the Nats' entire offense.

Oakland stadium news

Mike Zurawski shared with me news about a slight change in the plans for the Oakland A's future home in the Howard Terminal area near downtown. In particular, the tapered terraced park descending from the left and right field corners toward center field will have a rounded shape, rather than a rectangular shape that was an apparent emulation of the Phildelphia Athletics' home at Shibe Park. See cbslocal.com for a narrative and video of the changes, and a complete set of plans released by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

And in the world of football, the Oakland / Las Vegas Raiders managed to get a one-year lease extension at Oakland Coliseum, so we don't have to worry about the team becoming "homeless" for the 2019 season. See si.com, also courtesy of Mike Zurawski.

Globe Life Park II: aerial view!

Clifford "Bucky" Nance recently posted on Facebook a video of an adventure he had flying in a World War II-era C-47 "Dakota" (which became the DC-3 in civilian life) over the Dallas-Forth Worth area. The pilot was kind enough to fly over the future home of the Texas Rangers, and Bucky was kind enough to share with me a high-resolution image, which will be of great use when I start drawing a diagram of that stadium later this year. It is supposed to be ready by April 2020, but some of us (including Bucky) wonder whether the new venue might be an unnecessary boondoggle. Be that as it may, thank you, Bucky!!!

Globe Life Park II UC aerial Mar 2019

Aerial view of construction at Globe Life Park II, courtesy of Clifford "Bucky" Nance.

March 15, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Olympic-sized Olympic Stadium update

Olympic Stadium

It took yet another sustained Herculean effort stretching over nearly two weeks, but I stuck with it and finally "got 'er done." Yes, the Olympic Stadium diagrams have been revised, on a massive scale befitting the massive size of the structure itself. The tragic, misbegotten former home of the Montreal Expos (who relocated and became the Washington Nationals in 2005) still stands as a monument to wishful thinking by public officials eager to establish a legacy. The public debt needed to finance construction of "the Big Owe" was not retired until after the Expos had departed. It still hosts occasional football and soccer games, as well as monster truck shows and assorted conventions, but for most intents and purposes, it is in a state of limbo.

Aside from minor corrections and detail enhancements, here are the more notable changes since the last diagram update in June 2012, nearly seven years ago:

  • The overall shape of the stadium is slightly compressed from side to side.
  • Entry portals (including side stairs) in the grandstand are shown for the first time.
  • There is a lower-deck diagram for the first time, showing a rear set of entry portals.
  • The lower deck (as seen in the profiles) is about 13 feet (five rows) deeper than before; the upper deck remains the same size.
  • The roof is rendered much more accurately, with the structural beams properly coinciding with the grandstand seating sections.
  • The dugouts in the 1992 version(s) now consist of two straight segments with a slight bend.
  • The bleachers beyond the north end zone in the football and soccer diagrams extends at least 20 feet behind the scoreboard (1992) which is suspended above ground.
  • In the 1976 Olympics diagram, the front eight rows of seats were only installed along the west side of the track. (Previously I couldn't figure out how there was room for four flagpole on the south end of the track.)
  • Also, the permanent roof front edge apparently coincided vertically with the "front" row (ninth row for baseball) of seats.
  • The profile is more accurate than before, revealing that the lower-deck concourse is smaller than the upper-deck concourses.
  • Last but not least, the roof turns out to be much, much bigger than I thought before:
Profile Olympic Stadium

The profile of Olympic Stadium, before and after today's diagram revision.

The photos I have seen suggest that the rear of the roof, which covers the concourses behind the grandstand, is not directly supported but is suspended by balancing tension in the structural members. I may have to check on that to make sure. Or maybe I'll just drive up to Montreal this summer! In any case, I replaced the old profile with the new one on the Stadium profiles page, which I'll update as soon as the three remaining diagrams are completed.

Note that, for the time being at least, I opted not to render the lights which are attached to the front of the permanent roof. Too much clutter. I may do that later, and I may do a "combined" diagram, showing the football gridiron and temporary seats superimposed on the baseball playing field. Finally, I may add a 1980s diagram, without the original wide Olympic track behind home plate and the bleachers in center field. (I estimate it was about 495 feet to those bleachers from home plate!)

Spring training notes

For what it's worth, the Washington Nationals have won four games in a row, with lopsided wins against the Twins yesterday and the Mets today. Adam Eaton and Ryan Zimmerman both homered in today's game, while Victor Robles and Juan Soto are continuing the slugging peformance that they exhibited as rookies last year. (Soto played for 116 games last year, whereas Robles has only played in 34 games total over two years.) Hot infield prospect Carter Kieboom has hit three home runs already, and may be ready to replace Brian Dozier at second base next year. Anthony Rendon, whose contract expires at the end of this year, had a slow start this spring, but went four for four at the plate today. Michael A. Taylor, who is fighting for the center field position, got hurt while making a diving catch today, but it doesn't appear to be too serious. On the mound, starting pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Stephen Strasburg have been very impressive, while Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer are only fair to middling so far. Opening Day in Our Nation's Capital is now less than two weeks away!

There is much talk about which team will end up signing closing pitcher Craig Kimbrel to a contract. I was initially opposed to the Nats making him a big offer, partly because I think Sean Doolittle is more than satisfactory in that role already. But apparently "The Doctor" says he'd welcome Kimbrel joining the Nats bullpen, so maybe it would work out OK.

The new star slugger of the Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper, has yet to get a hit in five at-bats this spring, but he has reached base a few times on walks.

The mail bag

Mike Zurawski informs me that the Oakland A's are trying to jazz up their aging Coliseum with a new "Fan Stomping Ground" located in the middle level of the outfield grandstand on the right field side. Apparently it's a family-friendly place to hang out and amuse each other when the action on the field slows down. See MLB.com.

And speaking of Oakland Coliseum, the NFL Raiders are still not 100% certain where they will be playing football next fall. One possibility was Oracle Field (formerly called AT&T Park, home of the Giants), but the "San Francisco" (Santa Clara) 49ers vetoed that idea. The Raiders are being sued by the city of Oakland because of their plans to relocate to Las Vegas, once the new stadium is ready in 2020 or 2021. Awk-ward!

Terry Wallace sent me a photo of Forbes Field with temporary bleachers for the 1925 World Series; he seems eager for those diagrams to be updated, and I can't blame him!

And finally, Angel Amezquita sent me some images of the Canadian Football League Baltimore Stallions playing in Memorial Stadium in the 1990s, suggesting that I include a CFL gridiron diagram on that page. Anything is possible! smile

I'm going to take a short break from all the exhausting diagram work, and will try to get to other recent e-mail messages in the next few days. Thanks for your patience, as always!

March 2, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Assessing Harper's legacy in D.C.

Bryce Harper was with the Washington Nationals for exactly half the team's (reborn) existence: 2012-2018. You might think that he has dominated the team's offensive output during those seven years, but by most measures at least, you'd be wrong. Only once during those seven years (2015, when he was NL MVP) did he lead the Nationals in batting average: .330. Daniel Murphy did so twice, and only spent two and a half years with the Nats. What about Harper's specialty, home runs? Yes, he led the team twice in homers during that time, but so did both Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman. What's more, Zimmerman had the most homers (including one tie) twice during the team's first seven years, 2005-2011. Harper's peak year in terms of home runs (2015) was 42, which was four less than Alfonso Soriano hit during his one year with the Nationals in 2006. Finally, Harper led the team twice in runs batted in from 2012 to 2018, but Adam LaRoche did so as well. Ryan Zimmerman has had the most RBIs for the Nats four times in his career. But what is really striking is that in none of the four years in which the Nationals won the NL East Division (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017) did Harper lead in any of the main offensive categories. It's almost as if when he was at his best, the team was not -- and vice versa. See the Washington Nationals page, from which the following data are extracted.

Washington Nationals: best annual batting records (2012-2018)
Year Batting average Home runs RBIs
2012 Ian Desmond .292 Adam LaRoche 33 Adam LaRoche 100
2013 Jayson Werth .318 Ryan Zimmerman 26 Jayson Werth 82
2014 Denard Span .302 Adam LaRoche 26 Adam LaRoche 92
2015 Bryce Harper .330 Bryce Harper 42 Bryce Harper 99
2016 Daniel Murphy .347 Daniel Murphy 25 Daniel Murphy 104
2017 Daniel Murphy .322 Ryan Zimmerman 36 Ryan Zimmerman 108
2018 Anthony Rendon .308 Bryce Harper 34 Bryce Harper 100

Years with red borders: Nationals won the NL East Division.

None of the above is meant to detract from Harper's immense contribution to the Nationals in terms of pursuing championships and as a commercial franchise, however. Baseball is more than just winning and more than just money, it is a form of popular entertainment for the masses, and Harper gave Washington-area fans a thrill like none of their team's other players had done before. Yes, Harper has a tendency to be cocky sometimes, but with the talent he possesses, it's probably fitting. After all, sports fans love prima donnas!

Lerners defer salaries

In today's Washington Post, Barry Svrluga had a rather harsh column about the Lerner family's habit of deferring salaries paid to many of the Nationals' top stars. I mentioned this two days ago, but I put the blame on the tight cash situation created by the unfavorable TV rights contract with the Baltimore Orioles. (That was a key condition for owner Peter Angelos to approve the relocation of the former Montreal Expos to Washington in 2005.) Svrluga suggests that it's just the Lerners' way of doing business, and it's not good. We still don't know for sure how much of the compensation offered to Bryce Harper last fall consisted of deferred salaries, but if it was as big as some rumors have indicated, that might have been a blunder of historic proportions.

Rockies keep Arenado

On Wednesday, two days before the news about Bryce Harper broke, the Colorado Rockies announced that their star Nelson Arenado had signed a new contract. He will be making $260 million over a period of eight years, a stupefying $32.5 million annually. It is the highest annual salary in history for an MLB position player. He can opt out of the contract after three years, but why in the heck would he? Having hit an average of 40 home runs and 126 RBIs over the last four seasons, he no doubt commands a high price on the market, but for a small-market team like the Rockies to be making that kind of commitment does raise eyebrows.

Off to the races!

The recent update to the Polo Grounds page included an auto racing diagram for the first time, corresponding to the 1958-1961 period following the New York Giants' departure and preceding the creation of the New York Mets. That reminded me that another MLB stadium once hosted auto racing events: Philadelphia's Baker Bowl, after the Phillies left in 1938. So I added a racetrack diagram to the Baker Bowl page just for fun.

Foro Sol update

Foro Sol

But wait, there's more! Auto racing also takes place in Mexico City's Foro Sol, a strange combination of a Grand Prix race track with a ballpark. So, I updated the Foro Sol diagrams for the first time since 2011; April 11 to be exact. The grandstand is now about 12 feet deeper than before all the way around, and details such as entry portals are included for the first time. There is also a new diagram showing details such as the press box underneath the roof. Diagrams for other "Miscellaneous" (non-MLB) stadiums will likewise will brought "up to standard" in the months to come...

Am I ever going to do diagrams showing stadiums in a configuration for "monster truck" rallies or moto-cross races? Not bloody likely! Eventually, however, I may need to indicate which stadiums featured such events. There's more than you might think...

February 28, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Mourning in D.C.: Bryce Harper picks Philadelphia frown

The worst-case scenario for fans of the Washington Nationals finally materialized late this afternoon: their superstar hero (and probable future Hall-of-Famer) Bryce Harper accepted a fat and juicy contract offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. He will be getting a total of $330 million over a period of 13 years, or $25.4 million a year. Significantly, the terms include a full no-trade clause and no opt-outs, so unless there is a mutual change of heart, Bryce will be playing in the City of Brotherly Love through the year 2031. (That's just too far in the future to even contemplate.) It is the biggest contract in MLB history, just barely surpassing the (then-) Florida Marlins' $325 million, 13-year contract with Giancarlo Stanton in November 2014. See MLB.com for more details.

One wonders, "Why would Bryce accept an annual salary that was $4.6 million less than what the Lerners offered him five months ago?" The reported terms back then were $300 million over ten years, which I thought was quite fair and competitive. Part of the answer has to do with the weaker-than-expected market for free agents (no collusion!), which has left several big stars such as Dallas Keuchel still looking for a job this year. Until the news today, it appeared that Harper's agent Scott Boras had served him poorly, and it seemed possible that he might have to settle for a shorter-term contract with the Dodgers or the Giants. But the terms he got from the Phillies were more than satisfactory. But the big difference between this contract and what the Nationals offered is that the latter's terms including a big chunk of "deferred salary," meaning that the team would in effect issue IOUs that would be redeemed for several years beyond the end of the contract. That might have been a deal-breaker for Bryce.

Just as a side note, the deferred salary is a rather cheap gimmick that the Nationals' front office has used more than once, and it reflects in part the financial constraint imposed by the unfair terms of the TV revenue rights deal with the Baltimore Orioles. MLB officials have worked to resolve that issue in recent months, so hopefully the Nats will be in a better money position before long.

Another factor favoring the Phillies may be the stadium, or more specifically, the size of the outfield. Citizens Bank Park has about 105,000 square feet of fair territory, about four percent less than the 109,100 square feet in Nationals Park. Indeed, the Phillies enjoy the most home-run friendly ballpark in the major leagues right now. Bryce has hit 184 homers during his seven years with the Nats (peaking at 42 during his MVP year, 2015), and if you figure that his career is only one-third over, he could end up with another 368 homers, for a total of 552. But if you add the ballpark factor over a period of 13 years, he could conceivably raise that home run total by 100 or more, which would put him in sixth place in the all-time list, just behind Willie Mays (660).

Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park outfields

The outfield portions of Citizens Bank Park, with Nationals Park superimposed. Balls hit into the areas colored pink would be home runs in the former but not the latter, and the converse would be true in the (much smaller) areas colored violet.

It wouldn't have been so bad if he had signed with the L.A. Dodgers or San Francisco Giants, but now we're going to have face him 19 times a year. Ugh. The Nats had an 11-8 record against the Phillies last year, but things will be a lot different this year. Indeed, with their other acquisitions and with the Atlanta Braves determined to repeat as division champions, the NL East will be fiercely contested this year. Bryce will make his first appearance with the Phillies in Washington on April 2. (If it were the day before, we could perhaps pretend that it was all just a gag.) How will D.C. fans greet him? I hope they show more class than fans in certain other cities. It's going to be hard as hell getting used to seeing Bryce in a Phillies uniform. I suppose the sooner we get this over with the better...

Bryce Harper fake Phillies hat

WARNING: FAKE PHOTO! A melancholy-looking Bryce Harper on September 21, during the one of the last home games he played as a National, with Ryan Howard's cap (from my visit to Philadelphia in 2016) artificially superimposed.

The first time I mentioned Bryce Harper was in June 2010, when the Nationals used their #1 pick to draft him. (I had almost forgotten that he was a catcher in his college days.) Two months later he signed a five-year contract totaling $9.9 million, a record for a rookie position player. After a year in the minors, he made a big splash in his debut with the Nationals in late April 2012, and in November he was chosen as National League Rookie of the Year. Three years later (November 2015) he was chosen as the National League Most Valuable Player. He has had his ups and downs in the years since then, but he was undoubtedly a crucial factor in the Nationals winning four divisional titles during his years in D.C. And so I say:

Thanks for seven GREAT years with the Nats, Bryce!
You'll be remembered well!

February 25, 2019 [LINK / comment]

At last: Spring training has begun!

Ignore that snow on the ground outside, baseball fans, because spring training is here! Pitchers and catchers reported for Spring training two Wednesdays ago, and the full squads reported last Monday. For most teams, the first practice games were held on Saturday, another sign that baseball is right around the corner. Opening Day for 28 teams will be Thursday March 28, about as early as baseball can start. For the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's, the first game will take place at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on March 20; see the newly-updated Anomalous stadiums page.

The preseason game scores mean absolutely nothing, of course, but it is nonetheless worth pointing out that the Washington Nationals won their first two games: they beat the Houston on Saturday 7-6, on a walk-off double by Adrian Sanchez, and they beat the Cardinals 12-2 on Sunday. Today they lost to the Braves 9-4, but as mentioned above, practice games don't count.

Machado signs with Padres

The main drama throughout this off-season has centered upon two free agent slugging superstars: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, who spent six and a half years with the Baltimore Orioles and was then traded to the L.A. Dodgers last July. It has been a strange, slow-moving spectacle full of whispers, like a kabuki theater. Well, last week the San Diego Padres announced that Machado had signed a $300 million, 10-year contract with them, the biggest free agent deal in Major League history. This followed many weeks of speculation about the Phillies and other teams. See MLB.com. Whether he proves to be worth that much money is anyone's guess. Machado has been a very consistent hitter over the past four years, with between 33 and 37 home runs and a batting average between .249 and .294 each year. He seems to have personality issues, however, and one wonders if he will be content playing on a team that is not as likely to make it to the postseason.

Harper mulls his options

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper continues to keep us all in nerve-wracking suspense as he weighs his options. Much as I despise recirculating rumors, it seems appropriate to mention that he met with Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend, and it seemed all but certain that he would sign with them. (The Phillies were scrambling after Machado signed with the Padres.) But today it was reported that the Dodgers are pursuing Harper once again, with meetings in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Mark Lerner (son of the Nationals' principal owner Ted Lerner) said that his family had not even spoken with Harper in months. Eegads. The upshot is that the Nationals are no longer the team is he most likely to sign with.

On Saturday, Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote a rather harsh piece saying that Harper is on the verge of signing the "least satisfying nine-figure deal ever." He thinks that Harper probably wishes he had accepted the $300 million for 10 years offered to him by the Nats' owners at the end of the 2018 regular season. The fact that the market for free agent players has fizzled means that he will be lucky to get terms even slightly better than that deal, and it probably won't be on friendly terms. His agent Scott Boras certainly deserves some of the blame for that, but suspicions linger that the MLB owners tacitly cooperated to keep salaries down. "There was no collusion!" (Why does that sound familiar?)

Personally, I think Bryce has every right to bargain for the best terms he can get, but there's more to it than just money. If Harper is man enough to set aside his pride and sign a new contract with the Nationals, he will in all likelihood go down in history as one of the greatest players to ever spend the bulk of his career with one team, and he will retire as a happy, beloved, satisfied man. We'll see. This whole free agency thing is no picnic.

Could the Nationals get by without Harper this year? Absolutely, yes. But it sure would be easier to win a division title and go deep into the postseason with him on board.

A week or two ago, I also updated the Washington Nationals page with head-to-head win-loss records to include 2018. It shows the provisional starting pitcher rotation, which ought to rank at or near the top of all 30 MLB teams:

  • Max Scherzer
  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Patrick Corbin *
  • Anibal Sanchez *
  • Jeremy Hellickson or Joe Ross ?

* New players

Scherzer bemoans baseball trends

Nats' ace pitcher Max Scherzer has been vocal about various problems he has observed in the sport. Last week he complained about the decline in competition among baseball teams, brought on by sky-high salaries that leave some smaller-market teams completely out of the loop. Something indeed needs to be done about that. Then over the weekend he argued against the proposed use of a pitch clock to speed up the pace of play; they are emperimenting with that in spring training games. To Max, it just ruins the fabric of the game. He pointed out that too many foul balls are a bigger reason why games drag on longer than they used to. See the Washington Post.

Another Polo Grounds update?!

Polo Grounds

(Stop me if you've heard this one before.) So, a few weeks ago I realized I needed to make a few small tweaks to the Polo Grounds diagrams, and before you knew it, yadda yadda yadda... Once again, I found myself deeply enmeshed in a new set of puzzles and mysteries that were finally solved, yielding big (for me at least) revelations. I guess that is to be expected when so much time (12 years) elapsed between the previous diagram update in 2007. There were a lot of needed improvements to catch up on!

For the record, here are the significant changes since the January 9 update:

  • The overall width of the stadium shrank by about 12 feet. (I realized that the upper deck had 19 rows rather than 21.)
  • Lateral walkways are shown for the first time, for both the upper and lower decks. I refrained from doing those before because of the lack of visual evidence; it's very hard to see the interior of the grandstand deep in the shadows. But eventually, I made some inferences that I believe are accurate.
  • The distance markers for the 1952 diagrams are now positioned more accurately (corresponding to their real-life locations), and those that contain misleading information now have red borders.*
  • The light towers in back of the respective dugouts are now recessed about 18-20 feet from the front edge of the roof, rather than coinciding with the front edge as before. Similarly, the light towers that were nearest to the respective foul lines are now recessed about six feet from the front edge.
  • In the 1911 and 1923 diagrams, the old-fashioned box seat sections (in which groups of four seats were separated by small wooden walls) are shown. In 1931 those four rows of seats were replaced with modern "box" seat sections separated by mere metal bars, taking up less space.
  • The warning tracks and the infield dirt areas now correspond to the way they were actually configured at various points in history. For example, in 1962 the warning tracks were made much wider, encircling the entire field.
  • There is a new 1958 diagram showing the auto race track that was built after the Giants left.
  • More details on the club house / office building in center field are now shown, including the bigger Longines clock and loudspeaker that were installed about 1940, and the scoreboard that was installed in 1962.
  • The Eddie Grant monument is located in front of the overhanging club house, not underneath it as my diagrams had indicated before.
  • The pedestrian ramps by the east and south corners are now rendered more precisely, with arrows indicating which way is up. There is also an enclosed ground-level area where the pre-1911 team office building stood.
  • The rooftop stairway and passage providing access to the football press box built above the right field pole in the 1940s is shown for the first time.

Note that even though the center field distance marker changed from 483 to 475 when the Polo Grounds were fixed up for the arrival of the Mets in 1962, home plate did not move forward by eight feet as stated by Lowry in Green Cathedrals (2006). I checked several photographs very carefully, and it's clear that the foul line intersected the dugout at the same point during the Mets' stay there as it had previously. The longer distance (483) was probably to the wall at ground level, and the shorter distance (475) was to the front of the building 15 or so feet above the ground.

* This seems to be a significant discovery on my part. I have begun calculations to pinpoint the origin of the mistaken distances. Discrepancies of 5-7 feet are tolerable, but once you get to ten feet or more, it's a real problem. I have likewise indicated misleading distance markers for Tiger Stadium, Dolphin (Hard Rock) Stadium, and perhaps a couple others.

R.I.P. Don Newcombe

Brooklyn Dodgers' pitcher Don Newcombe passed away at the age of 92 last week. He was one of the first African-Americans to join the major leagues, following in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson. He debuted in 1949, and was named NL Rookie of the Year after winning 17 games. He remained with the Dodgers (aside from military service during the Korean War) until their move to Los Angeles (1958), soon after which he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. He ended his career with the Cleveland Indians in 1960. Problems with alcohol and controlling his temper seemed to affect his performance. At the Polo Grounds (see above!) on October 3, 1951 he was the starting pitcher in the deciding game of the three-game playoff between the New York Giants and the Dodgers. He left the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with a 4-2 lead and one out. In from the bullpen came Ralph Branca, and then Bobby Thomson came up to bat for the Giants. The rest, as any baseball fan knows, is history...

In case you didn't know, the refrain in Terry Cashman's nostalgic song "Talkin' Baseball" referred to Newcombe:

The Scooter*, the Barber**, and the Newk***

* (the Yankees' Phil Rizzuto) ** (the Giants' Sal Maglie) *** (the Dodgers' Don Newcombe)

January 31, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Four stars tapped for Hall of Fame

Last week the Baseball Writers Association of America announced that four former MLB players had received the necessary 75% of votes cast to qualify for induction into Cooperstown. One of them, Yankee closing pitcher Mariano Rivera, became the very first such player in history to receive unanimous approval! The other new Hall of Famers are Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina. In addition, Harold Baines was selected by the Veterans Committee.

Mariano Rivera, nicknamed "The Sandman," was born in Panama, came up with the New York Yankees in 1995 (along with famed team mates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte), pitched spectacularly for 19 years, during which the Yankees won five World Series championship trophies. In September 2013 he retired in a special ceremony, complete with rocking chair. Over the course of his career, he saved 652 games, surpassing Trevor Hoffman for the all-time MLB record. He threw a total of 1,173 strikeouts (8.2 per nine innings) and finished with an ERA of just 2.21. (See baseball-reference.com.)

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera, coming in to close the game at Kauffman Stadium on August 16 2011. The Yankees won that game, 9-7.

Edgar Martinez played for the Seattle Mariners from 1987 to 2004, his entire career. For the first six years, he was a third baseman, but from 1995 on he was the team's designated hitter. That probably delayed his Hall of Fame selection, as some traditionalists believe that only all-around players should qualify. He had a lifetime batting average of .312, with 309 home runs and 1,261 RBIs.

Roy Halladay began his career as a pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, but late in 2009, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, breaking hearts north of the border. In May 2010, he threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins. For four straight years, he had an ERA under 3, but then in 2012 he started going downhill, and he retired after the 2013 season. In November 2017, he died in a plane crash off the coast of Florida. He was the first player to be chosen for the Hall of Fame posthumously since Roberto Clemente in 1973.

Mike Mussina pitched for nearly one decade each with the Baltimore Orioles (1991-1999) and with the New York Yankees (2000-2008). In his first full season with the O's (1992, when Camden Yards opened) he achieved an amazing 18-5 win-loss record with a 2.54 ERA. He remained steady and very reliable throughout his career, finishing with a 3.68 cumulative ERA, with 270 wins and 153 losses.

Finally, Harold Baines spent the 1980s with the Chicago White Sox, and then bounced around several teams from 1990 until 2001. He amassed 384 home runs and had a career .389 batting average.

New Hall of Famers, 2005 to date

I went back to my blog posts from the past 15 years to come up with an annual listing of new Hall of Fame inductees. Note that this list includes only the players selected by the BBWAA, and not the various special honorees such as the 17 Negro League players who were inducted in 2006. Managers, umpires, and executives are also chosen by special committees from time to time, but they are not included here.

2005Wade BoggsRyne Sandberg
2006Bruce Sutter
2007Cal Ripken Tony Gwynn
2008Rick "Goose" Gossage
2009Rickey HendersonJim Rice
2010Andre Dawson
2011Roberto Alomar Bert Blyleven
2012 Barry LarkinRon Santo
2013 NONE
2014Greg Maddux Tom Glavine Frank Thomas
2015Randy Johnson Pedro Martinez John Smoltz Craig Biggio
2016Ken Griffey, Jr. Mike Piazza
2017Jeff Bagwell Tim Raines Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez
2018Larry "Chipper" JonesJim ThomeVladimir GuerreroTrevor Hoffman
2019 Mariano Rivera Edgar Martinez Roy HalladayMike Mussina

NOTE: Bold face indicates players I have seen in person.
SOURCES: My blog posts each January or July; baseballhall.org

Jackie Robinson's 100th birthday

It was one hundred years ago today, on January 31, 1919, that Jackie Robinson was born. Major League Baseball will be honoring him throughout this season, and as our nation goes through some tough times in terms of race relations, it's good to remember what a wonderful effect he had on healing this nation's racial wounds. In December a Jackie Robinson Museum with open in Manhattan. I saw an interview with his daughter Sharon on TV today.

Ebbets Field correction

In the "Stadium upgrades: 1920s-1940s" section of my January 20 blog post, I indicated (erroneously) that the grandstand at Ebbets Field was expanded in 1932. That was based mainly on the stadium capacity data provided in the 2006 edition of Green Cathedrals. The outfield dimensions indicate that the big change took place in 1931, however, and I recently discovered a news article from April 1931 about the construction project that was nearly completed. So, I made a quick change on the Ebbets Field page, relabelling what had been the 1932 diagram "1931," and correcting the text likewise.

Stadium location "maps"

Finally, I've been making additional pseudo-map thumbnail diagrams to show the approximate relative location of different MLB stadiums in certain cities, such as Washington, D.C. Those diagrams show (in very crude form) rivers or other major bodies of water, other stadiums and arenas, as well as downtown or other significant reference points. I did that for Cincinnati (see below) when I updated the Crosley Field diagrams on January 20, and eventually I'll do likewise for all other MLB cities. The scale varies, depending on how far apart the stadiums were. They will be displayed on the respective stadium pages as well as the Stadium proximity page.

Cincinnati stadiums map

Micah Bowie is ailing

On Monday the Washington Post had a lengthy article about the tragic fate of Micah Bowie, who was a relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals in 2006 and 2007. On December 22, he suffered a ruptured thoracic diaphragm, which makes breathing extremely difficult. It was just the latest episode in a series of misfortunes. The doctors in Texas told him there is nothing more they can do for him, so he and his family packed up a bunch of oxygen tanks and headed to the Rocky Mountains to enjoy his final weeks or months of life. To make matters even worse, he fell just short of the number of innings needed to qualify for an MLB pension with health care, putting his family in desperate financial condition. According to my Nationals media guide, Bowie pitched 19 2/3 inings in 2006 and 57 1/3 innings in 2007, with a combined win-loss record of 4-4 and a 3.74 ERA. May his final days be spent in peace and comfort.

Frank Robinson is ailing

In addition, Hall of Famer (and former Nats manager) Frank Robinson is also said to be in grave condition, health-wise. This coming August 31 will be his 84th birthday...

Coming Attractions

(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Between March 2012, when Marlins Park was completed, and September 2014, there were no major league baseball stadiums under construction. It was the first time since September 1986 that this situation existed. But in light of the recent groundbreaking on the future home of the Braves, the table that had been removed from this space is being restored.

Clem's Baseball ~ Stadium construction

Stadium construction
Chronology of the contemporary era: 1986 - present

1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s
1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
UC 1989: Skydome (Rogers Centre) (construction finished in early June)
plan. UC 1990: Florida Suncoast Dome (Tropicana Field)
planning UC 1991: Comiskey Park II (U.S. Cellular Field, Guaranteed Rate Field)
- planning UC 1992: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
- planning UC 1994: Jacobs Field (Progressive Field)
- planning UC 1994: Ballpark in Arlington (Globe Life Park, etc.)
- planning UC 1995: Coors Field
- planning UC 1996: (Olympic Stadium) 1997: Turner Field
- planning UC 1998: Chase Field (Bank One Ballpark)
- planning UC 1999: AT&T Park (Pac Bell Park)
- planning UC 1999: Safeco Field
- planning UC 2000: Comerica Park
- planning UC 2000: Minute Maid Park
- planning UC 2001: Miller Park
- planning UC 2001: PNC Park
- planning UC 2003: Great American Ballpark
- planning UC 2004: Citizens Bank Park
- planning UC 2006: Busch Stadium III (construction finished in late May)
- planning UC 2008: Nationals Park
- planning UC 2009: Yankee Stadium II
- planning UC 2009: Citi Field
- planning UC 2010: Target Field
- planning UC 2012: Marlins Park
- planning UC 2017: SunTrust Park
Texas Rangers: Globe Life Park II   UC 2020 opening?
STILL WAITING ... Oakland Athletics: (?)  
STILL WAITING ... Tampa Bay Rays: (?)  
1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024
NOTE: For most stadiums, groundbreaking years are mere estimates. For most stadiums, construction continued through March of the year in which they opened. Two exceptions are Skydome / Rogers Centre (construction finished in early June 1989) and Busch Stadium III (construction finished in late May 2006).

Stadium construction montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: PNC Park (Pittsburgh, Aug. 2000), Citi Field (Queens, NY, Oct. 2008), Nationals Park (Washington, DC, Aug. 2007)

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