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Solly Hemus
Solly Hemus 1953.jpg
Hemus in about 1953
Shortstop / Second baseman / Manager
Born: (1923-04-17)April 17, 1923
Phoenix, Arizona
Died: October 2, 2017(2017-10-02) (aged 94)
Houston, Texas
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 27, 1949, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB appearance
June 14, 1959, for the St. Louis Cardinals
MLB statistics
Batting average.273
Home runs51
Runs batted in263
Managerial record190–192
Winning %.497
Teams
As player
As manager
As coach

Solomon Joseph Hemus (April 17, 1923 – October 2, 2017), was an American professional baseball infielder, manager, and coach, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies.[1] Hemus is one of a select group of big league players to have held a dual role as a player-manager.

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  • ✪ The Bob Emergency: a study of athletes named Bob, Part I | Chart Party

Transcription

I’m about to show you the worst baseball card ever made. Some of you already know which card this is gonna be. And if you’ve never seen it before, take it in. You only see it for the first time once. I hope it’s as bad as you imagined. 1996 Pinnacle, #289. This is Bob Hamelin. We know this because he’s holding up a card that says “Bob Hamelin.” It’s important to remember that Pinnacle actually emphasized photography when they produced this card set. They even brought on Christie Brinkley to take some of the photos. Here’s Chipper Jones looking cool. Ryan Klesko got to bring his surfboard to the photo shoot. Carlos Baerga was, uh. Point being, baseball cards in this time were all about attitude. So. What happened, Bob? How they came to choose this particular photo, no one can really agree. But it wasn’t just this one. In seemingly every one of his baseball cards, Bob Hamelin absolutely refused to be cool, no matter how hard the card companies tried. They embossed his card with foil. Didn’t work. They made a shiny special-edition card. It had no effect. He still looked like a dad from 1976 who was trying to shoo a bird out of his garage. They cut out his likeness and teleported him into a brilliant, refractive rainbow dimension. Nope. Well, maybe he’ll look cool on the back of the card. No. He looks like a competitive putt-putt golfer. Bob Hamelin is not participating. Okay, well, let’s try an action shot. Bob, where’s your bat? Bob, you’re making this very difficult. Applying any measure of coolness to Bob Hamelin was absolutely hopeless. It was like trying to hang your jacket on a waterfall. Nothing stuck. His energy was just too powerful. He was determined to remain himself, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. And he won. His mystique could not be defeated, mitigated, or ignored. I think part of that mystique comes from his name: Bob. This name is so generic, and yet it’s so rare. How can it be both? Well, let’s take a little walk through history. As far as I was able to find, the first Bob in the world of sports was Bob Thoms, an Englishman who briefly played cricket in 1850 and 1851. Since 1855, there has always been at least one Bob athlete. By the 1880s, Bob had become a pretty common name, and at the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 100 Bobs in sports. This number dipped during the Great War, after which the Bobs returned in even greater numbers. It dipped again in World War II, and then the Bobs rebounded stronger than ever before. For decades, there were consistently around 500 active athletes who shared the name Bob. It was one of the most common names an athlete could have. In fact, some of the greatest athletes of all time are named Bob. And then … they began to leave. I don’t think anyone noticed at first. As I built this, I kept hoping against hope that they’d return in some way, but I knew better. They just kept leaving, and leaving. By the time I was born, there were fewer than 300 Bobs. The total continued to diminish with ruthless consistency. Today, by my count, there are only nine Bobs remaining in the world of sports, and many of these nine are just barely hanging on. They’re all going away. As we’ll see, Bobs are special people. And in losing them to retirement, we stand to lose more than we might imagine. The explanation for this is an obvious one: it’s not a sports issue. People just don’t go by the name Bob very often anymore. That doesn’t make this any less striking to me. This name wasn’t just a generational fad, it was popular for more than a century. In 1890, there were a lot of Bobs. In 1990, there were a lot of Bobs. It’s been seven years since I first documented the disappearance of athletes named Bob. Not Robert or Bobby or any other name. Specifically, Bob. I treated it like a curiosity back then. It seemed like a joke to me. But the more I researched the people within this completely arbitrary and unasked-for cross-section, the more I realized its value. I’ve found that Bob is a name largely independent of era, class, race, sport, and in many cases, nationality. This collection of people tugs at more threads within the tapestry of sports than any other name I can think of. It’s a surprisingly complete documentation of what it has meant to be an athlete. Additionally, the name itself is special. Unlike most common names, Bob is a name that’s rarely given at birth. Usually the person is named something like Robert on their birth certificate. It’s only after the person becomes a person that they assume the name Bob, usually affectionately given to them by their parents or peers once they’ve gotten to know them. It’s what’s known as a hypocorism, a term of endearment. If someone is named Bob, it’s a safe bet that someone out there really loves them. These beloved people went on to play almost every sport you can imagine. After scouring dozens of databases, I was able to find 11,612 athletes who went primarily by the name Bob. This total includes 5,223 boxers, 1,599 from college basketball, 1,239 from college football, 911 from minor league baseball, 447 from the NFL, 377 from the Canadian Football League, 339 from Major League Baseball, 295 from auto racing, 213 Olympians, 212 Aussie rules footballers, 168 soccer players, 136 from the NHL, 128 rugby players, 89 from the NBA, 61 mixed martial artists, 61 cricketers, 34 PGA golfers, 30 tennis players, 22 from Negro League baseball, 16 pro wrestlers, 9 cyclists, and 3 X games competitors. This chart shows us a few interesting trends. For instance, that the Eastern hemisphere saw the Bob exodus coming before we in the States did. For the NFL, the most exclusively American of sports leagues, the Bob heyday arrived in the 1970s and early ‘80s. By that time, Bobs had almost completely disappeared from Aussie rules football. Like the NFL, Australia had enjoyed a consistent presence of Bobs for decades upon decades before they disappeared into the horizon. It’s just that the Aussie Bob era ended in the 1980s, whereas NFL Bobs left about 25 years later. We’re about to take a look at who I consider to be the most noteworthy Bobs in the history of sports. There’s a certain moment in this history that stands apart as the pinnacle of Bob achievement, and I want to take an express train to that point. But some of those in the early days there are just too important to ignore. This is boxer Bob Fitzsimmons, still regarded today as one of the best strikers of all time. In this era, middleweights were limited to 160 pounds, light heavyweights to 175, and heavyweights above that. Bob won the world championships in all three classes, despite weighing only about 155 pounds throughout his whole career. It seems crazy to challenge for the heavier belts without bulking up, but Bob never bothered. He relied instead on his trademark “solar plexus punch.” This wasn’t just a straight-ahead punch to the solar plexus. It was an uppercut, placed as though Bob was trying to punch around his opponent’s ribcage and upwards into his chest cavity. Please, no. Just knock me out instead. Bob applied this punch during what was arguably his most famous fight, in 1896 against Tom Sharkey. There are differing accounts of what exactly happened here, but it seems as though Sharkey took one to the solar plexus, faked like he’d suffered an illegal strike to the groin, and fell down. The ref then disqualified Bob and gave Sharkey the win. Immediately, the press accused referee Wyatt Earp of being on the take. Yeah, that Wyatt Earp, the famous one. Earp, by the way, was arrested afterwards because he tried to officiate the fight in the ring while packing heat. Everything was a mess back then. Anyway. The man seen here with Fitzsimmons is another Bob -- his frequent sparring partner, Bob Armstrong. Bob won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship, which he had to settle for, because at the time, black boxers were prohibited from challenging white boxers for the so-called “world heavyweight title.” Armstrong emerged from the world of battle royal. Modern cultural artifacts, such as the WWE Royal Rumble, the film Battle Royale, and the game Fortnite all trace their roots directly through this racist and exploitative promotion, in which up to ten men were sent into a ring designed for two men, and expected to fight until one was left standing. It was essential a farce: while a boxer in a conventional match would have plenty of room, a battle royal fighter would have barely any  space to work. For the amusement of the crowd, they were often blindfolded, or had a hand tied behind their back. These poorly-paid fighters were almost always black, and the spectators were almost always white. But Armstrong eventually worked his way into legitimate fight cards, and in the end, he would be regarded as one of the best boxers of his era. He retired at the relatively young age of 31, focusing instead on training fighters such as Jack Johnson, who would soon become one of the most feared fighters in history. In 1907, most white heavyweights were too scared to fight Johnson. But there was one white boxer who refused to cower behind the color barrier: our buddy Bob Fitzsimmons. Bob was much older now, a 43-year-old man taking on a legendary 29-year-old in his prime. On top of this, Johnson was 205 pounds, while Bob still weighed in at his usual 155. The fight was nearly canceled when Bob stepped into the ring with a broken arm, which he’d sustained while training. But for reasons known only to him and God, he begged the crowd, insisting that he still wanted to take on Johnson. Fight watchers said there was absolutely no chance of Bob winning this fight. And they were absolutely right. There were hardly any blows landed in the match. Bob was unable to strike, and Johnson just didn’t want to, seemingly because he felt bad about it. In the second round, Bob collided with Johnson, hit the mat, and didn’t get back up. Bob Fitzsimmons was a hopelessly outmatched old man with a broken arm who gave everything he had left, which, after decades in the ring, was nothing at all. Bob Fitzsimmons and Bob Armstrong were legends in their time, but there were thousands more who got clobbered in total obscurity. As you can see, boxing accounted for the vast majority of Bobs until the late 1940s, when sports like minor league baseball and college basketball arrived to pick up the slack. So many of these Bobs were average guys who stepped in a ring once or twice and never fought again. But as long as we’re here, I thought it might be nice to recognize the most obscure Bob I found. A Bob who, were it not for you and I, might never be dwelled upon by a human being ever again. Florida’s own Bob Cyclone, also recorded as Bob Ciccalone and Bob Ciacalone, began his boxing career in February of 1952. He lost on points to a boxer named John Chaney, rematched him a couple weeks later, and lost on points again. Bob returned in May to face Johnny Guebara and suffered a knockout. Just two days later, he gets another match against Guebara, and gets dropped again. He eats another knockout punch less than a month later, and shortly thereafter, he steps back in the ring against Johnny Catches, a local police officer. This was the last appearance of Catches’ two-fight career, although he’d engaged in an unsanctioned brawl with a fellow cop in which he busted his spine. Additionally, one time someone stole his pants and the newspaper wrote about it for some reason. But this is a story about Bob, and Bob quickly got his face busted up and then got knocked out for the fourth time in two months. After a subsequent loss on points to Don Frey, he takes a break for a couple months, comes back, and gets knocked out again. And that it’s for Bob Cyclone. For a couple months. And then he loses five more times, four of which are knockouts, and two of which come on back-to-back nights. And then he was never seen again. His final record: zero wins, 13 losses, nine of them knockouts. Aside from a couple of passing mentions in newspapers that confirmed his clobberings, I was able to dig up absolutely nothing on Bob Cyclone, which is very unusual for a postwar fighter who made so many appearances. He left us nothing but this lonely little fight record, hidden deep within a boxing database. Through it, he tells us two things: first, that opponents absolutely painted the canvas with him. And second, that he came back, night after night, to face his certain annihilation again and again. And we will never know why. But he was a Bob. He played a note in this symphony. He mattered. As we enter the 1940s, we start seeing a lot more Bobs in the record books, thanks in part to all the Bobs entering college basketball. Now remember, I only charted all the Bobs I could find. I suspect that I’m missing some from the ‘20s and ‘30s, documentation of which is a lot tougher to come by. But at large, this Bob boom is absolutely real, as evidenced by the sudden spike in baseball players. There were enough Bobs, in fact, for two Hall of Fame pitchers named Bob to pitch on the same team at the same time. First, Bob Feller, whose generational talent was so apparent that he was rushed directly to Major League Baseball at age 17 without playing a single game in the minor leagues. To this day, he’s only the third player since the turn of the 20th century to pitch a complete game as a legal minor. The difference between Bob and the other two is that he threw five of them. Bob Feller could throw a baseball faster than almost any human being who has ever lived, before or since. According to efastball.com, his 1946 fastball, which at the time was clocked at about 98 miles per hour, was actually 107.6 using updated methodology. By this same methodology, only Nolan Ryan, who once threw an estimated 108.1, has surpassed him. Today, pitchers benefit from a much lighter workload, advanced medical science, and intense training regimens. And yet none of them can come close to the estimated 107.6 thrown by Bob Feller, who, at six feet flat and 185 pounds, was considerably smaller than most of today’s hardest-throwing pitchers. It’s so startling that you’d be right to question the accuracy of this estimate. I can counter with two things: first, the estimate is derived from a measurement taken with a chronograph, which is actually claimed to be more accurate than modern radar guns, which we only use now because they’re more practical. And second, like any good scientists, they also used an alternate method to measure the speed of his fastball. You’re about to see what this method is. Any guesses? What do you think it is? Was it that? Yep. They raced Bob Feller’s fastball with a motorcycle, which was both the best and stupidest idea they could have possibly had. Bob has three huge disadvantages here. First, he’s throwing in a dress shirt and a necktie. Second, he isn’t throwing from a mound like he’s used to doing. Third, this helpful police officer ripping asphalt at 86 miles per hour actually gets a head start on Feller, who was expected to time his release perfectly with the passing of the motorcycle. And despite all that, Feller’s fastball still clearly wins the race. What did we learn? Absolutely nothing. Less than nothing. That’s just the way I like it. The origins of Bob Feller and Bob Lemon couldn’t have been any more different. While Feller was preordained as the next great pitcher at age 17 and allowed to skip the minors entirely, Bob Lemon was a third baseman who languished in the minors for years. He’d been with the Cleveland organization since 1937, but only made it to the majors for two brief stints. By the end of 1942, he had just one hit in nine career at-bats. And then, like Bob Feller, Bob Lemon went off to war. Feller, a nationwide celebrity, got plenty of photos taken of him. Lemon, some guy, did not. When Lemon returned four years later, he was finally given a more permanent roster spot. And he was awful. With his pro baseball career nearly a decade old, he still just could not hit. As of May 9th, 1946, his career major league batting average was .153. For context, the batting average of the average player during Bob’s career was .259. His hitting was abysmal, and he was 25 years old at this point. So how could this guy possibly end up in the Hall of Fame? Well, something entirely unexpected happened. A couple of opposing players -- specifically, the Yankees’ Bill Dickey and Boston’s Johnny Pesky -- approached Bob’s manager, Lou Boudreau. They’d played some baseball with Bob during their years in the Navy, and turns out, he’d tried pitching a few times. They were so impressed with what they saw out of him that they thought Bob should pitch instead. Let’s back up and review the entirety of Lemon’s pitching experience at this point. He’d pitched a few times at the high school level, but he almost always played shortstop. He’d made exactly two emergency relief appearances in the minors, the last of which was kind of a disaster in which he walked three men. And on naval bases he pitched a few times, but the talent level was probably pretty uneven -- some genuinely good players, and some regular guys. And they think this guy should pitch in the majors. I’ve already spoiled the ending. Bob ends up in the Hall of Fame. So let’s compare him with other Hall of Famers. This is every starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame, arranged by how many professional innings as a pitcher they had under their belt prior to age 25. Most of these guys were already logging innings and getting valuable experience by the time they were 18 or 19. Now, Eddie Plank, who never played in the minors or majors until he was 25, is a notable exception, but he did spend years pitching in college. The rest of these great pitchers spent hundreds and hundreds of innings improving their craft in their early years. Most pitched well over a thousand. Bob Lemon, of course, had two -- so little experience that it’s barely visible on this chart. It wasn’t all that weird for Boudreau to try Bob out as a pitcher, but what’s really weird is that he didn’t even send him down to the minors to learn how to pitch. He immediately sent Bob out there to figure it out on a major league level. Let’s dwell on that for another minute. Bob Lemon was learning how to pitch while being a pitcher in Major League Baseball. This is like entering the Tour de France because you want to learn how to ride a bike. But … he was awesome. In white, you see the batting average that opposing hitters managed against Bob Lemon, the pitcher. Look again at that .259 water line. They never even hit average against him. I decided to keep Bob’s own batting average up here, which you see in black, because incredibly, once he starting pitching, his hitting got better. By 1948, not only did Bob Lemon have a better career at the plate than the average hitter, he was considerably more successful with the bat than the guys he was throwing to. This was nearly the case over the course of his entire career. For a full-time pitcher to outhit his opposing hitters for a span of approximately nine years? Almost no other player has ever done that. Pretty impressive hitting and pitching for a guy who, at first, couldn’t do either. One final note. Remember Bill Dickey and Johnny Pesky? Well, just two years after they lobbied to let Lemon pitch, Cleveland won the World Series after barely squeaking past the Yankees and Red Sox to win the A.L. pennant. They beat New York by just two and a half games, and had to win a one-game playoff to beat Boston. Bob’s Wins Above Replacement that season was an estimated 4.8. In other words, this is roughly how many more games Cleveland won with him than they would have won with a replacement-level player in his place. 4.8. Just enough to put them over these two teams. That was Bill Dickey’s old team. And that was Johnny Pesky’s team. In retrospect, it was an extraordinarily selfless move on their part. But when you see a Bob, you help a Bob. Because often, they’ll pay you back in full. Basketball might be the greatest sport in existence, but it wasn’t always that way. Unlike baseball, which has remained mostly the same in appearance since the 1940s, basketball is a total reinvention of what it used to be. Let’s revisit a play from a 1930s high school basketball game. I watched it, but I’m not going to show you the video, because looking directly at it is very bad for you. If you still really want to see it, and you’ve had all your vaccinations, I’ll include a link in the description. For the rest of us, let’s just use a diagram. Meet our two heroes, Player A and Player B. They stand completely flat-footed and pass the ball back and forth seven times. B then steps back a couple of feet and passes it back. But you haven’t seen anything yet. Think there are only two letters in the alphabet? Well think again, pal! Because player C receives the next pass, and … passes back to A. And then A and B pass back and forth six more times. But C is a man of action. He’s shifted over a full couple of feet or so. When the ball comes back to him, he tosses to B. Who, for the first time, dribbles so he can move while possessing the basketball. This is an extremely reckless maneuver known as “doing something.” Well hey, look, it’s Player D! He takes the pass and dribbles upcourt a few feet! And then passes back to B, who passes back to A, who dribbles and passes back to B, who passes to D. Who passes to B. Who, after 24 passes, finally shoots. Does it go in? Here’s a more important question: do you care? And the most important question is this: how did we get from this … to this? About sixty years later, Allen Iverson stared down the exact same problem they did and immediately chopped it down like it was nothing. He was one of the greatest inventors in basketball history, but no one man can transform something so awful into something so great all by himself. It took decades upon decades of tireless effort from countless inventive people. And one of the most important inventors in the early days was Bob Cousy. Bob excelled at the fast break. He would push his Celtics to score before the opposing defense could get set. Here, rather than dribbling upcourt, he chucks it all the way down the floor to a waiting teammate. But often, Bob didn’t pass to his teammates, he passed to where he knew they were going to be. His Hall of Fame teammate, Bill Russell, isn’t here yet, but Bob puts it in the mail, and Bill is there to pick it up. Bob loved to show off. Often he used his flash to actually accomplish something, like this no-look pass to Sam Jones. In this position, Bob stands between Sam and the defenders, giving Sam an open look. And sometimes it accomplished nothing, like when he goes behind his back here. But it was fun. If 1950s Bob Cousy took a time machine to play in today’s NBA, he wouldn’t stand a chance, which is actually a credit to him. Basketball is the beautiful game it is today because of people like Bob, who took this wretched sport and dragged it kicking and screaming into the light, one inch at a time. Now, Bob’s NBA career came and went well before I was born, but he did perform one considerable feat in my time. In the 1994 film “Blue Chips,” Cousy played a director of an athletic program And in one scene, he shoots free throws while he talks to his coach, played by Nick Nolte. At this point, Cousy is 65 years old, shooting in dress shoes, a button-up shirt and a tie. Why are Bobs always doing this? Anyway. You can’t really script making a shot, but maybe Bob can get one in and make it look good. Hey, there we go! And there’s two in a row. This is slightly impressive. In the 2017-2018 NBA season, whenever a player got exactly two free throw attempts in a game, they hit both of them only about half the time. Three in a row. Same conditions, less than half of players could make all three. There’s four in a row. Five in a row. This line from Nolte is not scripted. “Don’t you ever miss?” There’s seven in a row. Uh-oh. An off-camera bucket? Sounds like a swish, but they could have piped in that audio. If you would like to debate this further, please join your local chapter of the Bob Cousy Blue Chips Free Throws Truther Association. If your community doesn’t have one, start one! Nine in a row. Just for fun, Cousy puts up number 10 with his left hand, almost daring it to not go in. It goes in. Only 14.9% of modern NBA players who got ten free throw attempts in a game were able to knock down all ten. The free throw is the one element of basketball that has been preserved in amber since Cousy’s time. Nothing about it has changed. And decades after his retirement, it’s the one he could still dominate. By the 1960s, Bobs were everywhere in sports. Even when trends had shifted, they just kept showing up. As soon as boxing became less popular, they arrived in huge numbers to minor league baseball. And once that surge ended, they simply moved on to college football. For decades and decades, across several generations, the Bobs had always been there. But one year stands alone as the year of Bob. There were 525 Bobs playing sports in 1968. And though there weren’t quite as many as there had been 20 years prior, it was in ‘68 that we saw two of the most extraordinary athletic feats accomplished by anyone, by any name, at any point in history. And both were accomplished men named Bob. We could spend hours talking about Bob Gibson, a man who, by all rights, never should have made it here. He did, because at every turn, he demanded it. Pack Robert Gibson was born in 1935. Unlike most, he chose the hypocorism “Bob” himself by taking his middle name and shortening it. As a child, he grew up in extreme poverty and suffered from rickets, asthma attacks, and a bout with pneumonia. He also developed a heart murmur that nearly prevented him from playing sports at all. Entering high school, he stood only four-foot-ten, but by graduation he had transformed into a phenomenal athlete. He set at least one local record in track and field, but his main pursuits were basketball and baseball. Throughout most of his high school career, he was barred from baseball because the coach refused to let black players on the team. So Bob turned his attention to basketball. He was a star on his high school team, and wanted to play college ball at Indiana. When he applied, they told him explicitly that they did not want him solely because he was black. Bob ended up accepting a scholarship from Creighton instead. Once he was eligible to play, he immediately established himself as the team’s star, leading in both points and rebounds. And while at Creighton, he also played baseball, the sport his high school coach refused to let him play. In April he played what might be the best six innings of college baseball of all time, maintaining a no-hitter while also adding four hits from the plate. Why they pulled him, we’ll probably never know. But it was clear that Gibson could do everything. Baseball scouts wanted him. So did the Lakers, and so did the Harlem Globetrotters. Bob didn’t want to have to choose between baseball and basketball, so, at first, he didn’t. Just a few years prior, he was an impoverished, undersized kid whose health prevented him from playing sports at all. Now, he was going to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and pitch in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system at the same time. After a few months with the Globetrotters, Bob got sick of all the traveling and the clowning around. So he focused on baseball, ending one of the most unlikely two-sport careers ever. Bob Gibson finished his rookie season in St. Louis with an earned run average of 3.33 -- which is to say, he gave up an average of three and a third earned runs every nine innings. That made him better than most. The next season, he hit a brick wall. More than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, a sort of quiet discrimination still permeated baseball. The pitcher, like the quarterback, was a marquee position reserved for a white player. Of the 153 pitchers to start a game in 1960, only ten were black. But Gibson’s manager wasn’t at all quiet about this discrimination. His name was Solly Hemus, who, to hear Gibson tell it, had mastered the art of throwing his players under the bus, on at least one occasion yelling slurs at an opposing player. He would lazily, probably intentionally, confuse the names of the black players on his own team. He would single out Gibson in meetings, implying that he wasn’t smart enough to make it as a pitcher. Hemus destroyed Bob’s ability to find any sort of rhythm, yanking him seemingly arbitrarily between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Gibson was on the verge of quitting baseball. His ERA of 5.61 was one of the worst in the majors, and it was far above the league average of 3.82. But midway through the next season, Hemus was fired and replaced by new manager Johnny Keane, who actually respected Gibson as a player and as a person. His entire life, through ill health, poverty, and discrimination, the forces of man and nature had done everything they could to stop Bob Gibson from getting to this point. They failed. Now he was here, and he seemed hellbent on throwing it all right back. On paper, he was terrific. His ERA stood among the best, year in and year out. He helped lead the Cardinals to two World Series championships, and was voted an All-Star on a regular basis. But he was most famous as an intimidator. It’s not really about the number of batters he hit. A lot of batters, sure, but nowhere even close to a record number. It was that if Bob hit you with a pitch, it was almost certainly on purpose. He seemed to regard the strike zone as his territory, and if you as a batter crowded in on it or otherwise challenged his sovereignty, he would scramble the jets. Or, he’d hit you for pettier reasons. Maybe, as Hank Aaron famously said, he’d hit you because you showboated against him, or foolishly tried to say hello to him. What a lot of us tend to miss, I think, is that Gibson didn’t just do this because he was mad. These were calculated, as he notes in a 2009 interview. [Gibson:] “If there’s a guy who does not like to be knocked down, and I know he doesn’t like to be knocked down, I’ll knock him down.” For him, intimidation wasn’t an expression of anger, but a useful instrument. Gibson’s teammates loved him. To this day, other players talk about how much they love him. In interviews, he’s a funny guy. "No! That’s dumb!” But he was happy to be perceived as vindictive and psychotic to his opponents, and collect the advantage that gave him. His delivery didn’t hurt, either. On the mound, he looked unlike any other pitcher I’ve ever seen. It’s as though he threw the ball with such intensity that his own body got taken along for the ride. They captured his iconic follow-throw in a sculpture outside Busch Stadium, and I can’t help but look at it without thinking, “why doesn’t it fall over? Why didn’t he fall over?” It took its toll. In one of his books, Gibson explains that he’d drag his toe against the ground each time, and his foot would be bloody by the end of the game. He’d do this in part to manipulate the dirt on the mound and make life slightly tougher for the opposing pitcher. So here was a man who was endlessly crafty and calculating, possessed the athletic ability that made him both a Harlem Globetrotter and a World Series champion, and was as relentlessly determined as anyone else to play the game. Without question, he remains one of America’s all-time greatest athletes. In the middle of the 1967 season, Gibson took a Roberto Clemente line drive straight to his leg. It hurt, but he stayed in the game. He walked a batter and forced a flyout from another, and then, while planting his right foot, his leg snapped in half. But he returned to the mound less than two months later, and was available to pitch in the World Series. This is every World Series pitching performance within the integration era, a total of 1,245. Some pitchers finished the series with an ERA well above 10, but we’ll keep the focus down here. Gibson finished the ‘67 series with an ERA of exactly 1 over 27 innings pitched. Three complete games, in games 1, 4 and 7, the last of which won the Cardinals another World Series. In 2018, no pitcher finished three complete games across the entire regular season. Gibson did it in a span of eight days. He’d done this before in the ‘64 series. And … he’d do it again in the ‘68 series. There was no one like him. This story is rich enough to fill a book. But all his achievements to this point would pale in comparison to what he was about to do. When Bob was three and a half years old, he was stricken with pneumonia so severely that his mother feared he wouldn’t survive. His brother wrapped him in a blanket and carried him the hospital, and promised him that if he made it, he would buy him a baseball glove. In 1968, Bob Gibson pitched the greatest season in the history of baseball. This is a plot of every season in which a pitcher finished with an ERA below 1.5. It happened a handful of times in the 1870s and ‘80s, when organized ball was still in its infancy, and kind of often between 1900 and 1920. This was known as the “dead ball era,” a time in which pitchers dominated. They were allowed to throw spitballs, rub the baseball in mud to make it tougher to see, and scuff up the ball however they saw fit. These practices were made illegal, and in the 50  or so years to follow, no one threw below 1.50. And then Gibson did it by a huge margin, 1.12. And then no one did it ever again. Gibson’s season was 1,161 batters long. In red, we see all the times a batter managed to drive in an earned run against Gibson. And in white, all the times they failed to drive in an earned run. He got off to a solid start, making it through his first 43 batters without an earned run. But it was a grueling campaign, especially by today’s standards. In this stretch, he pitched four straight complete games, two of which went well into extra innings. Gibson’s 1968 was the sort of campaign none of today’s players will ever have to worry about, because pitchers are used a lot differently now. In 2018, the league leader in complete games finished with two. Gibson had 28. In two of his 34 starts, he was merely mortal, allowing four earned runs. The first was on August 4th, and the second came on September 11th. As you can see here, hitters batted in three runs against him, not four. So where’s the fourth? Well, in the top of the fifth, catcher Tim McCarver failed to bring in Gibson’s pitch. It gets away from him, and the Dodgers’ Willie Davis runs in from third to score. It’s scored as a “passed ball” -- in other words, McCarver, not Gibson, is ruled at fault for this. By rule, this should not count as an earned run against Gibson. But it does, likely because the game’s official scorer exercised their authority to make a judgment call. They overruled it, and hit Gibson with the run. Maybe the scorer figured out that Davis would have scored from third anyway, but that’s a really bold assumption, considering the ball never made it to the outfield for the rest of the inning. Granted, I didn’t watch this game and the scorer did, but I don’t get it. Whatever the case, if it weren’t for the scorer playing what-if games, Gibson’s ERA this season would be a slightly more impossible 1.09. Regardless, throughout the rest of this season, Gibson ranged from incredible to untouchable. In particular, he pieced together this wonder, which ranged between June 2nd and July 12, without a batter scoring a single earned run against him. This segment is what made this season possible, and it’s what I refer to as “the 261.” The red lights you see indicate whether he let men on first, second, and/or third. As you can see, they rarely made it past first, let alone to third. To prevent 261 consecutive batters from driving in a run, you can’t just rely on facing a couple of weak-hitting teams, or a few players who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You have to run the gauntlet of the National League. By the time it was all over, Gibson had faced nearly every member of the N.L. All-Star team several times over, and he’d pitched to nearly every position player who received an MVP vote that season. Granted, he did not have to pitch to the actual MVP that season, who was Bob Gibson. In 49 plate appearances against Gibson, these men had managed just eight singles and a walk. The best of the best hit .167 against him in this span, same as their slugging percentage, with an on-base percentage of .184. From the batters’ perspective, these numbers are absolutely miserable. Which is not to say he never got into trouble in this stretch. As you can see, he had to deal with some runners in scoring position. He just engineered his way out of trouble every single time. At one point, the Giants loaded the bases against him. With no room for error, Gibson gathered himself and struck out the next three batters in a row. I think he was annoyed with having to do this, because he turned around and completely shut down 24 of the next 25 batters, giving up one walk and nothing else. I’ve had to be careful with my vocabulary here, because Gibson did give up one earned run in this stretch. It just wasn’t to a batter. On July 1st, he was facing the Dodgers’ Ron Fairly with a man on third. The ball slipped out of his hand, hit the dirt, and his catcher couldn’t quite haul it in. It was ruled a wild pitch, the runner scored, and Gibson was hit with the run. The catcher said the ball was wet from landing in the grass moments prior. Gibson joked it was the catcher’s fault before quickly clarifying that he was to blame. Decades later, he wrote that he thought it actually was the catcher’s fault, so … I’m not really sure how much of a joke that was. Regardless, the batter had nothing to do with that wild pitch, so we can say that no batter in this span beat him. In fact, across all of 1968, he reduced the batters of the National League to shadows of themselves. On-base plus slugging percentage, or OPS, is perhaps the most handy measure of a hitter’s performance. Combined, the 1968 National League managed an OPS of .469 against Bob Gibson, which is very, very bad. I thought it would be interesting to find a player to serve as a comparison, so I looked up the OPS of every player in the integration era with at least 1,161 plate appearances -- the same number as those against Bob Gibson. Of course, .469 is miles away from guys like Ted Williams and Barry Bonds, who are well above 1.000. To find a hitter like this, we have to reach far back into the record books and look up more than two thousand players, until we get to … nothing. None of these players had an OPS of worse than .500. This is unbelievable. Bob Gibson took the entirety of National League hitting -- all its all-stars, all its MVP candidates, all its Hall of Famers -- and effectively turned them into a mythical worst modern player ever who doesn’t even actually exist. But back to Gibson’s ERA of 1.12 for a moment, because that’s the number he’s most famous for. The closer your ERA gets to zero, the tougher it is, mathematically speaking, to cut it down further. A complete game shutout just doesn’t cut into an ERA around 1 as much as it would into an ERA around 3. By the time he was in the back half of the season, he was fighting for a few hundredths at a time. On September 2nd, he pitched a 10-inning shutout -- which, for ERA purposes, is just about the best game you can imagine -- and his ERA dropped from 1.03 to 0.99 -- just four hundredths. The last few starts were unbelievably tense as Gibson dialed just barely up and down, as though he was trying to open a safe. In his final start, he managed a complete-game shutout to engineer his ERA down from 1.16 to a final 1.12. The difference seems microscopic. But …  you ever did that thing as a kid where you listen to music on your headphones, and it’s not loud enough, and you keep turning it up, and then realize that the music’s actually coming out of the speakers and you’ve woken up everyone in the house? Well ... In this season, the National League’s collective ERA was 2.99. Remove Gibson’s contributions, and it’s 3.03. One man lowered the entire National League’s ERA by four ticks all by himself. 1968 is known as the “Year of the Pitcher.” For reasons still debated today, pitchers enjoyed an unusual amount of success in this season. Six other guys got their ERA under two. But taking into account both ERA and innings pitched, those guys weren’t even in the same category. Gibson was the one who destroyed the pitcher/batter dynamic in Major League Baseball. It was all his fault. And Major League Baseball responded by changing the rules before the next season. They’re often known as the “Gibson rules;” to this day, Gibson dislikes taking the credit. Two changes were made: first, the strike zone was altered, as it has been several times throughout history. Instead of ending at the top of the batter’s shoulders, it only extended to the batter’s armpits. Second, and more permanently, the height of the pitcher’s mound was lowered by one third, which diminished the pitcher’s leverage. Despite these changes, Gibson had another incredible season, finishing with an ERA of 2.18 that nearly led the league. Throughout his entire life, absolutely nothing and nobody on Earth could stop Bob Gibson, so they moved the earth itself. And that didn’t work, either. Gibson’s ‘68 was one of the most remarkable athletic achievements of all time. But around the same time in the same year, another Bob was on his way toward something perhaps even more incredible. We’ll visit him, and many other Bobs to come, in part two.

Contents

Baseball career

As a player (1949–1959) with the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies, Hemus was primarily a shortstop, although he also saw significant time as a second baseman. Hemus compiled a lifetime batting average of .273 in 961 games and collected 736 hits, with 51 home runs. The Phoenix native batted left-handed and threw right-handed. During his playing days, Hemus stood 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall, weighing 165 pounds (75 kg).[1]

Hemus was a hard-nosed player and manager known for battling with opponents and umpires; he was ejected 30 times between 1952 and 1965.[2] When he was traded to the Phillies in May 1956, Hemus wrote a letter to Cardinals owner August "Gussie" Busch, expressing his pride in being a Cardinal and his gratitude to the baseball club. Nearing the end of his playing career, he was reacquired by the Cardinals on September 29, 1958 — one day after the 1958 season ended — and named the St. Louis player-manager by Busch, who admired Hemus' fiery personality and remembered his letter from 2½ years before.[3]

As a player in 1959, Hemus appeared in 24 games — mostly as a pinch-hitter — before concentrating on his managerial responsibilities. His Cardinals were inconsistent. Hemus' first club lost 15 of its first 20 games and stumbled to a seventh place (71–83) finish in 1959. That was followed by a 15-game improvement (86–68) and a leap to third place in his second season (1960).[1] The Redbirds followed with a mediocre start in 1961 and were mired in sixth place on July 5 (at 33–41), when Hemus was replaced by one of his coaches, Johnny Keane.[4] His career managing record was 190–192 (.497).[1] He was thrown out of 11 of the 382 games he managed, comprising over one-third of his career MLB ejections.[2]

Hemus then served as a coach with the New York Mets (1962–1963) and Cleveland Indians (1964–1965). He was on manager Casey Stengel's coaching staff when the 1962 Mets expansion team ended up with a record of 40–120, still the most losses by a Major League team in a single season since the nineteenth century.[5][6][7][8] He managed the Mets' top farm club, the Jacksonville Suns of the Triple-A International League,[9] in 1966, before leaving baseball and entering the oil business in his adopted home city of Houston, Texas.[10]

During his tenure in Philadelphia, Hemus made history when he was removed for pinch runner John Kennedy at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey, during a league game against the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 22, 1957. It marked the Major League debut of Kennedy, the first African-American player in the Phillies' history.[11][12] In 2011, Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson indicated that racial prejudice on Hemus' part had intruded on his later role as the Cards' manager when Hemus disparaged both Gibson and teammate Curt Flood by telling them they were not good enough to make it as Major Leaguers and should try something else.[13][14] Hemus' replacement, Keane, was a Gibson supporter who had managed the pitcher in the minor leagues.[15]

Death

Hemus died at 94 following a long illness in Houston, on October 2, 2017.[13]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Solly Hemus Stats". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. 2019. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Retrosheet
  3. ^ "Solly Hemus Given Raise in 1961 St. Louis Contract". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. September 23, 1960. p. 26. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  4. ^ 1961 St. Louis Cardinals Schedule, Box Scores and Splits at Baseball-Reference.com
  5. ^ Sheehan, Joe (October 3, 1961). "Mets Appoint Lavagetto and Hemus Coaches as Stengel Returns". The New York Times. p. 48.
  6. ^ "Mets Bank On Return Of Stengel". Hartford Courant. Associated Press. October 11, 1963. p. 21.
  7. ^ Loomis, Tom (April 6, 1964). "Hot Seat Won't Burn Strickland". Toledo Blade. p. 19. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  8. ^ "Dick Sisler Gets Post With Cards". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. October 20, 1965. p. 26. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  9. ^ "Former Mets Named to New Jobs". The New York Times. Associated Press. January 4, 1966.
  10. ^ Anderson, Dave (March 28, 1982). "World of baseball hasn't forgotten Ken Boyer". St. Petersburg Times. p. 4C.
  11. ^ "Phillies Find New Shortstop". Star-News. Associated Press. 26 March 1957. p. 1.
  12. ^ Brooklyn Dodgers 5, Philadelphia Phillies 1 Retrosheet Boxscore and Play-by-Play for April 22, 1957
  13. ^ a b "Solly Hemus, last Cardinals player-manager, dies at 94". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. October 3, 2017.
  14. ^ "HBO: The Curious Case of Curt Flood". Home Box Office, Inc. Archived from the original on 2 September 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  15. ^ Gibson, Bob; Wheeler, Lonnie (1994). Stranger to the Game. New York: Viking. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-670-84794-5.

External links


Preceded by
Franchise created
New York Mets third-base coach
1962–1963
Succeeded by
Don Heffner
Preceded by
George Strickland
Cleveland Indians third-base coach
1964
Succeeded by
George Strickland
Preceded by
Elmer Valo
Cleveland Indians first-base coach
1965
Succeeded by
Reggie Otero
Preceded by
Grover Resinger
Jacksonville Suns manager
1966
Succeeded by
Bill Virdon
This page was last edited on 7 June 2019, at 03:07
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