Jim Palmer won baseball games. And he kept runs to a minimum. There’s a fair hypothesis that he was the Ron Burgundy of 70s pitchers - sick hair, disorienting charisma and delivery, light on substance. But I’d make quick work of disproving that claim. Jim Palmer kept you off base. And kept you from circling bases. Jim Palmer shut you out.
Since 1950, only a handful of pitchers have ever recorded ten (10) shutouts in one season. In the 1970s, only one pitcher did so and it was Palmer in 1975. In 1985, John Tudor, who was almost un-hittable for much of that year, duplicated the feat. That season, Tudor started 1 (W) - 7 (L) in April and May and then proceeded to go 20 (W) -1 (L) the rest of the way. To be clear, this is a feat mostly reserved for dead ball era pitchers and high mound pitchers of the later 1960s. It’s an incredibly rare accomplishment by modern standards.
Andy Pettitte, who won 256 games, recorded exactly four (4) career shutouts. Clayton Kershaw has eight (8) career shutouts. There are plenty of good reasons for this. But probably not enough reasons to discount the greatness of ten (10) in a single season. Or the hair.
When I left college forever ago, I befriended an odd and wonderful man who used to be the publisher of the New York Rocker. By the time I met him, he was the staff writer at Sony Music and was a bit of a hipster anachronism. He had a great salt and pepper goatee. He was erudite. Nerdy. Awkward. And entirely interesting.
He and I would go see the occasional James Ulmer show at the old Knitting Factory, or an odd opening at the early days of PS1. Or, I’d have dinner with he and his wife at their apartment on top of the Sigmund Schwartz Funderal Home on Second Avenue. He had a room full of LPs and 45s, including an entire section of Beatles’ novelty 45s (“Ringo Bells”).
Andy (that was his name) gave me copies of every issue of the New York Rocker he ever published. I’ve since lost many of them in my various moves. But, I did find an issue from 1980 with an article about The Feelies that confirmed everything I ever suspected about them. An excerpt:
"One starts to wonder about these Feelies after a while. I mean, what are they up to? I tell my friend about these guys: how they never play, don’t have any new songs and never practice. "How can you call them a band?" he asks. And I’ve got to admit the question sort of stumps me. After three hour-long conversations with Bill and an afternoon interview with the band at Bill’s house, I still don’t have an answer.
The Feelies aren’t real talkers. They just don’t have alot to say. What they do say is enigmatic and hesitant. As if they really are not sure why they do the things they do.”
This is about the band that really labored to release four albums in sixteen years and who wrote songs about waiting, nothing and time passing.
I like secretaries. You can write on them (allegedly). You can put books in them (confirmed). You can also put bottles and glasses in them (confirmed). What don’t they do?!
From top: George Nelson, Cees Braakman, Borge Mogensen, Paul McCobb.
The Pacific Coast League is a (traditionally) Midwest and westward AAA level minor league. The league has been around since the 1920s and, at its peak, was talent-rich enough that many considered the best PCL teams and players to be on par with sub-average major league teams and above average MLB players. Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and many other hall of famers played in the PCL.
The league has been historically regarded as a hitter’s paradise, for reasons that are not entirely clear, although the data more than validates such claims. The league was the first to introduce the designated hitter and it featured endless seasons, sometimes stretching past 200 games, due to the milder (or, at least dryer) climates. As a result of the longer schedules, the stats sheets overflow with 200 hit and 100 RBI seasons. It was not uncommon for a player to collect nearly 300 hits, in fact. Or to have 60 doubles and 200 hits and not bat over .300. It was not simply the absolute stats that were staggering in the PCL, the percentage stats were as well. In 1935, Joe DiMaggio batted .398 and slugged over .670 during a 172 game season wherein he also collected 270 hits and 456 total bases.
As major league games became increasingly televised, all minor leagues experienced sharp attendance and business declines in the 1950s. The PCL was no exception. Peppered throughout the leagues ebbs and flows of the “modern” baseball era are still the occasional slash lines. Consider, for instance, what a tall, blonde, geeky, Midwestern kid named Ron Kittle (who would soon go on to both hit mammoth home runs and strike out at then unheard of rates for the Chicago White Sox) did in 1982: .345 (BA), .442 (OBP), .752 (SLG). That year, he hit 50 home runs and drove in 144 runs in less than 130 games for the Edmonton Trappers.
Today, Ron Kittle is a motivational speaker who makes benches out of baseball bats.
My favorite Beatle is actually post-Beatles, bearded Paul McCartney. The in love, globetrotting, baby-toting, all grown up, I’m a man, sweet, occasionally syrupy sweet, no longer a Beatle, just Paul version. His solo and Wings’ records probably suffer in comparison to John’s post-Beatles’ work and might not actually be better than George’s. But I adore bearded Paul because he appears, in the story I tell myself, to be a happy, aging man, discovering himself, with both velocity and grace, outside of the only family system he’d really known as an adult.
Paul is an easy target for some. He gets accused of being uncomplicated, sappy and lightweight. I obviously don’t know him personally so all of my conjecture amounts, mostly, to projection. But I do like to remind people, that this uncomplicated man who seemed impossibly content and largely happy for most of his post-Beatles life also wrote some incredibly unusual and challenging pop music. He wrote “Helter Skelter” and “I’m Looking Through You.” And whatever was pure and romantic about him that led to innumerable post-Beatles mis-steps also significantly contributed to the transcendent melody of “Hey Jude,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Yesterday,” and “Michelle.”
Once-bearded Paul had a birthday yesterday.
Two of these songs don’t have vocals of any kind. The Miles song is probably the one that threatens to get lost the most, but never does. The Yo La Tengo song could get accused of monotony (not by me). The Van Morrison song should be the intro and closing song for every movie about human beings. And that Can song. Christ. I mean. Jesus. I mean. Yes.
1. Mile Davis “Right Off”
2. Yo La Tengo “Spec Bebop”
3. Van Morrison “Almost Independence Day”
4. Can “Halleluwah”
I want to sit on this Hans Olsen for CS Mobler sofa. That’s all.
Also, I don’t like that white rug. That’s really all.
By any measure, 2000 was a great year for hitters. It was two years after McGwire & Sosa “happened,” but performance was statistically very different (in the mathematical sense). The 2000 season produced the second most home runs and RBIs, league wide, in baseball history. And the league hit nearly .280 overall, placing it as a top 20 batting average season.
That’s right, in what was arguably the most hitter friendly season in baseball history, Pedro posted the lowest single season WHIP ever recorded and his ERA was the most aberrant in league history, as well. His ERA index was 291, where 100 is an adjusted league average. By comparison, Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968 wasn’t even a 270 index. There were several months that season wherein Pedro’s WHIP was basically .5. He lost one game wherein he struck out 17 batters.
I am not sure if Pedro Martinez was the greatest pitcher ever in 2000 or just really good (as good, say, as Barry Bonds was in 2001) at combining impossible skill with performance enhancing drugs to achieve something that he thought he both deserved and would have been capable of if the playing field were level.