The following story is true. Name changes, and dramatic licensing are in effect.
It started as a relatively uneventful meeting until somebody posted an image of a recent baseball meme they had seen.
“Baseball Names: Guess Which One Isn’t Real.”
“So, Mat? Which one isn’t real?”
Looking at the screen, I read off the names.
“Granny Hamner? He hated the name, Granny! He preferred to be called Gran. Granville Wilbur Hamner was one of the first people to start an All-Star game at two different positions.”
“Mat, share your screen! We want to make sure you aren’t Googling this!”
Ahh, the trust among the team. Plus, I have Baseball-Reference, SABR, and Retrosheet to refresh my memory. I also have three screens on my work computer plus two other computers within reach.
But, I’ll do my best using the few firing brain cells I currently have active.
“Gran was part of the NL pennant-winning Phillies in 1950. In 1952 he hit 17 home runs while playing shortstop, a Phillies record until Jimmy Rollins broke it in 2006.”
Paul then interrupts, “Okay. Is he right?”
“He also was used as a knuckleball pitcher later in his career, played briefly for Cleveland, and then did the Yankees -> Royals routine that was popular in the 50s and 60s.”
Anthony chimes in, “He seems right!”
“Woodie Held was voted one of the 100 greatest Cleveland Indians players of all time in 2001.”
“He started with the Yankees and was traded to Kansas City. His trade to KC included Billy Martin. He was then traded from KC to Cleveland in a deal that involved Roger Maris—before his 61 home run season—and Dick Tomanek.”
“But which one is fake,” Paul questions, “stop stalling.”
“He is on a roll,” Anthony, “we ain’t stopping him.”
I continue, “Now Tomanek is from Avon Lake and still lives here.”
“Here?” Jeffrey asks.
“Yea! I live in Avon Lake. We went to the same high school many decades apart.”
I explained that between 1959 and 1964, Held usually hit around 20 home runs and was a pretty good player for Cleveland. I also pointed out that in 1959, after Hamner’s trade to Cleveland, Granny Hamner and Woodie Held were on the same roster.
“He is still stalling!” Paul says with a slight smile.
“Would you rather get back to the meeting?” I asked.
“No! Go on.” everybody agrees.
“Dick Hyde had some bad luck. He signed out of college, and it took him a few years to work his way through the minors. When he finally did get to take the field with Washington, he had left for two years of military service.”
“Military Service?” Anthony throws out there.
“Yes, we still had a draft in the 50s and 60s, and many athletes had to serve while playing. In fact, most players during that time had careers affected by military duty.”
“Hyde was a sidearm, almost underhand, pitcher. He was lights out in 1958 but had arm trouble and was never the same. But he did have about 13 years in professional baseball between the major and minors leagues,” I was on a roll now. I’ll probably forget everybody’s birthday, including my own, but I think I’ve got my answer.
“Only two left Mat, which one is it?” Paul said, rather perturbed at this point.
“Johnny Kucks won game seven of the 1956 World Series! Don Larson pitched a perfect game in game five of that same series. The Yankees beat the Dodgers.”
“Okay, so Herb Plews is fake!” Paul exclaimed.
“I didn’t say that,” I continued, “anyway, Kucks pitched game seven instead of Whitey Ford. Game seven was at Ebbets Field. According to Yogi Berra, Kucks threw groundballs, perfect for the small field there. He won 9-0. It was also Jackie Robinson’s last game. Johnny Kucks was the last pitcher to face Jackie Robinson.”
“Wow?” Anthony asked.
“Yep, he never had the success he had in 1956 and eventually the Yankees traded him to … ”
“Kansas City?” Jeffrey asked.
“Yeah, Kansas City. He was on the same roster as Dick Tomenack from the Woodie Held deal.” I added.
“Okay. Fine. Herb is fake. Let’s go!” Paul was getting impatient.
“Umm, about Herb. He played infield for the 1958 team that Dick Hyde pitched. That team, which soon would become the Minnesota Twins, also included future manager Whitey Herzog and future Hall Of Famer Harmon Killebrew.”
“What?!?!” Anthony exclaimed. “So, the meme is wrong. All of them are real names? I can’t even.”
Anthony’s naive nature is amusing at times.
“Yes,” Jeffrey said, “some things on the internet are not true.”
“I call bull****!” Paul says.
“Language!” Jeffrey says.
“Sorry Cap!” Paul answers, “But Mat, HOW did you know this?”
I smiled and took a deep breath, “I’m the Historian at Pitcher List. Of course, I’m going to know my baseball history memes. Plus, I was also a teenager and was as fond of players with dirty sounding names as spitball pitchers.”
“So,” Anthony started, but I interrupted, “This was the perfect meme for me.”
“Did somebody take notes, we HAVE to record this as meetings notes,” Jeffrey asks? He is called Cap for a reason and not because of his tights.
I scribed some notes, filled them away, and went to the next meeting. Sadly, I had to talk about actual work in the next meeting.
Featured image by Shawn Palmer (@Palmerdesigns_ on Twitter)