Quick Takes


    Rick Ankiel is a cross between Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) in The Natural and “Meat” (Tim Robbins) in Bull Durham. Almost! Hobbs threw strikes before he became a position player. “Meat” threw fast balls at everything except the plate before Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) took him under his wing. Ankiel’s short-lived pitching career with St. Louis exploded, and now Rick has found a new life in the Cardinals outfield and at home plate. It’s nothing short of incredible that a failed pitcher can become a successful outfielder, hitting and fielding.
    In a game Monday against the Cubs, Ankiel showed off the arm that once made him a promising pitcher. His perfect peg from left field in the first inning cut down a runner and got the Cards headed toward victory. Several innings later, Ankiel demonstrated the power that's helped him make a remarkable transition with his fourth homer. It’s a great story, and will continue to get better if Rick’s for real.


    Matt Schaub is the new QB of the Houston Texans. The promising QB was Michael Vick’s back-up in Atlanta. If timing is everything, the Falcons get a grade of F for the trade. Atlanta would love to rescind the deal under the circumstances. Schaub will be the Texans QB for many years to come, while Vick will be but a memory to Falcons fans while he serves his federal prison term, hopefully for many, many years to come.


    Brandon Webb, the Arizona ace, had thrown 42 consecutive scoreless innings, putting him within just two games of Orel Hershiser's incredible record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings, set in 1988. (Hershiser broke the record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings, set by the subject of today’s feature story, Don Drysdale. Read on.) Webb hadn't given up a run in a month. It ended last night when Milwaukee scored in the first inning. It was a great run, pardon the pun.


    Garret Anderson had quite a Tuesday night against the Yankees. The vet drove home 10 runs in the Angels win with two homers and two doubles, all in the first six innings. That’s a career year for some players, but it’s not the record. 12 is the honor, shared by ex-Cardinals Jim Bottomley (1924) and Mark Whiten (1993).


    Texas beat Baltimore 30-3 yesterday. To quote Vin Scully when he called the Kirk Gibson homer in the 1988 World Series, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” The 30 runs in one game set the modern-day MLB record. What made it worse for Orioles fans was that the game was played on their home field. But I made money on the game; I had Baltimore +28 runs.


    Look at all the MLB box scores. Look at the total runs. The modern-day MLB ball is as juiced as many of its players.


Story of the Week


    Donald Scott Drysdale was born on July 23, 1936 in Van Nuys, California. At the prompting of his father, a baseball coach who thought it better to save his arm for later, Drysdale didn't begin pitching until age 16. Two years later the lanky right-hander found himself in Bakersfield with the California league. After compiling a 8-5 record, Drysdale was promoted to Montreal where he pitched 11-11 in 28 games.

    In 1956, the Brooklyn Dodgers added Drysdale to their pitching lineup. His name would stay at the top of their roster for the next 13 years. It was obvious from the start that Drysdale belonged in professional baseball, and during the first season, he was utilized as both a starter and reliever. At 6-6 and 215, Drysdale used his imposing size to full advantage. He soon acquired the nickname "Big D" and a reputation for being a fierce competitor who wasn't afraid to hit a batter who crowded the plate. Drysdale learned this in part from his mentor, Sal "the Barber" Maglie, who taught him the importance of strategic pitching to keep a batter off balance.

    From 1957-1966, Drysdale and his equally charismatic teammate, Sandy Koufax, were an unstoppable pitching force that dominated the National League. Together, they set the NL season record for combined teammate strikeouts with 592. In 1962, Drysdale won 25 games and was honored to receive the Cy Young award.


    Ironically, Drysdale's last full season, 1968, was also one of his best. The iron-man pitcher dished out six straight shutout games, amounting to a record-breaking 58 consecutive scoreless innings. However, he left baseball in 1969, forced to retire early at age 33 because of a torn rotator cuff.


    The ferocious hurler used brush-back pitches and a sidearm fastball to intimidate batters, and his 154 hit batsmen remains a modern National League record.
    In 1965, Don Drysdale should have been the NL MVP. He went 23-12 on the mound for the World Champion Dodgers and he may have been even better at the plate. In 130 AB, he was the Dodgers’ only .300 hitter, with seven home runs. His slugging percentage (a staggering .508) was more than 100 points higher than any position player on the team. 
    In two separate seasons, he hit seven home runs, tying the National League record. He was often used as a pinch-hitter by the Dodgers.
    When he retired, he held the NL record for most seasons with 200 or more strikeouts at six.


    Drysdale was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. Later that year on July 1, the Dodgers retired his jersey No. 53. He continued to be involved in sports, namely baseball, throughout his life. Drysdale eventually went on to become a sports broadcaster, and had the bittersweet privilege of announcing the night a new shutout record was created. Twenty years after Drysdale set the bar, Orel Hershiser surpassed his Dodger alum in the record books.

    On July 3, 1993, while working in Montreal, 56-year-old Don Drysdale suffered a heart attack and died. Per his wishes, Drysdale was taken to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, where his body was cremated.


    I’ve seen some great pitchers down through the years, and as a result, I’ve maintained that the three most imposing and intimidating pitchers, the three I’d least like to bat against, were Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale and Sal Maglie in that order. When hitting against these three, best you not get too comfortable in the batters box, and have your parachute ready.


Last Week’s Trivia


    In 1920, Harry Frazee was responsible for the worst player transaction in baseball history. In his infinite stupidity, the cash-strapped owner of the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for the then-unheard-of sum of $125,000. Frazee needed the money to finance a theatrical venture. The play closed shortly after it opened. Babe Ruth was a Broadway spectacular for years.


Trivia Question of the Week


    In 1996, Nate Thurmond was voted one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history to coincide with the league’s 50th anniversary. The NBA Hall-of-Famer once collected 18 rebounds in one quarter. He was also the first player to accomplish another tremendous feat in a game. What was it? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.