Quick Takes

    The makers of the Ray Charles film "Ray" are taking on another story about breaking racial barriers. Baldwin Entertainment Group is producing a film biography of baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson. Robert Redfordís Wildwood Enterprises will co-produce the film. Redford will portray Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, the man who signed Robinson as the first black player in major league baseball.

    Congratulations to UNC and their March Madness win; the best team did win. Yes, last week I did predict Illinois would win it all. Itís living proof that writing about sports and predicting sports clearly "ainít the same!"

    But my good friend and financial advisor, fellow St. Louisian Stephen Murphy, had it down stone-cold. He nailed March Madness, and had UNC over Illinois in the final game from the very beginning. So I can attest to the fact that he knows more than I do about prognosticating college basketball, and heís forgotten more than Iíll ever know about the stock market. (That is, except for one magnificent baby energy stock I latched onto by chance, and did an award-winning portrayal of Richard Dreyfuss in "Let It Ride" for 18 months. Murph, that was one helluva ride, and thanks for your support. It's like poker; I'd rather be damn lucky than damn good.)

    Iíve been hammering MLB for a very long time on many issues. Iíve done it in my Quick Takes, and Iíve done it in my feature stories. My writings have produced some very positive e-mail responses from you, my readers. And Iíve had lots of formal literary company along the way. My feature story on April 28 will be passages from an article written by Tim Dahlberg, an Associated Press columnist, on April 3. Itís quite an article, and one you wonít want to miss.

Story of the Week


    During the 50ís, there were three All-Star center fielders patrolling that position in the three major league parks in New York. All three, the Yankeesí Mickey Mantle, the Giantsí Willie Mays and the Dodgersí Edwin "Duke" Snider would make it to the Hall of Fame. Iíve done an article on each of them separately on this website. A picture of the three of them together hangs on my office wall. Every so often, like today, I look at it and attempt to silently evaluate and compare their many talents, and consider which one of the three Iíd select first. It got the best of me today; this article is the result.

    In my opinion, the greatest baseball mind and manager of all time was Leo Durocher. Iíve written bits and pieces about Leo and his Giantsí 1951 miracle finish including "the Shot Heard ĎRound the World," and an article will be devoted to the "the Lip" at a future date. Durocher felt that an everyday position ballplayer (non-pitcher) should be judged on five critical talents; hitting for average, hitting with power, running, fielding and throwing. If that player could do all five exceptionally well, then he was a five-star player. Most great players are not five-star players; a very few possess all five of those talents in exceptional fashion.

    A tale-of-the-tape shows the following career stats. As you view and compare them, remember that these stats were accomplished when they meant something. The pitching was not watered-down, and the balls, the bats and the playersí bodies were not juiced-up.


                            Mantle         Mays           Snider

Years in MLB         18                22               18

BA                        .298             .302            .295

On Base %             .423             .387            .381

BBís                       1733            1464            971

SOís                      1710             1526            1237

SLG %                   .557             .557             .540

HRís                       536             660              407

RBIís                     1509             1903            1333

Runs                      1677             2062            1259

Stolen Bases           153               338             99

Fielding %             .982              .981             .985


    Taking nothing away from Snider, I must hereby make the "Duke" my #3 choice. I feel Snider came up somewhat short in the power department by virtue of the fact that his home park for 11 years, Ebbets Field, was a bandbox, had a short 297í right field foul line, and a short 352í to his power alley in right-center. Also, Snider, a left-handed hitter, batted third in a star-studded Brooklyn line-up of primarily right-handed hitters, so the opposition threw as many righties at "da Bums" as they could, thus being advantageous to the Duke. Nor was speed his forte, although he was a superb center fielder. Duke Snider was a great all-around player, and is rightfully in Cooperstown along with Mantle and Mays.

    So how about Mickey vs Willie? Mantle actually had the better "batting eye." He played in 591 fewer games than Willie, but walked 269 more times, but he also had a disproportionate number of strikeouts than did Mays because he was much more of a free-swinger. He had a much higher career on-base average; 36 points higher is a significant differential. And although Mantleís injury-plagued body wasnít called on to steal all that much, his stolen base success % was actually higher than that of Mays; 80.1% vs 76.6%. Willie was clearly better in the field; 2.56 put-outs per game vs 2.26. Mays got to balls that Mantle couldnít.

    A lengthy page or two could be written about their respective home parks; Mantle in Yankee Stadium vs Mays in the Polo Grounds and Candlestick Park, and how their respective parks affected their all-around stats. Mantle had an easier time of it in that respect as a hitter, especially when compared to what Willie had to endure with the prevailing winds at Candlestick having an adverse effect on right-handed power hitters. Maysí 15 seasons in San Francisco might well have cost him another 100+ career homers.

    So whatís the answer? The answer is Willie Mays. Both were devastating hitters, but Mays was a full and complete five-star player. So was Mantle before his injuries took hold; those injuries put a severe limit on his defense and his base-running. Bottom line; Willie was the best of the great trio of New York center fielders.

    Now for a thought-provoking bonus ending to this article. I rate two players as the best all-around players during my lifetime, and it well could have been three had Jackie Robinson not been a 28-year-old rookie when he broke the color line in 1947. The two are Mays and Henry Aaron. Which one of these two bona-fide complete five-star players do I rate #1? The answer is------------itís worthy of its own article at a later date.

Last Weekís Trivia

    The vast sports knowledge of my readers astonishes me. Thanks to Jonathan Krost for this most interesting piece of trivia.

    On June 23, 1917, Babe Ruth was pitching for the Red Sox against the Senators. Ruth walked the lead-off batter, Ray Morgan, on four straight pitches. Ruth complained about every call by plate ump, Brick Owens. After ball four was called, Ruth was so angry that he slugged the umpire. Ruth was ejected from the game. In came a relief pitcher, Ernie Shore. Morgan was promptly caught trying to steal second. Then 26 straight Washington batters were retired by Shore in Bostonís 4-0 win. The relief pitcher was not credited with either a no-hitter or a perfect game for two reasons; he did not start the game, and he did not face the required 27 batters.

Trivia Question of the Week

    Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight title four times. Who did he defeat in each of those bouts? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.