Arkansas Backroads and Ballplayers #1
Stories of the famous and not-so-famous men and women from the days when Baseball was "Arkansas' Game." Always free and always short enough to finish in one cup of coffee.
April Means Baseball 4-8-2023
Day one of the Substack experiment. If you are reading this, I have at least accomplished something. I am somewhat surprised and pleased. If you will help me we can promote, or maybe it is revive, the history of baseball in Arkansas!
It is a little presumptuous on my part to think folks living in the action-oriented sports days of the 21st century share my obsession with baseball. Did you see the World Baseball Classic? There are others like us out there!
I am not sure where baseball ranks among today’s sports, I do not really care, but I am 100% convinced it was once Arkansas’ game…our grandparent’s game. Each week I will share a story from the rich history of Arkansas baseball. Join me, it’s free and worth every penny of it
I wanted to write my first post about Brooks Robinson, maybe Brooks and George Kell. After all, our charter members, with great appreciation for our baseball history, named our SABR chapter in honor of Brooks and George. But…since the season is just getting underway, I need to talk about the 2023 baseball season. Well, J. T. Realmuto and Manny Machado helped me with that. They actually did so by being ejected.
So…the news that ejections were news, sent me searching for ejection data on Robinson and Kell. Let’s start with Brooks. How many times in 2,896 games was Robinson ejected? Well none, of course! Brooks, a first-ballot unanimous selection in the “Good Guy Hall of Fame,” is only third in most games played without an ejection because Willie Mays and Stan Musial played more games. Here are the top 10 according to Joe Posnanski, who is always right!
Stan Musial, 3,026
Willie Mays, 2,992
Brooks Robinson, 2,896
Robin Yount, 2,856
Tony Perez, 2,777 (ejected as a manager)
Derek Jeter, 2,747
Paul Waner, 2,549
Ernie Banks, 2,528
Harmon Killebrew, 2,435
Willie Stargell, 2,360
Brooks is our guy. A couple of quotes and a link:
“Brooks Robinson is an ordinary-looking man who might have worked in a bank or sold cars but instead played a third base that defied logic and all physical laws. Like if Tom Hanks played basketball like Michael Jordan. The most amazing thing about him is that after about 30 years of living in his hometown, among people who know and have had dealings with him, I’ve never met anyone with a qualm or doubt about Mr. Robinson’s authenticity or generosity. He seems to me a living Boy’s Life cover, the epitome of decency and hero of our country.” Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
“He’s still a folk hero in Arkansas; He could have beaten me for governor if he had decided to run. It would have been no contest — a real lay-down.” – President Bill Clinton (1993) of Brooks Robinson
More about Brooks -Growing up Brooks - Only in Arkansas
Okay, what about George Kell? It is hard to imagine that he was thrown out often, so I turned to Kell’s personal historian, Jim Rasco. As expected, Jim not only knew the number of times, but the inside scoop.
“Kell was ejected exactly one time in his major league career. - On 8-19-1954, the White Sox were playing in Baltimore. In the top of the first – Kell singled in a run and the White Sox took a 2-0 lead. When he came up in the third – umpire Jim Honochick must have made a horrible call on a low pitch and called it a strike. One paper said that Kell “threw his hat in the air” – but another paper said he “angrily tossed his bat in the air” and Kell was ejected. I suspect it was his BAT that he threw into the air - not his “HAT” (which would really have been his CAP – baseball players don’t wear “hats”.) It was not a third strike, because Phil Cavaretta pinch-hit for Kell at this point.” -Jim Rasco
It seems most think Realmuto got a raw deal from a minor league ump trying to assert himself. You can Google it. Actually, his clean slate of regular season games is still intact. He has not been thrown out in his 1,000+ game career.
Machado on the other hand is proficient at getting tossed. I think this makes 10 times. It seems Machado was the first batter called out in spring training for a violation of the pitch clock and the first player ejected for arguing a pitch count violation. Make a little history Manny! One can only hope getting ejected did not cost Manny a day’s pay. That would be $196,000 and change based on the 162-game schedule.
Arkansas guys? I do know that Kid Elberfeld who managed the Travs to their first pennant in 1920 remains in the top 20 for most ejections as a player, 100+ years after he played his last game. They called him the “Tabasco Kid,” a hot and often spicy little fellow.
Do you have an ejections story?
Photo of the week.
Reading of the week - Bill Virdon, A Life in Baseball By David Jerome
Now selling on Amazon and at most bookstores.
Website of the week - Of course, Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia
Arkansas Backroads and Ballplayers will come free to you each week. You can read it in five minutes, I timed it. I do have books in publication that you can buy, and I write for Only in Arkansas, an outstanding online magazine featuring Life in the Natural State. Please subscribe!
Next week I am writing about Shohei Ohtani and hitting pitchers.
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Base hit on the first “at bat.”
Thanks Jim…and Susan.
My great uncle, Rollie Stiles, was born in Ratcliff, Arkansas. Played for the St. Louis Browns in the 30s as well as several minor league teams. He was a great guy. Lived to be 100!