Monday, April 6, 2009

# 99 -- Ross Grimsley

Ross Grimsley

Ross had a good career through the 70's and was known as a reliable and solid, if not spectacular pitcher. He was good for 14 wins and (when healthy) 240 innings a year. The Reds had a horrible down year in 1971, in between World Series years, but Ross was a bright spot, joining the rotation in mid-May and winning 10 games. Even in the early 70's, everyone loved a lefty. That performance allowed him to win that beautiful gold cup on his card signifying him as a Topps All-Star Rookie.

In 1972 the season started a couple of weeks late because of the strike, but Ross didn't join the Reds rotation until early May. He was solid through the season and stepped up big in the playoffs. The Pirates took a 2-1 lead (best of 5 in those days) into game 4 and Ross threw a 2-hitter at the Pirate lineup (which was heavily left-handed), and then the Reds won Game 5 to go to the Series. He lost Game 2 in the Series by a 2-1 score, which was certainly no disgrace. He pitched out of the bullpen, winning Games 5 & 6 to keep the Reds in it. He wasn't scored on in Game 7, but the A's already had the runs they needed to win it.

Ross was a good free agent sign by the Expos in 1978, winning 20 and making the All-Star team, but that was it. He had arm problems and was out of baseball by 1982.

Being a lawyer, I didn't realize it, but I can appreciate that Ross is famous in employment law circles for an incident in Fenway in 1975. I'll summarize what this blog reports (I recommend clicking the link if for no other reason than to get a great picture of Fenway from behind the right field stands, a view I don't know if I'd ever seen). Grimsley was warming up on September 16, 1975 and some of the friendly Sox fans were heckling him. The visitors' bullpen is available for that. Ross got fed up and threw the ball at the fans. It broke through the netting (prima facie evidence that the netting was defective) and hit a fan. The fan, named Manning, sued Ross and the Orioles. You would think it was pretty obvious that Ross was liable, but the trial court directed a verdict in favor of Ross and the Orioles on the claim for battery and the Orioles were trying to say that when he got mad and threw a ball in the stands he was no longer in the course and scope of his employment. The Court of Appeals felt differently, reversed the trial court and also found that the Orioles were responsible for Ross' toss. The case was remanded to the trial court and I suspect the case settled.

The original blog had a great limerick about this precursor to the Rob Dibble episode:

A reliever awaiting deployment
May act in the scope of employment
If he throws some high heat
At a fan in his seat
Unless for his own sheer enjoyment.

(Side note: Ross didn't make it into that game or any other game the rest of the year. The case wasn't decided until 1981, when Ross was with the Indians, but it didn't stop the O's from picking Ross back up for a few weeks in 1982.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

#98 -- Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner

Chuck was always known as the eternal optimist. He had to be taking over the White Sox in 1970. The Sox had contended throughout the 60's based on speed and pitching. They had nothing else. They were called "The Hitless Wonders." However, in 1969 some of the pitching started to fade, but there wasn't any hitting to replace it and they fell. They fell hard. In 1969 they were in the AL West with 2 expansion teams. They finished 1 game behind the Royals and only 3 games ahead of the Pilots. Ouch. 1970 wasn't better as they finished last and had the worst record in the AL.

Chuck was brought on in September after good guy Don Gutteridge was let go. As an aside, a fellow that I like to buy vintage cards from at my local mall shows would also do shows in Pittsburg, KS where Gutteridge lived until he died recently (I believe he was 96). He said Gutteridge would stop and chat with him, looking at his older cards and telling him about the guys. That must have been a blast.

Anyway, Chuck Tanner had to be the eternal optimist. In 1971, the White Sox moved up to a distant 3rd, 22.5 games behind the A's. Hey, I'd rather be a distant 3rd than a distant 5th. Then, in 1972, the Sox acquired Dick Allen and he went on a tear, winning the MVP and the Sox finished a surprising 2nd behind Allen, a rotation of Wilbur Wood and Stan Bahnsen, and a bullpen featuring a young Terry Forster and Rich Gossage.

It didn't last. Dick Allen didn't produce the same again, the pitching wasn't consistent and the hitting was non-existent. They fell back to 5th, 4th and 5th the next 3 years and Tanner was let go. The A's pick him up and he finishes 2nd to the Royals in 1976 in the season Finley decided to get rid of his stars to save money. Danny Murtaugh retires again for the Pirates, so they decide to trade for Tanner and he has his best years in Pittsburgh, winning the 1979 World Series.

Tanner was always a popular players manager. However, the Pirates fell in the 80's and then he managed some of the worst Braves teams in the 80's. Finishing last 4 of his last 5 years (and securing a 5th place finish the other one) caused his lifetime win/loss percentage to dip down to .495. I'm sure that didn't dim the optimism.

He's now back with the Pirates as a special assistant. That's good. He won't have to wear a uniform like the one in his 1972 card. I can't imagine that a major league team would think it was a good idea to wear a zip-up top, but the Sox were known for some imaginative uniforms. Who would have thought in 1972 that the uniform that Tanner was wearing would be the best uniform the Sox would have for over 20 years?

This Day in 1972

This was the day of a big trade for the Expos. They sent Rusty Staub to the Mets, where he would be a big part of their 1973 run to the World Series, in exchange for several starters. They got shortstop Tim Foli, outfielder Ken Singleton and first baseman/outfielder Mike Jorgensen.

The Chattanooga, Tennessee newspaper also had an article about a lawsuit seeking to stop a performance of the musical play "Hair" because of a nude scene and a message of drugs and sex. One local physician, who stayed to see the whole play in New York just so he could stand and boo it, said the play's message was to "ignore parents, ignore the schools, ignore the church and come live in the streets with us." I don't know how it came out. However, every generation has had its conflict of traditional values against what the play's supporters called "a need for rebirth, or change."

I'm not much of a hippie, I've never seen "Hair" and probably don't agree with the message, but I do like a couple of the songs from the play, including: