It’s Miller time . . . for retirement

Andrew Miller

The Cubs won the 2016 World Series but, until they did, Cleveland relief pitcher Andrew Miller may have been that postseason’s biggest star.

Andrew Miller’s mother once hoped he’d parlay his high 1500s SAT results into a college degree from Masschussetts Institute of Technology. Mrs. Miller would just have to settle for her brainy son becoming a lefthanded pitcher who helped revolutionise relief work, and who helped articulate the folly of the owners’ lockout from December through almost mid-March.

Miller had long proven that the best, most valuable relief pitcher in the bullpen isn’t necessarily your “closer” earning “saves, particularly with the team then known as the Indians (now the Guardians) in the 2016 postseason plus the second half of 2016’s and most of 2017’s regular seasons.

But during the foolish lockout, the 36-year-old Miller also helped clarify that the players refused to suffer tanking any more gladly than tanking teams’ fans do.

“All during these negotiations,” Peter Gammons wrote in The Athletic as the lockout finally came to its end, “Miller drove home the players’ insistence that tanking and ideas that diminished competition were contrary to their beliefs. He consistently called ‘increased competition a core goal’ of the negotiations. ‘Anything that points towards mediocrity is the antithesis of the game and what we’re about as players,’ he said.”

Miller announced his retirement Thursday, after a considerably distinguished sixteen-season pitching career, in which he shifted himself from a nothing-special starting pitcher who couldn’t harness his repertoire into a game-changing relief pitcher who used his stamina and his wipeout slider to show both the uselessness of the save-centric mindset and resurrect an ancient–and then-controversial, too—idea about relief work.

Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel thought nothing of bringing prime relief (Joe Page, Allie Reynolds, Bob Turley, to name three) in earlier than the latest innings when he managed the Yankees. He hammered the point that the time to reach for a stopper happens any time, even in the earliest innings. Miller’s Indians manager Terry Francona, whose new toy came from the Yankees in a non-waiver trade deadline deal, used Miller in just that way the rest of 2016 and all the way through the postseason.

It finished what Miller’s four-year/$36 million deal with the Yankees in December 2014 started: making a mostly non-closing relief pitcher into a star. He stayed with the Yankees until that trade deadline. For the second half of 2016, right up to the moment he ran out of petrol in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series (an RBI single, plus David Ross’s last major league hit–a leadoff home run), Miller was the Indians’ best relief pitcher.

According to fielding-independent pitching, which accounts for the things within a pitcher’s control as traditional earned-run average doesn’t, it wasn’t even close: his 1.53 FIP was 80 points below the next-lowest in the pen, Dan Otero’s 2.33 . . . and 1.78 below designated closer Cody Allen.

The ancient beer commercial proclaimed, “Now—it’s Miller Time.” The skipper for team known then as the Indians proclaimed, “Now—it’s Miller Time,” whenever he needed a stopper in that postseason. Quick: Name the only two relief pitchers ever to win a postseason Most Valuable Player award without being their teams’ primary closers. Answer: Miller, in the 2016 American League Championship Series; and, Rob Dibble, in the 1990 Natoinal League Championship Series.

Miller was just as deadly in 2017 (1.99 FIP) until he developed patellar tendinitis in his right knee, his landing knee, in early August, returning that September. He ran out of fuel again in the postseason, this time against his former team, the Yankees, in the Indians’ division series exit.

In due course he signed with the Cardinals, but he fought injuries and the inconsistencies they provoked. He never really looked like the force of nature he was in 2016-17 again, except during three brief postseason trips with the Cardinals. In fact, his entire posteason relief FIP—seven postseasons, 29 games, and one trip to the World Series—is more sparkling than his regular-season career marks as a reliever and as the starter he first was before he discovered life in the bullpen with the 2011-12 Red Sox:

Andrew Miller—Fielding-Independent Pitching (FIP), Career
As a starting pitcher 4.78
As a relief pitcher 3.02
As a postseason reliever 2.43

He’d shortened his delivery into a partial slide step to help him put more bite on that slider. He also paid close attention to just how he and his fellow relief corpsmen were handled, fuming over an early-season set in Chicago during which Valentine seemed almost indifferent to how the April chill affected their pen preparation.

“The Red Sox returned home . . . and when Miller got to the park, he was upset about the usage of Rich Hill—who had already worked through a couple of operations in his career,” Gammons wrote.

Miller talked about how Hill had gotten up “close to eight times” and finally got in to face one lone batter in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Miller said, “there ought to be some kind of punishment for doing that to a pitcher, particularly someone with a medical history.” Miller turned a corner in his career that season under [2012 Red Sox manager Bobby] Valentine and there were no public issues. But he felt a teammate had been jeopardized and for 24 hours remained in that window.

“The problem still seems to be,” I wrote in the 19 March edition of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America’s Here’s the Pitch newsletter, “that enough managers pay too little attention to the pitch volume relievers throw in the pen before they come into games . . . if they come into games. Some of those managers still think a relief pitcher hasn’t “pitched” unless he’s been in a game. Those men may well throw more innings’ worth of pitches in the pen than they’ll ever throw on the game mound.”

Apparently, there was at least one relief pitching thinking along the same lines in 2012. Rest assured, Miller’s probably not the only such reliever with the only such thoughts. The need to monitor relief pitchers’ warmup work carefully and manage it prudently remains profound if rarely appreciated.

Miller’s Cardinals teammate Adam Wainwright, himself now approaching the end of a splendid pitching career, appreciates Miller as both a relief pitcher and an advocate for the greater good of the game as one of the players’ union’s main negotiators.

He changed the game and he kind of took that relief role back to when it first started, guys who could do two, three innings–and he was the guy who did it in the postseason. I have an appreciation for what he did for the entire game of baseball. As many hours as that guy put in for the union over these past few years is kind of staggering. He may retire and that means this whole offseason he still spent sixteen hours on the phone a day, for us, for who’s next–that means a lot.

Miller is also the kind of young man who appreciates such things in life as fine wines and (this endears him to my guitar playing heart even more) the woods used to make guitars. The relief force who has worn the uniforms of the Tigers, the Orioles, the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Indians, and the Cardinals also has a calm appreciation for baseball’s history and signatures.

“I’m usually pretty quick to be able to step back though and see how lucky I have been,” Miller told the Post-Dispatch. “The hard times were necessary for me to grow and to be able to appreciate the highs along the way. Ultimately, I was able to play for many great franchises, wear historic uniforms, and play in some amazing ballparks.”

Pondering such appreciation causes me to ponder that I’d love to find a way to suggest Miller in retirement could bring his considerable weight to bear, as a baseball thinker as well as pitcher, on behalf of a forgotten player class: the now 504 pre-1980, short-career major leaguers who were frozen out of a 1980 pension realignment that made pension vesting possible after 43 days’ major league service time

All those players have received since is an annual stipend negotiated by former Players Association director Michael Weiner and former commissioner Bud Selig. The original stipend was $625 per 43 days’ major league service time, up to $10,000 a year. Somewhere during the lockout, the stipend—whose February payment was delayed pending the lockout settlement—was hiked fifteen percent. Now, it’s $718.75 per 43 days’ major league service time.

It’s hardly close to what those pre-1980 short-career men deserve, but it’s something. The further bad news is that those monies still can’t be passed to those men’s families upon their deaths.

Many of those men were active union members supporting the battles for players’ rights and respect, which compounds the original injustice. Several of those players have said they believe a perception that most were mere September callups factored in their original freeze-out. Well. I’ve been looking it up. So far, the majority of such players either made even one of their teams’ rosters out of spring training or appeared on rosters as early as later in April, or May, or June, or July, or August.

Articulate, intelligent, sensitive Andrew Miller, entering a richly-earned retirement, would be an invaluable voice of influence on behalf of those men, if he could be made further aware of such an injustice.

The Guardians are coming

Jose Ramirez

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer imagines Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez as a Cleveland Guardian.

Cleveland’s Hope Memorial Bridge is named for stonemason William Henry Hope. He helped to build the Guardians of Traffic sculptures into the pylon columns at either end of the bridge that marries Lorain Avenue (west side) and Carnegie Avenue (east side). He helped build all eight such statues around the city.

He was also the father of comedy legend Bob Hope, once a partial owner of the Indians.

The bridge born as the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge was renamed for the elder Hope—and listed in the National Register of Historic Places—after local engineer Albert Porter threatened but failed to get the pylons and guardian statues removed as “monstrosities . . . we’re not running a May Show here.”

Naturally, the social media swarms who think they know an awful lot more than what actually do know were unamused to learn that the Indians—wrestling with the name change several years, from almost the moment they decided Chief Wahoo needed to go—decided to rename themselves the Guardians starting in the 2022 season.

They’re keeping the team colours. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer published a rendering of Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez as a Guardian. The new look is not unattractive. Neither is the new logo of a baseball with the stylised G on the meat of the ball and a wing flapping from the rear.

With exceptions you could fit in your living room, or maybe even in the Indians dugout, the swarms couldn’t figure out exactly what “guardians” had to do with Cleveland. It’s to wonder what they thought when they finally accepted that “guardians” have a singular meaning that isn’t confined to just the two on either end of the bridge leading traffic past Progressive Field.

Some of the swarms agonised that the team hadn’t renamed themselves the Spiders, as a different, ancient Cleveland franchise once did. Well, now. The Spiders existed in the National League from 1887 through 1899. Their franchise record: 827 wins, 938 losses. The Indians have been star-crossed quite enough without being renamed for a team that never won a single pennant. (And, for a team whose record in its final NL season was—wait for it!—20-134.)

Others thought the renaming should be after the Cleveland Buckeyes, who played in the Negro American League from 1942-1950. That might have been more plausible, not just to honour Cleveland’s entry into the game that is now recognised (long overdue, and by everyone except either recalcitrant racists or witless purists) as part of major league baseball. The Buckeyes played two Negro Leagues World Series and won one. (They beat the legendary Homestead Grays in the 1945 set.) If you must rename your team for another old, defunct team, best to rename it for a winner.

Still others thought the new name should be the Cleveland Rockers, tipping the beak toward the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which is in Cleveland. (A song by rock and roll legend Ian Hunter, “Cleveland Rocks,” was the theme song of television’s The Drew Carey Show.) There were also those who thought the Colorado Rockies might have had an issue or three with that. But never mind.

Enough of the swarm thought the team’s introductory video for the new name had little enough business being narrated by Tom Hanks. Never mind that Hanks once featured in the baseball film hit A League of Their Own. Never mind, too, that Hanks started his acting career in Cleveland in the first place and has a particular affinity for the city.

“Cleveland natives are very defensive of their city,” writes Jim Swift of The Bulwark. “While I may have preferred the Indians, I will gladly be a Guardian against posers like [Senator] Ted Cruz, [National Review editor] Rich Lowry, [and former president] Donald Trump (who tried and failed to buy the Indians). Sad!”

It’s not as though the team just pulled a Guardian rabbit out of its hat. “We heard things like loyalty, pride and resiliency in being from Cleveland,” Indians president Brian Barren said to Plain-Dealer writer (and author of The Curse of Rocky Colavito) Terry Pluto. “They’re protective of our city. They’re protective of the land and everything about it. Those all became part of what Guardians really started to evoke from an emotional standpoint.”

Do we have a candidate for the single most asinine alternative name suggestion? Unfortunately, I do. Unless I see one even more ridiculous, the dubious winner goes to Don Wardlow. Renowned as the first successful blind broadcaster in professional baseball history, Wardlow is an active social media denizen, a still-irrepressible baseball fan and commentator, and a personally engaging man who’s prone now and then to demonstrating wisdom by walking the other way from it.

After acknowledging that “Guardians” make sense to people who live in Cleveland (“I guess”), Wardlow wrote this: “Everybody_ of a certain age, even people who don’t live in Cleveland has heard of Dime Beer night which is why I thought the name Dime Beers would be great. I don’t know if the phenomenon of the burning river is as memorable as Dime Beer night is.”

My first reply was, “Something tells me people have been trying to FORGET Ten-Cent Beer Night for decades. But I suspect you knew that.” To which Wardlow rejoined a) not everybody; b) “many” minor league teams continue “Thirsty Thursday” dollar-or-two beer promotions; and, c) that the irrepressible humourist P.J. O’Rourke “coined a name for the kind of people who want to forget and destroy fun pursuits like dime beer night. He calls them ‘The FunSuckers’.”

Wardlow wrote like a man who didn’t remember what fun pursuits really made the original Ten-Cent Beer Night on 4 June 1974 so “memorable.” (It just so happened to be my late younger brother’s birthday in the bargain.)  It was a not-so-regular riot, Alice. The Indians might have done better to postpone the event for a different game.

The Indians hosted the Rangers in the old but hardly forgotten Municipal Stadium. (Known colloquially as the Mistake on the Lake.) A week earlier, the two teams played in Arlington and included a bench-clearing brawl among the festivities. Rangers infielder Lenny Randle plowed Indians pitcher Milt Wilcox coming to tag him on the first base line while running out a bunt to trigger the scrum; Randle steamed over nearly being hit by a pitch prior to the bunt.

Lingering bad blood between the two teams was probably not the best condition to proceed with a promotion bound to get around 25,000 people (the night’s attendance) bombed out of their trees before the second inning.

The Rangers led the game 5-1 in the middle of the sixth. When Indians left fielder Leron Lee hit a liner up the middle that nailed Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins in the breadbasket and laid him out on the ground, the already-bombed fans began chanting, “Hit him again! Hit him again!” That may have been the most benign behaviour of the night.

A woman hit the field and flashed in the on-deck circle. A naked man ran out to second base right after Rangers designated hitter Tom Grieve hit his second of two home runs on the night in the fourth. Fans ran onto the field continuously during the game, at one point firing hot dogs at mid-game Rangers first base insertion Mike (The Human Rain Delay) Hargrove. The plague of the locusts didn’t drive the ancient Egyptians half as crazy.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians tied the game at five, with two out and the potential winning run on second, and Indians second baseman Jack Brohamer due to hit. And all hell broke irrevocably loose.

A fan ran out to Rangers left fielder Jeff Burroughs bent on stealing Burroughs’s hat, and the hapless Burroughs tripped and fell trying to prevent the theft. Rangers manager Billy Martin thought Burroughs had been attacked and hustled his team out to help him. A larger mob of fans swarmed out to the Rangers, prompting Indians manager Ken Aspromonte to order his team out to help the under-siege Rangers.

Some of the rioters began throwing steel chairs and seats somehow ripped away from the stands. One of the chairs hit Indians relief pitcher Tom Hilgendorf in the coconut. Another rioter picked a fist fight with Hargrove. Other rioters were determined to be carrying knives and other weapons.

Finally, both teams helped each other off the field before they could have ended up like massacre victims. The drunks continued their mayhem, tearing up the bases, tearing up the field, and throwing cups, rocks, bottles, radio batteries, hot dogs, food containers, and folding chairs around. Even umpire crew chief Nestor Chylak was a victim: he was hit in the head when a rioter threw a stadium seat at him.

That game-long mistake on the lake resulted in the game forfeited to the Rangers. Indians outfielder Rusty Torres, who’d pinch hit safely in the ninth and stood as that potential winning run, had just survived his second of three fan riots during his playing career. He’d been a Yankee when heartsick Senators fans broke RFK Stadium in the top of the ninth, causing a forfeit to his team near the end of the final Senators game ever; he’d be with the White Sox for their equally infamous Disco Demolition Night in 1979.

Some fun. Wardlow’s thought that the Indians changing their name to the Dime Beers would have been “great” was written to a group devoted to baseball nostalgia. Forgive me if I simply can’t be nostalgic about the arguable most chaotically decadent and destructive night in major league history. If there’s a proper word for that kind of nostalgia, I probably can’t say it in civil company.

Mudcat Grant, RIP: Motivation

Mudcat Grant

Mudcat Grant shook a nagging cold and short rest to beat the Dodgers in the ’65 Series on the mound . . .

Jim (Mudcat) Grant, the first African-American credited with 20+ pitching wins in an American League season, was also only the second American League pitcher to hit a World Series home run. But he wasn’t sure how far he’d go starting Game Six of the 1965 World Series.

The righthander pitched on two days’ rest and a cold that nagged at him for a couple of weeks. Then, with deuces really wild—two out, two aboard, and his Twins holding a 2-0 lead against the Dodgers—Grant swung on Dodger reliever Howie Reed and drove one into the left center field seats, dancing his way across the plate.

The Twins held on to win Game Six, but it proved just a holding pattern until Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax could beat them with his second Series shutout in as many days. But it still wasn’t bad for a thirty-year-old pitcher who once had to, shall we say, clean up his act.

The Mudcat was said to have rubbed the inside front of his uniform with soap, waited for the daily sun to warm up enough to produce a little foam, then scoop a little onto his hand to apply to the ball. He got away with it until the day he overdid the soap inside his gray road uniform and the foam became too visible to ignore.

Hall of Famer Don Sutton once bragged that he was accused of throwing doctored balls so often he should get a Black & Decker commercial out of it. In due course, Sutton did get just that. It’s a shame nobody thought to offer the Mudcat—who died Saturday at 81—a commercial for Dial. Or at least Lifebuoy.

Just picture the friendly-looking Grant holding a bar and purring, with that power failure-defying smile of his, “Aren’t you glad I stopped using Dial? But don’t you wish nobody else would?” Or, “Take it from a stinker on the mound—use Lifebuoy so you won’t be a stinker anywhere.”

Behind that friendly face and somewhat extroverted personality, there bristled a man who’d once gotten into racial trouble he didn’t ask for as a young Indian. In the bullpen one day, singing along with “The Star Spangled Banner,” Grant sang “this land is not so free/I can’t even go to Mississippi.” He claimed he did it for fun, but bullpen coach Ted Wilks was not amused.

“Wilks heard me and called me a (racial) name,” the Mudcat told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I got so mad I couldn’t hold myself back. I told him that Texas [Wilks’s home state] is worse than Russia. Then I walked straight into the clubhouse.”

Manager Jimmy Dykes had no clue of the source after Grant walked into the clubhouse, changed clothes, and left the ballpark entirely without a further word. The skipper suspended Grant without pay for the rest of the season and refused to rescind it even after Grant called the following day to apologise. Wilks apologised, too, but Grant understandably refused to accept that at face value; the coach would be gone after the season.

Dykes didn’t hold it against Grant, however. He settled Grant into a starting role in 1961. Grant led the Indians with 244.2 innings pitched and three shutouts and was second with 146 strikeouts behind Gary Bell’s 163. Since pitching wins then were considered the alpha and omega, though, Grant’s team-leading fifteen have to be measured against his 3.86 ERA and his 4.45 fielding-independent pitching.

Still, he made himself an Indians fixture, even working in the team’s off-season ticket office and with their community relations department, until a hard 1964 start got him dealt to the Twins that June, for pitcher Lee Stange and infielder George Banks. Twins manager Sam Mele was convinced the trade was a winner for both sides.

Mudcat Grant

. . . and with the insurance runs off his own three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.

It was for Grant. As a 1964 Twin he posted his lowest ERA (2.82) over twenty or more starts in a season. In 1965 he parlayed 5.4 runs of support per start into those 21 wins that season. (In due course, Grant would write a book about the so-called Black Aces, the African-American pitchers who’d enjoyed 20+ win seasons including himself.) He also posted a 2.74 World Series ERA in three starts with two credited wins. (He beat Hall of Famer Don Drysdale in Game One, lost to Drysdale in Game Four, then beat Claude Osteen in Game Six.)

The Mudcat also swore he got his biggest 1965 help from pitching coach Johnny Sain, the one-time Boston Braves pitching standout, who’d taught him a way to throw his curve ball faster. “I’ve never had a real good fast curve before,” he told writer Jim Thielman.

I’ve always had a good fastball, a change of pace and a slow curve. They said I needed to change speeds. I’ve always been able to change off my fastball, throw a straight slow ball up there. But until this year, I never thought in terms of spinning the ball. That’s where Sain helped me.

Grant shook off a hard first half in 1966 to pitch a strong second half. Then two things happened in 1967. First, he was struck on the forearm as spring training was about to end, costing him the season’s first two weeks. Then, Mele—who’d already dumped Sain as pitching coach at 1966’s end—faced his own firing squad, replaced by Cal Ermer.  Between injuries (knee and arm) and Ermer’s inability to define his role, Grant began looking for a way out of town.

He got it when the Twins traded him and their 1965 American League Most Valuable Player award-winning shortstop Zoilo Versailles to the Dodgers for 1968. The Mudcat loved the idea—the Twins atmosphere in parts had become intolerable to him.

“It was a problem between the Minnesota manager and management and myself,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “Some of it was racial, too. They made me feel as though I wasn’t even a man. I’d pitched only 95 innings and it isn’t because of my knees, either. I have lived with the knee trouble for years. But I told them I couldn’t remain with them and wanted to be traded.”

Now a full-time reliever, Grant pitched brilliantly enough as a 1968 Dodger: a 2.08 ERA, a career-low 2.57 FIP, and—even more remarkably, considering his proneness to it in the past and even allowing Dodger Stadium’s difficulties for hitters—he surrendered only one home run all season long.

The Montreal Expos adopted the Mudcat in the expansion draft, then dealt him to the Cardinals in early June. A somewhat lost season turned into a sale to the Athletics, and Grant flashed one more brilliant season in relief, with a 1.86 ERA for the year even with the A’s selling him to the Pirates that September. But after a 1971  for the Pirates and (sold back to) the A’s, and his failure to make a return to the Indians stick in spring 1972, the Mudcat called it a career.

Grant’s concern for black ballplayers didn’t end when his career did. In due course, the righthander who once led a musical group named Mudcat and the Kittens became an active and vocal presence encouraging African-American youth toward baseball.

It certainly took in his own family. (Grant was also the grandfather of 34.) Domonic Brown—who looked like a Phillies comer until an assortment of knee and leg injuries diminished him as an outfielder, then a hitter, until he finally made his way through three seasons in the Mexican leagues—is Grant’s nephew.

“We just gotta motivate them to play and we’ve got to be around,” said Grant in 2008, after he’d been an Anheuser-Busch distributor and, before that, a television analyst for the Indians and the A’s and a pitching coach for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Not to mention the author of The Black Aces.

“We haven’t been around enough,” he continued. “Now, part of that is the African-American ex-players’ fault, too, because we haven’t been there. Even though we see tons of children, we haven’t been in the inner city like we should.” He probably helped awaken others like him to get there.

Unlike some of the pitches he Dialed in once upon a time, there was no soft-soaping it for the Mudcat there.

Callaway’s ban shouldn’t be the end

Mickey Callaway

Mickey Callaway, shown here during aborted 2020 spring training—on MLB’s ineligible list through the end of 2022 for his sexual harassment across three organisations.

Mickey Callaway finally got his, sort of. His rather incessant sexual harassment of women while employed in three major league organisations, as exposed by The Athletic‘s Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang, landed him unemployment after the Angels fired him as their pitching coach—and a place on baseball’s ineligible list through the end of 2022. The question is why only that long.

Callaway’s penchant for sending suggestive and lewd text messages, shirtless photographs, and requests for topless images and drinking dates to five media women at minimum, was exposed at February’s beginning. “The worst kept secret in baseball,” one of the women was quoted as saying of his predations.

The Angels suspended Callaway post haste and agreed to cooperate with a full investigation by baseball’s government. The full details came forth almost immediately after the first revelations, showing Callaway’s telecommunicative tomcattery spread over a five-year period from his pitching coach days with the Indians to his self-immolating term managing the Mets to his very brief Angels tenure.

This wasn’t a man who made a couple of isolated bad mistakes. This was a man who sank himself into a morass of abasement from which he saw women as impressionable targets.

At least once Callaway was affirmed as having offered to share inside information about the Mets’ doings and undoings with one of his media women targets in exchange for getting drunk with him, possibly for openers. At least once otherwise, Indians manager Terry Francona and general manager Chris Atonetti were compelled to defend Callaway to the outraged husband of a Callaway target, before a team attorney suggested Francona himself speak to the man on behalf of making amends.

“Some of it was laziness,” writes Yahoo! Sports‘s Shalise Manza-Young, “since Callaway was hitting on women he came in contact with on a day-to-day basis, in what is supposed to be a professional setting, women who dutifully reported to the ballpark to do their jobs, to share with their respective audiences what was happening within and around the teams they were covering.”

But Callaway knew he had information he could give those women that would help them advance in their careers, and he tried to exploit that . . . You’re put in the position of saying yes and potentially getting yourself into a dangerous, compromising spot at worst, and journalistically unethical position at best; if you say no, you’re potentially burning a critical source. Few people know more about the ins and outs of a team than its manager. If you’re not breaking stories or getting fresh information, you may not be on the beat for long.

Given that woman after woman in The Athletic‘s story said Callaway’s propensity for inappropriate behavior was well known throughout MLB, it’s a stretch to believe his predation was limited to the five women who were brave enough to share their stories with the outlet.

Indeed. If at first it seemed the commissioner’s office moved a little slowly upon the original and damning revelations, putting Callaway on the ineligible list as announced on Wednesday now seems an inevitability. But Manza-Young surely isn’t the only one suspecting Callaway’s future in baseball is limited to non-existent not because he was shown to be even a virtual sexual predator but because his once-vaunted abilities as a pitching coach were belied by the Angels’ continuing inability to find and build viable pitching staffs.

“In a perfect world,” she goes on to write, “Callaway’s suspension would just be a formality and he’d never work for another baseball team again, though history tells us differently. This is a league that saw the Houston Astros trade for and celebrate relief pitcher Roberto Osuna while he was on trial for domestic assault.”

Not to mention the body that saw the Astros try first to throw under the proverbial bus the Sports Illustrated reporter, Stephanie Apstein, who exposed then-assistant GM Brandon Taubman’s post-2019 ALCS whoop about being so fornicating glad they’d gotten Osuna in the direct earshot of three women reporters. It took days for the Astros to smarten up at least to the point of canning Taubman, himself put on the ineligible list until after last year’s World Series.

Callaway can be disposed of readily enough. But the toxin of sexual harassment remains. Writing about Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar’s entry onto baseball’s permanently ineligible list over sexual misconduct in 2014 (three years after Alomar was elected to Cooperstown), Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiMinno pondered how much of the Alomar incident and the Blue Jays’s intended vaporising of his presence passed the proverbial smell test while adding that, yes, she wasn’t exactly a stranger to sexual misconduct, either:

I wish there were more details disclosed about the alleged incident, which surely could have been done without identifying the complainant . . . [and that] comes from someone who was once called a [fornicating (four-letter euphemism for ‘vagina’ starting with ‘c’)] by a player in the Jays clubhouse; who, on another occasion, had a player simulate pelvis thrusting from the rear while I was bending over to conduct an interview with another player at his stall. These were not incidents I reported to the club or to my employer. I’m just not that delicate a flower.

A woman need not be a delicate flower to work with reasonable assurance that the men with whom she deals in her line of work see and act upon her as something and someone above and beyond a target to be plucked. Callaway’s harassment was out of line whether his targets were jasmines or nerium oleanders.

It’s one thing for a man not restricted by a marital or relationship commitment to ask a woman for a date, but it’s something else entirely for a man—whether single, committed, or married—to pursue even one woman, never mind five or more, on terms that might be considered obscene even in the editorial offices of Hustler.

Callaway was a coach and manager and a man in considerable formal authority, but players wield their own kind of authoritative influence, too. His banishment should mean the overdue beginning and continuing of a reasonable remaking/remodeling of the professional baseball work atmosphere. Whether “should” graduates to “does,” alas, remains to be seen.

“I’ve just traded hamburger for steak”

Rocky Colavito (left) and Harvey Kuenn in their new 1960 wardrobes. Could showing this photograph around Cleveland still get you run out of town . . . after you’ve been broiled, basted, batter-fried, braized, and beaten into a froth?

The American League’s 1959 home run champion wanted a $5,000 raise for 1960. His team’s general manager forced him to haggle yet again, signed him to a 1960 contract with the raise . . . and traded him out of town for the American League’s 1959 “batting champion” on the final day of spring training.

“We’ve given up forty homers for forty doubles,” said that general manager, Frank Lane of the Indians. Actually, it was 42 home runs for 42 doubles in 1959, but let’s not get technical.

To this day, Rocky Colavito (the 42 homers) thinks Frank Lane is a seven-letter euphemism for a male sexual prophylactic. Cleveland citizens probably call Lane far worse. To them, Colavito for Tigers veteran Harvey Kuenn (the 42 doubles) was even worse than Chicago would come to see Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio.

As Cleveland Plain-Dealer columnist Terry Pluto observes, Colavito was an Indian on his first Opening Day 65 years ago though he didn’t play in that game. The Indians wanted to return him to the minors for a spell, but Colavito balked until the team’s then-GM, Hank Greenberg, a Hall of Famer Colavito admired, assured him: let us fix this little roster problem we have and you’ll be back in three weeks.

Greenberg proved as good as his word and then some, which meant the world to the straight-shooting Colavito, like Greenberg a native of the Bronx. Colavito appeared in only five 1955 games, but in 1956 he hit 21 home runs to crown a full, fine rookie season and he asked Greenberg for a $3,000 raise. Greenberg gave it to him: $1,500 immediately, with a promise of a second $1,500 if he played 100 or more 1957 games. He did.

“I went right up to his office,” Colavito told Pluto. “Hank looked at me and said, ‘I know why you’re here.’ He then told (Indians traveling secretary) Bob Gill, ‘Get Rocky his check for $1,500.’ Hank Greenberg was the greatest general manager I ever had. He always was a man of his word.”

Not so Lane, whom Pluto once recorded in The Curse of Rocky Colavito as having reneged once too often on this or that assurance for Colavito’s taste. Right down to Lane’s late spring training 1960 assurance that the last thing on his mind was trading his right field star. Until he made the deal.

Colavito, the matinee idol with the big swing, the fine throwing arm, and the reputation for fan friendliness that went so far as to insist children clamoring for his autograph line up properly and say “please” and “thank you.” (What a surprise that Indian fans lived by the watchword, “Don’t knock the Rock.”) For Kuenn, the grizzled shortstop-turned-outfielder with the persistent clump of chewing tobacco in his cheek, the increasingly persistent leg issues, and a similar contract haggle approaching the 1960 season.

Lane had another issue with Colavito, which Pluto also recorded in the aforementioned book. Lane preferred baseball players who lived and drank hard. Like his best friend and ill-fated Indians roommate, pitcher Herb Score, Colavito was anything but the hard-living, hard-drinking type.

Even before taking the Indians’ GM job, Lane was infamous around baseball for treating trading as the most persistent itch that required a scratch. As the Cardinals’ GM previously, Lane was notorious for building a trade involving Hall of Famer Stan Musial that was stopped only by the intercession of owner Gussie Busch, who knew St. Louis would send him and anyone else associated with the team to the rack if it went through.

“Some of [Lane’s] trades were nuts, and some were good,” said longtime Cardinals GM Bing Devine. “Frank Lane was a great trader,” said longtime Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi. “But when I say that, I don’t mean the trades he made were great.”

Indians manager Joe Gordon walked out to first base after Colavito arrived in the team’s final exhibition game to tell him he’d just been dealt to the Tigers. “I’ve just traded hamburger for steak,” crowed Lane, who’d been trying to pry Kuenn out of the Tigers for several years.

Lane was also a typical baseball man of the time in that he tended heavily to rate players according to their “batting averages” alone. For all we know, Lane shrugged it off if he didn’t laugh his head off when Branch Rickey published a Life essay that said among other things that “[b]atting average is only a partial means of determining a man’s effectiveness on offense”—in 1954.

To Lane, trading the AL’s 1959 home run king for the league’s 1959 “batting” champion trading as he also said “forty home runs for forty doubles” made all the sense in the world:

We’ve added fifty singles and taken away fifty strikeouts . . . I’ll probably make bobby-soxers mad at me, but they’ve been mad at me before . . . I realise Colavito is very popular. There were many people who came to the park to see him hit a home run, whereas they wouldn’t come to the park just to see Kuenn hit a single. But those singles and doubles win just as many games as home runs . . . Rocky’s best year was 1958 when he batted over .300 and hit 41 homers, but our attendance was only 650,000 because we didn’t have a contending club.

“Where do you begin to shovel through this pile of public relations pap spewed out by Lane?” Pluto asked in his book. “Last time I checked,” said Sporting News writer Hal Lebovitz, whom Pluto also cited, “a single doesn’t count as much as a home run.” The last time I checked, the 1959 Indians were second in American League home attendance (1.50 million fans) to the Yankees (1.6 million).

Let me show you Hamburger vs. Steak in 1959 according to my Real Batting Average metric. (Total bases + walks + intentional walks + sacrifice flies + hit by pitches / total plate appearances.)

1959 PA TB BB IBB SF HBP RBA
Rocky Colavito 664 301 71 8 3 2 .579
Harvey Kuenn 617 281 48 1 7 1 .547

Now, let me show you Hamburger vs. Steak from Colavito’s first full major league season through the end of 1959:

1956-1959 PA TB BB IBB SF HBP RBA
Rocky Colavito 2166 992 275 14 16 7 .602
Harvey Kuenn 2572 1049 201 16 18 4 .501

This may have been one of the more polite Cleveland protests after the Colavito-for-Kuenn trade. (Akron Beacon-Journal.)

Both players dealt with nagging injuries in those four seasons, though Kuenn probably had the harder time of it. He depended as much on his legs as anything else to succeed and those were his most often injured parts. He’d pounded them, too, playing shortstop in his first few years, though it did him little good: as a shortstop, Kuenn was worth 27 defensive runs below his league average.

Colavito was also a superior defender; as a corner outfielder, his lifetime numbers show him worth 61 defensive runs above his league average.

What Lane also didn’t either think about or comprehend if he did think was that Colavito was hurt somewhat by Municipal Stadium, that pitching paradise and hitting challenge. Colavito hit far better on the road. Kuenn had the opposite issue: Tiger Stadium was a hitting haven. He hit far better at home, but coming to Municipal Stadium was likely to be a nightmare.

Well, now. Kuenn missed quite a number of 1960 games thanks to further nagging injuries and, yes, when he could and did play he did hit better on the road than at home. The split isn’t glaring since he was essentially a singles-and-doubles hitter with about as much power as a push mower, but “batting average” Nazis should note that thanks to age and injuries Kuenn would never hit as high as .308 again (his 1960 “batting average”) the rest of his career.

According to Pluto’s book, Colavito was given another stab in the back by Gordon, who seems to have told those who would listen that Colavito’s immediate reaction to the trade was, “For Kuenn and who else?” Colavito denounced the remark as the biggest. lie. ever.

I never said anything negative about Harvey Kuenn. After that, I never had any stomach for Gordon or Lane . . . I feel bad for Harvey because he caught some of the public backlash from the deal. Harvey was a helluva player, and he could really run when he was younger. He once got five infield hits in one game. I don’t know if I got five infield hits in my career. If I could run like Harvey I would have been a lifetime .300 hitter. But Detroit wanted to trade Harvey for me because they weren’t sure how much longer his legs would hold up. That was a big factor in the trade, and no one talked about it until long after the deal had been made.

Devastated as he was by the trade and by the betrayals he felt, Colavito’s 1960 opening with the Tigers had to make him feel worse: the Tigers opened against the Indians. He had to fly with the Indians from spring training to Cleveland and then change sides. He went hitless in the first of the two games but smashed a three-run homer in the top of the fourth off Jim Perry in the second game.

“The first year in Detroit was rough for me because I had left a place and a team that I loved and the fans in Cleveland loved me,” Colavito told the Detroit Free Press in 2020. “I am sure it was the same for Harvey, who was a really good man. Even my neighbor at the home I rented in Detroit said to me: ‘I don’t care who you are, I was a Harvey Kuenn fan.’ That was the last time we ever spoke. In the home opener in Detroit, I remember it was a very warm day and that I hit a two-run homer and we won.”

Yet when 1960 finished shaking out, Colavito still came out ahead of Kuenn, according to RBA:

1960 PA TB BB IBB SF HBP RBA
Rocky Colavito 616 263 53 4 3 4 .531
Harvey Kuenn 537 197 55 6 3 4 .493

No wonder then-Tigers GM Bill DeWitt, who’d partnered with Lane on the Big Trade, crowed back, “I like hamburger.” Even though DeWitt’s 1960 Tigers weren’t exactly world beaters at hitting or reaching base overall, even though four of his top five players by wins above replacement-level player were pitchers. (Hall of Famer Jim Bunning plus Frank Lary, Don Mossi, and Dave Sisler.)

Neither Colavito nor Kuenn would be quite the same player they’d been before the Big Trade, though Colavito hit 139 home runs in four seasons as a Tiger. As a matter of fact, Colavito was anything but a Detroit breakdown:

Hold That Tiger! PA TB BB IBB SF HBP RBA
Rocky Colavito 2723 1171 346 22 26 9 .578

In due course, Colavito would have an encore in Cleveland, under a far different regime, but also far from his early seasons when the Tribe remained serious American League contenders. Lane had much to do with reducing the team to also-rans, of course.

Kuenn would learn the hard way what it was like when Lane decided you didn’t fit into his plans. After a 1960 in which he finished fifth in the American League with that .308 “batting average,” but missed most of September due to injuries, Kuenn signed a 1961 contract. Lane called him “untouchable”—until he wasn’t, trading him to the Giants for pitcher Johnny Antonelli and outfielder Willie Kirkland.

Antonelli turned up with arm trouble and the coming end of his career. Kirkland would average 25 home runs a season as a three-year Indian but offered not a lot else other than plus defense in the outfield, then tapered away in Baltimore and Washington before going on to play six seasons in Japan.

Kuenn would remain a respected veteran who still knew how to hit when he was healthy. But he’d also finish his career with the strange distinction of having made the final outs in two no-hitters by Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax: in 1963, as a Giant; and, more famously (Two and two to Harvey Kuenn!—Vin Scully), in 1965 as a Cub.

He’d also be one of the four-man committee (with his old teammate Bunning plus Pirates pitcher Bob Friend and Hall of Fame former Phillies pitching great Robin Roberts) who ended up finding and hiring Marvin Miller to run the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Lane had one final dagger to stick into Colavito, in 1965, when the two men bumped into each other by happenstance after the Kansas City Athletics—for whom Colavito played one season, 1964—traded Colavito back to Cleveland. As Colavito told Pluto, Lane told him the A’s traded him because owner Charlie Finley didn’t want to negotiate a contract with him.

“Who knows if that’s true?” Pluto asks. Who knows, given what’s only too well known of Lane, if it’s not true? This was the man who once said his best trade was sending a kid named Roger Maris to the A’s for infielder/outfielder Woodie Held and first baseman Vic Power.

Well, now. Held was a versatile player with some power; Power was a flashy first baseman with a little less power but enough defense and four All-Star teams while he was at it. You’ve probably heard Maris had a little more to come. When he ended up in New York, as a back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player, and smasher of ruthsrecord, Lane’s tune changed faster than a disc jockey’s patter.

“If I’d known Maris would end up a Yankee,” Trader Lane sniffed in due course, “I never would have made that deal.”

By 1964, Lane had this to say about trading Hamburger for Steak: it was “the most unfortunate I ever made—not from a baseball standpoint but from the fans’ standpoint. The gals loved that boy with his boyish grin.” The gals and everyone else might also have loved the forty home runs a season Colavito averaged as an Indian between 1956 and 1959. Chicks dug the long ball even then, but they weren’t the only ones.

When Lane died at 85 in 1981, only one baseball person showed up for the funeral, and that only at the request of then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn: Bobby Bragan, whom Lane fired as the Indians manager in 1958. Bragan denied the long-holding Cleveland legend that he put a curse on the Indians upon his departure.

“I didn’t put a hex on the club,” he said in his memoir, You Can’t Hit the Ball with the Bat On Your Shoulder. “Having Frank Lane as the general manager was curse enough.”

Especially when he really traded prime rib for meat loaf. From a baseball standpoint.