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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Alex Rodriguez: Has He Already Tied Gehrig’s Grand Record?

Alex Rodriguez has the record for most four run home runs hit over the fence on the fly.  Originally posted 3/11/2013.

Note added 3/2/2014: September 20, 2013 Rodriguez hit what may be his last home run and it came with the bases loaded: number 24 for his career.  It broke a 1-1 tie in the 7th inning with the Giants at Yankee Stadium and won the game 5-1.  Rodriguez was the designated hitter and batting second.

1934 Goudey baseball card
via Wiki Commons
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2011 Bases loaded home runs, aka, grand slams.
Gehrig’s home run log in baseball-reference indicates that his very first grand slam on July 23, 1925 bounced into the stands at Yankee Stadium under the old rule (fair balls bouncing into the stands were home runs) that was eliminated after the 1930 season.  That means that in a real sense Rodriguez has already tied Gehrig.  Gehrig’s only other bounced home run was July 30, 1927 with the bases empty.
Gehrig hit 10 inside the park home runs (IPHR); one was a grand slam: July 5, 1934 at Yankee Stadium.  Rodriguez has no IPHR.
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Note: Also of interest: MONDAY, MAY 2, 2011 Grand Slams: more.
The point of this post is not the specific record mentioned, that of Lou Gehrig hitting 23 home runs with the bases loaded.  It is the nature of records, which become important because of what we think of them.  This  includes several factors, including:
1. Who did it.
2. When.
3. Against whom.
4. Opportunities.
5. Context.
Gehrig is an epic figure made tragic by his early death and, of course, remembered in the movie about him, Pride of the Yankees, in which Babe Ruth played himself and Gary Cooper played Gehrig.
Opposing players are a factor.  Gehrig played exclusively against whites over 92% of whom were American born.  On the other hand, there is only one American born black MLB pitcher in the Hall of Fame, Bob Gibson, so it’s unclear how much integration would have impacted Gehrig’s home run record.  See more on this below.
In my post above I also wrote:
I’m working on data, trying to find the number of at bats (AB) with the bases loaded that Lou Gehrig and other old timers had.  Gehrig supposedly has the record: 23 home runs with the bases loaded: grand slams.  Knowing the number of opportunities would add vital context to that record.
Unfortunately, we still do not have the details for Gehrig.  Who batted more with the bases loaded: Gehrig or Rodriguez?
Opportunities has a different meaning for something like the single season home run record.  Ruth set that record four times, the last being in 1927 when he hit 60.  When he hit 29 in 1919 he broke a record that had been set by Ned Williamson in 1884 for the Chicago White Stockings of the National League who played their home games in a park with an outfield fence that was very close to home plate for that one season.  Williamson hit 27 home runs (25 at home) by playing in 107 of the 113 White Stockings games, including a tie.  Ruth played for the Boston Red Sox in 1919 and played in 130 of their 138 games, including a tie.  The Red Sox did not erect the bullpen fence in the right center in Fenway Park until after Ted Williams started playing there in 1939.  Ruth had to hit his home runs in a very unfriendly home park for a left handed batter.  The result: 9 homers at home, 20 on the road.  In 1927 when Ruth hit 60 for the Yankees playing in 151 of their 155 games (there was a tie) he hit 28 at Yankee Stadium, 32 on the road.
And on the issue of integration:
Paige (born 1906) was eleven years younger than Ruth (born 1895). The Babe never batted against Satchel in a MLB game…
Even if Paige had been allowed to pitch in MLB the chances were less than 50% that he would have pitched to Ruth. Paige could have pitched in the other league. Had Paige pitched in the same league as Ruth chances were one in eight that he and Ruth would have been teammates. That’s less than 50%, not even dealing with the eleven year age difference. Paige would have been 20 in 1926 about the middle of Ruth’s career. In 1920 when Ruth hit 50 homers for the first time, Paige was 14 years old.
There is no reason to think that Satchel Paige would have changed Babe Ruth’s stats to a significant degree, even assuming that Ruth would have had difficulty hitting Paige.
Paige was probably a great pitcher but what other banned pitchers would have impacted Ruth?
Evidence is anecdotal. It may be uncomfortable for some to address this but great black players were and still are mostly non-pitchers. Why? I don’t know.
Since integration in 1947 only three pitchers who would have been banned because of the color of their skin have pitched well enough in MLB to be inducted into the Hall of Fame: Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and Ferguson Jenkins. Only Gibson is an American born black. Marichal was born Dominican and Jenkins Canadian. There are no American born black pitchers yet to be considered who would be elected to the Hall of Fame. One dark skinned Hispanic pitcher who would have been banned is a probable Hall of Famer: Pedro Martinez (Dominican Republic). That would make a total of four since 1947, 62 years ago.
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So even before we reach 1961 and Roger Maris breaking Ruth’s record with 61 home runs (30 at home) in 161 of the 163 Yankee games (five percent more than Ruth had in 1927 and, yes, the 1961 Yankees also had a tie game) we have many conflicting factors which may impact our view of the record.  Oh, and the American League expanded from eight to ten teams in 1961, a 25% dilution factor.  And we are still no where near the steroid era.
By now you should have a lot to consider.  So what do you think about whether “Rodriguez has already tied Gehrig”?

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