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Monday, January 6, 2014

Joe DiMaggio - Ted Williams trade: how much can stories get mangled?

Larry MacPhail
Yesterday one of my cousins sent the link below to me .  I appreciated the thought but where do I begin?  It's terrible.  My cousin and I are both Yankee fans. He had season tickets for many years until a couple of years ago.  How many other Yankee fans are reading stuff like this without realizing that there are many errors?  Baseball is based in part on oral history and the same stories get repeated, true or not.  Or they get mangled and not checked.

What if the Yankees traded Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams?
By Matthew Provenzano @mpro6294 on Jan 5 2014, 4:00p

Yankees General Manager Lou MacPhail ... met with Tom Yawkey of the Boston Red Sox ... trade Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams. They verbally agreed to make the trade, but somehow the deal fell through and it never became official. What would have happened had this trade been made? How would Yankee history have changed?

the Yankees would still have made the World Series with Williams in the lineup due to his gained production (Other than in 1950, but it didn't matter)...

DiMaggio only hit 95 wRC+ in 220 PA in the World Series, it's not as if Williams would have robbed Yankee fans of any DiMaggio heroics.

Joe DiMaggio was the most beloved sports figure of his time ... the husband of the much-adored Marilyn Monroe...

Ted Williams ... fought valiantly in both World War II and the Korean War ...

What would you have done if you were Lou MacPhail in 1947?

He appears to be referring to Leland Stanford "Larry" MacPhail, Sr., one of three owners of the New York Yankees in 1947 along with Dan Topping and Del Webb.  Larry was the father of Lee, who later became general manager of the Yankees and then president of the old American League.  I have no idea who Lou MacPhail might have been.

Tom Yawkey was the owner of the Boston Red Sox.

Joe DiMaggio, the Hero's Life by Richard Ben Cramer, Page 228:

One night in Shor's (bar - restaurant), the owners of Yankees and Red Sox, Dan Topping and Tom Yawkey, set in for a night-long drinking bout, during which they agreed to a straight swap - DiMaggio for Ted Williams...  In the morning pall of his hangover, Yawkey got cold feet ... He got Topping on the phone and called off the deal.

It appears that even LARRY MacPhail was not involved.  I wonder just how real this story is.

I won't try to figure how the Yankees and Red Sox would have done through 1960, the last season for Williams, but I have some brief observations on 1948-1950.  Boston won the pennant in 1948 but who's to say that the Yankees would not have won had they had Williams?  DiMaggio would have been a good replacement for Williams in 1948, having his first big season since before serving in World War II, leading the league in homers for the second and final time.

In 1949 DiMaggio was hurt and did not play until his dramatic appearance June 28 when he emerged from his New York hotel room with no pain in his injured heel and went to Boston for a three game series, which the Yankees swept.  Joe wrecked the place: 5 for 11, 4 homers, 9 RBI, 5 runs.  Yanks won the pennant by one game.  Who's to say that even in his limited duty that those three wins might not have been the difference had DiMaggio been playing for Boston.

In 1950 Williams was injured in the All Star game and did not play regular season games between July 9 and September 7.  On both those dates, Boston played the Yankees.  On July 9 the Yanks won 3-1 and were second, three games back.  Boston was fourth, eight games back. Williams PH and walked on his return in a 10-8 Boston win; Yanks were first and Boston had moved up to only 1.5 games back without either Williams or DiMaggio.   With DiMaggio, who led the AL in slugging, maybe Boston would have passed the Yankees who would have been without Williams for two months.

Yankee fans may have loved Joe DiMaggio but Yankee haters hated Joe DiMaggio who did indeed embody everything they hated about the Yankees generally.  But DiMaggio retired in 1951 and married and divorced movie star Marilyn Monroe in 1954, so she was not a factor in Joe's ballplayer image.

Ted Williams served in both World War II and the Korean War but saw combat only in Korea, flying under future astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn.

It is correct that DiMaggio did not hit well in his ten World Series but then neither did Williams in his one.

Friday, October 26, 2012  Joe DiMaggio sucked in the World Series.

comparing a player's On Base Plus Slugging (OPS): regular season v. WS with the percentage difference.  Here are those WS percentages for Joe DiMaggio:

1936 -9.61%
1937 -40.29%
1938 -18.82%
1939 -26.59%
1941 -48.64%
1942 -20.82% Yankees lost.
1947 -7.69%
1949 -53.87%
1950 10.68%
1951 1.14%

We don't hear much about this because the Yankees won nine of those ten WS.  Yogi Berra is considered a clutch player because of his batting in his later WS but Yogi sucked in his first five.  Yankee outfielder Hank Bauer, who holds the WS hitting streak record at 17, had a WS career similar to Berra's.  Jackie Robinson lost all but one WS and his numbers sucked ...

The only thing more shocking than DiMaggio's poor WS performance is that hardly anyone knows just how bad he was.

Sunday, October 28, 2012  Joe DiMaggio sucked in the World Series, part 2.

DiMaggio's rank among his Yankee teammates with at least 15 plate appearances (PA) in that WS (click link to see annual data):

1936 -9.61% 5 of 8
1937 -40.29% 7 of 8
1938 -18.82% 5 of 7
1939 -26.59% 3 of 6
1941 -48.64% 8 of 8
1942 -20.82% 6 of 7; Yankees lost.
1947 -7.69% 6 of 8
1949 -53.87% 4 of 5; all five Yankees had negative percentages.
1950 10.68% 2 of 7
1951 1.14% 4 of 8

In 80% of his ten WS Joe DiMaggio generally performed below his regular season performance that season.  He was especially bad at home in Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees won 9 of those 10 WS.  If DiMaggio had played the last 13 seasons and under achieved that way how would Yankee fans have reacted?  Something like the way they treated Alex Rodriguez, when they booed their all time third baseman? ...

DiMaggio was booed in his early seasons when he held out for more money, more than was being paid to Lou Gehrig.

Casey Stengel managed the Yankees from 1949 through 1960, winning the World Series in his first five seasons and later in 1956 and 1958; Stengel also won pennants in 1955 and 1957.  DiMaggio did not get along with Stengel and there's no reason to think that Williams would have done better.  How would Casey have dealt with this:

And how would Williams have dealt with this had Stengel done it:

Pinky Higgins managed Boston to a record of 31-42 when he was replaced by Rudy York for one game and then by Billy Jurges (44-36) ... Williams batted sixth in all 17 games that he started during that stretch.  His BA improved from .201 to .240.  He finished the season at .254...

For the rest of the 1959 season Williams batted third or fourth when he started.

Was Billy Jurges simply trying to win games?  Was he sending a message?  To Williams?  To the entire team?  Boston was the only team that Jurges managed, the third of three managers in 1959 and the first of three in 1960.  Pinky Higgins would start as manager in 1959 and finish as manager in 1960.  The Boston Red Sox were a mess.  Maybe the humiliation that Ted Williams suffered in 1959 was simply collateral damage.  Maybe Williams was part of the problem.

Great as he was would Williams have been a problem for the Yankees?  In 1951 rookie Mickey Mantle at age 19 endured the overpowering presence of DiMaggio for just that one season, Joe's last.  How would Mantle have been impacted by having Williams as a teammate?

Re-writing history is a tangled web, especially when we start with incorrect information.

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