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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Home Run Derby 1960: a different perspective.

Mickey Mantle, Mark Scott, Willie Mays
Babe Ruth will always be the Home Run King.  In 1960 Mickey Mantle was the active Home Run King.

Home Run Derby (TV series)

a 1960 television show that was held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles pitting the top sluggers of Major League Baseball against each other in nine-inning home run contests. The show was produced and hosted by actor/broadcaster Mark Scott ...

The series aired in syndication from January 9 to July 2, 1960 ...

While one player was taking his turn at bat, the other player would be at the host's booth and would have a brief conversation, typically unrehearsed "small talk" ...

Some players wore golf gloves during the show - a noticeable addition because the batting glove was still years away from being a normal part of a player's gear...

Nineteen players ... including nine future Hall of Famers, participated ...

The pitcher for the show was former Major Leaguer Tom Saffell and the catcher was minor leaguer John Van Ornum.[3] Art Passarella, a Major League umpire who would go on to a TV acting career, served as the plate umpire. There were also umpires in the outfield to help judge fly balls that were close calls...

Hank Aaron won the most money during the show's run, winning $13,500...

Eddie Mathews and Duke Snider were the only left-handed batters to compete. Switch-hitter Mantle batted right-handed in the contests. Mantle hit 372 homers left-handed in his career and only 164 right-handed, but chose to bat exclusively right-handed for this series, commenting in the first episode that his longest home runs had come right-handed.
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Note: Tom Saffell had been an outfielder, not a pitcher.  Born in 1921 he would have been 38 years old.  He hit six HR in 565 AB for Pittsburgh; zero HR in 37 AB for the Kansas City Athletics.  Announcer Scott mentions batting practice (BP) pitchers (plural), so I'm guessing if Saffell was a BP pitcher, there were others.  There is no mention of his pitching on the show in his SABR bio.

wikipedia also lists the outcome of the 26 shows.  Mantle won the first three, then lost but returned to win the final contest.

The program was filmed between the 1959 and 1960 seasons.  We should consider where the participants were in their careers at that time and why they may have been chosen.

At least 350 career HR through 1959:

Rk Player HR From To Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Babe Ruth 714 1914 1935 19-40 2503 10622 8399 2174 2873 506 136 2220 2062 1330 43 113 2 123 117 .342 .474 .690 1.164 971/8H3 BOS-NYY-BSN
2 Jimmie Foxx 534 1925 1945 17-37 2317 9676 8134 1751 2646 458 125 1922 1452 1311 13 71 69 87 73 .325 .428 .609 1.038 *35H2/7916 PHA-BOS-TOT-CHC-PHI
3 Mel Ott 511 1926 1947 17-38 2730 11348 9456 1859 2876 488 72 1860 1708 896 64 109 82 89 .304 .414 .533 .947 *95H8/74 NYG
4 Lou Gehrig 493 1923 1939 20-36 2164 9663 8001 1888 2721 534 163 1992 1508 790 45 106 2 102 100 .340 .447 .632 1.080 *3/H976 NYY
5 Ted Williams 492 1939 1959 20-40 2179 9398 7396 1742 2556 510 71 1767 1946 79 668 36 5 18 190 23 16 .346 .483 .633 1.116 *79H/1 BOS
6 Stan Musial 412 1941 1959 20-38 2528 11026 9499 1763 3203 658 169 1678 1407 90 538 45 35 33 215 72 30 .337 .424 .572 .996 3978/H1 STL
7 Ralph Kiner 369 1946 1955 23-32 1472 6256 5205 971 1451 216 39 1015 1011 1 749 24 9 7 126 22 2 .279 .398 .548 .946 *7/83H PIT-TOT-CHC-CLE
8 Joe DiMaggio 361 1936 1951 21-36 1736 7673 6821 1390 2214 389 131 1537 790 369 46 14 130 30 9 .325 .398 .579 .977 *8/79H3 NYY
9 Johnny Mize 359 1936 1953 23-40 1883 7370 6443 1118 2011 367 83 1337 856 524 52 20 99 28 1 .312 .397 .562 .959 *3H/9 STL-NYG-TOT-NYY
10 Duke Snider 354 1947 1959 20-32 1657 6886 6014 1098 1825 311 71 1149 782 74 994 16 49 25 144 95 48 .303 .384 .555 .939 *8/9H7 BRO-LAD
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/5/2014.

Neither Ted Williams nor Stan Musial participated.  Williams was born August 30, 1918 in San Diego, CA, so he was 41 years old and coming off his worst season: OPS+ 114 down from 179 in 1958; 10 HR in 272 AB.

Sunday, October 14, 2012  Ted Williams was dropped to sixth in the batting order.

Ted Williams, who would turn 41 August 30, was dropped from third in the Boston lineup to sixth on of all days July 4, 1959...

Thursday, July 30, 1959 at Cleveland Stadium (attendance: 10,244) Williams batted cleanup...

For the rest of the 1959 season Williams batted third or fourth when he started.
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Still, Williams was the active leader in career HR and only one HR behind Gehrig and almost sure to be the fourth player to reach 500 HR.  Was Williams living in San Diego that off season?  Was he invited?

Musial was sixth in career HR, second among active players.  Was he invited?

Among the participants here are the career leaders:
Duke Snider 354
Gil Hodges 345
Eddie Mathews 299
Mickey Mantle 280
Willie Mays 250
Ernie Banks 228
Jackie Jensen 186
Hank Aaron 179
Wally Post 152.

Jensen was afraid of flying, which contributed to his retiring after the 1959 season at the age of 32; he had led the AL in RBI for the third time and won his first Gold Glove award.  He announced it in January 1960.  It's not clear when he filmed his episodes of Home Run Derby but I'm guessing before his retirement announcement.  He tried a comeback in 1961 but the addition of the Angels in Los Angeles and that long flight only made matters worse.  He retired after the 1961 season.

Snider hit at least 40 HR 1953-1957, leading the National League (NL) with his career high 43 in 1956.  But in LA in 1958 and 1959: only 15 and 23.

Hodges hit 40 way back in 1951, then 42 in 1954 but then was over 27 only in 1956 with 32.  In LA: 22, 25.

1955-1959 at least 40 HR:

Rk Player HR Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Mickey Mantle 52 1956 24 NYY AL 150 652 533 132 188 22 5 130 112 6 99 2 1 4 4 10 1 .353 .464 .705 1.169 *8/H
2 Willie Mays 51 1955 24 NYG NL 152 670 580 123 185 18 13 127 79 13 60 4 0 7 12 24 4 .319 .400 .659 1.059 *8
3 Ernie Banks 47 1958 27 CHC NL 154 682 617 119 193 23 11 129 52 12 87 4 1 8 14 4 4 .313 .366 .614 .980 *6
4 Ted Kluszewski 47 1955 30 CIN NL 153 686 612 116 192 25 0 113 66 25 40 4 0 4 10 1 1 .314 .382 .585 .967 *3
5 Eddie Mathews 46 1959 27 MLN NL 148 682 594 118 182 16 8 114 80 2 71 3 3 2 6 2 1 .306 .390 .593 .983 *5
6 Ernie Banks 45 1959 28 CHC NL 155 671 589 97 179 25 6 143 64 20 72 7 2 9 18 2 4 .304 .374 .596 .970 *6/H
7 Hank Aaron 44 1957 23 MLN NL 151 675 615 118 198 27 6 132 57 15 58 0 0 3 13 1 1 .322 .378 .600 .978 *98/H
8 Ernie Banks 44 1955 24 CHC NL 154 646 596 98 176 29 9 117 45 6 72 2 0 3 16 9 3 .295 .345 .596 .941 *6
9 Ernie Banks 43 1957 26 CHC NL 156 673 594 113 169 34 6 102 70 11 85 3 2 5 12 8 4 .285 .360 .579 .939 *65
10 Duke Snider 43 1956 29 BRO NL 151 652 542 112 158 33 2 101 99 26 101 1 6 4 16 3 3 .292 .399 .598 .997 *8/H
11 Rocky Colavito 42 1959 25 CLE AL 154 664 588 90 151 24 0 111 71 8 86 2 0 3 13 3 3 .257 .337 .512 .849 *9
12 Harmon Killebrew 42 1959 23 WSH AL 153 648 546 98 132 20 2 105 90 1 116 7 0 4 12 3 2 .242 .354 .516 .870 *5/7
13 Mickey Mantle 42 1958 26 NYY AL 150 654 519 127 158 21 1 97 129 13 120 2 2 2 11 18 3 .304 .443 .592 1.035 *8
14 Roy Sievers 42 1957 30 WSH AL 152 657 572 99 172 23 5 114 76 11 55 7 0 2 9 1 1 .301 .388 .579 .967 *73/H
15 Duke Snider 42 1955 28 BRO NL 148 653 538 126 166 34 6 136 104 19 87 1 4 6 9 9 7 .309 .418 .628 1.046 *8/H
16 Rocky Colavito 41 1958 24 CLE AL 143 578 489 80 148 26 3 113 84 6 89 2 0 3 16 0 2 .303 .405 .620 1.024 *93/H17
17 Eddie Mathews 41 1955 23 MLN NL 141 616 499 108 144 23 5 101 109 20 98 1 1 6 5 3 4 .289 .413 .601 1.014 *5/H
18 Duke Snider 40 1957 30 BRO NL 139 592 508 91 139 25 7 92 77 12 104 1 3 3 17 3 4 .274 .368 .587 .955 *8/H
19 Wally Post 40 1955 25 CIN NL 154 668 601 116 186 33 3 109 60 5 102 2 2 3 15 7 4 .309 .372 .574 .946 *9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/5/2014.

19 times by 11 players; multiple times:
Banks 47, 45, 44, 43
Snider 43, 42, 40 (plus twice previously)
Mantle 52, 42
Mathews 46 in 1959, 41 (plus 47 in 1953)
Colavito 42, 41

The only ones not to participate: Sievers and Kluszewski.  Roy Sievers had 215 HR through 1959 and had led the American League (AL) with 42 in 1957.  It seems odd that a recent HR champion would not be included.  Was Sievers invited?  Kluszewski 1953-1956: 40, 49, 47, 35.  But then only 6, 4, 4.  He was 34 and pretty much off the radar.

Mantle and Mays were the only participants to have already hit 50 HR.  Subsequently, they were also the only ones to hit 50 after 1959.  Maybe that's why Mays was selected to play Mantle in the first program instead of Banks.  Or maybe it was just because Mays was a bigger name than Banks and more dynamic.

The 19 participants included league leaders in HR going back to 1953 except for Sievers, Kluszewski Larry Doby and Al Rosen who had retired after the 1956 season.  Doby had led the AL with 32 HR in 1952 and 1954 but hit none in 113 AB in 1959, his final season.

The only leaders multiple times: Mantle 3, Mathews 2.

In 1960 Mantle would lead for the fourth and final time with 40 and Banks would reach 40 for the fifth and final time and lead for the second and final time with 41.  In 1962 Banks switched from SS to 1B and hit 37 HR.  In 1961 Mantle finished second with 54 HR, losing the HR race to teammate Roger Maris who hit 61.  Maris hit 28 HR in 1958, 19 in 1959.  He was not yet a big time HR hitter.

But neither were many of the other participants.  And most would never become HR hitters.

MVP:
Mantle 1956, 1957
Banks 1958, 1959
Mays 1954
Aaron 1957
Jensen 1958

Mantle (1962) and Mays (1965) would be MVP again.  Ken Boyer would eventually be MVP in 1964.  Frank Robinson was MVP in each league: NL 1961, AL 1966.

Here are the 19 with their derby records sorted by 1959 HR:

nameFirst nameLast wins losses age height weight yearID HR AB AB/HR
Eddie Mathews 0 1 28 73 190 1959 46 594 12.9130434782609
Ernie Banks 1 2 28 73 180 1959 45 589 13.0888888888889
Harmon Killebrew 2 2 23 72 195 1959 42 546 13
Rocky Colavito 0 2 26 75 190 1959 42 588 14
Hank Aaron 6 1 25 72 180 1959 39 629 16.1282051282051
Frank Robinson 1 1 24 73 183 1959 36 540 15
Willie Mays 3 2 28 70 170 1959 34 575 16.9117647058824
Jim Lemon 0 2 31 76 200 1959 33 531 16.0909090909091
Mickey Mantle 4 1 28 71 195 1959 31 541 17.4516129032258
Bob Allison 1 2 25 75 205 1959 30 570 19
Jackie Jensen 2 2 32 71 190 1959 28 535 19.1071428571429
Ken Boyer 1 1 28 73 190 1959 28 563 20.1071428571429
Dick Stuart 2 1 27 76 212 1959 27 397 14.7037037037037
Al Kaline 0 1 25 73 175 1959 27 511 18.9259259259259
Gus Triandos 0 1 29 75 205 1959 25 393 15.72
Gil Hodges 1 1 35 73 200 1959 25 413 16.52
Duke Snider 0 1 33 72 179 1959 23 370 16.0869565217391
Wally Post 1 1 30 73 190 1959 22 468 21.2727272727273
Bob Cerv 1 1 33 72 200 1959 20 463 23.15

Only four with at least 40 HR.  Even the great Mantle was in the middle with 31.

Mantle and Mays were the stars of their leagues.  Banks had been NL MVP the two previous seasons.  Bob Cerv (1958) had hit 38 HR previously.  Jim Lemon would hit 38 in 1960, third behind Mantle and Maris but they did not know that before the season.  Jensen had hit 35 in 1958.  Snider and Hodges were over the hill but had name recognition from their Brooklyn days.

Wally Post: 1955 40, 1956 36; the 22 HR in 1959 were his most since.  Bob Allison was a 24 year old Rookie of the Year in 1959 and his 30 HR seemed promising.  He dropped to 15 in 1960 but rebounded with a peak of 35 in 1963 and 256 career.  Boyer's 28 was his high so far; He hit 32 in 1960.  Dick Stuart went on to hit 35 in 1961, 42 in 1963 and 33 in 1964.

Gus Triandos was the only catcher.  In 1958 he hit 30 HR to tie the AL catcher's record set twice previously by Yogi Berra.  Max for Triandos after 1959 was 17.

Finally, there is Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline, youngest player to lead in batting average: 20 in 1955.  Kaline hit 399 HR but his season high was 29 in 1962.

The program probably should have had a different format.  Maybe eight players in a tournament rather than sudden death every week.  Obviously, they quickly used up their top stars and had to resort to players who were not real HR hitters.

Career HR numbers of the 19 participants sorted by HR:


FirstOfnameFirst FirstOfnameLast SumOfAB SumOfHR MaxOfHR AB/HRcareer FirstOfHR FirstOfAB/HR MinOfyearID MaxOfyearID
Hank Aaron 12364 755 47 16.3761589403974 39 16.1282051282051 1954 1976
Willie Mays 10881 660 52 16.4863636363636 34 16.9117647058824 1951 1973
Frank Robinson 10006 586 49 17.0750853242321 36 15 1956 1976
Harmon Killebrew 8147 573 49 14.21815008726 42 13 1954 1975
Mickey Mantle 8102 536 54 15.115671641791 31 17.4516129032258 1951 1968
Ernie Banks 9421 512 47 18.400390625 45 13.0888888888889 1953 1971
Eddie Mathews 8537 512 47 16.673828125 46 12.9130434782609 1952 1968
Duke Snider 7161 407 43 17.5945945945946 23 16.0869565217391 1947 1964
Al Kaline 10116 399 29 25.3533834586466 27 18.9259259259259 1953 1974
Rocky Colavito 6503 374 45 17.3877005347594 42 14 1955 1968
Gil Hodges 7030 370 42 19 25 16.52 1943 1963
Ken Boyer 7455 282 32 26.436170212766 28 20.1071428571429 1955 1969
Bob Allison 5032 256 35 19.65625 30 19 1958 1970
Dick Stuart 3997 228 42 17.530701754386 27 14.7037037037037 1958 1969
Wally Post 4007 210 40 19.0809523809524 22 21.2727272727273 1949 1964
Jackie Jensen 5236 199 35 26.3115577889447 28 19.1071428571429 1950 1961
Gus Triandos 3907 167 30 23.3952095808383 25 15.72 1953 1965
Jim Lemon 3445 164 38 21.0060975609756 33 16.0909090909091 1950 1963
Bob Cerv 2261 105 38 21.5333333333333 20 23.15 1951 1962

7 of the 19 had 500 career HR

8 season high at least 45

Kaline only one with season high less than 30: 29

Cerv hit 38 of 105 HR in 1958: 36%

four had more than 10,000 AB: Aaron. Mays, Kaline, Robinson

four fewer than 4,000 AB: Cerv, Lemon, Triandos, Stuart

I think limiting it to eight participants would have been a big improvement:
Mantle, Mays, Banks, Aaron, Mathews, Robinson, Colavito, Killebrew.  Colavito is the only non-Hall of Famer but he was a young slugger on the rise.  It eliminates two Hall of Famers: Snider, a slugger helped by his home park in Brooklyn, and Kaline, who was not really a HR hitter.

Among the rest are two MVP: Boyer and Jensen.  Neither was a HR hitter, nor strong MVP.

It's a nostalgic fix for those of us who grew up watching them to view an episode on youtube occasionally.  The simplicity and quiet of it adds to its charm.  However, the shows get pretty dull pretty quickly.  And matches that lack any of the eight mentioned above are intolerable.

Examples:
14. Stuart beats Post
15. Stuart beats Triandos
18. Allison beats Cerv

Notice that they are later shows.  Even some without Mantle, Mays, Aaron can seem sluggish:
5. Boyer beats Killebrew
16. Robinson beats Stuart
24. Jensen beats Colavito

It's still better than the long, noisy and visually messy HR derby exhibited the day before the All Star game by the Major Baseball League (MBL) of commissioner Allen Huber "Bud" Selig.  I stopped watching that years ago.

Note: After batting righty against righty batting practice pitchers on the TV show, Mantle had his best season for hitting homers batting righty.  Further ...

Friday, May 17, 2013  Mickey Mantle: 64 HR in Twilight Zone Squared.

Batting only righty but not in Yankee Stadium: 64 home runs (HR) in 1960 in 154 games.  Wow.   Mickey Mantle might have already broken the Babe Ruth HR record of 60, which would have deprived teammate Roger Maris of the record in 1961 when Maris hit 61 HR in 162 games.
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2 comments:

paul46 said...

Very Impressive research. Home Run Derby, allows us today to peer into a golden age of power hitters. I remember watching it, you can still catch-up with it on You Tube....

http://youtu.be/urPWxedYKYs


Thanks Ken

b walters said...

How can you say Stuart vs Post was intolerable? That was one of the best 3 matches the show ever had! It was high scoring and in the 6th inning, bot Stuart and Post each hit 5 home runs! So you put down these players, but tout Colovito who had a lousy 7 homers in 2 games. And the great Duke Snider managed to produce one whole home run in his one match. You go watch a Colovito vs Snider match. I'll watch two guys like Stuart and Post who I know will produce some excitement.