|Mickey Mantle, Mark Scott, Willie Mays|
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. 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
|1959 (NL AL)||Eddie Mathews+ * (MLN)||46||Rocky Colavito (CLE)|
Harmon Killebrew+ (WSH)
|1958 (NL AL)||Ernie Banks+ (CHC)||47||Mickey Mantle+ # (NYY)||42|
|1957 (NL AL)||Hank Aaron+ (MLN)||44||Roy Sievers (WSH)||42|
|1956 (NL AL)||Duke Snider+ * (BRO)||43||Mickey Mantle+ # (NYY)||52|
|1955 (NL AL)||Willie Mays+ (NYG)||51||Mickey Mantle+ # (NYY)||37|
|1954 (NL AL)||Ted Kluszewski * (CIN)||49||Larry Doby+ * (CLE)||32|
|1953 (NL AL)||Eddie Mathews+ * (MLN)||47||Al Rosen (CLE)||43|
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.
Mantle 1956, 1957
Banks 1958, 1959
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:
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:
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.
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.