No Fooling

Note: With everything going on in the world, April Fool’s Day is cancelled this year. That’s a good thing. We need to be serious right now. However, amidst all the fear and uncertainty, maybe a story from four decades ago will bring you a brief smile.

First some background. Jester Center at UT-Austin isn’t your typical on-campus co-ed dormitory. There are hundreds of rooms spread over 14 floors. They serve thousands of meals each day. In my era it was cafeteria style – I still hate boiled potato balls – as compared to today’s choose-your-favorite from an assortment of selections.

So… 40 years ago today…

At 11:55 p.m. on March 31, 1980, Glenn began calling friends who lived in Jester. You only had to dial four numbers, so it didn’t take long. He said: “Guys, you gotta see this. Somebody’s rappelling right outside my window. Come quick.”

Shortly after midnight a dozen of us are gathered staring into the semi-darkness. We see no one. Then Glenn shouts from above: “See him? Right over there.” We’re all yelling at him, “Where? We don’t see anyone.” Now more students are joining us and looking up to find out what all the fuss is about.

Suddenly, Glenn yells: “Hey, everybody… April Fool’s!”

The next day I promised Glenn he’d pay for it eventually, and for many years I’d call him at midnight and say, “Not yet.” Then hang up. Eventually, the desire for revenge passed. Glenn remains my close friend. April 1, 2021, might be the perfect time…

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75 Extra Base Hits

Among current Major League Baseball players, Nolan Arenado had 75 XBH four straight years (’15-’18) before coming up just short in ’19 with 74. Mike Trout has three (’13-’15) and also had 74 last year when an injury ended his MVP season after 134 games. Alex Bregman has accomplished it the past two years with 83 and 80. (The next few seasons will reveal the impact of sign stealing on his performance.)

Here are the total number of 75 XBH seasons by some of the most famous players:

Zero: Eddie Collins, Honus Wagner, Harmon Killebrew, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Eddie Murray and Derek Jeter

1X: Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Eddie Mathews, Carl Yastrzemski (the legendary ’67 Triple Crown season), Willie McCovey, Johnny Bench, George Brett and Cal Ripken

2X: Tris Speaker (at age 23 and again at 35), Mel Ott (and two seasons with 74), Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Gary Sheffield, Larry Walker and Adrian Beltre

3X: Charlie Gehringer, Frank Robinson (and five more with 70+), Mike Schmidt and Robinson Cano

4X: Johnny Mize (missed three seasons for military service, ’43-’45), Ernie Banks, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Brian Giles (’99-’02 and never again), Chipper Jones and Frank Thomas

5X: Rogers Hornsby, Chuck Klein (every year from ’29-’33, when he averaged 91), Joe Medwick (’34-’38 and, like Klein, never again), Ken Griffey, Jr, Albert Belle (plus 73 in the strike-shortened ’94 season and 74 in ’99), Jeff Bagwell, Nomar Garciaparra (with 73 in ’99) and David Ortiz

6X: Joe DiMaggio (missed three seasons, ’43-’45) Ted Williams (missed three seasons, ’43-’45; had 73 when he hit .406 in ’41 and 72 in ’48 ), Carlos Delgado, Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez (with 74 on three other occasions)

And now the illustrious Top 10 (12 total with ties)

7X

Hank Greenberg (’34 – 96, ’35 – 98, ’37 – 103, ’38 – 85, ’39 – 82, ’40 – 99, ’46 – 78)
Hank Aaron (’57 – 77, ’59 – 92, ’61 – 83, ’62 – 79, ’63 – 77, ’67 – 79, ’69 – 77)
Rafael Palmeiro (’91 – 78, ’93 – 79, ’96 – 81, ’98 – 80, ’99 – 78, ’01 – 80, ’02 – 77)
Barry Bonds (’92 – 75, ’93 – 88, ’98 – 88, ’00 – 81, ’01 – 107, ’02 – 79, ’04 – 75)
Miguel Cabrera (’05 – 78, ’06 – 78, ’08 – 75, ’10 – 84, ’11 – 78, ’12 – 84, ’14 – 78)

Greenberg missed ’42-’44 for military service. Palmeiro had 71 before the ’94 strike. Bonds had 70 in the delayed ’95 season, 72 in ’96 and 71 in ’97.

Aaron averaged 72 from ’55-’72. Bonds averaged 76 from ’92-’04.

8X

Jimmie Foxx (’30 – 83, ’32 – 100, ’33 – 94, ’34 – 78, ’35 – 76, ’36 – 81, ’38 – 92, ’39 – 76)
Stan Musial (’43 – 81, ’44 – 77, ’46 – 86, ’48 – 103, ’49 – 90, ’50 – 76, ’53 – 92, ’54 – 85)
Alex Rodriguez (’96 – 81, ’98 – 82, ’00 – 77, ’01 – 87, ’02 – 86, ’03 – 83, ’05 – 78, ’07 – 85)

Foxx had 72 in ’31 and 70 in ’40. From ’30-’40, he averaged 80. Musial, who missed ’45 for military service, had 74 in ’51 and averaged 80 from ’46-’54. Rodriguez had six by age 27 and averaged 77 from ’96-’07.

9X
Willie Mays
(’54 – 87, ’55 – 82, ’57 – 81, ’59 – 82, ’61 – 75, ’62 – 90, ’63 – 77, ’64 – 77, ’65 – 76)

Mays, who missed ’53 for military service, had 70 every year from ’54-’66, and averaged 78 during that stretch.

10X

Albert Pujols
(’01 – 88, ’02 – 76, ’03 – 95, ’04 – 99, ’05 – 81, ’06 – 83, ’08 – 81, ’09 – 93, ’10 – 82, ’12 – 80)

Pujols, who like ARod reached six times by age 27, had 71 in ’07 and 66 in ’11 (the two years he came up short), and averaged 83 from ’01-’12.

11X

Lou Gehrig
(’26 – 83, ’27 – 117, ’28 – 87, ’29 – 77, ’30 – 100, ’31 – 92, ’32 – 85, ’33 – 85, ’34 – 95, ’36 – 93, ’37 – 83)

Babe Ruth
(’19 – 75, ’20 – 99, ’21 – 119, ’23 – 99, ’24 – 92, ’26 – 82, ’27 – 97, ’28 – 91, ’29 – 78, ’30 – 86, ’31 – 80)

From ’26-’37, Gehrig averaged 89. Ruth averaged 84 from ’19-’31. They both had 75+ XBH each year from ’26 to ’31.

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Stats Heaven

Today was supposed to be Opening Day for Major League Baseball, when hope springs eternal; however, Coronavirus has changed so much in this country and around the world. Perhaps this reflection on the National Pastime will brighten someone’s day.

Since my first visit to Arlington Stadium at age 12, when my father taught me how to keep score, I’ve always been fascinated by the statistics of major leaguers. Thus, the genesis for this posting happened more than 30 years ago.

In 1989, I was producing Rangers games for Home Sports Entertainment. One night in August, our color analyst, Norm Hitzges, mentioned on air what an amazing accomplishment it is for a player to get 75 extra base hits (XBH) in a single season. He brought it up because Ruben Sierra – 23 years old and in his fourth year – was on a tear… and, in fact, would end up with 78 XBH (35 doubles, 14 triples, 29 home runs). Alas, despite playing until age 40, Sierra never again reached that lofty plateau, although he did come close two years later, falling just short with 74.

Whether baseball purists and statheads give 75 XBH any credence, for me, the achievement is a measurement of the greatness of the best hitters ever. In my research on baseball-reference.com, I examined the season results of the players ranked in the top: 100 doubles, 100 triples, 150 home runs, 100 slugging percentage, and 200 WAR (Wins Against Replacement, which is a respected measurement of career achievement). I also looked at more than 100 players who weren’t on any of those lists.

World War II and the Korean War disrupted the careers of several Hall of Famers – and the ’81 and ’94 strike-shortened seasons impacted recent players. Then again, there are many who achieved it during the steroid era. Draw your own conclusions.

If you’d like to dive into the rabbit hole with me, click here.

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Peace Offering

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

The first sentence of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, a series of 13 pamphlets – think of them as 18th century blog posts – published soon after the Declaration of Independence. During periods of prosperity those eight words rest in quiet slumber. Then when the next disruption arises, they awaken to remind us to remain strong.

The War of 1812. The Civil War. World War I. The Great Depression. World War II. Vietnam. Watergate. October 1987 crash. September 11. The Great Recession. Traumatic events in our history. Yet, we made it through these darkest of days.

Now we’re faced with the uncertainty of the Coronavirus. People are sick and dying. The stock market is in Bear territory. The Saudis and Russia engaged in a standoff that sent oil prices plunging. A global recession could be on the horizon.

While it’s time to take smart health and financial action, it is not time to lose hope. Talk with your customers and employees. Adjust where you need. Keep the faith.

And consider the next sentence of Paine’s first missive… one you may have never heard: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

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Yes, Indeed

You’ve probably had the experience many times of navigating automatic phone prompts before getting to speak to a live person. Often the last thing you hear is: “To participate in a brief customer service survey, please stay on the line at the end of the call.” There are typically multiple questions to answer on a scale of 1-low to 5-high.

A couple weeks ago I was working through an issue with an airline representative about missing mileage credit on one of my international flights. The person was polite, efficient and did an excellent job handling everything.

Since she was so nice, I stayed on the line: “Thank you for helping us be better. The only survey question is ‘Would you hire this person to work in your company?’ Press 1 for Yes. Press 2 for No.” So, of course, I pressed 1.

What a unique approach… and mutually beneficial. The company quickly received feedback on its employee and I disconnected knowing the extra 10 seconds of my time might help that representative get a gold star for performance.

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