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Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages 0

Posted on April 08, 2024 by Dean Hybl
Rusty Staub

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

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50 Years Ago: Hank Aaron Becomes Baseball’s Home Run King 9

Posted on April 08, 2024 by Dean Hybl

It was 36 years ago this week that Hank Aaron became the all-time home run king.

It was 40 years ago that Hank Aaron became the all-time home run king.

Given how much emphasis sports put on championships, it may seem a little strange that the most significant home run in Major League Baseball history was not hit during the month of October, but instead was struck in early April by an aging player on a team that wouldn’t come close to reaching the postseason.

Such was the case 50 years ago, on April 8, 1974, when Hank Aaron forever cemented a place for himself in baseball lore with his record breaking 715th home run.

Every die-hard sports fan has a number of moments that are forever etched in their subconscious memory – to the point that even years after the fact they can recall not just the special moment, but also where they were and what they were doing at the time.

Though I was only six-years old, the night when Aaron set the home run record is one of those moments for me.

My family was paying special attention to the record because we had family friends who were from Atlanta and thus big fans of Aaron and the Braves. “Hammerin’ Hank” had tied the record during the season opener in Cincinnati and there seemed to be little doubt that he was going to set the record during the home opener, which was being shown on national television by ABC. However, for a while there was some doubt whether we would be able to see it.

It was a stormy Monday night in my hometown of Keysville, Virginia, thanks to a powerful early spring thunderstorm that brought lightning, thunder and heavy rains. There was no such thing as cable television in our town in 1974 and because we were about 75 miles from the closest television station, even with having an antenna on the roof we never really had crystal clear reception. The general practice at that time was also to unplug the television during electrical storms so that the TV wouldn’t get zapped. Read the rest of this entry →

America’s Storyteller Vin Scully Passes Away at Age 94 0

Posted on August 03, 2022 by Dean Hybl
Vin Scully has been an icon since announcing his first major league game in 1950.
Vin Scully was one of America’s great storytellers of the 20th Century.

Legendary sports announcer Vin Scully has passed away at the age of 94. Scully began his broadcast career as the third announcer along with Red Barber and Connie Desmond for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 and spent 67 years broadcasting baseball for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers before retiring in 2016.

Listening to a Vin Scully broadcast was not just an afternoon enjoying live baseball. It was an afternoon remembering both legendary and relatively obscure players from baseball’s past while also likely having American culture and history woven into the conversation.

Scully was not just a walking baseball encyclopedia, he was a walking American history book.

Having grown up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Scully spent two years in the U.S. Navy before attending Fordham University. During his college career, Scully played on the baseball team while writing for the school newspaper and broadcasting football and basketball games on the radio.

Following his graduation, Scully was a fill-in announcer for CBS Radio station WTOP in Washington, DC. It was during this time that Red Barber, the Sports Director for the CBS Radio Network, recruited him to broadcast college football games.

After joining the Dodgers broadcast team in 1950, Scully continued to learn his craft from the legendary Barber. In 1953, Barber got into a salary dispute with World Series broadcast sponsor Gillette, propelling the 25-year-old Scully into the broadcast booth for his first World Series. He still holds the record as the youngest broadcaster to announce a World Series game.

He eventually became the lead announcer for the Dodgers and stayed with the team when they moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season.

Though he was originally a New Yorker, it was in California where Scully truly became a broadcasting legend. Announcing Dodger games during the era of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills, Scully became a fan favorite as many would bring transistor radios to the stadium just to hear Scully call the action.

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2022 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions: Better Late Than Never 1

Posted on July 24, 2022 by Dean Hybl

The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame induction class is quite interesting as it includes a recent star with a questionable history and then several greats from past eras who waited far too long for Hall of Fame induction.

Minnie Minoso is among the seven inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2022.

Based on career numbers and post season success, there seems little doubt that David Ortiz has the credentials to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, given that many other greats from recent eras with similar association with the steroid era have been shunned by the Hall of Fame electorate, it seems a bit odd (and perhaps hypocritical) that Ortiz is being inducted in his first year of eligibility.

It seems clear that the reason Ortiz is being inducted in the same year that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens roll off the ballot after a decade of receiving below the voter threshold is related almost totally to likeability. Even before they became the poster boys for the steroid era, Clemens and Bonds were seen as surly and self-absorbed. They were unquestionably among the top talents of their era, but that was not enough for either of them. When their bodies started the natural breakdown associated with baseball players in their 30s, they fought back with banned substances and ultimately posted otherworld numbers into their 40s.

The career of Ortiz is quite different. He was an inconsistent power-hitter in six seasons with the Minnesota Twins. In 2002 he posted career-high numbers in home runs (20), RBI (75), Slugging Percentage (.500) and OPS (.839), but still struggled against left-handed pitchers (.203 average, .637 OPS) and was released following the season in a cost-cutting measure.

As they say, “the rest is history”. Ortiz signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in December 2002 and quickly became a key component of the most successful era of Boston Red Sox baseball in 100 years. He helped the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino by winning the 2004 World Series and ultimately won three World Series rings with the Red Sox.

Ortiz was one of the most consistent sluggers in baseball from 2003 until his retirement in 2016. He averaged 34.5 home runs and 109 RBI in 14 seasons with the Red Sox.

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Great Advice for a Weekly Fantasy Baseball Beginner 4

Posted on December 04, 2021 by John Harris

To be able to compete effectively in a weekly fantasy baseball league, here are some friendly nuggets of advice that can be of help in order for you to surprise your more experienced friends with your fantasy acumen.

Which strategy is the strongest for Weekly Fantasy Baseball?

The most frequently used method is to draft hitters early, closers late, as well as pitchers when their worth is greatest and with this, a lot of experts frequently draft around the average draft position or ADP.

While any logical, deliberate plan is capable of winning a league, I choose the standard strategy since it capitalizes on a number of elements.

  • To begin, saves are the most frequently used statistic in the league. With a few notable exceptions like Papelbon, K-rod, or Nathan, many clubs’ closer positions are in flux or pose injury risks.
  • Second, pitching has a greater degree of volatility than hitting. This is partly owing to the heightened risk of injury that pitchers confront, and partly due to the nature of pitching. Pitchers are frequently injured or experience periods of lack of effectiveness or bad luck.

There are very few reliable pitchers available early in the draft like Johan Santana as well as Tim Lincecum instantly comes to mind, although Johan has struggled with elbow issues and velocity reduction in recent seasons.

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Happy 80th Birthday Boog Powell 2

Posted on August 17, 2021 by Dean Hybl
Happy 80th Birthday Boog Powell.

The Baltimore Orioles of the 1960s and early 1970s boasted a roster busting with stars from top to bottom. While Brooks and Frank Robinson were the two best players on the team, the most imposing figure was a 6-foot-4, 240 pound first baseman who hit towering home runs and picked throws out of the dirt with ease. It was that player, Boog Powell, who became a favorite to many young fans, including myself.

It is hard to believe that today is the 80th birthday for one of the great sluggers of his era and we at Sports Then and Now want to wish a Happy Birthday to one of our all-time favorite players.

Given the super-sizing of professional baseball players in recent decades, Powell’s size may no longer seem all that special, but in the 1960s and 1970 when most players were shaped like string beans, Powell was hard to miss. With tree trunks for arms that looked even larger when wearing the Orioles tight fitting gray uniform top, he spent more than a decade launching mammoth home runs and playing first base for the Baltimore Orioles.

A fair-skinned giant with reddish hair, Powell looked like a farm boy from the Midwest, but actually was born in Lakeland, Florida and grew up in the Sunshine State. Though his given name was John Wesley Powell, he earned the nickname “Boog” as a kid due to his mischievous nature. He seemed to always be getting into something and became known as Booger, as in, “What’s that little Booger doing now?” The nickname was eventually shortened to Boog, probably around the time he got big enough to beat the snot out of anyone who would dare call him Booger.

Powell’s prowess on the baseball field was evident from an early age. In 1954 he was part of the Lakeland Little League squad that played in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Signed as a free agent by the Baltimore Orioles in 1959, Powell quickly made his way to the majors. He led the International League in home runs in 1961 and made his major league debut that September.

The next season he became the starting leftfielder for the Birds and was an important reason the Orioles were steadily moving from perennial doormat to contender in the American League. Powell blasted 25 home runs in 1963 and the following season hit 39 homers and led the American League with a .606 slugging percentage despite missing several weeks with a broken wrist.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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