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Sports Then and Now



Baseball World Says Goodbye to Several All-Time Greats 0

Posted on October 04, 2020 by Dean Hybl

There is no question that 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, but it has been an especially sad year for long-time baseball fans. Bob Gibson, who passed away this weekend, is the fourth member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to pass away in 2020. The other members of the HOF to pass away this year are Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and Gibson’s long-time teammate Lou Brock.

Bob Gibson facing Al Kaline in the 1968 World Series.

In addition, the game has said goodbye to several other notable players including Don Larsen, Jimmy Wynn, Tony Fernandez, Tony Taylor, Bob Watson and Claudell Washington. Here is the full list from Baseball Reference.

Gibson, Brock and Kaline were all part of the dramatic 1968 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers. As should be the case on the World Series stage, all three of the future Hall of Famers were at their best during the seven-game series.

For Kaline, who played his entire 22 year career with the Tigers, the 1968 World Series marked the first post-season opportunity of his career. He definitely made the most of it as he registered at least one hit in each of the first six games and finished with a team-high 11 hits and a .379 average. He also hit two home runs and drove home eight runs.

Gibson and Brock were both playing in their third World Series in five seasons in 1968. The Cardinals claimed World Series titles in 1964 and 1967. Both Gibson and Brock were key performers in both of those wins.

In the 1964 World Series against the New York Yankees, Gibson won two of three starts, including a 7-5 victory in the decisive seventh game. Brock had two hits, scored a run and drove home a run in the seventh game. Over the full seven game series, Brock had four multi-hit games and drove home five runs.

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Bill Freehan: Michigan Man 2

Posted on May 12, 2018 by Dean Hybl

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was an 11-time American League All-Star at one of the most demanding positions in baseball, yet outside of Detroit his exploits have been largely forgotten.

For more than a decade, Bill Freehan was the rock behind home plate for the Detroit Tigers. In addition to earning All-Star honors 10 straight years and 11 times overall, Freehan was a five-time Gold Glove winner and in 1968 finished second in the American League in the MVP voting.

A true “Michigan Man”, Freehan played his entire sports career representing teams from Michigan. Read the rest of this entry →

Al Kaline: From Kid Star to Hall of Famer 6

Posted on May 31, 2015 by Dean Hybl

Al Kaline

Al Kaline

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was only 20 years old in 1955 when he collected a league-leading 200 hits and won the American League batting title with a .340 batting title.

Much like the young stars of today, Al Kaline took the baseball world by storm in the 1950s when he made his major league debut at 18 and just two years later finished second in the MVP voting. In making his first All-Star team in 1955, Kaline not only won the only batting title of his career, but he also hit 27 home runs, scored 121 runs and drove home 102 runs. Read the rest of this entry →

Baseball Playoffs Have Feel of the 1980s 12

Posted on September 28, 2014 by Dean Hybl

With their first playoff appearance in 29 years, the Kansas City Royals are partying like it is 1985.

With their first playoff appearance in 29 years, the Kansas City Royals are partying like it is 1985.

If you followed baseball in the late 1970s and early 1980s and then haven’t paid attention for the last 30 years, the teams appearing in the 2014 baseball post season probably don’t seem that strange to you.

Included amongst the squads that will be battling for the World Series Trophy are the World Series Champions from 1979 (Pittsburgh Pirates), 1981 & 1988 (Los Angeles Dodgers), 1982 (St. Louis Cardinals), 1983 (Baltimore Orioles), 1984 (Detroit Tigers), 1985 (Kansas City Royals) and 1989 (Oakland A’s).

Of course, what those of us who have been following baseball for the last 30 years know, is that of these teams only the Cardinals have won another World Series since the 1980s (2006 and 2011) with the 2006 victory coming over the Tigers, who also appeared in the World Series in 2012.

With the exception of the Dodgers, who have made the playoffs seven times since winning the 1988 World Series, and the A’s, who have made eight playoff appearances since losing the 1990 World Series, the other teams in that group have seen some pretty lean times since the 1980s.

No team has waited longer to get back to the post season than the Kansas City Royals.

After making the playoffs seven times and finishing no worse than second during a 10-year stretch from 1976-1985 that culminated with their World Series Championship, the Royals went into a nearly three decade tailspin.

After winning the World Series, the Royals were still generally competitive for the next decade as they had a winning record six times and finished second in their division three times between 1986 and 1995.

However, their second place finish in 1995 came despite a losing record and from that season through 2012 the Royals had only one winning season and five times had a season winning percentage below .400. Despite going from a seven team division to a five team division with realignment in 1995, Kansas City finished as high as third place only three times in 17 seasons. Read the rest of this entry →

2014 Major League Baseball Preview: Is Money the Answer? 10

Posted on March 30, 2014 by Dean Hybl

Despite hitting 86 home runs the last two seasons, Chris Davis is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Despite hitting 86 home runs the last two seasons, Chris Davis is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

Several major league baseball teams spent the winter spending money like a drunken sailor in hopes of moving to the top of the league. Yet, as we prepare for the 2014 season the teams expected by many to contend are a combination of big money and middle payroll teams.

For now, the Los Angeles Dodgers have surpassed the New York Yankees as the team with baseball’s highest payroll. However, that doesn’t mean the team in the Bronx is suddenly being frugal. The suspension of Alex Rodriguez hacked a large salary off their payroll, but the Yankees made up for that by signing Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka and high money free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.

While several teams in recent years have been able to make the playoffs without high payrolls, once the playoffs begin the higher payrolls have generally had an advantage. That was quite obvious last season in the two playoff series that went to a decisive game. The higher payroll Cardinals and Tigers each started a seasoned veteran in the fifth game of their division round playoff series (Adam Wainwright and Justin Verlander, respectively). Their opponents, the Pirates and A’s, each started a rookie who wasn’t even in the major leagues when the 2013 season started.

Having a high payroll is no guarantee that a team will make the playoffs, but big off-season spending has certainly put several teams in a position to contend.

Below are a few thoughts heading into the 2014 season:

Baseball’s Most Underrated Player
In the last two seasons Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis has hit 86 home runs, driven in 223 runs and scored 178 runs, yet ESPN’s recent player rankings didn’t have him listed among the top 25 players in the game. The Sybermetrics disciples have become so enamored with WAR and other made-up stats that they have forgotten that driving in and scoring runs is the name of the game. As a team, the Orioles have been generally dismissed despite having two consecutive solid seasons, but they have a very potent offensive and if David has another strong season the O’s could again be in contention throughout the season.
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Miguel Cabrera Posts A Season For The Ages, But Is It MVP Worthy? 2

Posted on October 04, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Miguel Cabrera is the first player in 45 years to win baseball’s Triple Crown.

With his impressive late season surge, Miguel Cabrera has become the first major league player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown as the league leader in home runs, batting average and RBI. However, it is also likely that Cabrera will join another former Red Sox star on an even more amazing list.

All-time great Ted Williams won the Triple Crown twice, but interestingly, he finished second in the AL MVP Award voting in both of those seasons. In 1942, Williams finished 21 votes behind Joe Gordon of the New York Yankees. In 1947 the Splendid Splinter lost the MVP to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio by a single vote.

Others who won the Triple Crown without being named MVP of their league include Lou Gehrig in 1934 and Chuck Klein in 1933.

Despite his amazing statistical year and hot final month that helped push the Detroit Tigers into the playoffs, many expect Cabrera to finish second in the MVP voting to Los Angeles Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout.

In both of the seasons when Williams finished second, his team did not make the playoffs. The 1942 Red Sox finished second, nine games behind Gordon and the Yankees. In 1947, the Red Sox placed third in the American League, 14 games behind DiMaggio and the Yankees.

Though the 2012 Tigers actually finished with two fewer wins than Trout and the Angels, because of the current division format, Cabrera will be advancing into the playoffs while Trout starts his offseason.

Given the amazing statistics of Cabrera, .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI, you would think there would be little discussion about the MVP Award. Especially when compared to the numbers of Trout in those same categories (.326 average, 30 home runs and 83 RBI). However, because Trout served as a leadoff hitter, he out-performed Cabrera in several non-power categories that helped illustrate the rookies all-around value including runs scored (129 to 109), on base percentage (.399 to .393) and stolen bases (49 to 4). Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Stan Jones – Weight Training Trailblazer
      October 11, 2020 | 1:48 pm
      Stan Jones

      The Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month was one of the great linemen of his era and is considered a trailblazer for using weight training and conditioning to develop his skills.

      After a standout career at the University of Maryland, Stan Jones spent nine seasons as an offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, making seven Pro Bowl appearances and earning first team All-Pro three times.

      In 1962, assistant coach George Allen suggested Jones move to defense to help solidify that unit for the Bears. He played both ways in 1962 and then in 1963 moved permanently to the defense.

      Read more »

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