Sky Blue Waters

I read an interesting article about the integration of the Cardinals last week.  In the 1950s, the city of St. Louis was about as segregated a one as you could find in baseball, and apparently the fusion of the races there was pushed hard by the team’s new owners, the people at Busch Brewery.  What I love about the story is that it was purely an economic decision: the company sold a lot of beer to African-Americans and this made them sensitive to issues that were swept under the rug in other places.

Hamms

The beer of choice in my corner of Iowa City was Hamm’s.  You are forgiven if you thought that brand had gone the way of Burger Chef and Studebakers, but I can confirm that the beer is still sold.  It’s probably just a nostalgia label at this point, the PBR of folks even older than me, but I bought a 12-pack yesterday to bring to a funeral that will be held later this week.  We’ll be burying Val Skarda and I’ll be one of the pall-bearers for the ashes of his bodily remains.  I think Val worked for a Hamm’s distributor a lifetime ago, but by the time his son Gary and I came along all that was left of this exotic line of work were some beer signs and old calendars in the garage.  Hamm’s was big for the Twins, just as the Skarda’s were big on both the team and the beer.

I don’t think of Val as a huge baseball fan.  There has never been a major league club in the state of Iowa, so primary sports loyalties are usually to the college teams (go Hawks!).  But when baseball season rolls around, by 1961 there were a lot more nearby options than there had been just ten years before.  The Braves had come to Milwaukee, the A’s to Kansas City, and now the Twins to Minneapolis… so even after St. Louis lost the Browns, Iowans had their loyalties divided among six teams in four adjacent states.  And as mentioned in one of my 1968 entries, those of us with a streak of contrariness might favor a faraway team, as in my case the Dodgers (after reading a bio of Sandy Koufax).  

As it happened, the IBC structure pairs the Twins with the Dodgers.  The resultant Cedar Rapids Saints were a middling club in 1968, and I think we can expect more of the same this time.  But per the old chestnut, hope springs eternal in the human breast.  Perhaps the main cause of optimism on this roster is the pair of dynamic catchers, the righty Earl Battey (.302/17/55 and a -3 arm) and the lefty John Roseboro (.251/18/59 and a -2 arm).  And with 800+ ABs between them, this is one of the fortunate clubs that has no reason to go 3-deep at this position.

The infield is interesting.  The stalwarts at 1st and short are a perfect storm.  Harmon Killebrew (.288/46/122 and 107 walks) is the thunder, and Maury Wills (.282/1/31 and 35 steals) greased lightning.  Alas, we’re a year away from the year of NL expansion, when Wills had his big year of 104 thefts, but he is still the prototype leadoff hitter of this era.  The various combinations used at 2nd and 3rd are also fun for me to manage, in part because my early interest in the Dodgers makes the likes of switch-hitting Jim Gilliam (.244/4/32 and 79 walks) and righties 22-yo Tommy Davis (.278/15/58) and  Charlie Neal (.235/10/48) shine brightly.  Bill Tuttle (.249/5/46 abd 52 walks) ostendibly make the club as another option at the hot corner, but his main value is the ‘1’ glove he can carry out to CF (and it’s also interesting that Davis is likewise better in LF than at third).  Extra infield depth is provided by a colorful group that includes the great 37-yo Gil Hodges (.242/8/31) at 1B and Daryl Spencer (.248/12/48) at SS/3B.

GreenLenny

Best hitter on the club (by WAR) is LF Wally Moon (.328/17/88 and 89 walks).  Out in CF is the club’s second legit leadoff guy, Lenny Green (.285/9/50 and 81 walks), and he’s fast becoming my favorite Twins player in the Saint’s lineup.  Ford Motors bookended Green’s life before and after baseball: Green’s father worked at a Detroit plant, and after hanging up his cleats Lenny worked the security end of things.  This team has an embarrassment of riches in RF (and DH).  Bob Allison (.245/29/105 and 103 walks) is the regular, but there are also several part-time sluggers that are really good: 22-yo Ron Fairly (.322/10/48), 34-yo Duke Snider (.296/16/56), and Frank Howard (.296/15/45) may only have only have 745 ABs between them, but are all forces to be reckoned with.  The last outfield slot belongs to 21-yo Willie Davis (.254/12/45), a solid player who won’t play much on this loaded roster.

Just one Saint with the sorting requirement of 360+ ABs and/or a WAR of 0.5+ was cut and didn’t get drafted by the Golden Eagles or Maroons: LF Jim Lemon (.258/14/52).  Given the AB shortages, he might have been a smart pick but his mediocre bat and bad glove fell victim to the numbers crunch.

SUMMARY LOOK AT CEDAR RAPIDS HITTERS
CA (2): 854 ABs, 6R balance, and WAR of 9.3
1B (2): 756 ABs, 0E balance, and WAR of 6.7
2B (2): 780 ABs, 3R balance, and WAR of 2.6
3B (3): 1233 ABs, 5L balance, and WAR of 3.1
SS (1): 613 ABs, 1R balance, and WAR of 4.1
LF (1): 463 ABs, 4R balance, and WAR of 6.1
CF (2): 939 ABs, 1R balance, and WAR of 7.4
RF (4): 1301 ABs, 5R balance, and WAR of 11.9

Here are the historical ballpark ratings for the Twins and Dodgers (note all IBC parks are 9’s across the board):

Ballpark Effect     Minnesota   Los Angeles
Lefty Singles          4            7  
Righty Singles        11            2
Lefty Homers          11           16
Righty Homers         14           19

The core group of this club is the Dodgers, and when we think of that club in this period the good-pitch/no-hit memories are strongest.  But as the ballpark numbers above indicate, the 1961 ballpark wasn’t the same as the park that opened a year later (and was 1’s for homers in 1964 and 1968).  So while this franchise looks to have great hitting and so-so pitching, the park factors may have created a false perception and it will be interesting to see how the Saints fare.  

The rotation has nice balance.  The righties are Camilo Pascual (18-13, 3.52, 256 IP), 24-yo Don Drysdale (13-10, 3.69, 244 IP), and 24-yo Stan Williams (15-12, 3.90, 235 IP).  Nothing flashy, but if the team hits well they will be ok.  The same is true of the lefties: Sandy Koufax (18-13, 3.52, 256 IP), Jack Kralick (13-11, 3.61, 242 IP), and 22-yo Jim Kaat (9-17, 3.90, 201 IP).  The pair of Cedar Raipids closers include its only pitcher with an ERA under 3: the lefty Ron Perranoski (2.65, 92 IP, 6 saves) and righty Larry Sherry (3.90, 95 IP, 15 saves).  Middle relief is sort of a mess in this period, and here the right-handed options are Don Lee (3-6, 3.52, 115 IP), 35-yo Ray Moore (3.67, 56 IP), and Al Schroll (5.22, 50 IP).  The two lefties in the middle are awful: Danny McDevitt (4.08, 40 IP) and 23-yo Bill Pleis (4.95, 56 IP).  This sure doesn’t seem like a super-league staff, does it?

No pitchers with the sorting requirement of 120+ IPs and/or a WAR of 0.5+ didn’t make Cedar Rapids' final 30-man roster or get taken in the mini-draft.  This seems to bode well for the quality of the staff, but who knows?  Hopefully they can win a few for Gary’s old man, Val Skarda.

SUMMARY LOOK AT WEST METRO PITCHERS
RELIEF (4): 299 IPs, 6L balance, and WAR of 2.3
RELIEF/STARTER (4): 406 IPs, 7L balance, and WAR of 4.7
STARTER (5): 1229 IPs, 7R balance, and WAR of 22.3

Here is a link to the league rosters and current stats after the first week of play, and below is another link to the Strat-O-Matic league file, followed by the current standings. 

1961IB-5-14-2019.lzp

4/23/61 Iowa Baseball Confederacy        Won   Lost    Pct     GB
Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)        9      3    .750     — 
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)       8      4    .667     —
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)          6      4    .600    1.0 
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)    7      5    .583    2.0 
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)       5      5    .500    3.0 
Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators)          5      6    .455    3.5 
Council Bluffs Falcons (A’s-Giants)       4      6    .400    4.0 
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)       4      7    .364    4.5 
Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)       4      7    .364    4.5 
West Metro Maroons (Angels)               3      8    .273    5.5

That’s all for this week. 

© John Kisner 2019