Sunday, September 1, 2013

July 10- New York Giants



It was a week after my birthday this year when I came across this cap on the “shop” portion of MLB.com. I had considerably lucked out when trying to find the old 1912 Boston Red Sox on the Web site for 20% off, not to mention an additional 25% off for “closeout” caps that weekend. Not being the kind of guy who is satisfied with just one hat I decided to poke around team by team in hope of finding anything else cool. Needless to say, daddy hit the jackpot. I think when all was said and done I dropped about $300 on 14 caps. All of the closeout caps I tracked down consisted primarily of Turn Back the Clock and Stars & Stripes caps from the 2012 season, all caps I had been feverishly trying to track down since the end of October. And here they were in one easy to find place. The unfortunate reality that set in after my purchase was that I was quickly running out of the financial aid money I had to live on for my final term at the University of Oregon. Even though I needed to eat I, for some reason, found myself trying to fill the depression of being back in school with hat shopping. I haven’t even bothered to count how much I cleaned up between January and March, but I know it’s a lot. I especially know that I ended up skipping a few meals when I really shouldn’t have. But, there’s no sense in crying over spilt milk now. I have a plethora of new caps which means I have a hearty helping of stories to write along with them.

When I first laid eyes on this cap on that more-than-likely cold day in February (it’s Oregon) I couldn’t recall when the San Francisco Giants wore it. I knew that back on June 5, 2012 the Giants had worn the 1912 style which I wrote about on January 26th, but this style somehow eluded me throughout the season. It wasn’t until I started researching the hat tonight that all of my questions became answered and it made complete sense as to how I never saw it. 


The first problem that I was able to solve was the specific time period when the Giants wore this cap originally. When I bought it and when I finally found a proper Web site with photos from the July 5, 2012 game in which they were used all sources point to this being a 1924 cap. This part is actually true. The Giants only wore this specific cap and the uniform set they donned on July 5th for a speckle of games in 1924… and that’s it.

I end that last sentence so emphatically because I got hosed by a number of mislabeled photos and bad information from a few other Web sites which led me to believe that this cap was used for road games during the 1915 season, while at the same time these same sites said that the Giants used it for home games from 1931-1932. It’s not in my nature to get duped on something like this, but needless to say I got burned this time around. I guess it’s not the end of the world. I just feel dumb now because I marked this cap up with numbers that are reflective upon the 1931 season. Yes, I am aware that this is my project and I can do with it what I choose; however, I’m a stickler for historical accuracy. For so-called experts in this field to not notice simple differences like how the arms of the “Y” are straight on this cap and wilted for other years should have been a big indicator. If anything I should be dedicating this cap to National Baseball Hall of Famers Frankie Frisch and High Pockets Kelly who were both members of the 1924 National League championship squad that lost the World Series to the Washington Senators in seven games. But, it’s me after all. I can churn stories out of numbers, photos or even game-used relics from the past. This time around, I have a lot of connecting to do.

Oh, and as far as how I missed seeing it on the field? I was driving from Phoenix, Arizona to Anaheim, California, trying to get to the Los Angeles Angels versus the Baltimore Orioles game while the Giants game was taking place.


#5- When I came across the year 1932 and this cap a wave of relief washed over me. Well, that is until I had all ready marked this up and realized how wring that intel was. However, let’s for argument’s sake say this cap was first used in 1932, what does that mean historically? Well, if you go back to my post from January 1st on the Philadelphia Athletics right from the start I detailed about how the 1931 team was the first in A’s history to put numbers on the back of their jerseys. Such was the case for the Giants when it came to 1932. Now, I am fully aware that the 1929 New York Yankees were the first team to add numbers to the back of their jerseys all for the sake of where they fell in the batting order, but, as an Athletics fan and instigator it is my duty to point out that the Giants “of course” copied the A’s by numbering their jerseys the following year. So typical of them. Kidding. Anyway, in the case of this particular player his first year with the Giants came in 1926 at the age of 17, which is a close enough two years after when this cap was used. Therefore, I say it’s close enough to count.

Yah, it’s pretty obvious how off I am about this hat after looking at this photo of Mel Ott from 1932. I’ll try to keep from talking about this issue for the rest of the post, but this really stews me. Ott was
born in Gretna, Louisiana and was remarkably short (5’9’’) for the amount of power that he could produce when at the plate. He batted left and threw righty and played all 22 years of his career with the Giants; however, he only wore the #5 for one year, 1932. For the rest of his career he rocked the #4 with the exception of 1937 when he changed to #3, only to go back to #4 in 1938. Ott was a six-time NL home run leader, in 1932, 1934, 1936–38, and 1942. From 1928-1945, he led the New York Giants in home runs. This 18-season consecutive dominance is a record; no other player has ever led his team in more consecutive years in a single Triple Crown category. He was both the youngest player to hit 100 home runs and the first National Leaguer to hit 500 home runs. He passed Rogers Hornsby to become the all-time NL home run leader in 1937 and held that title until Willie Mays passed him in 1966.

Because of his power hitting, he was noted for reaching base via the base on balls. He drew five walks in a game three times. He set the National League record for most walks in a doubleheader with six, on October 5, 1929 and did it again on April 30, 1944. He tied an MLB record by drawing a walk in seven consecutive plate appearances (June 16 through 18, 1943). He also led the NL in walks six times: in 1929, 1931–33, 1937 and 1942. He twice scored six runs in a game, on August 4, 1934 and on April 30, 1944. He is still the youngest major leaguer to ever hit for the cycle, which he accomplished on May 16, 1929 (20-years-old). Ott was the first NL player to post eight consecutive 100-RBI seasons, and only Willie Mays, Sammy Sosa, Chipper Jones, and Albert Pujols have since joined him. He used a batting style that was then considered unorthodox, lifting his forward (right) foot prior to impact. This style helped with his power hitting. More recent players who used a similar style include Harold Baines and Kirby Puckett, as well as the Japanese home run king, Sadaharu Oh.

In 1943, all of his 18 home runs came at home; only two others ever had a greater number of all-homefield home runs. Of Ott's 511 career home runs, 323 of them, or 63 percent, came at home. (Home Run Handbook, John Tattersall, 1975). Because of this, his home run record historically has been downplayed, suggesting that a 257-foot (78 m) foul line at the Polo Grounds resulted in higher numbers at home. As a balance, the Polo Grounds had the deepest power alleys in baseball. Also, he hit more career home runs in foreign stadiums than any other National League hitter at the time of his retirement. In some of his better seasons, he hit more homers on the road than in the Polo Grounds.
Though there may be reason to believe that he was a better hitter than his record holds due to differences in National League and American League ball specifications ("All too forgOtten" Steve Treder, October 2, 2007). Those differences are considered the most outstanding in the history of the game and made it considerably harder for National League hitters to achieve home runs. During the prime of Ott's career, eleven seasons from 1931 through 1941, American League batters averaged 21% more home runs--peaking at 41% more home runs--than their National League counterparts. Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx, contemporaries, and both American League players, were the only batters to surpass Ott's record during this time.

Ott was named to 12 All-Star teams from 1934-1945 and is one of only six players in National League history to play for the same team throughout his career for 20 or more years. The others are Cap Anson, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Tony Gwynn, and Craig Biggio. Ott went to four World Series, but only won one in 1933. He was a player-manager of the Giants for six years from 1942-1947 and only a manager in 1948. The Giants best finish during that time was in third place in 1942. It was in reference to Ott's supposedly easy-going managing style that then-Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher made the oft-quoted and somewhat out-of-context comment, "Nice guys finish last!" Ott was the first manager to be ejected from both games of a doubleheader, when the Giants lost both games to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 9, 1946. After his playing career was over, Ott broadcast baseball on the Mutual radio network in 1955. From 1956 to 1958, Ott teamed with Van Patrick to broadcast the games of the Detroit Tigers on radio and television. He was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1951 with 87% of the vote. His number "4" was also retired by the Giants in 1949, and it is posted on the facade of the upper deck in the left field corner of AT&T Park. Besides being a home run hitter Ott finished his career with a .304 average, 2876 hits and 1860 RBI. He finished in the top-20 13 times for the NL MVP, but the closest he ever came to winning one was when he finished a respectable third in 1942. I think it’s fair to say he got screwed quite a few times.


#10- Two years in particular Ott got screwed out of the NL MVP by his teammate Carl Hubbell. Like Ott, Hubbell only wore the #10 for one season (1932) and rocked #11 for the rest of his career. And also, like Ott, Hubbell played his entire 16-year career with the Giants from 1928-1943. What’s crazy is that Hubbell’s career didn’t start until he was 25-years-old. He totally could have been a few years into his career in 1924. AAAARRRRR!!!

Hubbell was born in Carthage, Missouri and raised in Meeker, Oklahoma. He was originally signed by the Tigers and was invited to spring training in 1926. However, pitching coach George McBride and player-manager Ty Cobb weren't impressed with him. Additionally, they were concerned about his reliance on a screwball, a pitch that some believe places an unusual amount of stress on a pitcher's arm. Hubbell was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League before the start of the season. He went 7–7 on a championship team. In 1927 he was invited to spring training again with Detroit, but McBride and Cobb still weren't impressed and sent him two steps down the minor-league ladder, to the Decatur Commodores of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League. Despite a 14–7 record, the Tigers didn't invite him back for 1928, and he was sent to the Beaumont Exporters of the Texas League. Well, Cobb was kind of a dick, but we all know that. Hubbell was so fed up by this time that he told Beaumont manager Claude Robinson that he would retire and go into the oil business unless he was sold to another organization by the end of the season. Years later, he said that being unloaded by the Tigers was the best thing that ever happened to him.
His break came that June, when Giants scout Dick Kinsella decided to take in a game between Hubbell's Exporters and the Houston Buffs while in Houston for the Democratic National Convention. He hadn't planned on doing any scouting, but he was impressed by Hubbell. Kinsella called Giants manager John McGraw and mentioned that he knew of Hubbell's release by Detroit, prompted in part by Cobb's concerns about the screwball. McGraw replied that Christy Mathewson had a screwball (a fadeaway, as it was called in his time) and it didn't seem to affect his arm. Kinsella followed Hubbell for a month and was still impressed.

Hubbell would go 10–6 in his first major league season and would pitch his entire career for the Giants. With a slow delivery of his screwball, Hubbell recorded five consecutive 20-win seasons for the Giants (1933–37) and helped his team to three NL pennants and the 1933 World Series title. In the 1933 Series, he won two complete game victories; including an 11-inning 2–1 triumph in Game Four (the run was unearned). In six career Series starts, he was 4–2 with 32 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA. Hubbell finished his career with a 253–154 record, 1678 strikeouts, 724 walks, 36 shutouts and a 2.97 ERA, in 3590 innings pitched.

He won 24 consecutive games between 1936 (16) & 1937 (8), the longest such streak ever recorded in major league history. He was twice named NL MVP (1933, 1936) (first unanimous MVP pick in 1936). He led the league in wins three times in 1933 (23), 1936 (26), and 1937 (22). He led the league in ERA three times in 1933 (1.66), 1934 (2.30), and 1936 (2.31). He led the league in innings pitched in 1933 (308). He led the league in strikeouts in 1937 (159). He led the league in strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 1938 (5.23). He led the league in shutouts in 1933 (10). He led the league in saves in 1934 (eight, retroactively credited). He compiled a streak of 46 scoreless innings and four shutouts in 1933. He pitched a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates (11–0, May 8, 1929). He pitched an 18-inning shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals (1–0, July 2, 1933). He also traveled through time and had a robot arm attached in the future before he went back to the 1930s. Joe DiMaggio called Hubbell the toughest pitcher he'd ever faced. One of the sentences in this paragraph is false.

Hubbell was released at the end of the 1943 season. He had posted a 4-4 record that year, marking the only time he didn't record double-digit wins. However, Giants owner Horace Stoneham immediately appointed him as director of player development, a post he held for 35 years. During that time, he lived in Haworth, New Jersey; he continued to live there after the Giants left New York. The last ten years of his life were spent as a Giants scout. At the time of his death, he was the last New York Giant still active in some capacity in baseball and still collecting a paycheck from the Giants.

In the 1934 All-Star Game played at the Polo Grounds, Hubbell set a record by striking out five future Hall of Famers in succession: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. In 1984, the 50th anniversary of this legendary performance, National League pitchers Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden combined to fan six batters in a row for a new All-Star Game record (future Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, and George Brett by Valenzuela; Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon, and Alvin Davis by Gooden). Hubbell himself was on hand for the 1984 All-Star Game at San Francisco's Candlestick Park to throw out the first pitch, which was a screwball.

Hubbell was a 9-time All-Star, having been honored each year from 1933 to 1938 and then again from 1940 to 1942. He was the first NL player to have his number (11) retired. His number is posted on the facing of the upper deck in the left field corner at AT&T Park. Hubbell died due to injuries suffered in an auto accident in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1988, thirty years to the day after teammate and Hall of Famer Mel Ott died of the same cause in New Orleans. Spooky.


SR- This last little bit is something that I came across by happenstance, but am technically wrong, as is the production company and, once again, the Web site that gave me really bad intel. When I first came across this cap I knew I had seen it before but not on a baseball diamond nor in a reference book on baseball, but in a movie from my youth. Which movie? “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

Jonathan Ke Quan, the actor who portrayed Short Round in the film as well as Data in “The Goonies,” wore the cap featured above throughout the film. Now, the timeline of the film is said to be taking place in 1935, which is also confirmed in captions during the opening scene of the film at Club Obi Wan. Yes, that is actually the name of the club. Through a few Web sites and bits of research I found out that the cap that Ke Quan was wearing throughout the film was specially designed as a period piece for the film. This is a bit problematic because the cap I am wearing (1924) was said to be the cap he is wearing. Actually, the cap he is wearing is the Giants road cap from 1921-1922. Ke Quan was 13-years-old when the film was released in 1984, so just to be fair let’s say that he was 12 when it was filmed thus making his character the same age. Even if you subtract his age (12) from the year that the film is supposed to be taking place (1935) he is still born after the last time this cap was used (1922). My point of this is, if this is supposed to be a period piece why would he be wearing a hat from a time before he was born? To press that even further, where would an Asian kid pick up a cap like that? I totally understand being able to find the cap of the year in progress, but not one that’s 13-years-old unless in a thrift/surplus shop. Since we’re also talking about the Great Depression years, all of these signs are leading to someone in the wardrobe department kind of sucking at this job. Just like all of the people, including myself, that gave me bad information on this cap. Hooray!

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