Not every player remembers his Minor League managers fondly. Not so of Joe Crede of the Chicago White Sox, who sent his former Minor League skipper, Chris Cron, a thank you present recently. Crede's gift looked like a sleeve of golf balls from the outside, but when Cron, now the manager of the Double-A Birmingham Barons, opened it he found a custom-made diamond-studded Tourneau watch. The White Sox World Series championship logo was on the watch face and an engraved inscription on the back read, "Thanks Crony -- Joe." Cron was Crede's manager and mentor on Class A and Double-A clubs from 1997-1999 and this was the White Sox third baseman's way of thanking his former skipper. Crede sent a similar watch to his other manager in the Minors, Nick Capra.
Perfection is rare in the Majors. But John Lackey came about as close as a pitcher can come to a perfect game without getting credit for one when he allowed a leadoff double to Mark Kotsay of the Oakland A's on July 8, then retired the next 27 batters in a row. The Los Angeles Angels starter just missed throwing the 17th regular-season perfect game in the bigs. Lackey is just the ninth pitcher, and the first since Jerry Reuss in 1982, to give up a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch to a leadoff man then find his groove and retire the next 27. Four of the nine nearly perfect pitchers had already thrown no-hitters, and Monte Ward and Cy Young had already thrown perfectos. According to Society for American Baseball Research historian Trent McCotter, the nine almost perfect hurlers were:
Year, Pitcher, Team-Opponent, How leadoff batter got on
1880, Monte Ward, Grays-Reds, Single
1884, Al Atkinson, A's-Pirates, Hit-by-pitch
1908, Cy Young, Red Sox-Highlanders, Walk
1953, Curt Simmons, Phillies-Braves, Single
1954, Robin Roberts, Phillies-Reds, Home run
1966, Woodie Fryman, Pirates-Mets, Single
1981, Jim Bibby, Pirates-Braves, Single
1982, Jerry Reuss, Dodgers-Reds, Double
2006, John Lackey, Angels-A's, Double
ANNALS OF MIXOLOGY
The Orlando Sentinel reports that a gay bar in Chicago has apparently forgiven Ozzie Guillen for his anti-gay remarks concerning a Chicago Sun-Times columnist. The Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club has named a martini after the Chicago White Sox manager. The drink is called an "Effen Ozzie Guillen-tini" made with Effen vodka and fresh fruit. The drink costs $8.50, but includes a copy of the Sun-Times.
No batter likes to go hitless in a game, but Trot Nixon of the Boston Red Sox experienced the special horror of going 0-for-9 in his club's 19-inning struggle against the Chicago White Sox on July 9. Nixon is only the 18th batter since 1957 to post nine or more at-bats in a game without a knock. The right fielder's miserable day at the plate dropped his average from .322 to .311. The last batter to endure a worse 0-fer was John Shelby of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who went 0-for-10 in a 22-inning contest against the Houston Astros in 1989. Tommy Agee and Ron Swoboda of the 1968 New York Mets are the only pair of teammates to record 10 at-bats without a safety in the same game. According to David Smith of Retrosheet, only five batters since 1957 have suffered an 0-for-10 in a single extra-inning game as shown below:
0-for-10 Batter, Year, Team-Opponent, Innings of game
John Shelby, 1989, Dodgers-Astros, 22
Wayne Garrett, 1974, Mets-Cardinals, 25
Danny Thompson, 1972, Twins-Brewers, 22
Tommy Agee, 1968, Mets-Astros, 24
Ron Swoboda, 1968, Mets-Astros, 24
BREAK TO BREAK
A few Major Leaguers excelled from last year's All-Star break to this year's. The break-to-break batting leader in the bigs was Victor Martinez of the Cleveland Indians with a .345 average. Ortiz, not surprisingly, led in homers with 57 and RBIs with 160. Jose Contreras of the Chicago White Sox was the only pitcher with 20 wins between breaks. Todd Jones of the Detroit Tigers topped the Majors with 50 saves and Johan Santana had the best ERA with a 2.34 mark.
HIT ME AGAIN
Cliff Floyd of the New York Mets seemed to be a target last week. On July 4, he suffered a mild concussion after colliding with teammate Jose Reyes while trying to make a catch. The next day, starter Kip Wells of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit Floyd on the right knee with a pitch in the first inning. Then on July 6, Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny hit him on the left forearm in the fourth. And, as he was trotting out to left field to start the fifth, Floyd narrowly avoided being hit in the face by a practice throw from third baseman David Wright.
The Sioux Falls Canaries of the Independent American Association treated their fans to a record-breaking at-bat on Tuesday night. Eighty-three-year-old Jim Eriotes led off the game for the Canaries to claim the record for oldest player to bat in a professional baseball game. Eriotes struck out swinging, but did manage to foul off one pitch thrown by 24-year-old Jesen Merle of the St. Joe Blacksnakes.
AROUND THE HORN
The Mariners have lost just 76 player-days to the DL this season, the fewest in the Majors, while the Nationals have lost the most at 846. ... If Freddy Sanchez wins the NL batting crown, he would be the first Pirate to do so since Bill Madlock in 1983. ... Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina passed Eddie Plank (1901-17), Hook Dauss (1912-26) and Jim Kaat (1962-75) to become the first AL hurler to win 10 or more games in 15 consecutive seasons. ... Jose Lopez of the Mariners was the youngest All-Star second baseman since Roberto Alomar in 1990. ... Twins starter Francisco Liriano needs 33 more strikeouts this season to eclipse Bert Blyleven's rookie team record of 135 set in 1970. ... Curtis Granderson has yet to make an error in the outfield for the Tigers -- the center fielder has gone 139 games and 371 chances without a mistake. ... Travis Hafner of the Indians joined Don Mattingly (1987), Ernie Banks (1955) and Jim Gentile (1961) as the only Major Leaguers to hit five or more grand slams in a single season -- Mattingly holds the record with six. ... Michael Young and Gary Matthews, Jr., were unable to keep their team's All-Star streak alive when neither homered in the Midsummer Classic -- a Ranger had homered in each of the three previous All-Star Games. ... Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners is the only Major Leaguer, besides Rod Carew, to twice post 130 hits before an All-Star break -- Ichiro had 129 knocks before the break this year. ... Chipper Jones of the Braves has recorded an extra-base hit in 11 straight games -- the NL record is 14 in a row set by Paul Waner in 1927. ... The 17 runs scored by the Mets at Shea Stadium on Saturday were the most ever scored by the club at home. The previous high was 16 reached twice in 1985. ... Alfonso Soriano of the Nationals became the 14th Major Leaguer elected to start the Midsummer Classic in both leagues. ... The Cubs led the Majors at the break with 101 combined bunt and infield hits. ... The blown save by Padres closer Trevor Hoffman in the All-Star Game might have something to do with the fact that he appeared in four straight games for the first time in his career from July 5-8. ... Albert Pujols needed just 845 games to amass 2,000 career total bases. ... Major League baseballs are handcrafted in Turrialba, Costa Rica. ... Closer Chad Cordero has three of the Nationals' five wins in July. ... Wednesday marked the 27th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night at old Comiskey Park in Chicago. ... Pittsburgh is the first single-team city to host the All-Star Game in three different ballparks. ... Cubs starter Mark Prior strained a left oblique muscle while taking batting practice on July 8. ... Devil Rays speedster Carl Crawford became the first player since Tom Goodwin in 2000 to steal second, third and home in the same game -- Crawford completed the trifecta against the Red Sox on July 5. ... The 19-inning game between the White Sox and Red Sox on July 9 was the 77th in Major League history to go at least that long. ... Angel Hernandez and Charlie Reliford led all umpires with six ejections, Travis Reininger is third with five. ... According to the Elias Sports Bureau, All-Star starter Kenny Rogers was just 102 days younger than the oldest man to start a Midsummer Classic -- Roger Clemens, who was 41 years and 344 days of age at the 2004 game. ... Joe "Ducky" Medwick, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski are the only players to get four hits in an All-Star Game.