Sievers? Killebrew? Who Inspired Joe Hardy?
ALSO: NEXT CONTEMPORARY PLAYERS ERA BALLOT WILL BE MUCH DIFFERENT
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Aaron Judge got an additional two years and$146.5 million by rejecting the spring contract offer he received from the Yankees . . .
In 2019-20, the last “normal” baseball offseason, Scott Boras cut seven of the 11 biggest free-agent deals, worth a combined $1.07 billion, but his current client list might be even deeper. He represents six free agents in Jim Bowden’s top 25 (Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Rodón, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Josh Bell) and a number of other accomplished players (J.D. Martinez, Cody Bellinger, Taijuan Walker, Jurickson Profar, and Zack Britton) . . .
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens might as well give up on Cooperstown after failing to draw 25 per cent of the vote from the new Contemporary Baseball Player Eras Committee . . .
Fred McGriff, elected unanimously with 16 votes, never got more than 39 per cent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America in the regular election . . .
McGriff will be the sole member of the Class of 2023 unless the BBWAA elects Scott Rolen, the leading vote-getter last year, or Todd Helton, who spent his whole 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies. Andruw Jones has an outside shot too . . .
If Clayton Kershaw was already there, why did the Dodgers think it prudent to give him a $5 million “signing bonus” on his latest one-year, $15 million deal? . . .
Without Justin Verlander, is Framber Valdez suddenly Houston’s No. 1 starter?
Who, if anyone, was the model for Joe Hardy?
By Andrew C. Sharp
Joe Hardy was the fictional baseball star created by Douglass Wallop in his 1954 novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, later adapted for Broadway and film as Damn Yankees. Middle-aged Washington Senators fan Joe Boyd makes a deal with the devil to become a great player (Joe Hardy) and, he hopes, lead the lowly Senators to a championship. The devil, of course, has other plans. See this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damn_Yankees for a full synopsis. The ending differs in the book and film, but the outcome is the same.
Did Wallop have a real player in mind when he conjured up Hardy? The author, who died in 1984, does not seem to have been asked directly, as far as archived published comments are concerned.
In an October 1965 column, sportswriter Jerry Izenberg talked to Wallop about whether the old Senators, who had become the pennant-winning Minnesota Twins, had a real Joe Hardy.
“I have given this a great deal of thought,” Wallop told Izenberg, somewhat in jest. “I cannot definitely say we have a Joe Hardy” on the Twins. Pressed by Izenberg, Wallop volunteered: “Well, I make no claims, you understand, but how about Harmon Killebrew? After all, he did come out of the West and nobody knew anything about him, and then he hit all those home runs.” That’s as close as Wallop came, but then, Killebrew did not become as star until 1959.
That June, Killebrew was profiled in Sports Illustrated, where he acknowledged that people were comparing him to Joe Hardy. But after he struck out one night to end a game, Killebrew said, the Washington Post‘s Bob Addie told him: “You may look like Joe Hardy to some, but today you were more like Andy Hardy.
“Sean Grogan, a writer and former reporter who lives in Silver Spring, Md., posted in October 2022 on a Washington baseball Facebook page: “I met Roy Sievers in 2010. I said, ‘Mr. Sievers, is the Joe Hardy character based on you?’ And he replied, ‘Yes, sir!’ …. Sievers was the long ball hitter who came to Washington in 1954….. And his first team in the minors was in Hannibal, Mo.”
“Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.” is one of the famous songs from Damn Yankees, but if anything, that would conjure up thoughts of Shoeless Joe Jackson, the great player banished in the Black Sox scandal. And Sievers didn’t become an all-star slugger for the Senators until after Wallop wrote his famous fable.
At least Sievers has a real connection to Joe Hardy: He was Tab Hunter’s double in the 1958 film version of Damn Yankees, in which Hunter stared as Hardy and wore Sievers’ no. 2 Senators jersey. The right-hand batting Sievers is shown batting for Hunter.
Mark Gauvreau Judge argued in his 2003 book, Damn Senators, that his grandfather Joe Judge, who played on the Senators’ World Series teams in the 1920s, was the person after whom Wallop patterned Hardy. The evidence, however, is hardly overwhelming.
Wallop, a D.C. native and serious Senators fan, knew Joe Judge. According to Mark Judge. Wallop spent hours at Joe Judge’s home in Chevy Chase, Md, talking with the retired ballplayer. On page 150 of Damn Senators, he wrote: “It is likely that Joe Hardy was based on my grandfather.”
Mark Judge went even further in an August 22, 2004, column in the New York Times: “Judge was the inspiration behind the character Joe Hardy in The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant….. For several years in the late 1940s, Wallop dated (Joe) Judge’s daughter,” Mark Judge wrote.
Wallop certainly could have dated Dorothy Judge, but the time frame described is a tight fit for the author becoming engaged to Lucille Fletcher, whom he married in 1949. “Aunt Dorothy,” Mark Judge admitted in Damn Senators, “doesn’t think Joe Judge is the actual model for Joe Hardy.”
Joe Judge and the fictional Joe Hardy were very different players. In The Year the Yankees Lost He Pennant, Hardy is depicted as a muscular, slugger. He played the outfield. Judge, a solid player, mostly in the 1920s, was 5-foot-8 (or just 5-7, his grandson wrote), short for the position he always played: first base. He was not a home-run hitter – his tops in a season was 10 -- even though he played the bulk of his career in the live-ball era.
An entry in BaseballReference.com’s B-R Bullpen about the Joe Hardy character likens him to the Yankees emerging superstar of the early 1950s: “Hardy is very much a clone of Mickey Mantle,” the entry states, “a handsome centerfielder with tremendous power who can run like the wind.”
Rob Edelman wrote an in-depth article about the book and play in Monumental Baseball, the 2009 edition of The National Pastime devoted to the Washington, D.C., convention of the Society for American Baseball Research. Edelman wrote that the Broadway show’s opening number makes reference to Willie Mays, noting that the Say Hey Kid’s last name obviously was easier to rhyme than “Mantle” would have been.
The real Senators team :donated game-worn jerseys that were employed as costumes” for the Broadway actors. The ballpark scenes for the film version were shot in 1958 at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, the former Pacific Coast League venue that would later house the A.L. expansion Angels for a season. Wrigley Field was a stand-in for Washington’s Griffith Stadium, still in use by the Senators. Real footage from a Yankees-Senators game at Griffith Stadium in 1957 was used in several places, including the film’s climatic scene when Hardy, quickly becoming the old Joe Boyd once more, makes a game-saving catch of a long blast by Mantle himself.
Financial flush after the success of his book and of Damn Yankees, Wallop bought a small amount of stock in the Senators, Edelman wrote – not enough, however, to keep Calvin Griffith from moving the team to Minnesota after the 1960 season.
The original Broadway show ran for 1,019 performances. Touring companies performed in dozens of cities across the country for years. Broadway has seen a couple of successful revivals. “(You Gotta Have) Heart” and other songs from Damn Yankees have been recorded hundreds of times by different artists. The film is by no means a great baseball film, but few other baseball-centric shows or films have earned such an enduring place in popular culture.
Andrew C. Sharp is a retired journalist who blogs about D.C. baseball at washingtonbaseballhistory.com. He also writes for SABR’s Bio and Games projects. His most recent BioProject essay is about depression-era outfielder Fred Schulte.
Next Contemporary Baseball Player Ballot Will Definitely Be Different
By Dan Schlossberg
When the Baseball Hall of Fame charges up its Contemporary Baseball Player Eras Committee again three years from now, the eight-man ballot should be considerably different.
Charged to consider players whose greatest impact came during the ‘80s or later, it might consider such stars as Keith Hernandez, Steve Garvey, and Will Clark — who all happened to play first base — or perhaps rifle-armed right-fielder Dwight Evans.
Clutch-hitting outfielders Dave Parker and Joe Carter could be considered too.
It would be nice if Don Mattingly, who got eight votes, and Dale Murphy, who got six, got another look.
But the time has passed for the unfortunate five of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling, and Albert Belle, all shrouded in controversy of their own making.
So here’s a guess at the next eight-man ballot, in alphabetical order: Will Clark, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Keith Hernandez, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Jamie Moyer, and Dave Parker.
Murphy and Mattingly would be holdovers from this year’s ballot. Between them, they have three MVP awards, 14 Gold Gloves, two home run crowns, and a batting title. Plus they are poster boys for the Hall of Fame’s “good character” clause.
Garvey fits that description too. A 10-time All-Star who ht .294 with 272 home runs, he holds the NL record for consecutive games played (1,207). He was MVP in the regular season once and in the NLCS twice while also winning four Gold Gloves for his play at first base. Unlike Murphy or Mattingly, he also won a World Series ring.
Evans won eight Gold Gloves as the rifle-armed right-fielder of the Boston Red Sox. He won a home run crown en route to a career total of 385 long balls. A .272 hitter, he was an American League All-Star three times.
Even if he weren’t a Mets announcer or Seinfeld memory, Hernandez would merit Hall of Fame consideration for his defense alone. He won 11 Gold Gloves at first base, won a batting crown, and MVP award, and was known for his clutch hitting. A five-time All-Star, he also won a pair of World Series rings.
Clark competed with Hernandez to start the All-Star Game at first base. Clark, a .303 lifetime hitter, made it six times, mainly while playing for the San Francisco Giants. He won a Gold Glove and an NL rbi crown while collecting 284 home runs between 1986-2000.
Parker was even more powerful. A lethal left-handed slugger, he won two batting crowns, two World Series rings, an RBI title, three Gold Gloves, and seven trips to the All-Star Game while playing for six different teams from 1973-91.
Joe Carter hit 396 regular-season home runs — plus one that gave the Toronto Blue Jays the 1993 World Series. Carter lasted 16 years, making five All-Star teams, winning an RBI crown, and even playing all 162 games three years in a row. Carter’s case is hurt by his .259 career average, however.
Want to add a pitcher to the list? Why not Jamie Moyer? He went 269-209 while lasting 25 seasons, pitching almost until his 50th birthday. Twice a 20-game winner, he was the oldest man to pitch a shutout and the oldest to pitch a complete game. Yes, his ERA was a little high at 4.25 but maybe that’s because he yielded more home runs (522) than any other pitcher. The soft-tossing southpaw was a control artist who was always around the plate.
One thing’s for sure: the voters have spoken about Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Belle, and Schilling. It’s time to move on.
Dan Schlossberg is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch and baseball writer for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Memories & Dreams. His e.mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Mets aren’t just an expensive team but an old one. Justin Verlander and Jose Quintana actually increased the team’s average age, which already bordered on glacial.”
— Mike Vaccaro in The New York Post
Verlander and Max Scherzer were Detroit teammates from 2011-2014 but never won a World Series together — only when they were separated . . .
Trea Turner (Phillies) joins Francisco Lindor (Mets), Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres), and Corey Seager (Rangers) on the growing list of shortstops who have received $300 million contracts . . .
The Phillies have spent more than $1 billion on six players since the start of 2019 . . .
Justin Verlander will turn 40 before he begins his first National League season . . .
He and Mets rotation mate Max Scherzer will earn matching $43.3 salaries for two years but Verlander has a vesting option for 2025 worth $35 million if he pitches 140 innings in 2024 . . .
The Dodgers lost out on Verlander because they wouldn’t match the annual average salary offered by the Mets or guarantee a third season . . .
In three years with Houston, Verlander won two Cy Youngs and was runner-up for another . . .
Even if he averaged 17 wins a year for three years — unlikely at his age — Verlander would still be five short of the 300 Club.
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