Remembering The Amazing Gil Coan
ALSO: WITH JANSEN AS CLOSER, ATLANTA BULLPEN GETS EVEN BETTER
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Gil Coan And His Amazing 1947 Season
By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
As they do every year, Strat-o-Matic released its new player cards in February of this year. I always buy the Yankees cards. I have been getting them every year since 1981.
This year, Strat-o-Matic also recreated the 1947 major league season. I decided to indulge myself and get that whole set as well. It was a blast to look through the cards and see the great names, unique names, the big starts, the little starts, and the players I never heard of.
I had never heard of Gil Coan, but his card looked amazing so I had to dig deeper into his season and his career.
Let me begin the story by recounting, game-by-game, Gil Coan’s 1947 season.
You just have to see this:
September 17: vs. Cleveland - 3 for 4 (batting .750)
September 18: vs. Cleveland - 2 for 3 (batting .714)
September 20: vs. Boston (game 1 of 2) - 5 for 5 (batting .833)
September 20: vs. Boston (game 2 of 2) - 1 for 5 (batting .647)
September 21: vs Boston - 1 for 3 (batting .600)
September 23: vs NYY (game 1 of 2) - 2 for 4 (batting .583)
September 23: vs NYY (game 2 of 2) - 0 for 3 (batting .519)
September 26: vs Philadelphia (game 1 of 2) - 2 for 5 (batting .500)
September 26: vs Philadelphia (game 2 of 2) - 3 for 4 (batting .528)
September 27: vs Boston - 1 for 4 (batting .500)
September 28: vs Boston - 1 for 2 (batting .500)
And there you have it.
11 games. 42 at bats. 21 hits.
The guy hit .500!
I know it was only for 42 at bats, but how often do we ever see a batter hit .500 for even a period as short as that?
Gil Coan played in the Major Leagues from 1946 to 1956.
He played for the:
Washington Senators (1946-53)
Baltimore Orioles (1954-55)
Chicago White Sox (1955)
New York Giants (1955-56)
In 1950, in 104 games, he batted .303.
In 1951, in 135 games, he batted .303.
Those were his good years.
In 1946, in 59 games, he batted .209.
In 1949, in 111 games, he batted .218.
In 1952, in 107 games, he batted .205.
In 1953, in 68 games, he batted .196.
When he was a White Sox in 1955, he hit .176 in 17 games.
As a member of the New York Giants, in 13 games (over parts of two seasons) he batted .143.
He seemed to either be hitting everything in sight or nothing at all.
Before reaching the big leagues, Gil Coan, a left-handed batter with speed, tore up the minor leagues. The fact that he hit so well in 1947 probably did not come as a big surprise. What may have been surprising, was that his career tailed off so spectacularly.
In the minor leagues, Coan put up the following numbers:
1944 (120 games) - .354
1945 (140 games) - .372
1947 (151 games) - .340
Of course, the careful reader will note the absence of a 1946 season. That year Coan played in the big leagues, for the Washington Senators, and batted just .209 in 59 games.
One might have attributed that to the fact that he wasn’t quite ready for baseball’s highest level. His 1947 performance in the minors and then in the Major Leagues seemed to indicate that fact, but further research indicates that Coan suffered a skin allergy that hampered his first big league season.
Once healthy, as he was for much of 1947, he hit well.
Things just didn’t stay well for Gil Coan. He had some good moments. Despite bating just .232 in 1948, he did steal 23 bases.
He just couldn’t sustain it.
It seems that the Washington Senators wanted Coan to hit for more power, and he refused to abandon the approach to hitting that had worked so well for him. He also suffered more than his fair share of injuries.
In 1954, Gil Coan was traded from the Washington Senators to the brand new Baltimore Orioles (formerly the St. Louis Browns) for Roy Sievers who had been the Rookie of the Year in 1949.
Sievers went on to have five years in a row where he earned MVP votes. Sievers was a star of the 1950s. He led the league in home runs (42) and RBIs (114) in 1957.
Sievers went on to hit over 20 homers in a year for nine consecutive seasons.
Coan did have the first hit in Orioles history, but, despite batting .279 around some injuries in 1954, the end was in sight.
Gil Coan bounced around a bit, playing most of the 1957 season in the minor leagues before retiring.
Gil Coan didn’t have the career that some had predicted he would, but he did have his moments, and in 1947, he was simply amazing.
To read a more detailed description of Gil Coan’s career, see his Player Biography from the SABR BioProject.
Dr. Paul Semendinger is the Editor-in-Chief of Start Spreading the News, a Yankees site. He is also the author of The Least Among Them, Scattering the Ashes, Impossible is an Illusion, and more. Paul's podcast, also titled Start Spreading the News, is the No. 1 program on the North East Sports Network. All of that is great, but his real job is as the principal of the greatest elementary school. Paul, even at 53 years old, still has dreams of pitching for the Yankees. He pitches for two baseball teams and he thinks his call-up from the big club will come soon.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
Jansen’s Jump To Atlanta Strengthens World Champs’ Repeat Bid
By Dan Schlossberg
Kenley Jansen is not related to Larry Jansen, the long-time pitching coach who was the winning pitcher when Bobby Thomson hit “the shot heard ‘round the world” to win the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants.
But the newly-signed closer of the Atlanta Braves has similar aspirations.
Larry Jansen, a starter pitching in relief, racked up his league-leading 23rd win in the 157th game, as unscheduled playoff game records were added to regular-season records.
Kenley Jansen, a Curacao native whose brother played in the Braves farm system, is an accomplished closer who averaged 39.6 saves over the past seven seasons. He won his lone World Series ring with the 2020 Dodgers but hopes to win another with the 2022 Braves.
USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale, among others, picks Atlanta to become the first NL team to win consecutive World Series since the Big Red Machine of 1975-76.
Jansen’s arrival, on a one-year, $16 million contract, could be one of the big reasons.
The 34-year-old right-hander, who broke into the big leagues in 2010, fortifies a formidable bullpen already occupied by lefties Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, and Will Smith, last year’s closer, along with Luke Jackson, Collin McHugh, Tyler Thornburg, and eventually Kirby Yates, a former All-Star recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Jansen, the starting catcher for the Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, switched to pitching when the Dodgers told him his bat was too weak for the big leagues. The move worked.
Like Mariano Rivera, Jansen is basically a one-pitch pitcher; his cut fastball is almost unhittable. He’s also intimidating at 6'5" tall and 265 pounds.
Once a Braves fan, Jansen visited Braves spring training at Disney World to watch his brother, who signed in 1999, along with fellow Curacao native Andruw Jones. He used to idolize former Brave Fred McGriff, like Jones a contender for a berth in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Current Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies is also from Curacao, along with former Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, now with the Chicago Cubs.
“Oh, man, it’s awesome to put this uniform on, to be honest with you,” Jansen told David O’Brien of The Athletic. “It’s exciting because this is where the love started for me, this is where the hope started. It’s an easier transition to becoming a Brave now.”
Ardley Jansen was an outfielder whose minor-league manager was Brian Snitker – the same man who has guided the Atlanta Braves to four straight division titles.
“Right now I’m excited — I’m excited to wear this (Braves) uniform and looking forward for us to compete for another championship.”
Unlike Freddie Freeman, whose negative comments about his unsuccessful contract negotiations contained criticism of his former team, Jansen had only kind words about the Dodgers.
“It’s nothing but great things I can say about the Dodgers – a first-class organization,” Jansen said. “As a young kid from Curaçao, I signed there and (they) taught me to be a man and be a father and be a great husband. And that’s what comes out from the organization. Also, I can say I’m a champion. It’s going to be fun memories, to remember being a Dodger.”
He also remembers where he came from; the pitcher, who wears size 15 shoes, wears No. 74 because that number was his house address in Willemsted, Curacao.
Jansen had several suitors as he explored the murky waters of free agency.
According to O’Brien, Atlanta hitters are happy they won’t have to face him this year. In the playoffs alone, he had 14 strikeouts and one walk in seven scoreless innings. Austin Riley, to cite one example, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against Jansen in the six-game NL Championship Series.
Jansen, 34, has a career earned run average of 2.37 with 1,022 strikeouts and 204 walks in 705 innings. His post-season stats, over 57 outings, feature a 2.13 ERA and 19 saves.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, and others. A popular author and speaker on baseball, he can be reached via email: email@example.com.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.
Interesting facts about Gil Coan. Excellent article