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19th Century Senator Was Too-Way Star Too
PLUS: RANDY JOHNSON SCORES WITH AFRICA PHOTO EXHIBIT
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Now back in the minors, Vaughn Grissom made six errors in 19 games with the Braves after being given a chance to fill the spot vacated by injured shortstop Orlando Arcia . . .
The Mets and Phillies will meet in the London Series next season . . .
The 2015 Mets team that reached the World Series had a starting rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz . . .
San Diego has spent almost a billion (with a B) dollars on players who can play shortstop: Ha-Seong Kim ($28M), Fernando Tatis Jr. ($340M), Xander Bogaerts ($280M), and Manny Machado ($350M) . . .
Desperate to keep Aaron Nola, who has averaged 200 innings a year since 2018, the Phillies have offered $100 million — far less than the Yankees gave Carlos Rodon . . .
Available free-agent pitchers this fall, in alphabetical order, could include Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito, Sonny Gray, Clayton Kershaw, Jordan Montgomery, Nola, Shohei Ohtani, Martin Perez, Blake Snell, Marcus Stroman, Julio Urias . . .
This is the first time since 1976 that the Cardinals, enduring their worst start since the Nixon Administration, were in last place so late in the season . . .
The run differential produced by the Tampa Bay Rays over the first six weeks is the best since the Honus Wagner’s Pittsburgh Pirates were even better in 190
Win Mercer, 19th-Century heartthrob and two-way star of the N.L. Senators
By Andrew Sharp
By the time Babe Ruth arrived in 1914, two-way players, a la Shohei Ohtani today, already were a rarity. Yet even in 1890s, few teams had men who were front-line pitchers and played multiple positions in the field. Win Mercer was one of the exceptions.
George Barclay “Win” Mercer was a 20-game winner in back-to-back seasons for woeful Washington teams in the 1890s National League. He batted .305 as a frequently-used position player in a five-year stretch from 1897 to 1901.
By all accounts, the popular Mercer also was a handsome ladies man and a big-time gambler. His nickname, reflecting his early success or perhaps his wagering, was shortened from “Winner” to “Win” in the majors. His ejection on a day women were admitted free led to an on-the-field riot in which his female fans attacked the umpire.
Not long after he was named to manage the Detroit Tigers following the 1902 season, the 28-year-old Mercer committed suicide in a San Francisco hotel room for reasons that have never been conclusively explained.
Like Ohtani, he was a right-hander who batted left. Mercer was the N.L. Senators’ top pitcher from 1894 through 1897, winning 17 games as a rookie in 1894 for a team that won only 45.
In 1896, he won 25 of the team’s 58 victories. The next year, he won 21 games and reduced his ERA nearly a run-per-game to 3.18. He led the league with 47 game-starts and three shutouts. Mercer also hit .317 in 151 plate appearances.
The infamous “Ladies Day riot” happened on September 13, 1897. The Senators often started Mercer in weekday home games at Boundary Field, hoping to attract more female fans. For this game against Cincinnati, it was announced in advance that women would be admitted free.
In the top of the fifth inning, Mercer got into a heated argument with home-plate umpire Bill Carpenter over a pitch called a ball. After ejecting the popular pitcher, Carpenter was screamed at for the rest of the game by the thousands of female spectators. When the game ended with Cincinnati winning, many of the women rushed onto the field and went after Carpenter, tearing at his clothing. Police had to be called to restore order.
The umpire eventually managed to get to the clubhouse without serious injury, but the ballpark suffered considerable damage. No other such “Ladies Day” took place in Washington for years, even after the A.L. Senators arrived.
After four seasons of at least 313 innings, Mercer pitched less in 1898, but still won 12 games on a team that lost 101. He threw 233 innings in 33 games. He played more in the field, appearing in 23 games at shortstop, 19 in the outfield, five at third and one at second, all while hitting a career-best .321 with a .369 on-base percentage. (Ohtani is just a DH when he doesn’t pitch.)
Mercer was in the lineup for 62 games at third base in 1899 and hit .299 overall in 108 games and 417 plate appearances. Although was just 7-14 pitching for an 11th-place team that won 54 games, he completed all 21 of his starts.
When the National League dropped Washington and three other teams for 1900, Mercer ended up with the New York Giants, a last-place team that season. Despite that, Mercer was 13-17 in 242 innings with a 3.86 ERA. He played the field in 43 other games -- 19 of them at third, 14 in the outfield, seven at shortstop and two at second – and hit .294 in 279 plate appearances. In his career, he took the field at every position but catcher.
Clark Griffith’s appeals to N.L. players to jump to the new American League worked on Mercer, who returned to the new Washington franchise for 1901. He was 9-13, completing 19 of 22 starts. He started 16 games in the outfield, six at first base, and hit an even in .300 in 171 plate appearances.
After that first season, the Senators sent him to Detroit, where his pitching career was rejuvenated. Although the Tigers were 52-83 and finished seventh, Mercer led the team with 15 wins and innings pitched (281) and had a 3.04 ERA with four shutouts. After the season, he was named Detroit’s manager for 1903.
The popular Mercer was co-organizer of a team of all-stars from both leagues for a barnstorming tour starting in Chicago and ending on the West Coast that winter. Evidently, much gambling at race tracks and other venues took place, with Mercer a big participant. Mercer apparently lost several thousand dollars, not just his own money, but possibly payments he had promised his all-star teammates, according to some accounts.
On January 12, 1903, using the gas heating tube in his room at San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel, Mercer asphyxiated himself. A note he left read: “A word to friends: beware of women and a game of chance.”
Andrew C. Sharp is a retired daily newspaper journalist and a SABR member who blogs about D.C. baseball at washingtonbaseballhistory.com
Randy Johnson Now Occupies Second Museum In Cooperstown
By Dan Schlossberg
Most Hall of Famers are happy to have a bronze plaque in the famous gallery. Randy Johnson, however, is an obvious exception.
He’s now in two Cooperstown museums: the baseball institution and the nearby Fenimore Art Museum.
That’s because the 6’10” left-hander is not only skilled at throwing a baseball but also handling a camera.
Since April 1, the Fenimore museum has hosted an exhibition entitled “Randy Johnson: Storytelling with Photographs.” Completely devoid of baseball content, it contains 30 shots the former pitcher took in Africa.
“I think of photography as telling a story and sharing my experiences,” said Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and threw a perfect game.
It’s the first solo photography exhibit for The Big Unit, who pitched for the Expos, Mariners, Astros, Yankees, Diamondbacks and Giants. In 2009, he became the 24th and most recent member of The 300 Club.
One of Johnson’s favorite photos from the exhibit — a leopard in a tree — was taken in Kenya. Also on display are photos of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania; Amboseli National Park, Kenya; and a Maasai village in Kenya. Another photo captures an Ethiopian boy saying goodbye with his hand up.
Johnson’s pictures were taken during four different visits to The Dark Continent. There are sections on Ethiopia, Rwanda, and East Africa, often portraying animals in the wild. Like the towering presence that he is, Johnson specializes in sweeping photos of global landscapes.
Asked about the opportunity to exhibit his photography in the same town where he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Johnson said, “I’m super excited about it, absolutely.”
A 10-time All-Star who won 303 games over 22 seasons, Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2015 with 97.3 per cent of the vote.
“He got off to a slow start. I think everybody expected him to have his struggles early. But now, we see him hitting his stride and doing his thing. And, you know, when he's on, he can carry a lineup.”
— Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas on rookie outfielder Masataka Yoshida
Two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy pinch-hit a home run against Dwight Gooden with nine stitches in his hand on April 30, 1986 . . .
An average season for Ted Williams, based upon his final stats, would feature a .344 batting average, 37 home runs, and 130 runs batted in . . .
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Gordon collected 1,000 hits in exactly 1,000 games as a Yankee . . .
Gordon was also the only man to manage both teams in Kansas City: the Athletics and the Royals . . .
Before 2009, none of the Ford C. Frick award recipients (Tony Kubek, Jerry Coleman, Joe Garagiola, and Bob Uecker) got a single vote for the Hall of Fame after hanging up their spikes . . .
ABNQ (Almost But Not Quite): Jim Rice and Mickey Mantle had identical .298 career batting averages.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Benjamin Chase [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.