Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mack, Grove and Foxx are ghosts trapped between worlds

Baseball loves to honor their ghosts.

The legends of Yankees past hover over the Bronx, even after they crossed the street.
Ted Williams’ legend is honored inside and out of Fenway.
Roberto ClementeGil HodgesTy Cobb… all are honored in their old cities.

Even some players who never played in their team’s new homes are honored by their transplanted franchise.

Fan bases that never knew Jackie Robinson, Christy Mathewson and Warren Spahn honored them all.

Most players are the team’s legends. Others are hometown favorites. But most of the all time greats are saluted in one-way shape or another.

Which makes the fate of Connie Mack, Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx so much stranger.

Each of them was a legend and one of the dominating forces in the game during their time.

Connie Mack?

This was a man who managed the Athletics to pennants in four different decades. A brilliant hands off manager, he stressed intelligence and fundamentals. He was a wonderful contrast to the volatile John McGraw and the New York Giants, whom Mack’s Athletics played 3 times in the World Series and beat them twice.

He went from the teams of Rube Waddell and Eddie Plank in the 1900s… to the $100,000 infield of Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker, Jack Barry and Stuffy McInnis in the 1910s… and finally the greatest Philadelphia team of all in the late 1920s and early 1930s with Mickey Cochrane and Al Simmons… and of course Grove and Foxx.

Lefty Grove?

He was the best pitcher of his era… a time of big bats and big home run totals. He arrived after the deadball era and once the previous generation of superstar pitchers (like Grover Cleveland Alexander and Walter Johnson) had ended their careers.

Five times he lead the league in ERA as a member of the Athletics.
In his first seven seasons in the bigs, he led the league in strike outs every year.
He won 31 games in 1931 and won 20 or more for the Athletics six times.

He even led the league in saves one year.

And while Grove didn’t know it, he had the best ERA+ five times and the best WHIP three times while in Philadelphia.

And he was the 1931 American League MVP.

Jimmie Foxx?

The Beast became the premiere power source in baseball once Babe Ruth’s career started to wind down. He would hit 58 homers in 1932, missing Ruth’s mark by just two. He was a Triple Crown winner, won back to back MVPs for Philadelphia and drove in 115 or more runs each of his full seasons.

Don’t like stats like that?
He had the highest OPS three times for the A’s. Two times had the best WAR. Three times had the best run created, Adjusted OPS, Offensive Win Percentage and Adjusted Batting Runs. I am still figuring out what all of that means… but I get the sense it is impressive.

Most importantly of all, both Grove and Foxx both led Mack’s Athletics to three straight pennants and the 1929 and 1930 World Series titles.

Mack was one of the great managers in the game’s history.
Grove is an All Time legendary pitcher and Foxx one of the most feared sluggers.

Where are their numbers retired?
Where are their statues?

Not to disrespect anyone… but Harold Baines, Ron Guidry, Johnny Pesky and Randy Jones all have their numbers retired and they all are loved by their teams and fans. But none of them had the impact on their era the way that Mack, Grove and Foxx did.

But the A’s seem to only honor those who played for Oakland. And seeing they haven’t seen fit to honor Dave Stewart, an Oakland NATIVE who led the A’s to the promise land, the chances of them retiring the numbers of Philadelphia players are slim to none.

And the Phillies have their own history to honor. Besides, they are the team that DIDN’T leave Philadelphia!

Enough passing the buck. Someone should retire their numbers or erect a statue in their honor.

If the A’s ever get a new ballpark, have a concourse where the great Philadelphia Athletics are given their due and Mack, Grove and Foxx are honored.

Perhaps have it outside Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia… some sort of memorial that is separate from the Phillies and yet still honoring the city’s past.

Remember Mack used to have the biggest honor you could have in Philadelphia.
They named their stadium after him.

But these days, he’d have to change his name to a bank or an orange juice company to have another park Christened in his honor.

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