The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: July 4-10, 2011
Derek at 3,000 The Passing of Dick Williams Another Terrible Fall in Arlington
Roger Clemens Goes for Broke Gordon Beckham's Gay Joke Exposed

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Fun facts About Your All-Time Hit Leaders
Take the TGG quiz to determine your good baseball knowledge when it comes to the game's all-time hit leaders and the 3,000-hit club. Check it out now!

The 2011 Mid-Season Report Card
Our picks for the best, worst and most unexpected during the first half of the 2011 regular season. Check it out now!

A Blast fo a Milestone
Derek Jeter channeled his prime on Saturday, going on a rampage against Tampa Bay and collecting his 3,000th career hit with a home run—his second of five hits on the day in the New York Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Rays.

The home run in the second inning off Tampa starter David Price made Jeter only the second of 28 players with 3,000 to reach the milestone with a round-tripper; Wade Boggs accomplished that task back in 1999. Craig Biggio, the last player to reach 3,000 before Jeter, is the only other major leaguer to record five hits on the same day he joined the club in 2007. And Jeter becomes the first player for any New York-based franchise in big league annals to reach 3,000.

Now Replaying at TGG
In light of Jeter’s historic moment, TGG has revised and updated its Fun Facts About Your All-Time Hit Leaders, featuring a 22-question quiz to test your baseball knowledge on members of the 3,000-hit club as well as posers on all-time team leaders. Good luck!.

Loss of a Friend
Dick Williams, a Hall-of-Fame manager who took three different teams to the World Series—the 1967 Boston Red Sox, the 1972-73 Oakland A’s and 1984 San Diego Padres—passed away this week at the age of 82. TGG’s Ed Attanasio interviewed Williams a number of years back and fondly recalls the story behind it:

Several years ago I was at a party in San Francisco and I was talking baseball with a woman and she said, “My dad was a player and manager in the majors for many years, but I’m sure you've never heard of his name. My last name is Williams.” “Ted Williams?” I asked. “No, Dick Williams.”

Wow, I thought, and for the next several hours Kathy Williams and I talked about her father and his career. Then, at the end of the party, I told her that I was on the Oral History Committee for the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) and that I would love to interview him. She took my phone number and I didn’t hear back for a few months. Then, one day the phone rang and it was Kathy. “Here is his number,” she said. “He’s available to talk to you tomorrow afternoon.”

So, at the appointed time, I called Dick (in Henderson, Nevada) and first I got his wife on the phone. She was a delight. She told me some hilarious story about how she caught a scalper selling some tickets she donated to an orphanage and almost bonked him on the head as he was arrested by the stadium cops in Oakland. Then, I could hear Dick enter the room. He was returning from playing cards with his buddy Whitey Herzog. The interview commenced, but I got off to a bad start. I can’t recall specifically what I asked him, but his response was “That is one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard.” So, I quickly ditched that question and threw him some softballs. I didn't want him to hang up on me. Well, fortunately things went better after that and I ended up getting a wonderful interview. 

A few years later, my buddy was dating Kathy and he called me. “I have to waste my weekend to go to some place called Cooperstown, New York for this Hall of Fame thing for Kathy’s dad.” I almost lost my lunch. My friend is obviously not a baseball fan, so he could care less, but I would have given my eye to be there. “I’m going to go to this party that evening where a bunch of all-stars will be there,” my buddy explained. “Who should I meet?” “Well, they’re Hall-of-Famers, not just all-stars,” I replied. “And if I were you, I’d ask for guys like Shoeless Joe Jackson or maybe Pete Rose.” I was pulling his leg obviously, hoping he would ask around for them, but someone told him before he embarrassed himself. Then, in August 2008, Kathy Williams and my friend came to my 50th birthday party and presented me with a mini bat signed by that year’s HOF inductees, and a baseball signed by “HOFer Dick Williams.” It meant a lot to me and it sits in my baseball memorabilia collection today. 

He will be missed.

A Souvenir is Not Worth Death
Initially, the image of a man leaning over too far to grab a foul ball thrown at him by Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, falling head first and out of sight behind the outfield wall, had all the appeal of a “America’s Funniest Video” clip. The crowd at Arlington collectively roared “Oh!”, and even Bob Fosse and Glenn Kuiper, the announcers for the visiting Oakland A’s, chuckled at the replay—apparently not knowing that there was no net or elevated walk to catch him, but instead 20 feet of air followed by a concrete base.

Shannon Stone, a firefighter from Brownwood, Texas, fell straight down from his first row seat in the bleachers and died later at a local hospital—but not before consciously telling first responders to look after his six-year old son, who was with him at the game and was so distraught that Hamilton could hear his heartbreaking screams after the fall.

Stone’s plunge was the second in the last two seasons at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; exactly a year and a day earlier, a man named Tyler Morris—ironically, another firefighter who actually was a friend of Stone—fell from the second level onto the lower bowl, fracturing his skull and spraining his ankle. He survived.

A dour Nolan Ryan, president of the Rangers, faced the media the next day and said the Rangers would do what they could to help the surviving family. He had also mentioned that the Rangers used to have a net over the open area between the bleachers and the outfield wall, but removed it when too many people crawled on it to retrieve home run balls.

Frankly, it’s astonishing that we don’t see more people falling from the stands. The railings at ballparks are quite short; those who’ve sidled along the first row of an upper deck alongside a railing that falls short of their waistlines know this. Vertigo, an ill-timed dizzy spell, a high alcohol-blood level—or a general loss of balance reaching too far out for a souvenir—is not a good thing to have when sitting in such seats.

Please, Don't Say These Things Happen in Threes
A night after the tragedy that led to Stone’s death, Hamilton laced a foul ball behind the third base dugout—and struck a teenage boy in the face. Ballpark personnel quickly tended to the boy, who was bleeding and needed stitches, but was later declared to be okay. Hamilton: “I saw it happen. Again.”

The Case of Roger Clemens vs. the Rest of the World
Roger Clemens finally went to trial this week, as the 354-game winner is accused of perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress after declaring he never took steroids. This is basically Clemens’ Truth or Dare. He and his equally combative lawyer, Rusty Hardin, willingly went to Congress to claim he was clean and that everyone else was lying. His personal trainer, Brian McNamee, is the prosecution’s star witness—in sharp contrast to the Barry Bonds trial, where Greg Anderson had all the evidence but was so loyal to Bonds he served jail time rather than testify. And whereas the witnesses in the Bonds trial were either suspect or had no direct incriminating evidence to offer against Bonds, Clemens will have to overcome the testimony of people such as former friend/teammate Andy Pettitte, who claims Clemens discussed his steroid use with him.

Bonds wisely clammed up and deftly played the stronger hand he was dealt; he’s still not out of the legal woods, but he’s close. Clemens, on the other hand, is screaming his side of the story with guns blazing, a strategy that will either lead to a total exoneration or a hard fall. But that’s all up to the jury—and after the Casey Anthony verdict, anything is possible.

Become a Fan of TGG, Missy
A potential juror at the Clemens trial was asked if she was a baseball fan. She said yes, having been to many Tiger games in Detroit—but since moving to DC, had yet to catch the “Washington Patriots” in action.

Oft Shoulder
Perhaps someday, Brandon Webb will throw another pitch in a major league game. He hasn’t since Opening Day 2009, a year after winning a major league-high 22 games—cashing in $18 million since for fighting his way back from persistent shoulder problems. Webb was hoping to return to the mound for the Texas Rangers—who signed him to a one-year, $3 million deal this season—but recently had a setback while pitching in the minors, and it appears that yet another surgery is possible. Results-wise, he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon anyway; he was 0-2 with a 9.75 ERA in four starts for the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate in Frisco.

Is Cujo the Team Mascot?
Bryce Harper continued his ascent towards the Washington National roster when the 18-year old mega-prospect debuted for Double-A Harrisburg, singling twice and walking once in the Senators’ 8-1 win over Erie on Monday. Speaking of Erie—or, eerie—Harper also scored once on a double by a guy named Stephen King.

One Mad Mariner
Seattle starting pitcher Doug Fister is 0-5 over his last seven starts—even though his season ERA has been lowered during this time, from 3.24 to 3.09. He’s allowed just 17 runs in his last 53 innings without a win, as the Mariners have supported him with 11 runs during the same stretch.

Less Walk, More Rock
For those Cincinnati fans holding their breath with the return of flamethrowing reliever Aroldis Chapman—who began walking everyone in sight in early May before being placed on the disabled list—it’s long since time to exhale. Chapman has gotten back on track and then some; in eight appearances totaling 8.2 innings since his return from the shelf, he’s allowed only a run on two hits, walked just two batters and struck out 17.

WTF Moment of the Week
San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval launches a home run beyond AT&T Park’s right field arcade and into McCovey Cove when this happens

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun’s hitting streak of 22 games remained stuck in neutral as he slowly recovers from a calf injury, but he remains the player with the longest active hitting streak in the majors. Braun, who is expected to return to action after the All-Star break, has set a career high with his run.

Wounded of the Week
The All-Stars were dropping like, well, falling stars this past week, as some big name players decided to pass on the All-Star game to rest up on recent aches and pains—while others had no choice, being forced onto the disabled list. The New York Mets’ Jose Reyes, baseball’s hottest player over the last month or so, is out with a bad hamstring; the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez and Atlanta's Chipper Jones are both going under the knife for muscle tears in the knee and may miss up to a month; and Philadelphia’s Shane Victorino, a day after being voted in as the final member of the NL All-Star roster, thanked all who voted for him by being placed on the DL with a sprained thumb.

The Yankees' Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, Philadelphia third baseman Placido Polanco and Tampa Bay pitcher David Price, though not on the shelf, will nevertheless rest up and miss the Midsummer Classic.

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.

A Day-by-Day Review of the Week:
Monday, July 4
The day after being one of the more anonymous selections to the All-Star team, Kansas City reliever Aaron Crow makes himself known in a less dignified way by balking in the game-winning run in the Royals’ 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Philadelphia’s Vance Worley, not part of the Phillie roster to start the season but with pitching worthy of the rotation’s “Big Four” starters, throws seven shutout innings at Florida to raise his record to 4-1 and lower his ERA to 2.20…and is sent to the minors after the game. It’s not so much a demotion as it is a chance for Worley to stay active, as the Phillies have no need for a fifth starter until after the All-Star break. Worley has allowed just two runs over his last 25 innings.

With the Texas Rangers well ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the eighth inning at Arlington, Michael Young—having already knocked out a single, double and triple—is taken out of the game, a home run shy of the cycle. Manager Ron Washington doesn’t realize that until after the game and admits, “I screwed that one up.” The Rangers win, 13-4.

Derek Jeter plays for the first time in three weeks and goes hitless in four at-bats at Cleveland, remaining stuck at 2,994 career hits. His opposite number for the Indians, Asdrubal Cabrera—who finished second to Jeter in All-Star voting for AL shortstop, despite much better numbers—has two hits, including a double, in the Indians’ 6-3 win over the New York Yankees.

Tuesday, July 5
Thirty-six year old pitcher Jamey Wright, a right-hander who’s managed to stay active in the majors for 17 years despite a lifetime 85-120 record and 4.96 ERA, earns the first career save in his 500th appearance (254 of them by relief) to preserve Seattle’s 4-2 win at Oakland. The Mariners are Wright’s eighth team.

Milwaukee loses its second straight at home for the first time this year as the Arizona Diamondbacks triumph at Miller Park, 7-3. The Brewers’ 41-game streak without consecutive defeats is the longest in the majors since a run of 45 games by the 1996 Yankees.

Curtis Granderson hits two home runs in the Yankees’ 9-2 win at Cleveland to give him 25 on the year, tying Mark Teixeira for the team lead—and giving the Yankees two players with 25 or more before the All-Star break for the first time since Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in their historic 1961 campaign. Last season, Granderson hit 24 jacks for the entire season; his career high is 30, achieved in 2009.

Wednesday, July 6
After a closed-door, 75-minute team meeting, the Houston Astros go out and end a five-game losing streak at Pittsburgh with an 8-2 win over the Pirates. The Astros had entered the game with the majors’ worst record (29-58) and with just six wins over their last 30 games.

Just a little more than two weeks after fracturing his wrist, Albert Pujols makes a surprisingly early return to the St. Louis Cardinals, getting a single and RBI in six at-bats in a 9-8, 13-inning loss to Cincinnati.

Thursday, July 7
The Washington Nationals blow their biggest lead in franchise history (dating back to 1969) when they lose to the Chicago Cubs, 10-9; they led 8-0 after four innings.

Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel records his 27th save in a 6-3 win over Colorado, breaking the major league record for the most saves by a rookie before the All-Star break. Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon was the previous record-holder.

Playing first base for the first time in his major league career, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer makes 13 putouts and two assists without an error, adding three hits and a pair of RBIs at the plate to help the Twins defeat the White Sox at Chicago, 6-2.

Cleveland’s Travis Hafner hits a game-winning grand slam to edge the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-4; it’s the second walk-off slam by the Indians this year, the first time two such blasts have been hit by one team in the same year since…the Indians, back in 2002.

Friday, July 8
By defeating the Cubs 7-4 at Pittsburgh, the Pirates assure that they’ll have a winning record at the All-Star Break, something they haven’t done in their 18 previous seasons—all of them ending in with sub-.500 marks, a North American pro sports record.

Boston’s David Ortiz and Baltimore reliever Kevin Gregg scrap it up at Fenway Park in the midst of the Red Sox’ 10-3 win over the Orioles. Gregg throws three pitches inside, each one closer to Ortiz than the last, infuriating the big Boston slugger. After he hits a pop-up to right field on the next pitch, he’s yelled at by Gregg to hustle—and decides to detour to the mound to take the Oriole pitcher on. Punches are thrown, none connect, and the usual mass of nothingness ensues, but the whole incident does lead to four ejections, including those of Ortiz and Gregg. It’s the fifth straight loss for Baltimore, who’s allowed ten or more runs in four of those.

Philadelphia reliever Juan Perez strikes out the side on nine pitches in the tenth inning against Atlanta, becoming only the second pitcher in history to do so in overtime. Sloppy Thurston previously accomplished the feat in 1923 as a rookie for the White Sox. The Phillies beat the Braves in ten innings, 3-2.

Saturday, July 9
Derek Jeter becomes the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits—and the first player to collect five hits in a game at the new Yankee Stadium—in a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay. Jeter’s 3,000th hit is a third-inning home run; his eighth-inning single knocks in the ultimate winning run. (See story at left.)

The San Diego Padres, one strike from no-hitting the Dodgers at Los Angeles thanks to the efforts of starter Aaron Harang and three relievers, give up a double to Juan Uribe—who then scores when Dioner Navarro singles him home to beat the Padres 1-0. The Padres only get one hit on the day, a Cameron Maybin single in the fifth inning off Dodger starter Rubby De La Rosa, who lasts six innings. It was the Dodgers’ third straight win—all by shutout.

Toronto’s Jose Bautista hits two home runs, including the game-winner in the tenth, to lift the Blue Jays past the Indians 5-4 and become the first player this year to reach 30 home runs (and 31); he has the most blasts prior to an All-Star break since David Ortiz also had 31 in 2006.

Sunday, July 10
Dontrelle Willis, who hasn’t pitched in a major league game in over a year (and has won just three since 2007), attempts his latest comeback with Cincinnati and throws well—allowing two runs on four hits and four walks through six innings—for the Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee. The Reds fail to hold Willis’ 3-2 lead with the Brewers, who score two in the bottom of the ninth and win, 4-3.

The Dodgers allow their first run in 29 innings when the Padres’ Rob Johnson homers to lead off the third inning at Los Angeles. But it turns out to be the only tally on the day for San Diego, as the Dodgers go on to win, 4-1.

Umpires must have a different rule for the Seattle Mariners: An opponent gets three balls for a walk. For the second time in nine days, the Mariners walk a batter—this time, Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Bobby Abreu—on a 2-2 pitch. Amazingly, again, the Mariners don’t keep track themselves and do not protest. But unlike the first time, when the Padres took advantage of a three-ball walk to score the only run of a game, Abreu is left stranded on base. The Mariners still lose at Anaheim, 4-2.

Masters at the Mike
It was very cool to see and hear the two most distinguished sportscasters going—Bob Costas and Al Michaels—group together to do play-by-play of the Mets’ 5-2 win at San Francisco for the MLB Network on Friday night. Costas, who occasionally does work for MLB, was expectedly sharp, but it was also refreshing to hear the 66-year old Michaels, who hadn’t done a baseball game for 16 years, get effortlessly back into the flow. Michaels did some of his early work for the Giants in the mid-1970s, something he referenced as the team’s local broadcast group of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow ceded three innings of their time to allow local fans to listen in on the MLB Network feed.

Offend it Like Beckham
In these politically correct times, you’d think Gordon Beckham had enough common sense to avoid a stunt like this. The White Sox’ second baseman went to his position for the top of the first at Chicago on Monday and etched with his finger on the infield dirt, “Getz is Gay! GB”. It was a joke intended for his opposite number and friend on the visiting Kansas City Royals, Chris Getz. Beckham assumed that Getz would be the only one to see the message, but apparently a number of fans with sharp eyes in the stands were able to see it and found it quit unfunny.

Beckham seemed stunned that his joke could be seen from afar. His explanation: “I don’t use slurs. I have a lot of gay friends. I didn’t mean it as anything—you know, like gay as in…happy!”

Dude, the 1890s were a long time ago.

ERA Contender for a Day, or Two
San Francisco All-Star pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who didn’t start in the rotation until the end of April, pitched seven solid innings on Friday against the New York Mets and finally gathered up enough innings on the year to qualify for the ERA leaderboard—for which he listed second, behind Atlanta’s Jair Jurrjens. The rule states that you need to average an inning per game to qualify, so Vogelsong finished the night with 91.1 frames in the Giants’ 90th game of the year. But he’s off the board again for the All-Star break; the Giants played two more games to total 92, and with Vogelsong waiting his next turn in the rotation, he again is under the qualifying limit.

How Screwy is This?
Pitcher Zach Britton, despite being the Baltimore Orioles’ team leader in wins (six) and ERA (4.08) has been demoted to Double-A Bowie. The 23-year old rookie southpaw has been shaky of late, 1-5 over his last eight starts with a 6.86 ERA, and the Orioles are hoping to use the All-Star break to their advantage and get Britton some corrective work taken care of in the minors. Still, with the Orioles’ pitching in general getting slaughtered of late, the move doesn’t seem to make much sense. Britton agrees, telling the Baltimore Sun: “I feel like if I’m under a microscope that much, that’s a lot of pressure for me when obviously I’m still trying to figure everything out at this level….I feel like I’m kind of in-between like la-la-land. Almost like, you are throwing here and what’s happening after that?”

Now Playing at TGG
Our annual midseason report card, detailing the best, worst and most unexpected during the first half of the 2011 regular season.

TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!