When I research players for my 1960 Topps blog I try to find something entertaining for the Off The Charts entry. Something besides his numbers or vitals usually pops up for every player. Frequently it comes from a player's SABR bio, a Wikipedia entry, or local stories that pop up on a Google search. I always find something.
But when I was looking at Carl Mathias' card and googled him I was disappointed. I went through several pages of search results and hadn't found any references to him at all outside of the normal stat pages (Baseball-Reference, etc) and mundane stuff from the 'off-brand', copycat wiki pages.
Then I found something that led me down an entertaining path. The official site of the AA-level Reading Fightin' Phils had a page for Mathias in their Baseballtown section. It stated that his nickname was Stubby. That was a fun fact but I figured I could find more. And I came across this:
Carl Mathias and the flip side of Boston’s biggest rally
The Red Sox, as I noted in the book’s introduction, once rallied for eight runs with two down in the ninth for a 13–12 win over the Washington Senators. That game, in June 1961, didn’t make the cut. But a detail from that game became lodged in my mind. While cross-referencing various sources, I noticed that Carl Mathias, Washington’s starting pitcher, was still in the game when the Red Sox started their historic rally. Then I noticed Mathias’s lifetime record: 0–2.
In other words, the poor guy was on the mound at Fenway Park with a seven-run lead in the ninth inning, one out away from picking up his first win in the major leagues … and he never got it.
I also found a few other quirky things while researching in the past few weeks. And both were prompted by comments from Fuji. The first was a minor error. I was reading about Dan Dobbek and found that his Baseball Reference's Bullpen page stated that the Washington outfielder had been intentionally walked by the Red Sox three times in a game early in the 1060 season. Fuji's curiosity was peaked, and he found that it was two walks, not a record-tying feat after all. Not a big thing, but it did remind me that just because someone writes something on the internet doesn't make it true.
And finally, a quote from Cub's pitcher Art Ceccarelli in yesterday's post caught Fuji's eye. Ceccarelli was commenting on pitching in Wrigley Field and said "It wears pitchers down. The winds are unbelievable. Willie Kirkland once hit a home run off me that Ernie Banks called for at shortstop."
Fuji mentioned that he would have liked to see Kirkland's homer. So I thought, remembering the Dobbek deal, that I should find out if Willie Kirkland had ever homered of Ceccarelli in Wrigley. Sure enough, it happened on August 13, 1959. But the neat part of that game turned out to be that the Cubs beat the Giants, 20-9. It was 10-7 Cubs after four. There were eight homers in that game. Giants pitchers issued 13 walks, four to Ernie Banks (yes, he was at short so the Kirkland homer story is possible). Stu Miller walked five of the eleven guys he faced (the wind must have played hell on his knuckler) and Don Elston got a five-inning save. Getting a save in a 20-9 win is weird in itself.
Of course, none of this comes close to the high adventure of looking into the cartoon on the back of Don Rudolph's 1959 card.