Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stan The Man and Oh, Bucs Lose

-- The Bucs lost their zillionth straight game to Milwaukee 8-5. Ian Snell turned an immanently winnable game over to the bullpen, and the predictable hilarity resulted. The Brew Crew only had seven hits; maybe the ten walks and hit batter had something to do with it.

St. Louis is next. Zach Duke (3-2, 2.21) faces RHP Mitchell Boggs(1-0, 3.29) tomorrow, and Ross Ohlendorf (3-2, 3.48) takes on RHP Todd Wellemeyer (2-2, 5.28) Thursday. The matchups are dissected here.

-- Hey, did you know the WPIAL started a Hall of Fame in 2007? And as much as Western PA is associated with football and basketball, there's been some baseball love shown every year.

This year it's Donora High's Stan "The Man" Musial, and about time. He and Honus Wagner are the two greatest ballplayers to come out of the Steeltown region.

Musial was a standout baseball player in his Dragon days - he signed his first contract right out of high school in 1938 - and was also a talented football and basketball player.

The Man played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1941-63 and his 3,630 hits (1,815 hits at home, and 1,815 on the road) are still fourth all-time behind Charlie Hustle, the Georgia Peach, and Hammering Hank ( or Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, and Henry Aaron for the nickname-impaired among us).

He hit .331 lifetime, with 475 long balls, 1,951 RBI, 1,949 runs scored, and he had better than a 2:1 walk-strikeout ratio. That's right, he walked 1,599 times and struck out just 696 times. His OBP was a staggering .417 - for 22 seasons! He was a Sabermetric poster child.

According to Wikipedia, he ranks fifth all-time among hitters according to the Black Ink Test (behind Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Ted Williams), third all-time on the Gray Ink Test (behind Cobb and Hank Aaron), tied with Barry Bonds for second in the Hall of Fame Career Standards Test, behind only Ruth, and ranks first among all hitters and pitchers on the Hall of Fame Monitor Test.

Despite his towering reputation, many fans (even here) are unaware of his brilliant achievements, leading ESPN and other organizations to list him as the most underrated athlete of all-time. Hard to understand, considering...

Besides being a WPIAL HOF'er, Musial had his #6 retired, was a 24-time All Star, seven-time batting champion, three-time National League MVP, SI's Sportsman of the Year, a member of the MLB All-Century Team, and a first ballot selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Stan was truly the Man.

Last year, the WPIAL picked a player (Dick Groat) and a team (Shaler).

Dick Groat of Swissvale High, Bucco World Series shortstop, was one of the best athletes to ever come out of the area. He was a three-sport star in basketball, baseball and volleyball for the Flashes.

He set a school record with 37 points in basketball and led the WPIAL in scoring in 1948. Groat played college ball at Duke in the 1950s, leading the nation in scoring as a senior with a 26-point average (the Blue Devils retired his number), and hooped in the NBA for a year.

Groat played nine seasons for the Pirates, winning the National League batting title in 1960, two World Series titles (Pirates -1960; St. Louis - 1964), and was named to five All-Star teams.

The other awardee was a team, the 1980 Shaler Titans.

It's big news when a WPIAL baseball team has a player taken in the first 10 rounds of the MLB draft. Well, this squad had two players taken in the top nine rounds in 1980 – catcher Doug Maggio (3rd - Phillies) and pitcher Wayne Schuckert (9th - White Sox).

Three other players from the team were drafted out of college, Rich Schleiper, Chip Peluso, and Matt Stennett, and another, Ken Karcher, went on to play QB in the NFL.

The team was coached by the legendary Jerry Matulevic (ably assisted by Dave Fortun), and finished the season on a 25-game winning streak, a 30-3 slate, and outscored its opponents 218-53.

The Titans won the WPIAL and PIAA titles, winning its three WPIAL playoff games by a combined score of 26-1, and its five PIAA games by a combined total of 42-15.

Monaca Indians manager Dave Nichols was named to the HOF in its first year, 2007. He coached baseball for 39 years and won 492 games, was a state runner-up once and a WPIAL runner-up once.

Oh, he had a side job, too - he coached 30 years in basketball, won 475 games and led his club to both a WPIAL and state championship.

-- In Pirate news, Matt Capps is out until at least Friday with a bruised bone in his elbow. Tyler Yates and John Grabow will pick up the slack until he's back.

-- Jack Splat is scheduled to do some minor league rehab over the weekend, and could be back for Tuesday's game if all goes well.

-- LHP Phil Dumatrait (shoulder impingement) is expected to start throwing again this week according to Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune Review, but won't be ready to rejoin the roster until June at best. He's been in Operation Shutdown longer than Derek Bell!

-- Wondering what the big three of Andrew, Pedro, and Jose are up to? Jen Langosch of MLB.com has the update.

-- LHP Tony Watson of Altoona was placed on the minor league DL with left elbow tendinitis according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette. He's been getting bombed; hopefully the elbow is the reason. Watson wasn't a primo prospect, but a guy that had looked good coming up through the ranks until this year (0-3, 8.22 ERA).

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