Monday, July 20, 2009
OK, so I know no one reads this blog anymore. Except for this guy. And this guy. Maybe this girl. Oh yeah, and this guy.
So, to the four of you I say, get ready to kiss another 6 hours of your life good-bye. I've found yet another complete time-waster of a website.
But first, how about a boring diatribe of why I was searching for said website? Here goes. I watched HBO's amazing sports documentary Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush for about the 8th time the other day (seriously, if you remotely enjoy baseball, you'll love the docu). The program had some nostalgic value for me because half of my Dad's family were Brooklyn Dodgers faithful while the other rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals. Apparently, if you lived in Amarillo, Texas pre-1968, you were either a Cardinals or a Dodgers fan. Go figure.
Anyway, Ghosts of Flatbush culminates with the Dodgers 1955 World Series win, after a decade of near misses, and the subsequent political battle that led to their relocation to Los Angeles just a few years later.
A few interesting notes on the 1955 series:
1). The Dodgers won the series in 7 games over the New York Yankees, but the style of play and management were vastly different that what we typically see in today's playoff scenarios. First, the two lions of the Dodgers pitching staff were Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine. Both were in the primes of their careers and both had been the mainstays of a solid 5 man rotation. Newcombe pitched the first game and lost. Erskine did not start until the 4th game and was pulled after the third inning, although the Dodgers eventually won the game to tie the series at 2-2. That was it for these two. Neither threw another pitch in the series, although both were available for the decisive game 7. Brooklyn put their top two pitchers on the mound for a total of 8 2/3 innings of the 60 the Dodgers would pitch in the series. Odd.
2). On the downswing of his career, Jackie Robinson had moved to third- from second Base a few years prior. Although still effective, Jackie Robinson was probably the Dodgers 5th or 6th best offensive player. In the series, he was actually benched in Game 7.
3). Everyone's favorite former Ranger's Manager (and person you least want in a street fight) Don Zimmer played in 4 games during the series for the Dodgers at second base and he started in the decisive seventh game.
4). Don Newcombe was a beast. Although his series performance wasn't spectacular he led the Dodgers pitching staff with 20 wins during the regular season. He also hit .359 in 117 at bats and hit 7 home runs. By contrast, Jackie Robinson hit 8 homers in 317 at-bats that same season.
5). After watching the documentary, if Johnny Podres isn't your favorite player of all time, you are an idiot.
Enough about the '55 series. In the documentary, Ebbets Field is as much a part of the story as the Dodgers themselves. The Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium also get ample billing. I knew the dimensions of these stadiums were unusual and was hoping to find photos or articles written that would give me a better feeling for these old ballparks. What I found was this site. Holy shit. Photos. Diagrams. Bleacher profiles. Pretty much anything you could ever want to know about any major league stadiums (and a few none major league ballparks). Have fun.
You'll also notice that the quirkiness of many of these parks had a huge impact on how owners and managers built their teams to excel in these parks.
Here are a few of my favorite observations:
1). The Polo Grounds, home of Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World", was a one of the strangest shaped stadiums ever. Built like a bathtub, the left and right field fences were absurdly short (279 and 258 feet respectively).
The left field fence played even shorter than that because the second deck hung aggressively over the lower deck. In fact, the only way to hit a home run into the lower left field seats was by hitting a line drive.
From the corners, the fences dropped sharply away. Center field (power alley-to- power alley) measured a whopping 440 feet. Essentially, if you were going to clear the fences at the Polo Grounds you only had about half of the total fence area to aim for.
In deep center, there was an unusual cutout that held the entrances to the players locker rooms. This actually meant that the Polo Grounds measured...get this...483 feet in absolute dead center. No one ever hit a ball over the 483 fence, and after 1932 only four balls were ever hit past the walls that connected left and right center. Interestingly, one of these was hit by Lou Brock.
In the video of Willie Mays famous catch off Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series, you can see the center field cut-out to the left of where Mays actually caught the ball. By all estimations, Mays was probably 425-430 feet from home plate when he caught the ball.
Also, the bullpens at the Polo Grounds were located in the outfield..IN FAIR PLAY.
2). Griffith Stadium, former home of the Washington Senators, measured 421 in center field, 391 down the left power- alley and 405 down the left field line.
3). The Baker Bowl, former home of the Philadelphia Phillies, measured 342 feet down the left field line and 408 to Center. It was a paltry 281 feet down the right field line and just 300 feet in right center. However, the right field wall awesome 60 feet tall. By my own calculations, a 60 foot wall in right field at the Ballpark in Arlington would block the view of all, but the top five rows in the upper deck. Wow.
4). The field used in Field of Dreams in Dyersville, IA is smaller than a regulation softball field. It measures 281 in left, 314 in center and 262 in right. This would have been the perfect place for the Batfaces to play because there would be much less ground to cover defensively, and after yet another embarrassing loss we could all just run for the corn...