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Baseball history unpacked, March 30

Charlie Brown touches them all, The umpires strike back, and Sammy Sosa crosses town

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Sammy Sosa #21

Fields in the stream. Last time around, we looked at Randle’s greatest hits, Sidd Finch, returning the All-Star Game to the fans, and more. Today we check in on Charlie Brown’s first home run and a host of other issues pertaining to the final day of March. It’s an important day in baseball history. I’ve done some light unpacking and garnered a small collection of links for those of you who would read further.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1956 - The Cubs trade Hank Sauer (#31 all-time) to St. Louis. (4)

The “Mayor of Wrigley Field,” Sauer had been one of the most productive and popular power hitters of his time after joining the Cubs, but by age 39, he no longer had the skills he had enjoyed as a younger man. He often faced shifts when he batted, and was unable to go the other way. Instead he tried to hit over the shift, according to Stan Musial, his road-trip roommate.

“I just couldn’t get back to get around on the ball,” Sauer said. Pitchers had learned to time his swings.

The Cubs asked him to open the season in the Pacific Coast League, at their Los Angeles farm club. When Sauer demurred, he was dispatched to the Cardinals for Pete Whisenant and 10,000.00.

He hit cleanup for the St. Louis club, batting behind Musial, even though he had morphed into a singles hitter, especially after being beaned May 2. Sauer played two years afterward, ending up with the Giants.

  • 1966 - Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers end their dual holdout. Both pitchers had stayed away from camp for 32 days, threatening retirement in an effort to acquire pay raises. Koufax signs for $120,000; Drysdale settles for $105,000. (3)
  • 1979 - Umpires meet in Chicago and vote 50-2 to reject new offers from the A.L. and N.L. (2)

The umpires struck until May 19. It didn’t go well.

“Baseball may yet be embarrassed by the absence of its regular umpires, who entered the second week of the 1979 season picketing outside stadiums, trying to arouse sympathy for their strike for higher salaries. In their place, a ragtag bunch of minor-league and amateur umpires was making decisions, and before the week was out, players and managers were grumbling about the increasing frequency of errors in judgment and just plain bad calls,” said a Newsweek article.

The Washington Post called out the Commissioner.

“Where is Bowie Kuhn hiding?

Major league umpires are on strike. Honest but uncompetent men are in their place. An unusual number of serious situations have arisen on the playing field. Indecisions and compromises are daily occurrences. …It has affected the morals of the players and Bowie Kuhn’s credibility.

It will not go away without decisive action.” (6)

“On May 15, 1979, the MLUA and MLB settled the labor dispute; the terms allowed the umpires to have in-season vacations by utilizing an additional umpiring crew in each league, a 401-k plan, increased salaries, pensions, and per diems, as well as a return to merit assignments for post-season games (replacing the rotation system that began in 1975) starting in 1982.[7] The settlement was hailed by both players and managers. The agreement was formally signed on May 18; as a result, replacement umpires worked the famous game on May 17 between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs that was won by the Phillies, 23-22.” (7)

Fred Brocklander, Dave Pallone, Dallas Parks, and Derryl Cousins were some of the umpires retained by MLB after the strike. If you click the links, they take you to stories about each individual. It wasn’t easy for them. Most of them were minor-league lifers, the rest were college umps. Parks had to make a tough decision, as did the rest. Plenty of interesting reading.

  • 1992 - The White Sox trade Sammy Sosa and pitcher Ken Patterson to the cross-town rival Cubs for slugger George Bell. (1)

Chris Jaffe (The Hardball Times): 20th Anniversary: Sosa-Bell Trade.

  • 1993 - After 43 years, Peanuts character Charlie Brown finally hits a home run, a game-winning round-tripper batting against his nemesis Royanne Hobbs. Almost ten percent of the nearly 18,000 Peanuts strips created by Charles Schulz focused on baseball. (1)

Chris Jaffe (The Hardball Times): 20th anniversary: Charlie Brown’s moment in the sun.

Thanks for reading. Where to get my books.