Tuesday Tunes: Diamond Ditty #5 – “Charlie-O-The-Mule” by Gene McKown

30 06 2015

Yesterday I wrote a post about “Charlie O” the Mule who was the mascot of the A’s during the end of their run in Kansas City and the beginning of their time in Oakland.  The idea and namesake of team owner Charlie O. Finley, Charlie O saw 3 World Series titles during his time as the A’s mascot.

Charlie O CD

Artist/Title/Album: “Charlie-O-The-Mule” by Gene McKown (1965?)

1965 KC A's yearbook Charlie O

Description:  As I mentioned in my post yesterday, Charlie O was a mascot for the A’s.  I’m guessing this song was commissioned by Charlie Finley in an effort to promote the mascot, but I’m not sure.  It’s got an old country / rockabilly vibe to it.

I couldn’t find much about Gene McKown, the credited artist.  The most I found was from this site.  Apparently he was a musician who lived in Kansas City, which makes sense.  He also did a song in the 1970’s about the Royals.  He had a song called Rockabilly Rhythm that seemed to be his best-known credit.

How it’s related to baseball:  Obviously it’s a tribute to the Kansas City / Oakland mascot!  And a very fun one at that!

Charlie O the Mule!
Charlie O the Mule!
He goes where the A’s go,
Just like me and you!

Monday Mascots #3: Charlie O The Mule

29 06 2015

Twitter is an interesting thing.  I have technically been on twitter for about 2 years, but I’ve just started to check it consistently in the last few months.  I follow a couple of guys who do things associated with sports logos (@sportslogosnet, @ToddRadom), and saw a tweet about a mule that took pitchers to the mound in 1965.  Now that seemed like a mascot I should learn something about!  Two days ago, the Oakland A’s did a promotional giveaway of this T-shirt:

Charlie O promo give away t-shirt

Mascot/Team:   “Charlie O” the Mule (Kansas City / Oakland Athletics, 1965-1976)

Charlie O Mule Charlie Finley

Background:   Prior to the 1961 American League season, Charlie O. Finley purchased the Kansas City Athletics franchise.  Finley would eventually be remembered for a number of his marketing efforts to promote the Athletics in both Kansas City (using the shortened “A’s” moniker) and after he moved the team to Oakland (incentivizing players to grown a handlebar mustache).

When Finley bought the team, they had only been in Kansas City for a few years.  He wanted to move away from the team’s historical Elephant mascot to something with a tie to Missouri.  And after reading an article in the Chicago Tribune, he was determined it needed to be a Missouri mule.  He ordered Jim Schaaf, head of the A’s promotional department, to find the finest Missouri mule he could.  They arranged to have newly elected governor Warren Hearnes donate the mule to the team, and on opening night 1965, Charlie O was unveiled to KC fans.  Finley rode him around the park prior to the game, causing a number of fans to question who was the bigger ass – the donkey or the owner who had tried to move the team to California one year earlier.

Finley brought Charlie O around the American League that year, and even offered Ken Harrelson 25 bucks to ride the mule in a game at Yankee Stadium.  It didn’t go so well when Roger Maris hit Charlie O with a baseball, causing him to buck wildly.  The “Hawk” tells the story here.

Charlie O Hawk Harrelson

When Finley moved the A’s to Oakland in 1968, he (somewhat controversially) took the Mule with the team.  Charlie O was still a fan favorite, however, even though the Missouri connection was gone.  He could perform tricks, like bowing to the fans, and he oversaw 3 straight World Series titles for the A’s from 1972-1974.

Charlie O bowing

Charlie O passed away in 1976 at the age of 30.  The team still used a mule as a mascot until 1981, when Finley sold the team to Walter Haas, Jr.

Outside of baseball:   In addition to parading before home games at Municipal Stadium and the Oakland Coliseum, Charlie O had engagements at hotels and hospitals.  I even read that Finley went to a barbershop to get Charlie O’s haircut.

Charlie O also had a song written about him, which I’ll post about tomorrow.

Baseball card connection:  Charlie O. hasn’t had any cards made yet.  He is getting 2 T-shirts, however.  The A’s had a giveaway 2 days ago as I noted above, and the Royals are doing a promotion where they remember the Kansas City A’s on July 6th where fans can get their picture taken at the ballpark with a Missouri mule wearing Charlie O’s original blanket.

My 2002 All-Star selections and Silver Slugger comparison

27 06 2015

My opinion of the best player at each position in each league.  For pitchers, I pick 3 starters and 1 reliever.  I do include a DH. Here’s the 2002 version:

My NL All-Stars: C – Mike Piazza, NYM (.280/33/98)

1B – Todd Helton, COL (.336/49/146, 132 R, .685 SLG)

2B – Jeff Kent, SFG (.298/37/108, .313)

2002 Topps Traded Scott Rolen3B – Scott Rolen, PHI/STL (.266/31/110)

SS – Edgar Renteria, STL (.305/11/83)

OF – Barry Bonds, OF, SFG (.370/46/110, 198 BB (MLB record),68 IBB (MLB record).582 OBP (MLB record),.799 SLG, 1.381 OPS (MLB record))

OF – Vladimir Guerrero, MON (.336/39/111, 206 H, 40 SB)

OF – Brian Giles, PIT (.298/38/103, 1.072 OPS)

SP – Randy Johnson, ARI (24-5/2.32/334, 260 IP, 8 CG, 4 SHO, Cy Young)

SP – Curt Schilling, ARI (23-7/3.23/316, 259.1 IP, 6 CG)

SP – Roy Oswalt, HOU (19-9/3.01/208, 233 IP)

RP – Eric Gagne, LAD (4-1/1.97/114, 52 SV)

The NL outfield was an extremely difficult choice; last year I had Shawn Green as my 4th outfielder, and he’s probably the first odd man out again.  In addition, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones (who played in left field in 2002) and Sammy Sosa all could have been chosen.  But you could swap Giles and Guerrero out for any one of those guys and have an argument.  The two of them had the highest OPS (except for Walker in Coors Field), while Vlad led the league in hits and nearly had a 40-40 season.  I actually thought about putting Pujols in as the 3rd baseman – he played 41 games there, but that’s a third of his time in the outfield, and Scott Rolen was nearly as good as Pujols in 2002 anyways.

First base was a little challenging – Ryan Klesko had very good numbers without the Coors Field benefit that Helton got.  But Helton was a much better defensive player, and that tips the scale for me.  It’s interesting – in addition to looking at the players’ traditional stats, I look at both WAR and Win Shares closely when trying to make determinations.  And so many of these NL decisions for 2002, Win Shares and WAR just didn’t line up.

Starting pitching was (again) a very clear top 2, and Oswalt was an easy choice for third.  Reliever was tough.  John Smoltz set a National League record with 55 saves, and while he was very good, a lot of that was a function of how good the Braves were.  Gagne was much better with nearly as many saves.  And, if anything – Octavio Dotel (1.85 ERA in set-up role) or Byung-Hyun Kim (36 saves) were his best competition.

My AL All-Stars: C – Jorge Posada, NYY (.268/20/99)

1B – Jim Thome, CLE (.304/52/118, 122 BB, .445 OBP, .677 SLG)

2002 Topps ASR Alfonso Soriano2B – Alfonso Soriano NYY (.300/39/102, 41 SB, 209 H, 128 R)

3B – Eric Chavez, OAK (.275/34/109)

SS – Alex Rodriguez, TEX (.300/57/142, 125 R)

OF – Manny Ramirez, BOS (.349/33/107, .450 OBP, 127 R)

OF – Magglio Ordonez, CHW (.320/38/125, 116 R, 47 2B)

OF – Bernie Williams, NYY (.333/19/102, 206 H)

DH – Jason Giambi, NYY (.314/41/122, .435 OBP)

SP – Barry Zito, OAK (23-5/2.75/182, Cy Young)

SP – Pedro Martinez, BOS (20-4/2.26/239, 4 SHO)

SP – Roy Halladay, TOR (19-7/2.93/168, 239.1 IP)

RP – Arthur Rhodes, SEA (10-4/2.33/91)

This has to have been the best season all-time for any league as far as shortstops go.  Alex Rodriguez was really the best player in the league.  Nomar Garciaparra led the league with 56 doubles.  Miguel Tejada won the MVP but was probably the third best 6-man in the league.  Derek Jeter was his usual self, while David Eckstein and Omar Vizquel had good offensive seasons paired with excellent defense.

Giambi actually played more games at first base, but did play 63 games at DH so I was able to get the 3rd best hitter in the AL in this lineup (if I only considered him a first baseman, Thome beats him out).  The other slot that was interesting was third base – Eric Hinske was the Rookie of the Year and deserved some serious consideration, as did Troy Glaus, who I picked in 2001 and who won the World Series MVP.

In the American League – pitching was a tough decision.  There was a clear top 5 – the 3 above, Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe – but I’ve chosen to pick the top 3.  Zito won the Cy Young, and I think was deserving of the top spot.  Pedro was the only guy out of those 5 with less than 200 innings, but he had 199, and he was the best pitcher when he did pitch.  From there, I thought Halladay’s total package – really good numbers over the most innings – gave him the third spot.  But honestly, any of the others could replace Doc or Pedro.  Also, with no exceptional AL closer in 2002, I thought Arthur Rhodes season was the best, as he had a minute 0.83 WHIP and a 10.6 K per 9 innings.


NL Silver Slugger: C – Mike Piazza, 1B – Helton, 2B – Kent, 3B – Rolen, SS – Renteria, OF – Bonds, Guerrero, Sammy Sosa (.288/49/108, 122 R), P – Mike Hampton (.344/3/5)

Mike Hampton followed up his historical 2001 season (7 homers) with a .344 average.  As mentioned above, Sosa was someone I considered, but he just wasn’t that good defensively and even his excellent offensive numbers are aided by his home park in the Windy City.

AL Silver Sluggers: C – Posada, 1B – Giambi, 2B – Soriano, 3B – Chavez, SS – Rodriguez, OF – B. Williams, Ordonez, Garrett Anderson ANA (.306/29/123, 56 2B), DH – M. Ramirez

Interesting how the lack of a really good DH led the Silver Slugger voters to put in Manny, while it caused me to put in Thome.  This ends up with Garrett Anderson in their lineup instead of Jim Thome in mine.  Anderson had a great season and was a tough cut for me.

2002 Season – statistics

26 06 2015

2002 AS game logoAll-Star Game: AL ties NL, 7-7 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI     (No MVP awarded)

Home Run Derby: Jason Giambi 24 – beat Sammy Sosa, 7-1 in the final     (AL over NL, 41-31)

ALDS: Anaheim Angels over New York Yankees, 3-1

Minnesota Twins over Oakland A’s, 3-2

2002 WS ProgramNLDS:  San Francisco Giants over Atlanta Braves, 3-2

St. Louis Cardinals over Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-0

ALCS: Angels over Twins, 4-1

NLCS: Giants over Cardinals, 4-1

World Series: Angels over Giants, 4-3


MVP: AL – Miguel Tejada, SS, Oakland A’s (.350/34/131, 204 H)

NL – Barry Bonds, OF, San Francisco Giants (.370/46/110, 198 BB (MLB record), 68 IBB (MLB record).582 OBP (MLB record), .799 SLG, 1.381 OPS (MLB record))

Cy Young: AL – Barry Zito, SP, Oakland A’s (23-5/2.75/182)

NL – Randy Johnson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (24-5/2.32/334, 260 IP, 8 CG, 4 SHO)

RoY: AL – Eric Hinske, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays (.279/24/84)

NL – Jason Jennings SP, Colorado Rockies (16-8/4.52/127)


MLB Amateur Draft:

Bryan Bullington, P, PIT (1st overall pick)

B.J. Upton, OF, TBD (1st #2)

Zack Greinke, P, KCR (1st #6) – 2009 AL Cy Young, 2009 AL ERA champ, 2x All-Star, 128 career W

Prince Fielder, 1B, MIL (1st #7) – 2007 NL HR Champ, 2009 NL RBI Champ, 290 career HR, 5x All-Star

Nick Swisher, 1B, OAK (1st #16) – 1x All-Star, 239 career HR

Cole Hamels, P, PHI (1st #17) – 3x All-Star, 109 career W, 2008 NLCS & WS MVP

Matt Cain, P, SFG (1st #25) – 3x All-Star, pitched perfect game in 2012

Joey Votto, C, CIN (2nd #44) – 2010 NL MVP, 4x All-Star, 4x NL OBP champ

Joey Votto mounty

Jon Lester, P, BOS (2nd #57) – 3x All-Star, 118 career W

Brandon Weeden, P, NYY (2nd#71) – 2012 First team all Big 12 Football, 22nd pick in 2012 NFL draft

2002 Topps Draft Brandon Weeden

Curtis Granderson, OF, DET (3rd #80) – 3x All-Star, 20-20-20-20 (doubles-triples-HR-SB) in 2007 (one of 4 ever), 2x AL triple leader

Russell Martin, 2B, LAD (17th #511) – 3x All-Star

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, DET (23rd #674) – 1x All-Star, 3x AL SB leader, 30-30 in 2011

Hunter Pence, OF, MIL (40th #1189) – 3x All-Star

Jonathan Papelbon, P, OAK (40th #1208 – did not sign) – 5x All-Star, 330 career SV, 8x 30 SV

2002 Topps Traded Hall Relic Ozzie Smith**********

Hall of Fame: Ozzie Smith, SS, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres (1st ballot)


Batting Leaders:

Avg. (AL) Manny Ramirez BOS .349, (NL) Bonds SFG .370

HR (AL) Alex Rodriguez TEX 57, (NL) Sammy Sosa CHC 49

RBI (AL) A. Rodriguez TEX 142, (NL) Lance Berkman HOU 128

R (AL) Alfonso Soriano NYY 128, (NL) Sosa CHC 122

SB (AL) Soriano NYY 41, (NL) Luis Castillo FLA 48

H (AL) Soriano NYY 209, (NL) Vladimir Guerrero MON 206

Pitching Leaders:

W (AL) Zito OAK 23, (NL) Johnson ARI 22

ERA (AL) Pedro Martinez BOS 2.26, (NL) Johnson ARI 2.32

K (AL) Martinez BOS 239, (NL) Johnson ARI 334

SV (AL) Eddie Guardado MIN 45, (NL) John Smoltz ATL 55 – NL Record


Trends and Stats:

6 players above .330 AVG, 1 above .350 AVG

28 players above 30 HR, 8 above 40 HR, 2 above 50 HR

36 players above 100 RBI, 8 above 120 RBI

0 players above 50 SB

5 players above 200 H

7 pitchers above 20 W

7 pitchers above 200 K, 2 above 250, 2 above 300 K

11 pitchers below 3.00 ERA, 2 below 2.50

2 pitchers above 250 IP

10 pitchers above 40 SV, 2 above 50 SV


I’ll post my standard All-Star selections and compare to the silver slugger winners for the year in the next post.

2002 Cincinnati Reds season

25 06 2015

Reds logo

2002 was the 33rd and final season of Riverfront Stadium / Cinergy Field.  There were a lot of memories made in that “ballpark”:

  • 14 playoff appearances (7 each by the Reds and Bengals),
  • 5 pennants,
  • 2 AFC Championships,
  • 3 World Series wins,
  • and a team in 1975-76 that is in the argument as the greatest of all-time.


In 2002, the Reds closed the stadium out by again being respectable but ultimately not all that good.  The season started ominously as Ken Griffey Jr. tore a tendon in early April.  However, the team overcame that, going 16-9 to post the best record in the National League.  They had a solid May as well and still led the division at the end of the month.  And they stayed above .500 throughout June and July.

Their hitting was good.  22-year old prospects Adam Dunn (26 homers) and Austin Kearns (.500 slugging) played their first full season in the big leagues and were excellent.  Aaron Boone (26 HR, 32 SB) and Todd Walker rounded out a solid young offensive core.

But the early success proved to be fools gold.  Griffey never got back to full health, going on the DL for over a month when he pulled his hamstring in late June.  The Reds had a good bullpen that helped them win some close games, but the team just didn’t have the starting pitching to get over down years from Griffey, Sean Casey and Barry Larkin (who had his worst year as a pro in 2002).  Jimmy Haynes won 15 games, but no other pitcher won more than 7.  Jose Rijo was an interesting experiment – after 5 years out due to injury, Rijo came back briefly in 2001, and then went 5-4 as a spot starter / middle reliever in 2002.  Rijo is one of 2 players to have played in the Majors after getting a Hall of Fame vote (the other being Minnie Minoso).

It was tough to pick between Boone and Kearns as the team MVP below – but I went with Boone, even though he had an OPS 150 points below than Kearns.  Kearns had 250 less plate appearances and Boone was a good defensive player.  The local writers elected Boone as well that year.

Team MVP: Aaron Boone (.286/26/87, 32 SB)

Best Pitcher: Elmer Dessens (7-8/3.02/93)

Award Winners:



Adam Dunn

2002 World Series

24 06 2015

I’m splitting my write-ups about the playoffs into 2 posts going forward.  The posts just feel too long, so I’ll do the NLDS/NLCS in the first post and the World Series in the next post for 2002 and on.

2002 World Series Sports Illustrated Angels cover

After an incredible 2001 Fall Classic, the 2002 World Series had a lot to live up to.  Sure, there wasn’t a walk-off hit in game 7 against the best closer of all time.  But it certainly made for some memories; most notably, a team looking to clinch the title had a 5-run lead in game 6 – and DIDN’T WIN!  Also, the team with home field advantage had won every single series in the 2002 playoffs, but that anomaly didn’t hold up in the 2002 World Series.

World Series:

Giants at Angels

Both teams had won their Championship Series in 5 games, so game 1 pitted the #1 starters against each other.  The game was an even matchup, with Jason Schmidt out doing Jarrod Washburn.  Barry Bonds, Reggie Sanders and JT Snow all hit home runs off Washburn, while Troy Glaus pegged 2 longballs on Schmidt.  Snow hit his with a runner on, which was the difference in the 4-3 Giant victory.

Game 2 was just as close, but with a lot more fireworks.  The Angels scored 5 runs in the first inning, including Scott Spiezio’s steal of home plate.  They forced Russ Ortiz out of the game when Tim Salmon hit a 2-run homer in the 2nd.  But home runs from  Sanders and David Bell led to a 4-run 2nd inning, and a Jeff Kent homer got the Giants within 2 runs the next frame.  The Angel’s rookie starter John Lackey relieved Kevin Appier and held down the fort for a few innings, but the Giants plated 4 runs in the 5th.  The Angels clawed their way back to tie by scoring in both the 5th and 6th innings, and Salmon gave them a 2-run lead with his 2nd homer of the night in the 8th.  Troy Percival got the first 2 batters out, meaning he could afford to go after Bonds, who had been walked 3 times that game.  Bonds hit a monstrous drive, that you could see Salmon (observing from the dugout after being taken out for defense) quote as the “farthest ball I’ve ever seen hit”.

The Giants scored first in game 3, but the Angels took over from there.  The Angels scored 4 runs in both the 3rd and 4th inning off Livan Hernandez, with the biggest hit coming off a Spiezio triple.

The Angels struck first in game 4, taking a 3-run lead after Troy Glaus but it was the Giants’ turn to come back.  They scored 3 runs to tie the game in the 5th inning, and David Bell singled home the winning run in the bottom of the 8th.  This was done despite the fact that Bonds essentially had the bat taken out of his hands.  The Angels were using a strategy that had become all too familiar with the Giants – they walked Barry whenever possible.  In game 3, Bonds was walked intentionally 3 times.  For the series, he walked an astounding 13 times, 7 of them intentionally (and the others were all due to pitching around Bonds).  When he did get the chance to hit – he was excellent.  For the series, Bonds hit 4 homers and batted .471 with a 1.294 slugging percentage.  But he notched only 6 RBI as the Angels minimized the damage the best player in the game could do.

2002 WS Bonds intentional walk

In game 5, Bonds took early advantage of one of the few opportunities he had.  Kenny Lofton opened with a single, and Kent walked.  Even the Angels didn’t want to walk Bonds with runners on first and second.  He doubled to score Lofton, and came around to score later in the inning.  Lofton and Kent had again reached base in the second inning, but this time they were on 2nd and 3rd.  With first base open, the Angels naturally walked Bonds.  But Benito Santiago singled home Kent and Lofton, and Sanders’ sacrifice fly scored Bonds to give the Giants a 6-0 lead.  The Angels made it interesting, knocking the starter Jason Schmidt out and getting as close as 6-4.  But Kent homered in the 6th and 7th innings and the rout was on.  The Giants eventually won 16-4, and sat 1 game away from their first title in San Francisco.

The most interesting moment of Game 5 didn’t come from the play on the field.  In between Kent home runs, Kenny Lofton hit a run-scoring triple, and 3-year old bat boy Darren Baker (son of manager Dusty Baker) ran out to grab Lofton’s bat right as JT Snow and David Bell were barreling home.  Snow swooped the youngster out of the way to avoid a potential disaster.

2002 WS JT Snow Darren Baker

That looked promising late into the next game.  Though the series turned back to Anaheim,   Shawon Dunston homered in what would be the last game of his career, and Bonds hit another solo shot in the 6th inning.  After Kent notched an RBI single, it was 5-0 and the Angels only had 9 outs left.  But even though the Giants had Bonds, the Angels had something else on their side: the Rally Monkey!  Two seasons earlier, the Angels were down a run at home in the 9th inning of an interleague matchup against the same Giants. The scoreboard operators had posted a picture of the monkey from Ace Ventura pet detective.  The crowd loved it, and the Halos came back to win the game.  The gimmick was so popular that the Angels bought their own Capuchin monkey to help inspire the crowd.  Plush versions of the monkey became popular sales items at the team shop, and the monkey became a national story as the Angels rolled off multiple comebacks against the vaunted Yankees in the division series.  Naturally, this was a gimmick – but the monkey was the symbol for what had become a very real home field advantage in Anaheim.

Rally Monkey

But the rally monkey reached the peak of its fame at the end of game 6.  Probability gave the Angels had just a 3% chance of winning after starter Ortiz got Garrett Anderson to ground out to start the bottom of the 7th.  But Glaus and Fullmer singled, prompting Baker to bring in Felix Rodriguez to face Spiezio.  After working a 3-2 count, Spiezio golfed the payoff pitch just over the right field wall to give the Angels life.  Darin Erstad led the 8th off with a home run, and Glaus doubled home the tying and go-ahead run later that inning.  Troy Percival shut the door in the 9th, and the Angels had staved off elimination in one of the most improbable comebacks in World Series history.

2002 WS Spiezio HR

The shell-shocked Giants now faced a daunting task.  Anaheim had the momentum and the excited home crowd.  San Francisco did have Livan Hernandez as their starter; he was 5 years removed from a game 7 World Series victory.  And the Giants plated the first run when Sanders hit a fly ball to score Santiago in the 2nd inning.  But Bengie Molina doubled home Spiezio in the bottom of the inning, and Garrett Anderson doubled home 3 runs in the 3rd, and the Angels didn’t need anything more.  John Lackey combined with a dominant Angels bullpen to allow just 4 more hits as the team long regarded as the red-helmeted step child of the Dodgers had its own World Series win.

Monday Mascots #2: The Rally Monkey

22 06 2015

Rally Monkey

Since I am in the midst of posting about the the 2002 season and playoff review – this seemed as good a time as any to do my 2nd mascot post about the Angels’ Rally Monkey that became famous during their run to the title that year.  My first mascot was a kid who acted as Babe Ruth’s mascot for home games in the 1920’s – so I still haven’t done one you would think of as a “traditional” mascot (i.e., a costumed character like the San Diego Chicken or Mr. Met).  But these “organic mascots” are pretty fun!

Mascot/Team:   Rally Monkey (Anaheim Angels, 2000-current)

Torii Hunter Rally Monkey

With Torii Hunter

Background:   In June 2000, the Angels were in a nail-biter in Interleague play against the San Francisco Giants.  Down a run at home in the 9th inning, the scoreboard operators posted a picture of the monkey from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.  To the delight of the home crowd, the Halos pieced together a true rally – a walk and 3 singles, to earn a comeback win against star closer Robb Nen.  The monkey became so popular that the Angels bought their own Capuchin monkey to help inspire the crowd at home games.

The Rally Monkey (along with young fire-baller Francisco Rodriguez), became a national story as the Angels rolled off multiple comebacks in the 2002 playoffs.  It was certainly a gimmick – but one that was representative the true home field advantage that had popped up in Anaheim.  The monkey gained iconic status at the end of game 6 in the 2002 World Series.  The Angels were down 5-0 going into the bottom of the 7th, with just a 3% chance of winning according to baseball probability score.  But the Rally Monkey doesn’t know anything about advanced sabermetrics, or even about basic statistics.  The Angels scored 3 runs on a Scott Spiezio homer in the bottom of the inning, and scored 3 more in the bottom of the 8th to cap an incredible comeback victory.  They shut down the Giants the next night to take their only World Series title.

Rally Monkey plush

Since then, the Rally Monkey has maintained its presence at the Big A, coming on most often to “Jump Around” from House of Pain.  Plush versions of the monkey are popular sales items at the team shop, and it’s edited in to various films like Jurassic Park, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on the scoreboard whenever an Angels’ rally is needed.  The monkey has its own Facebook page and twitter account.

Outside of baseball:   As mentioned, the Rally Monkey originally featured on the Jumbotron at Angel Stadium was the character Spike from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.


The monkey has also been featured on a “This is SportsCenter” commercial.  I don’t particularly like the Angels, but this is pretty hilarious if you ask me.

Baseball card connection:  I was pretty surprised, but there hasn’t been a card of the Rally Monkey made yet.  Between the Topps Team sets and the inserts in Opening Day, I would have thought at least one would have been made by now.

2002 MLB playoffs

21 06 2015

Division Series:

Half the teams turned over on the American League side of the playoffs, half were the same.  The Yankees won 103 games and were reigning 4-time AL champions; the A’s also won 103 games and were back in the playoffs for their 3rd straight year.  In the National League, there was only one new team, as the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Braves all made their way back to the playoffs.  The Giants took the Wild Card as the NL’s only new participant in 2002.

Angels at Yankees

The Yankees started their attempt at a 5th straight AL pennant in good fashion.  They overcame an ineffective start by Roger Clemens and two homers by Troy Glaus by hitting 4 homers of their own.  The last one was a 3-run shot by Bernie Williams that capped a 4-run 8th inning to give New York an 8-5 victory.

2002 K-Rod playoffs

The Angels were not a team to be taken lightly.  Anaheim’s 99 wins was the 4th most in baseball, and they beat out a formidable Mariners team for the Wild Card.  And they had a secret weapon in 20-year old reliever Francisco Rodriguez.  A late September call-up who had only pitched 5 innings in the regular season – he had a sharp curveball to go with his radar-gun fastball.  And the Yankees had never seen him before.  New York took leads in each of the next 3 games, and K-Rod pitched in relief in all 3 of those games as the Angels won 8-6, 9-6 and 9-5.  Rodriguez struck out 8 hitters in 5-2/3 innings, getting the win in games 2 and 3.  The real culprits, though, in ending the AL reign of the Yankees were the Angel hitters; Yankee pitchers just couldn’t get them out.  New York had a combined ERA of 8.21, and only got the ball to Rivera in the game 1 win.

Twins at A’s

2002 ALDS Twins A's

The A’s had finally broken through and won their division after two straight years of being the AL Wild Card.  They had a big 3 starting staff that could compete with anyone.  And they started off well in game 1 of the ALDS, scoring 5 runs behind 3 Minnesota errors in the first 2 innings.  But Tim Hudson couldn’t hold the lead and the Twins won 7-5 behind a big game from Corey Koskie.  Mark Mulder shut Minnesota’s offense down in game 2, and Oakland evened it up with a 9-1 victory.

The Twins had always enjoyed a big home field advantage in the Minneapolis Metrodome, but Ray Durham led off game 3 with an inside-the-park homer to quiet the crowd.  Minnesota was able to pull even at 3 in the 4th inning, but Jermaine Dye hit Oakland’s 4th home run and Cy Young winner Barry Zito held the Twins at bay to take a 2-1 series lead.  The A’s had made the decision to only pitch their big 3, going with Hudson on 3 days’ rest in game 4.  The Twins could have panicked – but instead went with 4th starter Eric Milton and held ace Brad Radke back until game 5.  Milton gave up an early lead, but pitched very well, while Hudson couldn’t hold an early lead, and the Twins won in an 11-2 blowout.

Back in Oakland, Mark Mulder fared much better on short rest, but Brad Radke was even better.  The Twins took a 2-1 lead into the 9th inning when all hell broke loose.  A.J. Pierzynski hit a 2-run homer in the top of the inning, and 6 batters later David Ortiz doubled home a run to give the Twins a seemingly insurmountable 4-run lead.  The A’s nearly came back, as Mark Ellis hit a 3-run home run off Eddie Guardado.  They were able to manage just a short single before Guardado got the final two outs and put Minnesota into the AL Championship Series.

Cardinals at Diamondbacks

The Cardinals exacted revenge against the defending champs after losing a close series in 2001.  A first-inning error in game 1 helped the Cardinals get to 4-time defending Cy Young winner Randy Johnson, and home runs by Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen led a 12-2 blowout.  In game 2, Curt Schilling pitched more like you’d expect from the Diamondbacks 1-2 punch, but the Diamondbacks just couldn’t score and the Cardinals scored a 9th inning run off the Arizona bullpen to win, 2-1.  Timely hitting in game 3 earned the Cardinals a series sweep as they avoided having to face the Arizona aces a 2nd time.

Giants at Braves

The Braves had the best record in the NL, but San Francisco had the best player on the planet and a solid pitching staff.  The Giants’ supporting cast stood out in game 1, as J.T. Snow, David Bell, Rich Aurilia and Benito Santiago all knocked around Tom Glavine to pace an 8-5 victory.  Snow, Aurilia and Bonds all homered in game 3, but the Braves’ staff limited the scoring there as Kevin Millwood pitched them to a 7-3 victory.

The series moved to AT&T Park, but the Braves’ pitching again came through again.  Greg Maddux paced the team to a 10-2 victory, giving up an early run and another meaningless homer to Bonds.  Bonds had homered in both games 2 and 3, however he had come up with no runners on and behind by multiple runs, so the Braves’ pitchers had felt safe to challenge him.  Glavine came back on short rest in game 4 hoping to shut the door, but the results were similar to his game 1 outing.  He gave up 7 runs in the first 3 innings, and the teams quickly looked forward to game 5.

2002 NLDS Robb Nen

Bonds hit another solo homer, but this time it was important, building a 2-0 lead that would be all Russ Ortiz needed.  Kevin Millwood allowed fewer base runners than his counterpart, but Ortiz and the bullpen pitched around trouble to get to the 9th inning with a 3-1 lead.  The Braves got the first 2 runners on against closer Rob Nen, and things looked promising with the heart of the Atlanta order coming up.  But Nen struck Sheffield out and then got Chipper Jones to ground into a double play to send the Braves on to the NLCS.

Championship Series:

Unlike the year before, the favorites hadn’t held up in 2002.  Both Wild Cards and the lowest seeded division winners had advanced.

Angels at Twins

The Twins again expected a huge advantage at the Metrodome (they were 12-2 in the playoffs going into the series), and they kept that trend in game 1.  Joe Mays outdid Kevin Appier to take a 2-1 victory.  Unfortunately, Rick Reed was not nearly as good for the Twins in game 2.  They opened up a 6-0 lead before settling in to a 6-3 victory to earn a split on the road.

That was all the Angels would need to earn their first pennant.  K-Rod picked up a relief victory in a close game 3, when Troy Glaus homered to break a 1-1 tie.  John Lackey and Brad Radke both started off with 6 scoreless innings in game 4, but the Angels blew the game open with 2 runs in the 7th and 5 in the 8th to earn a 7-1 win.  Facing elimination, the Twins had a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the 7th inning.  But the wheels fell off as Adam Kennedy hit his 3rd homer of the game to pace a 10-run inning that sent Halos to the World Series.

2002 ALCS Adam Kennedy

Giants at Cardinals

The Cardinals and Giants had the 2nd and 3rd best offenses in the NL, and game 1 of the NLCS was appropriately a slugfest.  The teams combined for 6 homers, but the big blow was a triple from Bonds that led to a 3-run 2nd inning.  San Francisco never looked back and won, 9-6.  Aurilia hit two longballs in game 2, and Jason Schmidt kept St. Louis in check over 7+ innings to give the Giants a 2-0 lead coming back to Pacific Bell Park.

Home field wasn’t friendly for the Giants, however, as Russ Ortiz couldn’t make it out of the 5th inning, giving up homers to Edmonds and Mike Matheny.  Bonds hit a 3-run shot in the 5th to tie the game, but a homer by Eli Marrero an inning later gave the Cardinals a 5-4 win and life in the series.  They looked to build on that in game 4, scratching out 2 first inning runs off Livan Hernandez.  Hernandez settled down after that, and in the 8th inning Benito Santiago homered to give the Giants the lead and a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Matt Morris and Kirk Rueter traded zeroes in the next game, but the Giant bullpen gave up a run in the 7th inning on a sacrifice fly.  But Morris loaded the bases in the 8th, leading to a situation where he had to pitch to Bonds.  The game’s best player tied the game with a sacrifice fly.  After the Cardinals mustered only a bunt single in the top of the 9th, Morris came back out and got the first 2 hitters out.  David Bell and Shawon Dunston followed with singles to put runners on 1st and 2nd.  Kenny Lofton followed with a single to become the second Giant player with a walk-off pennant-winner; Travis Ishikawa would join Lofton and Bobby Thomson 12 years later.

2002 NLCS Lofton walk-off

2002 MLB season in review

20 06 2015

As was often the case in the years I’ve covered on this blog, Major League Baseball’s offseason news dealt with a lot more than just player movement and new ballparks.  Only 4 years after expanding into Arizona and Tampa, MLB was seriously discussing contraction.  On November 6th, the owners voted 28-2 to buy out 2 franchises.  The two teams that voted against the proposal, the Expos and the Twins, were targeted to contract.  The Players’ Union filed an immediate grievance, though the collective bargaining agreement expired the next day and they had lost leverage from their end.

The more powerful opposition was from lawmakers and related businesses.  Congressional members from Minnesota and Michigan introduced a bill to end baseball’s federal antitrust exemption, and Bud Selig found himself testifying in front of Congress in early December.  The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, owner/operator of the Minneapolis Metrodome, sued for an injunction requiring the Twins to fulfill their lease.  On November 16th, a Minnesota judge granted the injunction, and on February 4th the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to consider MLB’s appeal of that injunction.  This ended contraction talks for 2002, but baseball owners hoped to revisit the deal at the end of the 2002 season.  Contraction never occurred, as the league and players’ signed a new labor agreement in August that stipulated no contraction for the next 5 years.

Save the Expos

In related moves, ownership of three teams switched hands in the 2002 offseason.  Jeffrey Loria sold his interest in the Montreal Expos to the league so he could purchase the Florida Marlins from John Henry.  Henry then teamed with former Padres owner Tom Werner to form the Fenway Sports Group, who purchased the Red Sox.  I could draw some creative diagrams, but the musical chairs left the Yawkey family trust (former Sox owners) $700 million richer and the 29 owners of MLB collective shareholders of the Expos.  This had two long-term impacts – the first one was a positive; the Werner group was the only bidder willing to keep Fenway park around, and we still have the crown jewel today.  The second was debatable.  MLB’s purchase of the Expos ensured the end of baseball in Montreal.

There weren’t any new ballparks in 2002, but the Reds did finish their tenure in Cinergy Field (fka Riverfront Stadium).  More on that in my Reds post.

There were a lot fewer notable offseason moves before the 2002 season than there really had been in the previous 3 or 4 years.  Naturally, the Yankees made the biggest splash – they signed Jason Giambi for the 5th largest contract in history (the 4 ahead of the Giambino were from 2001).  They also signed David Wells back after 3 years away from the Bronx.  Moises Alou inked the deal with the Cubs that would lead to his eventual involvement in the Bartman situation, and David Justice finished up his career in Oakland with a signing that became an important part of the Moneyball book and movie.  Hideo Nomo went back to his old team – he signed with the Dodgers and had two very good seasons left in his career.

2002 Topps new uniforms s2

A couple other notable signings didn’t work out so well.  Kenny Lofton signed with the White Sox, but was traded to San Francisco by the end of the year.  Juan Gonzalez signed a very lucrative short-term deal back with his old club in Texas, but 2001 proved to be his last productive year.  Carl Everett also signed with the Rangers, but his best years were behind him as well.  Jose Canseco signed with the Expos in Spring Training, but he was released and (temporarily) retired from baseball in May.

The defending champion Diamondbacks started the season off as they ended it.  Randy Johnson hurled a 2-hitter on Opening Day, and Curt Schilling followed with the first 7 innings of a 9-0 shutout.   5 days later, Schilling pitched another gem with a 1-hitter and 17 strikeouts against the Brewers.   Johnson and Schilling continued their reign as the best two pitchers in baseball – they finished 1-2 in the Cy Young voting for the 2nd straight year.  They are still the only teammates to accomplish this even once.  The Diamondbacks rode their 2 horses to 98 wins and their second straight division title.

Behind the incomparable Barry Bonds, the Giants finished only 2 games behind them and took the wild card.  His assault on the record books had been the biggest story in 2001 – and he was just as good in 2002.  Out of the gates, it looked like he would challenge his single season home run total again – he matched a feat only Eddie Mathews had accomplished when he hit 2 homers in the first 2 games of the year, and he homered two days later to become the first player with 5 in the season’s first 4 games (Adrian Gonzalez recently broke this by getting 5 homers in his team’s first 3 games).  But pitchers avoided Bonds like the plague, and he never challenged his previous home run totals.  He did, however, win another unanimous MVP award and managed to set a number of single-season records that he couldn’t attain the year before.  Most notably – his .582 OBP broke a 61-year old record set by Ted Williams.  His 198 walks broke his own record from the year before.  He also won his only batting title, finishing at a remarkable .370.

2002 Topps Barry Bonds

The Braves won their 11th straight NL Central title with best record in the NL.  As always, the Braves’ success started with pitching.  John Smoltz had converted to the team’s closer the year before, and he flirted with the single season saves record.  He settled for the National League record of 55 saves and finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting.  Greg Maddux (16-6, 2.62) and Tom Glavine (18-11, 2.96) posted their typical seasons, while Kevin Millwood also won 18 games.  They had one of the best outfields in baseball, with Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones all hitting over 25 homers.

The Cardinals rivaled the Braves for the best NL outfield Albert Pujols avoided the sophomore slump; he moved to left field and finished 2nd behind Bonds for the MVP voting with a .314/34/127 stat line.  Jim Edmonds won the Gold Glove in center while socking 28 homers, and JD Drew added 18 long balls.  St. Louis took the NL Central, winning 97 games to round out the NL playoff picture.  Tino Martinez came over from the AL Champion Yankees to replace Mark McGwire at first for the Cardinals – he hit 21 homers.

The midway point of the season brought an uncomfortable moment to Bud Selig’s tenure as MLB Commissioner.  Selig.  The game was held at Miller Park, but after 11 innings was tied at 7-7.  Both teams had run out of pitchers, and Selig declared the game a tie.  It highlighted the waning popularity in the midsummer classic, which would undergo some changes the next year.

In the American League, the Yankees bounced back from their World Series disappointment to post the best record in baseball.  They won 103 games behind their big Free Agent acquisition – Giambi replaced Tino at first base and hit 41 homers and knocked in 122 runs while slugging .598.  He finished 5th in the MVP voting, 2 spots behind his teammate, Alfonso Soriano.  Soriano nearly had the 4th 40-40 season in history; he led the league with 41 stolen bases and hit 39 homers.  He also lead the league with 209 hits and 128 runs score.  The Yankees lineup was, as always, further augmented by mainstays Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams.  David Wells came back to the Bronx to lead the team with 19 wins, while Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez all rounded out the deepest starting rotation in the game.

Moneyball bookOutside of the Bronx, you didn’t need a high payroll to win in the American League.  The A’s and the Twins were the other 2 division winners, despite being in the bottom 4 in MLB payroll.  That Oakland season was the focus of the movie Moneyball; Oakland matched the Yankees with 103 wins.  Billy Beane had to replace 3 of their best players, losing Jason Giambi to the Yankees, Johnny Damon to the Red Sox and closer Jason Isringhausen to the Cardinals.  He replaced them through a now-famous strategy to find value for the right price.  They had 2 remarkable streaks, winning 16 of 17 games over a stretch in June and then winning an AL record 20 games from mid-August into September.  They ended with the 2 key Award Winners – Barry Zito won 23 games to take the Cy Young, and shortstop Miguel Tejada won the MVP with a solid (but not really MVP-worthy) season.

The Twins also stepped forward with an affordable cast of characters.  After bursting onto the scene the year before, Torii Hunter (.289/29/94) had another stellar offensive season to add to his growing Gold Glove collection.  Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, A.J. Pierzynski and a young David Ortiz all contributed to a very solid lineup that took advantage of the weaker AL Central.

The Angels rounded out the Wild Card, led primarily by a well-balanced line-up.  Darin Erstad (177 hits), Adam Kennedy (.312 Avg), Scott Spiezio (.371 OBP) and David Eckstein (107 runs) proved to be great table setters, while veteran Tim Salmon (.503 SLG), Troy Glaus (30 HR) and Garrett Anderson (123 RBI) brought them home.

A few guys had notable seasons on non-playoff teams.  Alex Rodriguez got beat out by Tejada for the MVP despite having 57 homers and 142 RBI, both tops in the league.  That was due to the Rangers’ last place finish, but the Red Sox won 93 games and continued their rise behind Manny Ramirez, who won the AL batting title, and Pedro Martinez, who won 20 games and gave Zito a run for the Cy Young award.  Jim Thome hit 52 homers in his last year in Cleveland.

In the Senior Circuit, Lance Berkman (.292/42/128) and Vlad Guerrero (39 HR, 40 SB) and Shawn Green (.336/42/114) finished 3rd, 4th and 5th in the MVP race.  Eric Gagne had a phenomenal season closing games for the Dodgers – his 52 saves were overshadowed by Smoltz.  But Gagne started one of the most amazing streaks in recent memory.  On August 26th, he blew a save against the Diamondbacks.  He rebounded the next night to save his 45th game of the season.  This started a record 84-game save streak; he wouldn’t blow a save again until 2004.

Last thing – I’ll wrap up with a few milestones.  Like 2001, the first few bullets will read like a Barry Bonds biography:

  • As mentioned above, thanks to his record 198 walks, Bonds broke the on-base percentage record set by Ted Williams in 1941.
  • Bonds was walked intentionally 68 times, which was 50% more than the previous record held by Willie McCovey.  It’s worth pointing out that intentional walks weren’t tracked until 1955, and Babe Ruth likely had more than 68 intentional passes in the early 20’s.
  • Bonds just missed the 4th season of slugging over 800 – he slugged .799.  His OPS of 1.381 edged his own record from the year before, and his OPS+ from 2002 is the highest of his (or anyone else’s) career.  It’s arguable – but 2002 was probably the most productive season on a per-AB basis in history.
  • After hitting his 500th homer in early 2001, Bonds hit his 600th homer and broke all of those records noted above.  Moving from 500 to 600 in 479 days is the least, by far, of any of the 600-home run club.  Ruth did it in just over 2 seasons (740 days), while Aaron did it less than 3 years apart (1,017 days).  A-Rod is next – he hit 600 on the 3-year anniversary of his 500th homer.  Thome (1,429) and Griffey, Jr. (1,451) took just under 4 years, while Mays (1,470) and Sosa (1,538) took just over 4 seasons.
  • During the season, Bonds passed Harmon Killebrew, Mark McGwire and Frank Robinson on the all-time homer list.
  • Jim Thome joined A-Rod with a 50-homer season (52).  That followed a 49 homer 2001 season, so he joined the short list of players who hit 100 homers over a 2-year stretch.
  • Rodriguez was following up a 52-homer season from 2001, so he joined Thome in that club as well, joining the likes of Griffey, McGwire, Sosa and Ruth as players to put together back-to-back 50 homer seasons.
  • Al Leiter beat the Diamondbacks on April 30th to become the first pitcher with wins over all 30 MLB franchises.
  • Both Alfonso Soriano (39/41) and Vlad Guerrero (39/40) fell 1 home run short of joining A-Rod, Bonds and Canseco in the 40-40 club.
  • The Big Unit struck out 300 batters for the 5th straight season, extending his own record.  It was the 6th time in his career, which tied Nolan Ryan for the all-time record.
  • Shawn Green had a magical day on May 23rd.  He became the 14th player to hit 4 homers in a game, and he also doubled and singled in a 16-3 victory. His 19 total bases are still the gold standard in a single game.
  • Mike Cameron also homered 4 times in one game, on May 2nd.

This was probably the easiest season to pick the best player and pitcher in the game.  Of course, Barry Bonds was tops by a large margin as the best player.  His 2002 season isn’t as notable as 2001, but it was just as good.

Randy Johnson won his 4th straight Cy Young award in 2002, and was still the best pitcher in baseball.  Pedro Martinez was a clear second.

Read my next post for the postseason recap…

Just Commons

18 06 2015

Just finished up the card portion of my 2002 posts – so this seemed like a good time to cover a new baseball card purchasing option I’d tried (the seasonal posts for 2002 will begin tomorrow).  I bought cards from JustCommons.com about 3 months ago.  I’d read a little bit about this, and figured I’d give it a try.  Since my boxes of 2002 cards did not go too well as far as damaged cards – I decided this was a good opportunity.  I bought about 70 cards that were cards I’d considered acceptable to include in my set, but I really felt like could use a slight upgrade.  Here are 8 of those cards that are minor “upgrades”.

JustCommons 2002 Topps upgrades

I also got 55 cards that were new for my set.  The point of this was to get some cards that I had pulled in the box, but unlike the cards above – they were too badly damaged.  So these aren’t upgrades – they are actual cards off my wantlist!

JustCommons 2002 Topps JustCommons 2002 Topps_0001 JustCommons 2002 Topps_0002

I also got 9 cards from the Noteworthy insert – which weren’t too expensive to pick up.

JustCommons 2001 Topps Noteworthy

Just Commons is exactly like it sounds – cheaper cards.  If you order over $10 worth of cards – you get shipping for free.  The cheapest cards are 12¢ – which doesn’t make it better than trading.  But it’s cheaper than Sportlots or COMC for these types of cards.  Probably something I’ll use every now and then.