Tag Archives: Mickey Mantle

The Up and Down Career of Gene Host

Eugene Earl Host was once one of the highest-rated mound prospects in the Detroit organization.  Born on January 1, 1933 in Leeper, Pennsylvania, the 5′ 11″, 190-pound hard-throwing left hander was signed as a 19-year-old free agent in 1952 by the Detroit Tigers.

Sent to Kingston of the Coastal Plains League in his first professional season, he was 26-7 with a 1.81 ERA and named to the league All Star team.

He spent the 1953 season with Montgomery in the South Atlantic League (A) where he was 10-13 with a 3.51 ERA and in 1954 bounced between three teams: Little Rock (Southern Association – AA), Wilkes-Barre (Eastern League – A), and Durham (Carolina League – B). His combined record was 7-7.

In 1955 he spent the entire season with Little Rock where he was 10-13 once again. In May he hit Chattanooga’s Lyle Luttrell with a pitch, breaking his jaw.

In 1956 he finished 13-15 with Charleston (American Association – AAA) before being called up to the Tigers where his contract with the major league club called for a salary of $4,200.

He pitched in one game for Detroit at Briggs Stadium on September 16, 1956 against Boston. Wearing number 19, he started the game and allowed four runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. Two of those hits were home runs by Billy Klaus (in the 5th inning with one on and one out) and Jackie Jensen (also in the 5th inning, a solo shot with two out).

After a single by Jimmy Piersall and a walk to Norm Zauchin, manager Bucky Harris called on future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning to replace Host on the mound. Bunning won in relief, allowing one hit the rest of the way as the Tigers won 8-4.

On December Host was traded by the Tigers with Wayne Belardi, Ned Garver, Virgil Trucks and $20,000 to the Kansas City Athletics for Jack Crimian, Jim Finigan, Bill Harrington and Eddie Robinson.

Gene HostHost signed with Kansas City at a salary of $5,100 and appeared in 11 games for the Athletics in 1957, mostly in relief. His uniform number was 28. He started two games, at Comiskey Park on April 20 against the Chicago White Sox (his first game for Kansas City, no decision) and at Cleveland Stadium on May 10 against the Indians (his first loss of the season).

His second loss came on June 9 at home at Municipal Stadium. In relief of Tom Morgan with no one out and two on in the fifth inning Host retired the side with no outs. In the eighth he gave up a solo home run to Ted Lepcio. In the ninth inning Jimmy Piersall and Ted Williams hit home runs and Lepcio singled home Jackie Jensen. Boston won 8-4 as Kansas City’s offense gave no support to Host.

On June 14 at Kansas City versus the New York Yankees, Host came on in relief of Mickey McDermott. Facing Mickey Mantle with two out and Bobby Richardson on second, Mantle promptly homered. Finishing the game, Host allowed seven hits, three runs (all earned), and struck out one: Mantle in the ninth.

Host’s final game in the majors was on June 23 at Fenway Park in Boston where he allowed three runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Traded to Buffalo for Glenn Cox a few weeks later, Host pitched in three games for the Bisons before being obtained by the Denver Bears of the American Association in late July. Under the tutelage of manager Ralph Houk, Denver won their league title. Playing versus Buffalo in the Junior Series championships Host was removed from the 20-player limit but he shared in the players’ share of the winnings.

In September he was sent to Little Rock to end the season. He was 1-4 in five appearances for the Travelers before being assigned back to Buffalo for 1958.

Host never appeared for the Bisons, however, as he was purchased by Indianapolis (American Association – AAA) in April before the season began. Having made his home in Little Rock, he left the club for a week to return to Arkansas without explanation, then rejoined the team on April 24. In May the Indians sent him to San Antonio (Texas League – AA) who returned him to Buffalo in June.

Buffalo assigned him to Winona (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League – Class B) but he refused to report and was placed on baseball’s suspended list.

Out of baseball in 1959, he returned the next season as a member of the Monterrey Sultans (Mexican League – AA) pitching staff. In the opening game he was the loser in a slugfest in Mexico City in front of 25,000 fans who saw the Reds win 13-8. His record with the Sultans was 2-5 as his ERA ballooned to 5.86.

Host was a member of the Nashville Vols in 1961, signed by the club in March. He appeared in 11 games, winning two and losing five. His first win came against Chattanooga on Monday, April 10 in the second game of the season as Nashville trounced the Lookouts 8-6. By May 3 Birmingham handed him his fourth consecutive defeat, but on May 7 he pitched brilliantly in a four-hit, 2-0 shutout as Nashville’s Gene Davis popped a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.

It was Host’s final win of his career. The May 31, 1961 edition of The Sporting News announced his release by Nashville.

Once his baseball career was over he became a bus driver for Continental Trailways, and in 1964 began working as a machinist at the Ford Motor Co. glass plant in Nashville. Host passed away August 20, 1998 at the age of 65 and was cremated.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Nashville’s Slugging Combinations

In 1927 Babe Ruth hit a remarkable 60 home runs for the New York Yankees. Lou Gehrig had 47, and for many years their two-man total of 107 was the benchmark for home runs by two team mates.

In 1961 Roger Maris of the Yankees hit 61 for the season, breaking Ruth’s single-season record, and Mickey Mantle hit 54 to give the duo a total of 115. The Maris-Mantle record still stands.

In comparison, when Barry Bonds hit his record-breaking 73 homers in the 2007 season, team mate Rich Aurilia’s 37 round-trippers gave them a total of 110.

Nashville had a few tandem sluggers, too. In 1930 first baseman Jim Poole slugged 50 home runs and second baseman Jay Partridge added 40 to set a Southern Association record of 90. Two years later Moose Clabaugh and Stan Keyes combined for 67 but fell far short of the Poole-Partridge tally.

Workman_GilbertBut in 1948 Charlie Workman and Charlie Gilbert hit 96 home runs combined; Workman had 52 and Gilbert added 44. It was an especially notable feat in that the entire club hit only 60 the previous season.

The pair had previously played for Nashville with very little home run success. Gilbert roamed the outfield hills for his manager-father Larry Gilbert in 1939 and 1943 and had 21 total. Workman played for the senior Gilbert in 1941 and 1942. His production increased from 11 to 29 those two seasons, but both players especially found the Sulphur Dell fences to their liking during 1948.

In 1949 two new sluggers appeared on the scene and immediately chased the record of the previous season. Catcher-outfielder Carl Sawatski, with 45, and outfielder Herman “Babe” Barna with 42 gave the Nashville club an added season of slugging success with 87 combined.

The Southern Association record for home runs by one player came in 1954 when Nashville’s Bob Lennon hit 64. Nearly reaching the 1932 combined record of Clabaugh and Keyes all by himself, the second place slugger for the Vols was Larry DiPippo who had 20. His and Lennon’s output totaled 84.

Taking the comparison one step further, the major league record of 165 home runs by four players on the same team in a single season is the 1961 New York Yankees: Maris with 61, Mantle with 54, Bill Skowron with 28, and Yogi Berra with 22.

Next is 147 by the 2001 San Francisco Giants: Barry Bonds with 73, Rich Aurilia with 37, Jeff Kent with 22, and Marvin Benard with 15.

Nashville had two teams with impressive homer stats that are not too far off from those major league totals; both the 1948 and 1949 club tallied 129:

Home Runs by 4

In both of those seasons the quadruplets hit for a combined .351 average and led Nashville to Southern Association pennants. Those feats were never accomplished again; even with Bob Lennon’s excellent record-setting season, the 1954 team tied for seventh place:

Home Runs by 4 1954

In the history of Nashville baseball, none could match the slugging combinations of 1948 and 1949.

© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Pete Rose and a Baseball Stain

One of my great memories as a father is having played catch with my kids. One particular day my youngest son Chris wanted to throw and went to his room to get a baseball. He was playing in Little League and was a strong, hard throwing left-hander. His throws could more aptly be called “scorchers” instead of “tosses”.

As we separated about 40 feet from each other, he hummed his first pitch to me but it took a couple of hops (“worm burners” my dad used to call them) and went under my reach. I turned and retrieved the ball and took a look at the grass stain on it. It had an autograph on it.

grass stained baseball“Pete Rose” was clearly legible as the grass stain had not perpetrated the autograph. Pete’s signature was clear as a bell.

I said, “Chris, you brought a ball that has Pete Rose’s autograph. Don’t you want to hold on to it?” He shrugged, as it was more important that we have a ball to catch than not.

I examined the ball for more autographs, and found another: “Bill Boner”. The Nashville mayor’s signature was not as legible since a green smear came over the “er”.

A decision had to be made. Do I rescue the icon of baseball lovers everywhere by stopping our backyard encounter with the National Pastime, or do I continue to play catch?

Impatient during the delay, Chris finally yelled, “C’mon dad, throw it!” Our throwing to each other continued.

In 1987 Greer Stadium hosted a two-game exhibition series between the Montreal Expos and the Cincinnati Reds, the parent club of the Nashville Sounds. As my uncle Walter Nipper was a member of the ownership group of the Nashville club, he invited my dad, me, and my children onto the field to watch batting practice and shake hands with players.

Uncle Nip gave each of my boys a baseball to collect autographs. My oldest son Doug was able to get the signatures of a couple of the Reds players, most notably Barry Larkin (who would be named to the Hall of Fame in 2012) and Chris had to settle for Pete Rose and the mayor (I specifically remember Chris asking Ron Dibble to sign his ball, but Dibble told him “no”, that Chris didn’t even know who he was).

All this leads me to yesterday’s announcement that evidence had been found that Pete Rose had gambled on baseball games (including his own team, the Cincinnati Reds) while he was a player. Since then mainstream media, radio talk shows, and social medial posts have been rampant both critically and in support of Rose’s potential reinstatement to Baseball by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. I have bantered back and forth with Facebook friends today, and here is my take on it.

Is Rose eligible for reinstatement because he finally confessed?

No. He knew the rule. It’s Rule 21 under the heading “Misconduct”, instituted for good reason: to keep players from taking payouts to affect the outcome of a game and ruining the nature of The Game. Rose knew the rule but chose to ignore it.

Many people compare Rose’s gambling issue to the Chicago Black Sox scandal (which lead to Rule 21), but there was no such rule in 1919 when the Black Sox scandal occurred. Chicago player Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball in 1921 by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was a great player who Babe Ruth patterned his hitting stance on. Jackson often has been mentioned in the same sequences of support as for Rose.

Another contention questions whether Rose’s actions are as bad as PED users including Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriquez, Ryan Braun and others, along with questions of the character of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Mickey Mantle.

Really? Aren’t these entirely different sets of circumstances?

To put anything into one’s body to enhance athletic performance has long been considered “against the rules”. No matter that former MLB commissioner Bud Selig took so long to address the issue (remember, Sosa and McGwire were swatting long home runs, and lots of them, while “juiced”), the PED issue became a distraction and subsequent steroid use has been banned.

That banishment has left many fans with a bad taste in their mouth, including me. I see no reason to include known steroid-users from Hall of Fame selection. And the argument that other moral issues should keep outstanding players out of Cooperstown should hold no bearing, either, if there was no rule against it.

Otherwise, does Joe Jackson get tossed into the A-Rod, Ryan Braun, etc. category?

When Cobb and Ruth were playing there was no National Baseball Hall of Fame and I doubt they were too worried about what people thought of their lives beyond the ball field. When Mantle was playing, he thought he was going to die at a young age and did some things that may have been morally wrong but I don’t believe were against baseball rules.

Even if Rose were to be reinstated, which he won’t, he will never be elected to the Hall of Fame. That conversation, his appeals, and consideration for anything but being a proven liar over and over, should end.

Hall of Fame selection is an honor. A great player? Yes. Charlie Hustle? You bet. But according to the rules for voting on players by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for Hall of Fame membership, there is one glaring rule that can never be overlooked:

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

I suppose three out of six ain’t bad.

Pete does not need the money that Hall of Fame membership brings. He makes plenty of money right now signing baseballs and memorabilia. Let him ponder his own flaws that will keep him from Hall of Fame selection forever.

If he can only be honest with himself.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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It Happened on This Day in Nashville: April 7

This day holds a special place in the history of Nashville baseball, and includes exhibitions between the hometown Vols and various major league clubs, a regret from baseball’s iconic Babe Ruth, and a rare perfect game:

April 7, 1904
Nashville and Boston of the National League meet at Athletic Park as the major leaguers win 8-3.

April 7, 1925
The Chicago White Sox win over the Nashville Vols 12-6. It is the 16th consecutive spring training game for the major league club in as many days.

April 7, 1927
The 65th General Assembly of Tennessee adjourns early to see Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees play the St. Louis Cardinals at Sulphur Dell. A resolution had been adopted to invite Ruth to address the Senate, but he sent word that it would be impossible for him to appear because of a lack of time.  The Cardinals beat the Yankees 10-8 in a rematch of the 1926 World Series clubs.

April 7, 1934
Charles Dressen’s Vols wins against the New York Yankees 5-4 in a game at Sulphur Dell. Before a crowd of 3,000, the Yankees are stymied by the pitching of Hal Stafford, who relieved in the 5th inning and allows only four hits through the last five innings, striking out five.

James P. Dawson, New York Times reporter, describes Sulphur Dell’s unique feature as “the right field here is cut out of a hill and is terraced, making it necessary for a fly-chaser to combine hill-climbing ability with speed and accuracy in fielding the ball“. Dawson also reports that Babe Ruth “almost broke one of his legs catching (Bill) Rodda’s fly on the climb in the first. The Babe slipped and stumbled but climbed on and came up with the ball“. Ruth is two for four, as is Lou Gehrig.

April 7, 1953
Mickey Mantle hits a 420-foot two-run double in the seventh inning as the New York Yankees beat the hometown Vols 9-1 before 2,693 fans. Louis Effrat, reporting in The New York Times, quotes one Yankee player as describing playing in Sulphur Dell as “It’s like playing in a telephone booth“, and quoted Casey Stengel, New York manager, recalling that in 1912 when he was playing with Montgomery in a game at Sulphur Dell, “I dragged the ball and it went over the right-field fence for a homer“.Turner_1953

Yankee pitching coach Jim Turner, a native of Nashville, is honored at home plate before the game by Governor Frank G. Clement who appointed Turner a Tennessee Colonel on the Governor’s staff.

April 7, 1957
The Cincinnati Reds defeat Washington 9-7 before 5,842 fans after the Nats lose a 5-0 lead. Joe Nuxhall, Hal Jeffcoat and Raul Sanchez pitch for the Reds, while Roy Sievers belts a triple and homer, driving in three runs. Herb Plews and Pete Runnels get two hits each for Washington.

April 7, 2003
Right-hander John Wasdin pitches the first perfect game in Nashville Sounds history in his first start of the season against the Albuquerque Isotopes.  The 4–0 win is only the second nine-inning perfect game in PCL history.

In ten days a new era begins: April 17th is Opening Night for the Nashville Sounds at new First Tennessee Park near the site of famous Sulphur Dell!

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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