August 31, 2006
The U.S. Postal Service recently released a set of four commemorative stamps featuring "Baseball Sluggers." The four chosen for this honor were Mickey Mantle (!!!), Roy Campanella, Hank Greenberg, and Mel Ott. Was that the best list they could come up with? Let's look at the numbers that define who a real "slugger" is, and rank them appropriately:
I suppose Campanella is understandable for sentimental reasons, given his career-ending injury, but I'm not sure about Greenberg. World War II service? They made a movie about him that I've been meaning to see one of these days. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente have been on stamps already. What about Ted Williams??? Obviously, anyone who is still alive is ineligible for postal commemoration. Some day, no doubt, there will be stamps for Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and maybe even for Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Tony Gwynn, and Harmon Killebrew.
The Washington Nationals awful slump continues even after returning to the friendly confines of RFK Stadium, with two losses to the Phillies. Groan. Well at least Alfonso Soriano is getting more home runs, climbing toward some kind of record. Should he be compared to Vladimir Guerrero, to Frank Howard, or to neither? Today's Washington Post addresses the awkward question of team records and historical identity since the former Expos migrated south and changed their name. As recounted on the Relocations section of the MLB Franchises page, the only three precedents for this situation also involve the Baltimore-Washington area: the Browns-Orioles, the Senators-Twins, and the Senators-Rangers. (The relocations of 1902, 1903, and 1970 can safely be ignored for this purpose because of the miniscule duration of the team in the original city.) The Brooklyn/L.A. Dodgers clearly have a continuous team identity, as do the Giants; perhaps less so for the Athletics and Braves, both of whom moved twice. The Orioles decided to ignore their Brown roots for team record purposes, whereas the Twins adopted the (first) Washington Senators, which seems dubious. For me, the decisive factor is whether the team name stays the same or not. I think that "born again" teams should pay due respects to their defunct predecessor teams -- the Browns, the Senators, the Senators, and the Expos -- but in a low-key, discreet way.
Bruce Orser called my attention to a detailed graphical explanation of the planned transformation around Yankee Stadium as the new stadium gets built. See On NY Turf.