Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Baseball Trivia: One Of A Kind In The New Year

Of all active position players in the majors, only two approach the 2021 season with exactly 21.0 bWAR and you could build a pretty solid left side of the infield with them on your fantasy team. Trevor Story (SS) and Matt Chapman (3B) are those two players and as of this writing – and predictably into the summer – neither has won a World Series.

The man behind door number three is the only position player ever with exactly 21.0 bWAR and a big ol’ hunk of World Series jewelry. In fact, this left-handed first baseman and left fielder has two rings, both with the New York Yankees; in 1956 – his rookie season – and 1958. He also won a championship in 1957 with the Denver Bears of the Western League, a farm team of the Yankees. In his penultimate season, he played in a third World Series with the Boston Red Sox during the “Impossible Dream” season of 1967. That means he started his career as a teammate of Mickey Mantle and Elston Howard, as well as six other All-Stars from ’58. Then, at the end of his playing days, he shared the field with Carl Yastrzemski and Reggie Smith. Yankee teammate Hank Bauer ended up becoming his manager while in Kansas City, the team he was traded to as part of a seven-player deal that sent Roger Maris to New York. The two would pair up for the Baltimore Orioles as well.

From ’62 to ’64, he was a four-time All-Star. Yes, you read that right. A short-lived experiment to raise additional funds for player pensions resulted in two All-Star Games, each July, from ‘59-’62 and he was selected to both teams in the final year of that little exercise. He was never a starter in an All-Star Game, compiling three pinch-hit appearances overall.

Born in Wellston, Missouri on Stanley Kubrick’s fifth birthday – July 26th, 1933 – he would outlast the iconic filmmaker from the Bronx and purported Yankee fan. He even saw the 21st century and the year 2001, which looked a bit different than Kubrick’s vision. Also on his birthday, Joe DiMaggio’s 61-game hitting streak in the Pacific Coast League came to an end.

Photo Credit: Encyclopaedia Britannica

A two-sport star – baseball and basketball – while at Missouri State University, he has two NAIA Basketball Championship trophies from 1952 and 1953 with, you guessed it, the Bears. In his major league career, he collected 1,217 hits and 132 home runs. Those do not sound like impressive numbers, but the combined feats of 1,200+ hits and 130+ homers have only been achieved by 498 players to date, which is roughly 2.5% of all players ever to make it to the bigs.

After his playing days, he made Naples, Florida his home. There he became an engaged member in the city’s chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research. Lastly, just two years before his passing he was given an achievement award by the Kansas City Baseball Historical Society. Let’s give a 21-gun salute to the man with 21.0 career bWAR to welcome in the year!

It is with the deepest appreciation that I utilized Baseball Reference and the SABRBio Project in researching the ANSWER.

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