Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
If you weren't aware, let me recommend visiting Baseball Analysts, which is the new site by All-Baseball alums Rich Lederer and Bryan Smith. Of all the baseball blogs on the planet, Rich's has been my favorite, as he mixes old and new media styles, coming up with some great work. I think Bryan does some fantastic work getting to the core of transaction analysis, plus he's a University of Iowa guy, like myself, so he follows in a long line of great writer's from the school like John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O'Connor, etc. (Well, maybe Bryan and I are not in that category.) I wish them the best of luck and know their site will be one I check on a regular basis.
Rich has a great piece where he's interviewed a lot of baseball writers discussing who their favorite player was when they were growing up.
It's weird how a player you have only a slight connection to and someone who might not be a star can connect with you as a child.
I grew up in Iowa, so there was not one team which I would automatically gravitate to. Kansas City was closest, but the Royals have never been a team I've liked. Minnesota was almost the same distance as KC and was the team broadcasted on the big AM station (WHO), but they never connected with me. In those days, the Triple A team in Des Moines was named the Iowa Oaks and had players like Vida Blue make stopovers on the way to the big leagues, since it was the A's farm club, but they weren't my team either. Now, I would guess that currently, half of the state is Cubs fans, but in those days, despite having WGN games on Sunday afternoon, I didn't know one Cub fan. My team was the Tigers.
My Dad was born in Detroit and my Grandmother still lived there, so every couple of years we would make the Trek up to the Motor City for a game at newly named Tiger Stadium. (It had been called Briggs Stadium) This was just a few years after the great 1968 World Championship season, so my heroes became Willie Horton, Mickey Lolich, and Al Kaline.
For some reason, my favorite player was Norm Cash, though. My guess was that he was second in homeruns (1971) the year I first started collecting baseball cards. (Beltin' Bill Melton led the AL with 33) Looking on the back of Cash's card, I discovered one of the great mystery seasons of all-time. In 1961, Cash batted .361, with 41 dingers and 132 ribbies. This entitled him to a 4th place finish in the AL MVP race.
I guess there must have been something special going on that season.
Taking their OPS in 1961, Maris (993) and Mantle's (1135) were behind Cash (1148). This put his OPS 201 points higher than the league average. Place of deleted sentence
Cash continued to be a good player the rest of his career, finishing with an OPS of .862, which is made more impressive by the fact that the last half of his career was a pitching era. Still, it should be noted that he never batted over .300, after the magical 1961 season and followed up in 1962 with an average of .243, a swing of -.118 points.
Well, that's my wrapup on my boyhood favorite player. Thanks once again to Baseball-Reference.com.
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