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Strange but true baseball stats and the life of Roger Craig

Tuesday 6/6/23

Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Jimmie Foxx, and Mickey Mantle all finished in the top ten in the league in home runs thirteen times.

Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner each finished in the top ten in home runs eleven times. Ken Griffey, Jr. finished in the top ten in home runs nine times. Cobb hit 117 career home runs, Wagner 101, Griffey 630.

Hank Aaron led the league in batting average twice. Willie Mays did it once. Both Aaron and Mays led the league in home runs four times. Mays never led the league in runs batted in. Aaron did four times. Cobb led the league in home runs once, runs batted in four times, and and batting average twelve times.

Eddie Murray is the all-time leader in sacrifice flies with 128. 6.6% of his career runs batted in came via the sacrifice fly.

Nellie Fox is twenty-ninth all time in hit-by-pitch.

Roger Craig died a couple days ago. He had a notable career as a pitcher. Notable--not great, but he was usually at least average, and sometimes he was a key contributor, albeit in spots. He made no All-Star teams, didn't garner Cy Young votes. He finished with a record of 74-98, but a by no means embarrassing ERA of 3.83.

His win loss record was not aided by being a member of the infamous 1962 Mets, for whom Craig went 10-24, which he followed up with a 5-22 campaign for the nearly as bed 1963 Mets. And therein was formed his sub-.500 career record.

In 1959, while on the Dodgers, Craig went 11-5 with a 2.06 ERA and was much better than a certain Mr. Sandy Koufax. What he did a lot of was winning, being a member of no less than three championship teams while playing: the beloved 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers who finally toppled the New York Yankees; the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers who beat the Go-Go Chicago White Sox after the Bums had turned their back on Brooklyn; and the underrated 1964 St. Louis Cardinals who knocked off an end-of-an-era New York Yankees team.

But Craig was not done in baseball or life. He was the pitching coach of the 1984 champion Detroit Tigers, one of the stranger--and one could argue, better--teams in baseball history. They started 35-5 and were as clear-cut/likely an eventual champion from the earliest part of the season as one will ever see, with their ultimate outcome never really in doubt. They had two borderline Hall of Famers in Alan Trammell and Jack Morris who may be joined by a third in Lou Whitaker, but they had a strong roster full of players who were capable of having at least Hall of Fame player type of years (Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish, Darrell Evans, Willie Hernandez). That roster didn't do very much before that year and not much after. They are among the sport's ultimate one-season teams, which was also how the 1980s tended to work, for whatever reason.

Craig then became manager of the San Francisco Giants, capturing the Pennant in 1989 thanks to a white-hot Will Clark, whose production in the NLCS was enough to overcome that of the similarly white-hot Mark Grace of the Chicago Cubs.

But this might be what I like best about Roger Craig: his 1965 Topps baseball card. Look at it. This man would live until June 4, 2023. I think that's wonderful.

Would you have believed that if you didn't know who Roger Craig was and somebody showed this to you last week and said that the fellow on this 1965 card is here with us right now?

Makes a person think about time. You have time to take some pitches, take some cuts, waste some pitches, make some pitches. There is a pitch clock on life, but it's a generous one if you treat every at-bat as you should.

Let Roger Craig and his 1965 Topps baseball card be a lesson to you.

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