Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Musial, Weaver, and the Wandering Kings

Stan Musial and Earl Weaver

This week saw the passing of two baseball greats, Earl Weaver and Stan Musial. Although in some ways these two personalities could not be further apart – one the steady consummate gentleman, the other the impulsive firebrand – there are some interesting parallels between the two men. Musial, of course, spent his entire 22-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Weaver, while never appearing in an official major league game, came up with the Cards organization, and spent part of spring training of 1952 with the Redbirds, where his fiery temperament apparently made him know. (Here he is below, wearing the leftover ’51 Cardinal road uniform). The two men were in the same lineup exactly one time: One March 8, 1952 the Cardinals faced the Yankees with Weaver put in the lineup, replacing regular second baseman Red Schoendienst (as Cardinal player-manager Eddie Stanky was also a second-sacker,  Weaver’s chances of making the club were slim to none). The normally light-hitting Weaver went 2-for-5 (Musial was 1-for-three), but Earl didn’t make the big club, and played for the Houston Buffs that season. His lack of hitting ability kept him out of the majors, but the Orioles saw managerial potential in him, and the rest is history.

An interesting stat about Stan The Man: Although he played for Cards for 22 seasons, he appeared in 24 All Star Games. How was this possible? The interleague classic was played twice a season from 1959-1962.

Kings Wanderlust Continues

The news broke this week that the NBA’s Sacramento Kings will likely be coming to Seattle next season. If this happens, the club will adopt the departed Sonics’ name and colors, but Seattle will actually be getting one of the NBA’s original franchises. In fact, the team pre-dates the NBA by decades, starting in the 1920s as an semi-pro club sponsored by the Seagrams booze people in Rochester, NY. The team changed its name to Royals when they went professional and played in the National Basketball League and Basketball Association of America before teams from those two leagues combined to form the NBA in 1945. In 1957 the club moved to Cincinnati and seemed content until the journey west continued and they became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings for the 1972-73 season, with home games split between two cities. In 1975, the “Omaha” was dropped, and ten years later KC was abandoned as well in favor of Sacramento. So, assuming the Seattle move goes through, and counting Omaha, this franchise will have called six cities home, giving “traveling” in basketball a new meaning. Six home towns is also easily the record for North American major league sports teams.* While redeemed Seattle fans bask in the past glory of Spencer Heywood, Shawn Kemp, and Gary Peyton , perhaps the players from past years to be celebrated should be the likes of Al Cervi, Red Holzman,  and Tiny Archibald.

*It has been pointed out that the Nets franchise (who started life in the Teaneck Armory as the ABA’s New Jersey Americans and now grace Brooklyn’s new Barclay Center) have played more different cities than even the Royals/Kings, however they have only been known as the New Jersey Nets, New York Nets, and Brooklyn Nets (in addition to the Americans).

Thanks to EFF customers Kenneth Mall, Adam Klawitter, and Paul Dylan for contributing research to this post.