Donald Trump’s Baseball Past

The involvement recent presidents have with baseball has been covered on a few posts on this blog. With Donald Trump set to become president in January, here are a couple of stories on Trump from 25+ years ago, talking about his connections to baseball. This, from a Trump profile by Greg Boeck of USA Today in 1990:

“Donald Trump,” said Ed Tracy, who oversees Trump’s Atlantic City properties, “is out there like a gladiator, running to the goal line. He enjoys the hunt. To him, athletics reflect the business world.”

Long before he wrote The Art of the Deal, in which he regaled readers with tales of his Babe Ruthian home runs in real estate, Donald Trump was a first baseman.

As a youth at the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson, where he was known as D.T., not The Donald, the piece of real estate he valued most was a spot on the ballfield. It meant a chance to compete. And win. “He didn’t like to lose,” said Col. Theodore Dobias, his high school coach.

“Nothing’s changed,” said Jeff Walker, senior vice president of the Trump Organization who was a year ahead of Trump at New York Military Academy. “It’s in his genes.”

Trump, once scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies for his slick glove and .300 bat, never made it as a million-dollar superstar in baseball. He opted for the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania and billionaire status in another arena.

But sports still flows through his veins like money through his vast empire. In the last six years, Trump has owned a pro
football team, been temporarily involved in a proposed third baseball league, evolved as a force in boxing, jumped into international cycling and staged a power boat race.

Trump the first baseman might have put his glove away long ago, but much of what molded Trump the businessman took place on the playing fields of his youth. Even as an adult, he has remained an ardent fan – he met his wife, Ivana, who was once a world-class skier, at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He still mixes sport and romance: Before his much-trumpeted breakup this year, he was seen at boxing matches with Marla Maples.

“In the entrepreneurial ring, it’s him and the ultimate goal. He loves the opportunity to win a prize, the top prize. He’s probably shooting above it, and we don’t understand.”

Mainly, he gets exposure. Trump, who declined interview requests, loves his name in lights. “He considers sports his advertising,” said Bob Woolf, agent for Larry Bird and Doug Flutie. “It elevates everything he does.” Added boxing promoter Don King: “Donald Trump is a performer. By getting into boxing, he’s become well-known from the masses to the classes.”

At 6-2 and slim, Trump maintains an athletic look at 44. At his Palm Beach, Fla., home, he has a swimming pool, tennis court and workout facility. At his New York apartment, he has a gym. His most common exercise is walking up steps. Occasionally, he skis or plays golf, though largely for business purposes.

As a youth, Trump was a multifaceted athlete. At the New York Military Academy, from 1959-64, he won trophies in intramural softball, basketball, softball, bowling and freshman football. He lettered in varsity football, varsity soccer and varsity baseball.

“Whatever he did he was good at,” said Col. Anthony Castellano, who has been at New York Military Academy 40 years. “He wasn’t a follower. He always got out front.” Castellano’s most vivid memory of Trump: “He looked good in a baseball uniform.”

Baseball was clearly Trump’s first love. It’s the only sport he played every year, and he was team captain his senior year, 1964. “He was a pure hitter,” Dobias said. “Great glove at first base. Good range, stretch. He kept the infield alert. He took over. He was very agile, very knowledgeable. And very, very competitive.”

Dobias remembers one game in particular. In his senior year, Trump tripled to tie a game against Cheshire Academy of Connecticut. The next batter squeezed Trump home with the winning run. “He came running home,” Dobias said, “pumping his arm up and down in the air. It was a cold, bitter day in April, but he was really into it.”

Otherwise, Trump was on the quiet side. “He was reserved, not boisterous,” Dobias said. “He just sat back and analyzed everything.”

Trump started every game his last two seasons. Dobias batted him fifth his last year, but Trump didn’t go out a winner – the team finished 5-6-1.

That was the end of his baseball career. “If he worked at it, he could have gone on to Double-A,” Dobias said. “But he had other interests and didn’t want to pursue baseball.”

Apparently Trump will be the best ex-player in the White House since George H.W. Bush. In 1989, Murray Chass of the New York Times had reported on Trump’s stated willingness to take part in an effort to start up an 8-team third major league to rival MLB, with Trump’s team to be located in northern New Jersey. Here’s a screen shot of the first part of Chass’s story (you can get all of it on the Times’ site):

Published in: Uncategorized on December 4, 2016 at 1:21 pm  Comments (1)  

Robin Yount and Paul Molitor

These two were teammates on the Brewers from 1978 through 1992. Molitor missed almost all of 1984, and about half of the strike-shortened 1981 season. Yount, aside from 1981, never played fewer than 100 games in a season. Despite Molitor coming up at a later age, playing designated hitter for a large portion of his career, and being injured more often than Yount, he stole 504 bases, compared to Yount’s 271 steals. They were in the All-Star game a total of just 9 times.

Yount and Molitor were the first two 3000 hit players to play a large part of their careers as teammates. Yount in particular seems to be little remembered: if you’re under 25 and not a Brewers fan, I don’t know that you have any real familiarity with him. Aside from his two MVP years, Yount didn’t have attention-getting seasons, he was not in the playoffs after 1982, and he hasn’t had a high profile in the 25 or so years since his playing days ended.


Published in: Uncategorized on November 26, 2016 at 9:19 am  Comments (3)  

Some Statistics on the Chicago Cubs History

The Cubs won 200 regular season games in 2015 and 2016, the most for them in two straight years since winning 208 games in 1909 and 1910. This came three years after losing 197 games in 2012 and 2013, the most ever for the Cubs in two straight years. They did lose 192 games in 1999 and 2000, and 193 games in 1965-66 and 1961-62.

Their 11 postseason wins in 2016, and 4 in 2015, compare to 12 Cubs postseason wins from 1909 through 2002, and 6 postseason wins in 2003. In total, the Chicago Cubs won 18 postseason games from 1909-2014, then won 15 in the last 2 years.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 16, 2016 at 11:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Lou Gehrig

These are Gehrig’s RBI totals for 1926 through 1938: 109, 173, 147, 125, 173, 185, 151, 140, 166, 120, 152, 158, 114. He 5 times led the American League in on-base percentage; for his career he had a .447 OBP. Gehrig walked at least 100 times in a season 9 different times, and had 200 hits and 100 walks in 7 different seasons. Those numbers are quite impressive but not all that surprising. What is surprising, when looking at his Retrosheet page, is to see that Gehrig was ejected from 9 games in his career. Perhaps one of those times he came close to being suspended and ending his consecutive games played streak.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 2, 2016 at 10:15 am  Leave a Comment  

A Few Notes on Don Larsen and the 1956 World Series

In the start before his perfect game, Don Larsen was knocked out by the Dodgers in the 2nd inning of game 2 at Ebbets Field. He allowed 4 runs in 1 2/3rd innings (none were earned); Don Newcombe also got knocked out of the game early, but the Dodgers won, 13-8. Don Bessent, who you probably don’t know of, threw 7 innings in relief for the win.

Larsen’s perfect game was in game 5; Johnny Kucks allowed 3 hits in a complete game shutout of the Dodgers to win game 7. In game 6, the Dodgers had 4 hits, for a total of 7 hits in their last three games of the Series, which is probably a record low for three straight games in the Series. But, their 4th hit in game 6 won the game. It was a single in the bottom of the 10th by Jackie Robinson. All told, Brooklyn hit .195 in the ’56 Series.

Also, Larsen had gone 3-21 for the Orioles in 1954, leading the AL in losses. He then went 1-10 for the A’s in 1960, but ended his career with an 81-91 record. That perfect game kept Larsen on the Hall of Fame ballot from 1974 through 1988: he peaked at 12.1% of the vote in 1976. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Larsen went 144-596 as a batter in his MLB career, including two years of above .300 batting averages.

Published in: Uncategorized on October 4, 2016 at 10:16 am  Comments (1)  

Roger Maris

Here are a few things about Maris’s career you might find interesting. He hit 14 homers in 116 games in his first season, 1957 with the Indians. He led the league in slugging percentage (.581) in 1960, but did not in 1961 (he slugged .620 that year). He played in 7 World Series, which, thinking offhand, may tie the record for most Series played in by anyone from 1960 on to the present day. Those 7 World Series happened in a 9-year stretch, 1960 through 1968. He played for 4 teams, quite unusual in his time for a two-time MVP, as was being traded three times.

He hit 275 homers, out of 1325 total career hits, for a 20.7% homer percentage. Also, Maris played 140 games in a season only 4 times: in 1960 for example, his 39 homers and 112 RBIs came in 136 games and 499 at-bats. For his career, he played in an average of 122 games per season.

Published in: Uncategorized on September 20, 2016 at 10:07 am  Comments (1)  

A Few Notes on Northeast Baseball Coach Tom O’Connell

Tom O’Connell pitched for the University of Connecticut’s baseball team in the ‘50s, for military teams after college, and starting in the mid-‘60s coached the high school baseball team in Braintree, Mass., Brandeis University’s team in the bulk of the ’70s, then Princeton’s team in much of the ’80s and ’90s. I doubt you’ve heard of him, but he is one of the bigger names in Northeast college coaching in recent decades.

I’ve heard of him because a while ago I obtained some memorabilia-primarily news clippings-that O’Connell had gathered over the decades, from the 1950s to the 1990s: a mix of material from his professional life in baseball and material from his life as a fan of the Red Sox and Celtics. As Brandeis noted in its story on O’Connell’s death, he “led Brandeis baseball to six-straight NCAA Division III tournament appearances, including a berth at the 1977 Division III College World Series.” Princeton added: “The Tigers went to the NCAA Tournament three times during O’Connell’s tenure (1985, 1991, 1996), won two Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League championships (1985, 1991) and one Ivy League title in 1996.” Here is his obituary. I won’t pretend to have great unique insights into O’Connell, but this 1985 New York Times article on O’Connell’s work at Princeton jibes with the impression of the man that’s created by thumbing through other news articles on what he did at Braintree High, Brandeis, and Princeton. The impression is that he was a baseball lifer dedicated to winning and sustaining the sport’s ideals not by presenting a warm, understanding personality to his players, but by disciplining them and always asking them to do more. O’Connell, it seems, was one of those coaches who make up the backbone of organized amateur baseball.

Published in: Uncategorized on September 8, 2016 at 1:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Times on Base

Here, from Baseball-reference, is a list of the top 11 hitters in terms of times getting on base in their career (years played in parentheses, and the + denotes Hall of Famers):

1. Pete Rose (24) 5929
2. Barry Bonds (22) 5599
3. Ty Cobb+ (24) 5532
4. Rickey Henderson+ (25) 5343
5. Carl Yastrzemski+ (23) 5304
6. Stan Musial+ (22) 5282
7. Hank Aaron+ (23) 5205
8. Tris Speaker+ (22) 4998
9. Babe Ruth+ (22) 4978
10. Eddie Collins+ (25) 4891
11. Willie Mays+ (22) 4791

It is a shame that the two leaders aren’t in the Hall. It’s also surprising that Rose is on top by more than 300-an entire season-even though he’s no higher than 79th for times on base in a single season.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 20, 2016 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Babe Ruth and Stephen Curry

Some people have said that Stephen Curry’s 2015-2016 season, in terms of shooting (and making) 3-pointers, was similar to Babe Ruth hitting great bunches of home runs in the early 1920s, in that both showed the rest of the league a new way to play offense. Here are a few comparisons between Curry and the Warriors in 2015-16, as they related to the rest of the NBA, and Ruth and the 1920 Yankees, as they related to the rest of major league baseball.

In 15-16, the Warriors made 1077 3-pointers, while the NBA as a whole made 20,940. The Warriors made 5.14% of the NBA’s 3s. Second in the NBA was the Cavaliers, who made 880 3s. 1077 of the Warriors field goals were 3s, out of 3489 total field goals. The 1920 Yankees hit 115 homers, while the 16 MLB teams hit 630 homers total. 2nd in MLB in homers was the Philadelphia A’s, with 64. The Yanks had 1447 hits, and MLB had 23,275 hits total.

In 1920, Ruth hit 54 homers, and in 15-16, Curry hit 402 3 pointers. The previous records had been 29 homers hit by Ruth in 1919, and Curry’s 286 3-pointers in 14-15.

After the 15-16 season, the “Splash Brothers”-Curry and Klay Thompson-have the four highest 3-point seasons in NBA history. The record for a non-Splash Brother is Ray Allen, 269, in 2005-06 with the Sonics. Thompson had 276 3s this year, and James Harden, with 236, was 3rd. Second in the AL in homers in 1920 was George Sisler, 19, and Cy Williams led the NL with 15 for Phillies.

It took until 1922 in the NL for someone to hit more than 25 homers-Rogers Hornsby hit 42. It took until 1931 (Gehrig tied with Ruth at 46 homers) for someone besides Ruth to hit more than 40 homers to lead the AL.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 8, 2016 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  

A Short Note on Hit By Pitch Leaders

This, from Baseball-reference, is a little list of the top 10 (11 including the tie for 10th) batters for most career hit by pitch in MLB, as of the end of 2015:

1. Hughie Jennings+ (18) 287 R
2. Craig Biggio+ (20) 285 R
3. Tommy Tucker (13) 272 B
4. Don Baylor (19) 267 R
5. Jason Kendall (15) 254 R
6. Ron Hunt (12) 243 R
7. Dan McGann (12) 230 B
8. Frank Robinson+ (21) 198 R
9. Minnie Minoso (17) 192 R
10. Jake Beckley+ (20) 183 L
Chase Utley (14) 183 L

Utley has taken over 10th by himself in 2016. Four of these guys are Hall of Famers, as noted by the + after their names: everyone but Utley and Beckley either switch-hit or batted only from the right side. I do not know why left-handers would be hit less often, but maybe they see the ball more clearly, due to the swooping, down and up elegant swing many lefties have.

Published in: Uncategorized on July 20, 2016 at 11:01 am  Comments (1)