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January 10, 2013

Local author's book debunks baseball myths

(Continued)

Deane deserves a lot of credit because to disprove many of the myths of baseball requires detailed analysis of baseball statistics, box scores and historical records of the game. The author clearly is a statistical junkie. He belongs to an organization called Society of American Baseball Research, which includes people like himself who have an extraordinary love for the game, its statistics and its history.

Many of the myths are a relief to know aren’t true. Ty Cobb was one of the least-liked players in the game so it’s not surprising that some of the negative stories about him take on a life of their own. I was under the assumption that he once won a batting title over Shoeless Joe Jackson by deliberately being cold and standoffish to his “friend” and impressionable fellow Southerner to depress Jackson and affect his hitting. Cobb ended up batting .420 that year and Jackson .408. Thanks to Deane’s research of the newspaper accounts of that time he proves that the cold shoulder routine could not have occurred.

The movie “Eight Men Out” about the 1919 Black Sox scandal where some of the White Sox players accepted bribes to throw the World Series implies the rationale for pitcher Eddie Cicotte’s involvement was that White Sox owner Charles Comiskey cheated him out of a $10,000 bonus for winning 30 games by ordering him benched after winning 29. Deane proves that it was just Hollywood taking huge artistic license. There is no evidence that there was some dastardly plot to undermine Cicotte or that there was even a bonus offered at all.

Sometimes a myth can be based on a popular jingle. One of the most famous in baseball is the one involving the Chicago Cubs’ infielders, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. A baseball writer wrote a poem that had the famous tag line, “Tinker to Evers to Chance.” It implied they were a great double-play combination, but the records showed they were average at best. Their real claim to fame, other than the jingle, is that they played together for 11 straight years.

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