If I told you we took the BallNine Time Machine back to 1973 and ended up in jail with Billy Martin, we wouldn’t blame you for thinking that it came after someone looked at the legendary manager sideways at the local watering hole.
That couldn’t be further from the truth, at least for this week’s edition of The Stud 400. Martin was so competitive and such a winner that he left no stone unturned looking for ways to help him succeed.
So, when an intriguing prospect came onto his radar that no other team knew about, he had to do his due diligence. The reason nobody knew about this prospect was because he was incarcerated in Jackson State Prison and playing in a league for inmates. That inmate was Ron LeFlore, who went on to become a Major League All-Star.
We cover LeFlore and Billy’s story among this week’s entries while also examining a couple of postseason firsts.
Before we move on to this week’s edition of The Stud 400, here’s a quick look at the last five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:
390. Jack Chesbro sets modern record for wins in a season (1904)
389. Willie Keeler jumps from National League to American League (1903)
388. Mike Trout youngest to reach 30-30 (2012)
387. MVP voting changes (1931)
386. Gary Carter homers twice in All Star Game (1981)
And now, here’s Episode Four of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.
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Gaylord Perry (finally) ejected for spitball (1982)
Gaylord Perry pretty openly threw a spitball for years and considering that the pitch had been banned for decades, you’d figure he’d run afoul of the Commissioner’s Office multiple times. Surprisingly, Perry nearly managed to elude ejection for the entirety of his 22-year career. However, in 1982, a 42-year-old Perry was tossed for the first and only time in his career. Umpire Dave Phillips, who finally nabbed Perry said, “I told him he would be ejected either by putting something else on the ball, or by the flight of the ball, as the rules provide. If I think he’s throwing an illegal pitch and I think this was obviously an illegal pitch, I can throw him out.”
Brock Holt hits first postseason cycle (2018)
There have been 344 cycles hit over the course of Major League Baseball history, but for over a century, nobody had done it in a postseason game. Holt finally became the first to do it in 2018 when the Red Sox trounced the Yankees 16-1 in the ALDS. Holt completed the cycle in the 9th inning when he lined a pitch from backup catcher Austin Romine into the right field seats. Holt hadn’t even started the first two games but went 4-for-6 with three runs and five RBIs to go with his historic cycle.
Dusty Baker first to take five teams to postseason as manager (2020)
Baker began his managerial career in 1993 as a 44-year-old and is still going strong at age 72. He has managed five teams and when his Astros qualified for Rob Manfred’s playoff bonanza in a Covid-shortened 2020 season, he became the first person to skipper five different teams to the playoffs. Baker led the Giants (3 times), Cubs (1), Reds (3), Nationals (2) and Astros (2) although he has yet to capture his first World Series.
Ron LeFlore signed out of prison (1973)
The first organized baseball team LeFlore played on was in a league created for inmates in the Jackson State Prison. Fellow inmate Jimmy Karalla contacted his friend, bar owner Jimmy Butsicaris, about LeFlore to see if he could get word to Billy Martin that there was a diamond in the rough behind the walls of the prison. Martin agreed, went to prison where he met LeFlore, and arranged for a one-day tryout that June. LeFlore impressed and the Tigers signed him and sent him to Single A for the final 32 games of the ’73 season. After a successful start to his 1974 minor league season, LeFlore made the leap to the Majors in August of 1974 and went on to have a productive nine-year Major League career.
Steve Yeager suffers near-fatal injury in the on-deck circle (1976)
An unfortunate reality of sports is that horrific injuries happen pretty frequently. We’ve all seen freak things happen in competition, but nothing quite like what happened to Yeager in 1976. While in the on-deck circle, Dodgers shortstop Bill Russell broke his bat on a pitch from the Padres Randy Jones and while Russell was left holding the handle, the barrel went hurtling towards Yeager, who didn’t see it coming. The barrel impaled Yeager in the side of the neck and the popular catcher dropped to the ground. The Dodgers trainer and Steve Garvey rushed to his aid as Yeager bled profusely. While Garvey held a towel on the wound, the Dodgers trainer removed the splinters he was able to from the still-conscious Yeager. Emergency surgery was needed, and, in the end, Yeager was lucky to be alive. Miraculously, the barrel just missed Yeager’s windpipe, spinal column and jugular and he fully recovered.
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Stay tuned for next week’s edition of The Stud 400 when we visit with Mr. Cub and we come across our first two entries from the 2021 season. They include the great Dodgers Spanish-language announcer Jaime Jarrin and one of the best feel-good stories from the most recent Major League season.