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Mudville: May 28, 2024 1:22 pm PDT

If there’s one thing The Stud 400 can appreciate, its toughness. Mental toughness and physical toughness are at the root of most of the game’s major accomplishments.

This week’s edition of The Stud 400 is bursting at the seams with toughness. You want tough?

How about Pudge Rodriguez catching a record 2,427 Major League Baseball games while putting up offensive and defensive numbers few ever have at the position. What about a fellow like Dummy Hoy? Hoy became deaf as a two-year-old but overcame the handicap his entire life to thrive, establish himself as one of the game’s early stars and then live to 99 years old.

The Stud 400 loves toughness on the mound and that was on full display when Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn locked horns for an epic battle that neither would back down from. The two Hall of Famers combined to throw 428 pitches in a game that ended with a 1-0 Giants win on a Willie Mays home run in the 16th inning.

Then there was a young Mickey Mantle, who got some tough love from his father during one of the first dark times in his baseball career. Mantle had two choices, quit and go back home to work in the mines, or get tough and produce like he could. Mantle chose the latter and the rest is history.

But first, here’s look at the previous five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:

370. Justin Verlander throws third no-hitter (2019)

369. Ten Cent Beer Night (1974)

368. George Bell hits three homers on Opening Day (1988)

367. Spider Tack (2021)

366. Orioles lose 21 straight games to begin season (1988)

And now, here’s Episode Eight of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.



Wayne Gretzky buys the Honus Wagner T206 (1991)

Headlines in the sports memorabilia industry were made in 1987 when a T206 Honus Wagner baseball card sold for $110,000. This sent folks across the country scrambling through their parents and grandparents attics on a treasure hunt for old cards that survived being thrown away at some point in history. Just four years later, the card was up for auction and was purchased by Wayne Gretzky and Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall for an incredible $450,000. The high purchase price – along with the gravitas Gretzky carried – brought things to a new level as far as vintage card collecting. That wasn’t the only impact the Gretzky T206 card had either. It became the first card ever authenticated by PSA, receiving a grade of 8 and carried a serial number of 00000001.


Pudge Rodriguez sets record for games caught (2009)

Catchers get credit for the physical beating they take, and rightly so. In fact, they probably should get more credit than they do for the abuse they take from a parade of foul balls and errant backswings, not to mention the wear and tear they inflict on their knees and backs. In his remarkable 21-year career, Rodriguez caught a record 2,427 games. The durable backstop was also a tremendous offensive weapon and threw out an incredible 46% of would-be base stealers over the course of his career. Rodriguez set the games caught record on June 17, 2009 when he passed another Pudge, Carlton Fisk for a record that isn’t likely to be broken anytime soon.


Dummy Hoy retires (1902)

Hoy wasn’t the only deaf person to play Major League Baseball, but he is the most accomplished. At the time of his retirement, Hoy was the Major League leader in games played in centerfield, outfield putouts and total chances as an outfielder. He was also second in walks behind Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton at the time of his retirement. Hoy also is one of a handful of players to have thrown out three players at the plate in the same game and although widely refuted, some claim that Hoy had a hand in umpire signals being instituted in Major League games. Perhaps Hoy’s greatest record though was that at the time of his passing in 1961, the 99-year-old Hoy was the longest-lived former Major Leaguer ever. Although the nickname Dummy is now seen as insulting, at the time it referred to someone who could not speak. Hoy was able to communicate verbally in what was described as a squeak and preferred his nickname over his birth name, William.


Juan Marichal vs. Warren Spahn (1963)

Back when dominant starting pitchers were a thing and it was a source of pride to finish what you started, fantastic pitching matchups happened on a regular basis and were an incredible draw. However, there aren’t many showdowns between pitchers that could top what Marichal and Spahn did on July 3, 1963. Marichal was 25 years old at the time and on his way to superstardom. Spahn was a 42-year-old veteran winding down a Hall of Fame career. Marichal had said that manager Alvin Dark tried to pull him in the ninth inning of a 0-0 game and Marichal refused, saying he wasn’t coming out of the game if that “old man” was going to stay in there and pitch. And so, it was on. Dark tried to remove Marichal at least two more times, but the righty refused to come out. Finally, in the middle of the 16th inning, while coming off the field, Marichal told Willie Mays that Dark was mad and about to take him out. Mays told Marichal not to worry about it, and went out and won the game with a solo homer. In the end, the game lasted four hours and ten minutes. Spahn threw 201 pitches and Marichal threw 227.



Mickey Mantle sent to the minors (1951)

It’s hard to picture a young Mantle as anything but an American icon, but there was a time where his baseball career was in jeopardy before it even started. In Mantle’s rookie season of 1951, he was driving in runs at a fine pace, but that was about it. Mantle struggled with contact and after a game in mid-July, the rookie phenom was sent to the minors. Mantle continued to lose confidence, became depressed and wondered if he was good enough to continue on. He placed a call to his father, Mutt Mantle, who had groomed him to be a Big Leaguer from childhood. While Mantle sought comfort, instead what he got was an in-person visit from Mutt who told his son to pack his bags and come home. Later, Mantle would say, “I know I wanted my father to comfort me. He didn’t. All he showed me was that I was acting scared, and that you can’t live scared. I shut my mouth and kept playing.” It was the tough love that Mantle needed as he then went on a tear in the minors. After playing 36 games in AA, Mantle returned to the Yankees and one of the great careers in baseball history was off and running.

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of The Stud 400 when we come across the only rundown in our countdown, one which sent the BallNine Time Machine back over 100 years. Also, perhaps the greatest athlete in American sports history drops by The Stud 400, and he isn’t named Bo Jackson.

Rocco is a baseball writer with too much time on his hands who lives in the dusty corners of Baseball Reference. He was one half of the battery for the 1986 Belleville Recreation Farm League Champion Indians. He likes early 20th century baseball nicknames, pullover polyester jerseys and Old Hoss Radbourn. He works as a College Athletics Director and his second book was released in April of 2021.

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