Tag Archive | "Pop Quiz"

Stolen Base Champion Passes Away

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Stolen Base Champion Passes Away

Posted on 21 February 2013 by Bill Ivie

Pop quiz: Who holds the record for most stolen bases in a professional baseball season, ranks second among all professional base stealers, and averaged 150 stolen bases a season?

If you answered Rickey Henderson, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Her name is Sophie Kurys (pronounced “curries”).  A young woman from Flint, Michigan, she was a founding member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and a second baseman for the Racine Belles.

SophieKurys

Kurys signed her first contract, for $50 a week, one day shy of her 18th birthday.

Kurys would play for eight seasons for the Belles, including rejoining them a year after they left Racine and moved to Battle Creek.  Her best season would come in 1946 when she was named player of the year after gathering 215 hits and stealing 201 bases in 203 attempts, a professional record that still stands today.  She would hit .286 that season with a .434 on base percentage, score 117 runs, walk 93 times and collect a .973 fielding percentage, leading the league in each category.  Her walks and fielding percentage marks in 1946 would go down as league records.

She wasn’t done with just the regular season, though.  She would lead all hitters in the post-season that year and have one of the most amazing games in professional baseball history in the sixth and deciding game of the league championship.

The game itself was a bit of an enigma   Carolyn Morris, the Rockford ace, had thrown a no-hitter through nine innings before surrendering the first hit of the game in the 10th.  Meanwhile, Racine’s pitcher, Joanne Winter allowed 19 base runners through 14 innings, stranding them all.  The game had gone 14 innings without a run, despite Kurys four stolen bases up to that point.  She would single and steal her fifth base of the game in the bottom of the 14th inning, putting her at second base with Betty Trezza, her double play partner and shortstop for Racine, at the plate.

As Kurys broke for third as Trezza singled through the right side.  As the throw came home from right field, Kurys would hook slide around the catcher’s tag and provide Racine with the 1946 championship.  It was easy to see that the young lady had earned the nickname “Flint Flash”.

“A hook slide away from the tag by a player wearing a skirt – how about that?  Sophie was certainly one of our best,” stated Lois Youngen, former AAGPBL Players Association President.

Many managers and players credit Kurys for her ability to read a pitcher and her attention to the detail for her base stealing prowess.  While she was certainly fast, she would get an incredible jump off the pitcher and was a “master of the slide”.

She played her first few years in the league as the clean up hitter for the team but new manager Leo Murphy, who took over the reigns of the Belles in 1945, identified her base running abilities and moved her to the leadoff spot where she flourished for her team.

She would finish her career with 1,114 stolen bases.  That mark would stand as a professional record until Rickey Henderson would eventually surpass her, finishing his career with 1,406.  Her 201 stolen bases in 1946 remains a record in professional baseball today.  She would also steal 166, 142, 172, and 137 bases in a season during her career, all more than Henderson’s modern-era record of 130 and three of which were higher than Hugh Nicol‘s 1887 total of 138.

Kurys passed away on February 17, 2013 at the age of 87 years old in Scottsdale, Arizona due to surgical complications.

Read more about Sophie in this comprehensive article, Playing Hardball In The All-American League at aagpbl.org

Bill Ivie is the editor here at Full Spectrum Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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The 1988 Cleveland Indians And The Greatest Question In Bar Trivia History…Ever

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The 1988 Cleveland Indians And The Greatest Question In Bar Trivia History…Ever

Posted on 08 December 2012 by Trish Vignola

This week at Winter Meetings, Ron Washington got a pop quiz.

“Four other members of your 1988 club are now current Major League managers, just like you. Can you name them?”

The Rangers skipper, approached with this informal test by MLB.com, thought for a moment. “Terry Francona,” he said. Francona, the new leader of the Indians, hit .311 in 62 games that season, primarily as a designated hitter. “John Farrell,” Washington continued. Farrell, who jumped from the Blue Jays to the Red Sox this winter, was a 25-year-old starter who won 14 games that year. “Um,” said Washington, looking momentarily stumped, until the memory clicks. “Charlie Manuel was the hitting coach!” Long before he won a World Series with the Phillies, Manuel was, indeed, the hitting coach on this particular club.

Nonetheless, Washington was still short one.

“Buddy Black!” Washington exclaimed. Black, principal of the Padres, was a midseason rotation acquisition for the 1988 Indians. “See?” said Washington. “I don’t have Alzheimer’s!”

Nope. He does not. What Ron Washington does have is a spot in one of baseball’s trickiest trivia questions. MLB.com challenges you to ask your friends the following… Can they name the five active managers who were on the same squad at one time? Doubtful they’ll immediately guess the 1988 Cleveland Indians.

I couldn’t and when I tried this question with my friends, no one could do it either. I am also pretty sure that at least one person mentioned Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn.

He doesn’t count.

“Little did we know,” said Farrell to MLB.com, “that the fertile soil of the shores of Lake Erie was cultivating five future managers.” “That,” said Francona, “was such a bad team.” Francona, never one to mince words, is right. The 1988 Tribe went 78-84, had a minus-65 run differential and finished sixth in the AL East.

That wasn’t even the worst team of that era for the Indians. That honor belongs to the 1987 club touted by Sports Illustrated (which put Cory Snyder and Joe Carter on its cover) as one ready for an “Indian Uprising.” That club proceeded to lose 101 times and finish 37 games out of first. The 1988 club looked like the Yankees of the late 90s in comparison.

To the team’s credit, Carter hit 27 homers and Snyder hit 26. They gave the Indians a legitimately potent middle of the order. Julio Franco, in the final year of his first Cleveland stint, batted .303. Farrell (14-10, 4.24 ERA), a 23-year-old Greg Swindell (18-14, 3.20) and knuckleballer Tom Candiotti (14-8, 3.28) gave them the makings of a solid rotation. And Doug Jones (2.27 ERA, 37 saves) was one of the better closers in the game.
They didn’t have much else. “Other than Jones, we were lacking a bullpen that year,” Manuel said. “Our bullpen was [awful]. Also, we had some injuries in our infield.” The injuries were why Washington, who made the move the previous winter from Baltimore to Cleveland, just like team president Hank Peters, got a little more playing time at age 36 than anticipated. It’s also why Francona got on the Major League radar in Spring Training and was later called up in July.

“I went from, like, Field 11 to Field 1 in Spring Training, because those guys were going down like flies,” Francona recalled. “And [clubhouse manager] Cy Buynak didn’t have any lockers available. Cy put me in a closet. So every morning, I would dress, and the guys would come over to rub up the [baseballs] and be like, ‘Excuse me, can you move over?’”

With a club this bad, you would think the team would have been at each other’s throats. “We were so bad,” said Francona, “that we couldn’t have a whole lot of arrogance. It was a team that genuinely liked each other. We just got beat up.” Lessons must have come from the beatings, though, because quite a few guys on the 1988 Indians went on to leadership roles.

Snyder managed in the independent Golden Baseball League from 2007-09, followed by a stint with Na Koa Ikaika Maui in the North American League. Franco has managed in the Venezuelan Winter League and has often expressed his Major League aspirations. Jay Bell is the new hitting coach of the Pirates and Brook Jacoby is the hitting coach for the Reds. Dave Clark is the first-base coach for the Astros and was the team’s interim manager at the end of 2009. Still, for five members of a single club to wind up in the full-time managerial ranks in the Majors is certainly a quirky coincidence. One that will guarantee you’ll win at bar trivia.

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