Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ichiro visits Sisler's grave

During an All-Star Weekend when history is made and honored, Ichiro Suzuki paid respects to a man whose achievements are linked with his own.

Ichiro, in St. Louis for his ninth All-Star Game, visited the grave of St. Louis Browns star George Sisler, whose single-season record of 257 hits was broken by the Mariners outfielder in October 2004.

Sisler's descendants -- including Sisler's 81-year-old daughter, Frances Sisler Drochelman -- had traveled to Seattle to witness Ichiro break the record that was set in 1920, and last weekend, Ichiro returned the gesture.

"I wanted to do that for a grand upperclassman of the baseball world," Ichiro told "I think it's only natural for someone to want to do that, to express my feelings in that way."

Ichiro, accompanied by his wife, Yumiko, and some friends, laid flowers at Sisler's grave, at Des Peres Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Sisler, a Hall of Famer, died on March 26, 1973. His career was marked by a lifetime .340 batting average, and a .407 average in 1920. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.

"There's not many chances to come to St. Louis," Ichiro said, according to the Seattle Times. "In 2004, it was the first time I crossed paths with him, and his family generously came all the way to Seattle."

Another All-Star Game might be old hat to Ichiro, who was the MVP of the 2007 game and has won a Gold Glove in each season since entering the major leagues out of Japan in 2001.
But this time, Ichiro got to meet President Barack Obama, who threw out the first pitch. Obama, visiting the clubhouses, stopped and signed a ball for Ichiro, who gave a slight bow upon meeting the President and appeared as giddy and excited as a kid.

"My idea, when I saw him, was to say, 'What's up?' to him," Ichiro said. "But I got nervous. You know, he has that kind of aura about him. So I got nervous and I didn't say that to him. I was a little disappointed about that.

"But I realized after seeing him today that presidents wear jeans, too. So my hope is that our skipper, [Don] Wakamatsu, was watching that and we can wear jeans on our flights, as well."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Browns Debs Garms: The Forgotten Texas Batting Champ!

From Bill McCurdy, Houston, TX

Debs Garms may simply be one of the most underrated players to hail from the Lone Star State.

In a twelve season major league career (1932-35, 1937-41, 1943-45), utility infielder-outfielder Debs Garms batted .293 for his career work on four MLB clubs (St. Louis Browns, Boston Bees, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals.)

In 1938, while playing for the NL Boston Bees, Garms' single with two outs in the 4th inning broke up Johnny Vander Meer's shot at a third consecutive no-hit game for the Cincinnati Reds.

By 1940, Debs Garms won a controversial (by today's standards)National League batting title as a Pittsburgh Pirate by hitting .355 in only 358 official times at bat. Today the rules require a batting champion to have attained 3.1 total plate appearances for each game on his club's season schedule. (That includes official times at bat, walks, all the times a batter reached base because he had been hit by the pitcher, and all those far less frequent times a batter reached base due to catcher's interference.) Had those same qualifying rules been in place back in 1940, Debs Garms would not have qualified for the title due to an insufficient number of total plate trips, but, as folks are inclined to say, he did enough to get it done by the rules in place in 1940. Debs Garms is a native Texan batting champion too, and not just some faceless "Who Dat Guy?".

In 2004, Debs Garms was finally honored by his home state with a posthumous induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. We only wish it could have come in time to honor the scrappy Texan prior to his death in 1984 at Glen Rose, Texas at the age of 76.

Debs Garms took a lot of pride in his hitting and he protected his bats like a mother hen protects her chicks. All of his theories about the care of wood may or may not have helped him. As you may observe in the above painting by Texas artist Opie Otterstad, Debs believed that it was good for his bats to spend the winter on the roof of his barn. Debs lived on his own ranch near tiny Glen Rose, Texas in the off-seasons and he definitely had a barn that worked out well for bat-tanning. Whether that practice really tempered the wood better - or even bought a few extra base knocks for Garms the following season, who can say?

All we can know from his career numbers is that the guy was a persistently good hitter for average without any long ball power - and a player who would try his hand at just about any position, if it helped his team and also kept him in the game.

We could use a few more people like Debs Garms today - in baseball and in life.
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More on Texas batting champs at: Debs Garms: The Forgotten Texas Batting Champ!