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Baseball trivia

"Baseball trivia" Continued...

Issue: "Miers doesn't fit the mold," Oct. 15, 2005

WORLD: Which nicknames were important in winning recognition for a player, and which names held players back?

ROBBINS: It's interesting to compare the divergent levels of fame enjoyed by Wee Willie Keeler and Joe Kelley. Both were star outfielders for the great Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890s. Both were top hitters and wonderful defensive players, and both are in the Hall of Fame. If anything, Kelley was probably the better player all around. Yet the name Wee Willie Keeler is much better known today. Perhaps the names themselves explain the difference in name recognition. "Wee Willie Keeler" rolls off the lips, while "Joe Kelley" is a rather forgettable name considering the large number of talented players named Kelly in that era.

WORLD: Which largely forgotten players would have been famous had they lived in different eras?

ROBBINS: Jud Wilson, a third baseman with a short fuse and a quick bat, was one of the best hitters of the 1930s. He was also an African-American in the era of segregation and spent his whole career in the Negro Leagues. One or two Negro League players are still remembered today-Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, for example-but Wilson has been almost completely forgotten. Yet Gibson himself called Wilson the greatest hitter he'd ever seen, and Paige listed Wilson as one of the two best hitters in the Negro Leagues. Wilson's playing career ended in 1945, two years before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. The former star third baseman worked on a road crew after leaving the game, but apparently suffered epileptic fits, engaged in increasingly odd behavior, and was committed to an institution. He died in 1963 at 64 years old.

Buzz Arlett is another player who suffered from poor timing. He hit .341 with 432 home runs in the highest levels of the minors between 1918 and 1937, but his defensive deficiencies kept him from sticking in the majors. Had he come along in the past 30 years he would have been a star as a designated hitter.

WORLD: If you could tell only one of the many stories of Ninety Feet from Fame, which would it be?

ROBBINS: In the 1960 World Series the Pirates trailed the Yankees by one run with two outs and two on in the bottom of the eighth inning of the seventh game of the Series. The Yankees would win another championship if they could just get four more outs. But Pirates backup catcher Hal Smith homered, and suddenly it was the Pirates who were three outs from victory. This could be remembered as the most important homerun in World Series history, except that Pittsburgh blew the lead in the top of the ninth, and it fell to Bill Mazeroski to hit his famous game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth. Hal Smith did everything required of him to be a World Series hero; it just didn't work out that way.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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