TWJ contributor Patrick asked if I considered making “fun cards” out of the ceremonial first pitch photos I had posted the past couple of weeks. I told him it had crossed my mind, but if he wanted to tackle that project, go for it! He didn’t disappoint, using some of the photos I posted and finding a few others, like Sandy Koufax below.
Today and tomorrow I will post those that I had already shown you, and on Wednesday I will show you some that he dug up that I hadn’t seen yet in my searches. Hit the jump to see the first few.
How important are awards and All-Star appearances? In the battle for the best left-handed starter, it makes a big difference. With awards and All-Stars included, Randy Johnson comes out on top with a score of 270.10, followed by Steve Carlton (#2, 267.64) and Warren Spahn (#3, 244.40). When awards and All-Stars are removed from the equation, Spahn narrowly beats Carlton for the top spot and the Big Unit drops to third place. I know Johnson was intimidating, but there is no way I would pick him over either Spahn or Carlton when building my historical fantasy team. Sandy Koufax (#8, 180.58) would be another consideration, but he has a lower score due to his short career; in twelve years he won 165 games and compiled a WAR of 50.3.
Only two other lefties topped the 200-point mark: Lefty Grove (#4, 203.46) and Eddie Plank (#5, 200.01). Tom Glavine (#6, 198.62) just barely missed. Overshadowed by Greg Maddux during his prime, Glavine is perhaps the best number two starter in history. His baseball cards are a dime a dozen; even his rookie cards can many times be had for less than a dollar.
Carl Hubbell is next on the list with a score of 185.94, and two non-Hall of Famers, Tommy John (#9, 176.01) and Jim Kaat (#10, 170.14), round out the top ten. Both were very close to the 300-win mark, but had very long careers in which they amassed all those wins and only averaged 13 victories per season.
One of the neatest things baseball teams do is the “ceremonial first pitch,” often honoring past stars or community leaders. One of the highest honors someone can receive is to be asked to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. Here is a run-down of some of yesterday’s ceremonial first pitch honorees:
Lou Piniella took the mound before the Yankees-Red Sox game.
Rusty Staub tossed the ball before the Mets opener.
Former big leaguer Joe Torre was asked to throw the first pitch before the Reds-Angels game. This one doesn’t make any sense to me since Torre has no connection to either organization.
Brandon Webb was honored by the Diamondbacks.
Bo knows first pitches…Bo Jackson did not wear a jersey when he threw out the first pitch before the White Sox-Royals game in Chicago.
Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha was the Nationals’ choice to throw the first pitch in Washington.
Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones returned to the field in Atlanta.
Jim Umbricht, Houston Colt .45s
Umbricht pitched two very solid seasons as a reliever for Houston, posting ERAs of 2.01 and 2.61, before succumbing to malignant melanoma just prior to the 1964 season. The Astros’ team MVP award is named in his honor.
Elston Howard, New York Yankees
Sandy Koufax, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
Steve Carlton, Philadelphia Phillies