posted on Apr, 25 2006 @ 10:18 AM
By the way, to get this back on point, a long-forgotten (except by us B.H.N.'s) St. Louis Card named Pepper Martin had, in 1931, what was for a LONG
time regarded as the greatest World Series ever.
The Cards were enormous underdogs. Connie Mack's A's had won 2 consecutive World Series and, more impressive, had beaten the Ruth/Gehrig Yankess--at
that team's zenith--three straight years. Yes, the A's had Foxx, but the Yanks had Gehrig; yes, the A's had Mickey Cochrane (the great catcher) and
OF Al Simmons, but the Yankees had Bill Dickey (the slightly less great catcher) and a whole slew of H.O.F.'ers in their lineup, including that Ruth
dude, still very great at ages 34-36.
But the A's had Lefty Grove, who had gone 31-4 that year, and who had just concluded a three-year stint in which he was 79-15 and led the league in
W-L %, K's and E.R.A. in ALL 3 YEARS. The last time I checked, only Walter Johnson had done that twice in his entire career. Grove, while going
79-15 in 3 years (true figure), had done it 3 years straight. AND THE CARDS KNEW THEY'D FACE HIM THREE TIMES.
Martin--whose career stats were not at all impressive, given the era he played in and the hitters' paradise which St. Louis's Sportsman's Park
was--proceeded to go 12 for 24 in 7 games (despite being hitless in the last 2 games!)--and 12 for 18 in the first 5 games!!!--with a .538 on-base
percentage and a .792 slugging average. Seven singles, four doubles and a home run, plus 2 walks, in 26 plate appearances.
Grove beat them in Game 1, but in Game 3--after 3 days of rest and rain--the Cards beat the great Grove, with a key Martin single playing a major role
in the first two runs, and a none-out, man-on-first double by Martin setting up the 3rd run. This, remember, against Lefty Grove.
The teams split the next two games, and in Game 6, Grove was Grove again, winning 8-1. But the Cards got a quick 4-0 lead in Game 7, and the 1920's
winningest pitcher, Burleigh Grimes, carried it into the 9th. The Cards held on for dear life as the A's scored 2 runs and had 2 more on base when
leadoff hitter Max Bishop's smoking line drive was run down in the alley by--guess who?--Pepper Martin.
People have actually suggested Pepper Martin should make the Hall of Fame, which is baloney. He was a below-average fielder for his time and
positions (OF and esp. 3B), and a modest hitter.
But serious baseball historians will always remember him as the guy who caught lightning in a battle and enabled his team to: (1) get that crucial ONE
WIN out of 3 games against Lefty Grove; and (2) do well enough in the 4 non-Grove games to take a superior A's team and upset them 3 games to 1,
winning the title 4 games to 3.
There is your basic case of an awesome "clutch hitter" who played way over his head in a World Series, giving what was for decades the consensus
choice for the best W.S. performance ever.
But he had played against the Yankees' juggernaut in the 1928 Series, and would go on to play for the Cards against Detroit in a great 7-game Series
in 1934. He was 0 for 1 in 1928, and 11 for 31--still quite good, but nothing at all like his figures in 1931--in 1934.
A lot of people seem to think he was a guy who'd have been great to pick up on waivers to have on your Series-bound team at year's end. I say those
two seven-game series, 55 AB's and 60 plate appearances aren't enough to mean anything about his "clutch" hitting.
They earned a very mediocre player baseball immortality, and I'm glad for that, but they didn't make his 4,117-at-bat career any better than it was,
and they certainly didn't make his a great "clutch hitter."