Hey, Fay, could you give Stewart ERA hand, too?

On baseball ~

September 06, 1991|By Jim Henneman

It doesn't look like a good year for Babe Ruth. Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent has erased his name from the record book by purging the asterisk next to the name of Roger Maris.

And any day (week, month, year?) now, The Babe's hometown, for the second time, is expected to snub a campaign to name a stadium after its legendary baseball hero. A lot of people forget, but there was a strong effort to name Memorial Stadium after Ruth, but with the memory of the Korean conflict and World War II so vivid there was even less chance then than now.

By all accounts, The Bambino was baseball's greatest player -- and most likely its most flamboyant personality. And he'd probably rather have a cigar, hot dog and beer (not necessarily in that order) than debate the decisions of Vincent or the Maryland Stadium Authority (a.k.a. Eli Jacobs).

Which gets us, in a roundabout way, to an injustice that should appeal to Vincent. Since the commissioner has taken it upon himself to decide that Maris' 61 home runs in a 162-game schedule should stand alone, above the 60 Ruth hit when a season consisted of 154 games, this one should be easy.

Let this be the start of a campaign to award the 1981 American League earned run average championship to its rightful, and statistical, owner -- ex-Oriole Sammy Stewart. Even the timing is perfect, this being the 10th anniversary of one of baseball's greatest statistical blunders.

That was also one of baseball's most chaotic seasons, with an interrupted schedule because of a strike, split-season divisional winners and teams not playing the same number of games. The rule for determining the ERA title requires a pitcher to pitch a number of innings equal to the number of games played.

Stewart qualified with 112 1/3 innings, during which he allowed 29 earned runs, for an ERA of 2.3235. Oakland's Steve McCatty gave up 48 earned runs in 185 2/3 innings, for an ERA of 2.3267. But an archaic rule on the book said the league champions were determined by rounding off the innings pitched -- which subtracted one-third of an inning from Stewart and added one-third to McCatty's total.

That resulted in Stewart's ERA going up to 2.33 and McCatty's dropping to 2.32, something that would never happen in a batting race, where final averages are figured to the last decimal to declare a winner.

A month after McCatty was declared the ERA champion, the rules committee corrected the obvious oversight and changed the rule. It didn't do Stewart any good, however, as McCatty is still listed as the American League's official ERA leader for 1981.

Now there's an obvious statistical oversight that Vincent should really be able to get his teeth into -- and it would mean more to Stewart, who hit the downside after 1981, than that asterisk means to The Babe, whose career doesn't require special notations.

* A PERFECT MEMENTO: A week ago today, Dennis Martinez called a special clubhouse meeting for the Montreal Expos. He presented each of his teammates, coaches, manager and staff members who were in Los Angeles with a personalized memento of his perfect game against the Dodgers.

The gift was a quarter-ounce Canadian Maple Leaf gold coin with the inscription "Dennis Martinez, El Perfect, July 28, 1991."

* A GIANT ACCOMPLISHMENT? If Will Clark can hold on to lead the National League in runs batted in, it would be the fourth straight year a member of the San Francisco Giants has won it.

Clark led the NL with 109 in 1988, followed by teammates Kevin Mitchell (125 in 1989) and Matt Williams (122 last year). Should Clark win the RBI title it would be the first time in NL history that a team had a player lead four straight years.

Bob Meusel (138), Ruth (145), Lou Gehrig (175) and Ruth/Gehrig (142) did it for the Yankees from 1925-28. The all-time record, however, is held by the Detroit Tigers from 1907-11. Ty Cobb led in four of those years (116 in 1907, 101 in 1908, 115 in 1909 and 111 in 1911), with Sam Crawford sandwiched in between (115 in 1910).

* MOVE OVER GROVER: Mitch Williams leads a strange life for a short reliever, who usually pile up saves instead of victories. The Phillies' lefthanded closer compiled an 8-1 record during August.

That's the most victories ever recorded by a relief pitcher in one month and tied a 51-year-old Philadelphia club record for wins in a month by a pitcher of any denomination. Grover Cleveland Alexander registered eight wins during May in 1920.

* DID YOU KNOW -- OR CARE? That Cal Ripken, who didn't steal a base in his 1983 MVP season, is third among the Orioles this year with six?

That, with a month to go in the season, Jeff Bagwell has already broken Houston's RBI record for a rookie, set by Glenn Davis (64) in 1985?

That Dundalk's Mike Bielecki has batted four times with the bases loaded this year and is 2-for-2 with a walk, sacrifice fly and four RBIs?

vTC That both the Astros, which is understandable, and the Dodgers, which isn't, lost every game they played in Montreal this year?

That the Phillies had a streak of 13 straight one-run games at Veterans Stadium while winning 21 (16 in a row) of their first 26 games at home after the All-Star break?

* IMPERTINENT QUESTIONS: Baltimore has already had two Oriole Parks -- does it really need another? Besides, won't the bird be extinct by the time they get around to naming that place?

Was it during the Reagan or Carter administration when the Oakland A's were this far out of first place?

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