All during the media circus these past few days about Stephen Strasburg’s health and competitive zeal (or lack thereof), I couldn’t stop thinking of Curly Ogden. I mean, didn’t everyone? OK, for the few of you who don’t know (or care) who Curly Ogden was, let’s hop into the Way back machine and travel to game seven of the 1924 World Series. That was the one that put the New York Giants of John McGraw against the Washington Senators, managed by their “Boy Wonder,” Bucky Harris (see photo of Bucky, taken some ten years later).
Curly Ogden was Bucky’s choice to be starting pitcher in that all important game. But it wasn’t for real. You see Ogden was a right handed pitcher and his starting the game meant that left handed hitting Bill Terry would start at first base for the Giants. (Contrary to popular myth, Casey Stengel did not invent platooning in the 1950s; McGraw used it extensively some thirty years earlier.
Bill Terry would go one to have a marvelous Hall of Fame career with a lifetime batting average of .341. In 1924 however, he was just a rookie who people thought would never hit lefties. Starting the right handed Ogden, caused McGraw to insert Terry into the starting lineup. But unknown to anyone, Harris had a left handed pitcher secretly warming up, and after Ogden pitched to two batters he was removed. The whole thing was a ruse to lure McGraw into starting Terry and it worked. McGraw eventually removed Terry from the lineup, depriving him of the potential use of him later in the game.
Now fast forward to the present day. For the past few days the media (and some Nats fans) have howled in frustration. Was Strasburg really sick? Did he lack the competitive drive? And when it became apparent that Strasburg would start the game, it became “Why didn’t the Nationals handle it better?” Different talking heads started pontificating over what information the Nationals should have released. What they should have said to the media. How they should have come clean with all the facts. Blah, blah, blah.
OK, point number one. Lighten up media. This is a baseball game, an important on I grant you, but still just a game. It’s not like Donald tweeting about North Korea.
More importantly, I wonder if the whole thing was one big ruse. Putting in the Cubs’ mind that they would be facing Tanner Roark (substituting hamburger for fillet mignon) or at best, a weakened version of Strasburg. Such ruse would accomplish a number of things.
- It would distract the media from writing more dribble about how the Nationals can’t win in the playoffs. This year’s team is their last best chance. How they can’t win the big one.
- It also distracts from the media fixating on any perceived managerial mistakes that may have been made in the earlier games.
- It just might sew a little confusion into the Cubs. Just who are we going to face in the game?
I offered this opinions to the SABR people at last evening’s monthly dinner and it was pretty much dismissed out of hand. Strasburg really was sick and thanks to fluid infusions, antibiotics, and lots of Gatorade he was able to perform at maximum performance level.
There’re probably right. Still I can’t help thinking of Curly Ogden.