Thursday, August 9, 2007

? No. 27: Ankiel goes yard!

Tonight Rick Ankiel gets his first cup of coffee as a major league outfielder. I'm following the game on the internet as it's blacked out on TV. Ankiel is currently 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts, but then again he is facing Chris Young, the man with an ERA under 2.00. I saw Ankiel make his second big-league start, his first at home. It was two days after my birthday in 1999, and a friend and I drove down for the day game and purchased scalped tickets. We ended up spending a little extra for great seats on the lower level, about 30 rows back of home plate. I still vividly recall Ankiel's high striped socks and spectacular curve ball. He didn't pitch particularly well that day -- five hits and five walks in six innings -- but allowed just two runs. The Cards dropped the game, though. Some guy named Smoltz was throwing for the Braves that day.

I was back at Busch just over a year later when the eventual Rookie of the Year took the mound as the surprise starter for Game 1 of the NLDS against the Braves. Much different ballgame for Ankiel that day, as that's when his implosion began. I don't recall nearly as much about that particular day, in part because it all happened so fast (those pitches sure did fly to the backstop in the blink of an eye) and because ultimately the Cards knocked around Greg Maddux and won that game ... so I left Busch with a happy feeling. At that point, we didn't know that we had just witnessed a pitcher permanently unravel. In that fateful game, the wild pitches started in the third inning. The amazing thing is that even after he had obviously lost his control, he still managed to strike Chipper Jones out.

Fast forward nearly seven years, and Ankiel gets the call-up from the Pacific Coast League, where he was leading the league in round trippers with 32. If he would have stayed down there a bit longer, he may have earned his second Player of the Year award from Baseball America. (The first came as a pitcher in 1999, so how cool would that have been?) My question is: How many home runs did Ankiel hit in his big-league career prior to today? In other words, how many dingers did he hit as a pitcher in 96 plate appearances?

(Holy fuck! I kid you not ... while typing this question Ankiel went yard tonight! How can you not root for this kid?)

Yesterday's Answer: Lefty Grove is the correct answer. Old Lefty has 55 career saves. The Big Train is in second with 34. Niekro and Spahn both have 29. Lefty, who won precisely 300 games, split his career between the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox. He earned all but four of his saves in his nine seasons with the A's.


Christopher said...

I think it was 2.

tim said...

i'm going with 1