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Double X, Hitting Home Runs and Some Guy You Never Heard of

By Blaidd Drwg

Part one of a two parter! In the immortal words of Mel Allen, “How about that?”

In the history of baseball, there have been 43 instances of a player hitting 50 or more home runs in a season. For reference, here is the breakdown of those seasons:

Number of HRs Number of Times Accomplished
73 1
70 1
66 1
65 1
64 1
63 1
62 0
61 1
60 1
59 1
58 4
57 2
56 3
55 0
54 7
53 1
52 6
51 5
50 6

 

Here is the same list with one additional column – Number of Times Lead League. That column represents the number of times that the corresponding number of home runs was the highest total in the AL or NL in its respective season.

Number of HRs Number of Times Accomplished Number of Times Lead League
73 1 1
70 1 1
66 1 0
65 1 1
64 1 0
63 1 0
61 1 1
60 1 1
59 1 1
58 4 3*
57 2 1
56 3 3
54 7 6
53 1 1
52 6 5
51 5 5
50 6 3

 

The asterisk is an unusual case – in 1997, thanks to a mid-season trade, Mark McGwire was in the unusual position of leading MLB in home runs with 58 without leading one of the individual leagues – he would hit 34 for the A’s, which ranked 9th in the AL in 1997, and 24 for the Cardinals, which ranked outside of the top 10. For the sake of this article we won’t consider that one.

This leaves 9 times that a player topped 50 HR’s without leading the league, which leads to my favorite list, the players who did not lead the league when hitting 50 HRs:

Year Player HR Rank Leader (HR)
1998 Sammy Sosa 66 2nd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)
2001 Sammy Sosa 64 2nd (NL) Barry Bonds (73)
1999 Sammy Sosa 63 2nd (NL) Mark McGwire (65)
2001 Luis Gonzalez 57 3rd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)
1961 Mickey Mantle 54 2nd (NL) Roger Maris (61)
2002 Jim Thome 52 2nd (AL) Alex Rodriguez (57)
1996 Brady Anderson 50 2nd (AL) Mark McGwire (52)
1938 Jimmie Foxx 50 2nd (AL) Hank Greenberg (58)
1998 Greg Vaughn 50 3rd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)

 

I feel bad for Luis Gonzalez and Greg Vaughn. They both had the misfortune of hitting a ton of HRs in years where two other player hit a ton more home runs than they did. Of course, then you have Sammy Sosa. Sosa lead the league twice in home runs – in 2000 and 2002, with totals of 50 and 49 and managed to lead the NL in HRs exactly 0 times in years that he hit 60+ home runs. Talk about bad timing.

Double X, also known as  Beast - and a beast he was.

Double X, also known as Beast – and a beast he was.

The player that intrigued me the most is Jimmie Foxx and his 1938 campaign. In that season, Foxx would reach 50 home runs for the second time, to go along with 139 runs, 197 hits, 175 RBI, 119 BB, a .349 BA, 1.166 OPS, 182 OPS+ and 7.6 WAR to win his 3rd MVP award, missing out on the triple crown in only the home run category. It would be the second time that Foxx missed out in one category – he finished 2nd in the AL to Dale Alexander in 1932 in BA by .003 points. You shouldn’t feel too bad for Foxx though, he did win the 1932 MVP award (posting an insane 10.5 WAR, a number that has only been reached 36 times in baseball history) and he did manage to secure the Triple Crown the following season as well as also winning an MVP.  The 1930’s were good for offense, what can I say, but Foxx is still arguably one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. If that isn’t enough, Foxx was also good enough to appear as a pitcher in 11 games in his career, including 9 in 1945, including 2 starts, when he was 37 years old. He posted a 1.59 ERA (albeit with not so stellar peripheral stats). It is also worth noting that when Foxx retired, he was #2 on the all-time career HR list, 170ish HR’s behind some guy named Ruth. For nearly 20 years, the 500 HR club was Foxx, Ruth and Mel Ott.

So why is this part 1 of a 2 parter? Well, it goes back to the guy who had a slightly higher BA in 1932 than Jimmie Foxx. Part 2 is going to answer the question I had when I was writing this piece – “Who the hell is Dale Alexander and why have I never heard of him?”

The Belgian Beer Fest Breadsticks

by A.J. Coltrane

Breadsticks for the recent Belgian Beer Fest, somewhat overexposed:

160201 bread sticks

The Formula (I made 3 batches):  400 grams all-purpose flour, 240 grams cool water (60%), 10 grams kosher salt (2.5%), 8 grams olive oil (2%), 1/4 tsp instant yeast.

  1.  Mix on low speed 10 minutes. Transfer to an oil-coated bowl, lightly coat the dough with oil. Cover. Refrigerate 1-3 days. (I put these in the fridge on Thursday night and pulled them out of the refrigerator at 5 am for an 11 am departure time. I had some time left over, but that’s better than transporting them hot and steamy.)
  2.   Remove from the refrigerator and allow to warm up for 1.5 – 2 hours. (I then slept in until 7 am.)
  3.   Lightly oil the counter if needed to prevent sticking, then pat the dough out to a 12″ wide by 8″ tall rectangle. The dough will be close to 3/8″ thick.
  4.   Sprinkle your “enhancements” onto the rectangle. I used a little bit of all of:  Himalayan Pink Salt, Sea Salt, Cracked Black Pepper, and Semolina. Parmesan would work. So would sesame seeds. Or herbs. Tons of possibilities.
  5.   Use a pizza cutter to cut into 8 pieces, top to bottom, about 1-1/2″ wide. Each piece is now 1-1/2″ x 8″.   OR:
  6.   Use a pizza cutter to cut into 1″ wide pieces.  Each piece will be 1″ x 8″.
  7.   Twist each piece and place on a Silpat lined sheet tray. When I did mine the pieces “grew” another 3-4 inches, making them almost as long as the 13″ width of the sheet tray.
  8.   Cover with a towel and let rest 1 hour.

The thicker doughs were baked at 425F for 22 minutes.  The thinner doughs were baked at 450F for 17 minutes.

The breadsticks came out crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The twisting meant that all of the “enhancement” ingredients were mixed through the dough; it made the breadsticks more interesting and added crunch (semolina) to the interior. It also gave the breadsticks natural “breaking” points. I think I liked the skinny ones a little bit better, but that could have just been personal preference.

Overall it’s an easy, versatile recipe. Using the refrigerator for a slow rise means that the dough can be mixed up to 3 days ahead — the dough will wait. If the breadsticks are being served with dinner cut the salt back to ~2% — the 2.5% salt was intended to stand up to the bold flavors of the beer and help cleanse the palate.

 

Just Follow the Instructions

By Iron Chef Leftovers

So last night I cracked open a Maine Brewing Company “Another One” and a Nantahala Brewing (they are from North Carolina) “4 Food Drop” and then realized that there was humor in that there beer:

The beer told me to have another one, so I did. Now I have to get out the ladder. #dowhatthebeertellsmetodo

The beer told me to have another one, so I did. Now I have to get out the ladder. #dowhatthebeertellsmetodo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get it? I thought it was funny.

Recommended Game – Deck Heroes: Legacy

by A.J. Coltrane

Deck Heroes: Legacy  – An android-based free-to-play collectible “battle” card game.

Basically, you collect creature and hero cards, assemble a mini-deck of 7-10 creatures and one hero, then battle computer-run decks. When in combat the object is to either eliminate all of the opposing creatures, or reduce the opposing hero to zero hit points. There’s a campaign with around 100 nodes to clear. After that their idea is that you’re hooked enough to spend money in the pay-to-win endgame.

The creature and hero cards fall into one of four factions — human, faen (elf), mortii (undead), and neander (beast). Heroes are functionally “generals” — they don’t directly fight, but they can buff your creatures, or damage or impede the opposing creatures.  Cards from the same faction tend to have synergies, such as “all cards of this type get +100 damage”. The cards can be upgraded (leveled), and can be augmented with collectible runes.

A couple of minuses:

Deck Heroes can be played as free-to-play, though the progress gets pretty slow after a while.

The art can be sexist, with ridiculous boobs everywhere. Here’s one of the tamer cards:

flame brave

Flame Brave is a caster. The pictured card is level 0, with 238 attack and 849 health. A level 10 version of that card would have 428 attack and 1399 health.

All of the cards gain more and better abilities as they level up. Her level 0 version also deals 150-250 damage to one random enemy creature. At level 5 she gains the “deal 210-350 damage to all enemy creatures”. Then at level 10 she gets “inflicts ‘flaming’ on all enemy creatures, causing them to lose 120 HP after their action.”

Overall Deck Heroes has some decent depth and strategy for an Android title.

Recommended game if you can put up with the artwork.

 

Dominating the AFC Championship Game

By Blaidd Drwg

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about how the Pats have been to 12 AFC championship game and the Broncos to 9 in the last 3 decades. That is a pretty good run, but it got me thinking, what about Super Bowls? I decided to shrink the window and only look at the last 21 years. Why, you might ask, well, I figured I would be looking at the expansion era in the NFL, which started in 1995 and from 1991-1994, the Buffalo Bills were the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, so 1995 seemed like a good place to start.

So since 1995, there have been 8 AFC teams that have represented the conference:

Team Number Of SB Appearances % of AFC Total
Patriots 7 33%
Steelers 4 19%
Broncos 3 14%
Ravens 2 10%
Colts 2 10%
Raiders 1 5%
Chargers 1 5%
Titans 1 5%

 

There is a bit of rounding there, but, counting this year because it will be either the Pats or Broncos representing the AFC, the Pats, Broncos and Steelers represent 15 out of the last 22 AFC champions, or 68% of the appearances, with the other 32% represented by the remaining 5 teams on the list, meaning there are 8 AFC teams that have not made the Super Bowl in the last 21 years. What about the NFC you might ask? Well, in the same time period, no NFC team has been to more than 3 (Seattle, GB and the Giants are all at 3) and only 3 teams have been to more than 1 (SF, the Rams and the winner of the  Carolina/Arizona game this weekend). Talk about dominance vs. parity.

So it got me thinking, if the Pats, Steelers and Broncos have been to that many Super Bowls, how have the fared in AFC Championship game appearances? Well those numbers are quite scary:

Team Number of AFC Championship Appearances % of Total Possible Appearances % of Conference Total
Patriots 11 52% 26%
Steelers 8 38% 19%
Colts 5 24% 12%
Broncos 5 24% 12%
Ravens 4 19% 10%
Jets 3 14% 7%
Chargers 2 9% 5%
Titans 2 9% 5%
Raiders 2 9% 5%

 

The list of teams that have been to the Super Bowl is no less dominating when you factor in the AFC championship game. Heck the only team that has been to the AFC championship game that has not been to the Super Bowl in the last 21 years are the Jets, losing all 3 times they appeared in the conference championship.

So next time someone wants to talk about the “dominance” of the Seahawks, just remember, the last time that the Patriots were NOT in the AFC championship game was 2010 (they lost to the Jets in the divisional round) and the last time they did not make the playoffs was 2008, when Brady was out the entire year and they still finished 11-5 and managed to not make the playoffs because of tie-breakers for their division and the wild card. Actually the last time the Patriots failed to win 10 games was 2002 (they were 9-7) and the last time they didn’t make the playoffs was last century, when they finished 5-11 in 2000, with some coach named Belichick, who was in his first year with the team and that Brady guy was their third string QB, behind Drew Bledsoe and the combination of John Friesz and Michael Bishop.

You won’t find a bigger hater of the Pats than me, but, damn, even I have to concede that is a long time to be that dominant.

What I Had In Mind Focaccia

by A.J. Coltrane

A two-hour focaccia:

150117 focaccia

I feel like this may have been the best “quick” focaccia yet.

The Tweaks:

  1.  3% olive oil in the dough. That’s lower than in oil than most of the focaccias I’ve made in the past. The crumb was lighter than in past attempts, and the bread got a lot more “lift”.
  2.  The dough was allowed to rest for 30 minutes before it was moved to the pan. I think this also improved the finished crumb structure.
  3.  A 450F oven. (Rather than 425F.)  The crust came out quite a bit browner and crisper as a result.

It made a terrific dinner with a bit of cheese and SeattleAuthor’s charcuterie:

150117 charcuterie

The formula:  400 grams Bread Flour, 280 grams room-temperature water (70% hydration), 12 grams olive oil (3%), 9 grams kosher salt (2.25%), 1 teaspoon instant yeast.

  1.  Combine ingredients in the mixer and mix on low speed for 10 minutes.
  2.  Lightly coat the dough and bowl with oil, cover, and let rest 30 minutes.
  3.  Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment. Lightly oil the parchment.
  4.  Transfer the dough to the oiled parchment, pulling it gently to the edges of the pan.
  5.  Cover and let rise ~1.5 hours.
  6.  Drizzle the top with olive oil. I used a rosemary-oregano olive oil that we received as a holiday gift.
  7.  Oil your fingers and dimple the top.
  8.  Bake 22 minutes at 450F.  Remove to a cooling rack when done.

 

For comparison, here’s a 100% hydration, 6% olive oil focaccia from 2014. It couldn’t be dimpled because it was already collapsing under its own weight. It was baked at 425F and even with the higher oil content it was a lot lighter in color. Here’s another that was baked at 425F. And another. None of them are all that brown.

 

Memories of Monte Irvin

By Blaidd Drwg

Yesterday I as saddened to hear of the passing of Monte Irvin on the 11th of January at age 96. If you don’t know who Irvin was, he was a former NY Giant great and the first baseball Hall of Famer I ever met, back in the early 1980’s at a baseball card show at St. Peter’s College in New Jersey (I was probably 10 or 11 at the time). He appeared with another former Giant teammate Dusty Rhodes. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the both of them for about 20 minutes to talk baseball since there was no one there getting autographs. I remember Rhodes talking about how he became a tugboat captain after he retired from baseball and Irvin talked about his experiences in the Negro Leagues, which I knew very little about at the time. Thanks to Irvin, I became interested in Negro League history, which at the time, was not easy to find any information about and it is directly responsible for me being a long time supporter of the Negro League Museum in KC, a place that I sadly have not yet been to. Rhodes passed away in 2009 (not before I had a series of correspondences with him about his post-baseball career and I still have the letters that he sent – yep, we corresponded old school and I do have an unhealthy obsession with tugboats) and with Irvin passing on the 11th, we lost yet another link to the Negro Leagues.

I am sure that Irvin had no idea that a 20 minute conversation he had with a kid 30 years ago would have such an impact, and, frankly, I had not realized it myself until I reflected on my interaction with Irvin. A friend of mine sent me a link to an article on nj.com about Irvin’s passing, written by someone who actually knew him. I would suggest reading the article, but I wanted to include a snippet of it just to make a point about how much the Negro Leagues meant to Irvin:

There was a moment about a decade ago when I researched all the Hall of Famers who played in Newark for the New York Yankees farm team called the Bears, the Eagles and the turn-of-the-century Newark Indians. Joe DiVincenzo, the Essex County Executive had hung plaques for a ring of honor just above façade behind home plate at the Bears and Eagles baseball stadium in Newark.

Monte was one of them. He was in a wheelchair, and afterward I walked over to him and hugged him. Monte, being Monte, the conversation went like this:

“Listen,” he said, “I’ve got to tell you something. You can’t die.”

“Ever?” I said.

“Never,” he said. ”You are the last writer to ever see us play in the Negro Leagues. You die and that leaves nobody to tell our story. The kids won’t even believe we had a league. Don’t die.”

So in honor of Irvin’s passing, go read a book on tugboats, or the a book I highly recommend on the Negro Leagues, “When Only the Ball Was White.” Better yet, go make a donation to the Negro League Museum – a place that would not existed if it were not for the efforts of guys like Buck O’Neil and Monte Irvin and lets make sure a very important piece of American history does not get forgotten once those who were part of it are all gone.

A Post-Holiday Pizza

by A.J. Coltrane

The holidays are past, and that means one thing:  It’s now time to empty out the refrigerator before stuff turns.

A very fast weeknight pizza:

160111 pizza

The dough:  400 grams bread flour, 120 grams water, 120 grams beer (the beer was a holiday gift — for reference, the water and beer combine to create a very normal ~60% hydration in total, if you don’t count the beer solids), 1 tablespoon dry oregano, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon “garlic infused olive oil” (another holiday gift), 8 grams kosher salt, 1 tsp instant yeast. Mix on low speed for 10 minutes, lightly coat the bowl and dough with oil, cover, and let rise for up to two hours. I only let it go an hour since we were hungry.

The Topping Ingredients:  Garlic olive oil (that same gift as above), TJ’s “Bruschetta” sauce (mostly tomatoes and garlic), SeaStack cheese, herbed goat cheese (both cheeses left over from entertaining guests), diced Boar’s Head salami (another gift), crumbled cooked bacon (we bought too much bacon for guests). The outer crust got Penzy’s “Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle” (another gift — finely grated dried romano cheese with dried garlic, dried basil, and green peppercorns.)

The Process:  

  1.  Preheat a pizza stone to 500F
  2.  Lightly oil a pizza pan. Form the dough on the pan, leaving a lip around the perimeter.
  3.  Lightly oil the entire top of the pizza, including the rim. Spread ~1 cup of the “Bruschetta sauce” on the dough.  Top with diced salami. Dust the “Cheese Sprinkle” around the crust.
  4.  Combine the cheeses and bacon, set aside in a bowl.
  5.  Bake for 10 minutes.
  6.  Top with the cheese and bacon.
  7.  Bake 4 minutes.

There are a few good “weeknight cheats” this time. Substituting beer for the water creates flavor when there’s not enough time for flavor to happen naturally. The addition of sugar adds flavor, somewhat helps the dough rise, and promotes browning. The flavored oil can be thrown around liberally, and that helps too.

The ingredients were excellent. The Penzy’s Sprinkle and flavored oil both added interest to the crust. I’m sure the Penzy’s thing is overpriced, but it’s really good. Romano cheese on the crust may be my new not-so-secret weapon.

Finally… bacon.

Everything exuded some liquid, so the pizza wasn’t crisp. Still, it was very tasty, and made for a good way to Use Things Up.

I’d be ok with eating like that all the time.

Recommended Game: Bang!

by A.J. Coltrane

Title:  Bang!  (We own Bang! The Bullet, which includes the expansions.)

Game Type:  Shoot ’em up card game.Bang Bullet

Number of Players:   4-8. Better with more.

Complexity of Rules:  Low. It’s a party game rather than a “deep” game.

Time to Play:   The box says 20-40 minutes. With our group it’s usually 30 minutes or less.

The Concept:   It’s a spaghetti western! One player plays as the Sheriff. All of the players know who the Sheriff is. Everyone else secretly plays either as a Deputy, an Outlaw, or the Renegade. The Sheriff and Deputies win if they kill the Outlaws and Renegade. The Outlaws win if they kill the Sheriff. The Renegade wins by killing everyone except himself. In addition to that, each player plays as a random (in)famous person from the old west — all featuring different bonuses and drawbacks.

At the start of the game you only own a pistol, and you can only shoot at the person next to you. You can increase your reach around the table by drawing a rifle card, or a scope card. If you get a horse card it effectively makes you further away from your enemies. You can hide behind barrels. You can pass lighted dynamite around the table. You can recover health by drinking beer..

Why I Like It:  It’s fun, fast, and violent. A big part of the game is figuring out Who is Who, or at least Who you think is Who. The secret roles mean that there’s often a feeling out process before the shooting begins in earnest, but once it does the game can get really chaotic. It’s light on strategy, but playing smart still helps.

We bring it out almost every GNOIF, and it’s always a hit.

No pun intended.

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BoardGameGeek page here.

A Low-Oil Focaccia

by A.J. Coltrane

A low-oil focaccia to go with stew:

151227 focaccia

I think it’s still technically a focaccia, with oil in the dough and oil on top.

The formula:  400 g bread flour, 280 g water (70%), 12 g olive oil (3%), 10 g kosher salt (2.5%), 1 tsp instant yeast. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes, then next-to-low speed for 10 minutes. Let rest one hour, then stretch and fold. Move the dough to a parchment-lined and oiled pan, gently stretching the dough to the edges of the pan. Cover and let rest until almost doubled. Top with oil and dimple the surface. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes.

The rise was better than usual, partly because of the lowish oil content, and also because I did a stretch and fold on the dough after an hour, before moving it to the focaccia pan.

It’s a good bread for soaking up stew, whether it’s a focaccia or something else again.

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Pictured is the boy cat in a basket that was to be loaded with bread for transport. Behind him is the “mobile cutting board”. Room temperature butter is balanced on the back left corner of the basket:

151227 boy cat

He had other ideas.