The Associated Press still sends out these league statistics, even though you won’t find them in nearly as many Sunday newspapers. The hitters are listed by batting average and the pitchers by earned run average for each league. There are a minimum of at-bats and innings pitched required to be among the names listed.
It was those Sunday stats that led to perhaps the best of all the great quotes uttered by George Brett. In 1980, he said, “The first thing I look at in the Sunday paper is who is below the Mendoza line.’’
This was a reference to Mario Mendoza, a light-hitting shortstop who often was stuck below .200 and near the bottom of the listed hitters.
“I got off to a great start with the Mets in 1982,’’ Gardenhire said. “The first week the averages were in the Sunday paper, I was leading the league, hitting .420-something. I got a scissors, clipped out the top few names, and still have that tiny piece of the Sunday paper.’’
8the baseball bible
The Sporting News was founded in 1886 and owned by the Spink family until 1977. It carried “The Baseball Bible’’ on its masthead for many decades. You could find a week’s worth of boxscores, and feature stories and notes for each big-league team.
I was a Sporting News correspondent for the Twins for a few years in the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s. By then, the baseball emphasis was lessened to some degree, and mostly what the editors wanted in the winter was a notebook.
Ron Jackson had come to the Twins along with Danny Goodwin for Disco Dan Ford in December 1978. His nickname of “Papa Jack’’ fit his gregarious personality. He had a good first season in 1979, and a poor one in 1980.
That winter, the TSN correspondent used a throwaway line about Papa Jack being more like Papa Up the previous season. And that spring, when I first arrived at Tinker Field, Jackson came roaring in my direction in a rage.
That was the danger of covering the hometown ballclub for the Sporting News — everyone read it.
The Sporting News’ de-emphasis of the game has continued until it’s more a baseball verse these days, with a website and publication heavy on NFL coverage, this century’s national pastime.
9collecting baseball cards
The basic of baseball-card collecting in the 1950s was to buy a Topps pack that included five cards and a stick of cardboard-like bubble gum. The heartbreak was to open a pack and find Wilmer “Vinegar Bend’’ Mizell as the biggest name … no Mays, no Mantle, no Campanella, not even a Moose Skowron.
Through the years, other card companies have surfaced, thrived and left, multiple cards were issued for players during the year by each company, and collectors moved to buying full, boxed sets.
Tsamis made 41 appearances for the Twins as a lefthanded reliever with a 6.19 ERA.
“I collected every Ken Griffey Jr. card I could get my hands on, and my brother collected every Frank Thomas,’’ Tsamis said. “I must have 30, 40 Griffeys; whatever companies were issuing cards, I’d get the Griffeys.’’