Being a Baseball Detective

(This post was originally published on the Start Spreading the News Yankees blog.)

On Thursday night, SSTN writer Michael Saffer and I attended a live taping of Yankees Hot Stove at the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, New Jersey.  It was a great event. 

The theater/studio at the Yogi Berra is a great venue.  It’s small and intimate.  A person in the audience gets the sense that the presenters (in this case the Yankees Hot Stove Team) are actually talking with you – and at times they were.

Located in that studio is a replica Yankee Stadium scoreboard.  (See the picture above.)  Each time I attend an event at the Yogi Berra Museum, I wonder what game that scoreboard is supposed to reflect.  As such, I decided that I would figure it out using the wonderful tools at BaseballReference.com, my Yankees knowledge, and some common sense.

Being a Baseball Detective:

The scoreboard depicts a game played at Yankee Stadium between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.  The game is in the 7th inning.  The Yankees are winning 3-0.  

Both the Red Sox and Yankees line-ups are displayed.  These will obviously tell me the players in the game.  This will give me a great place to begin my search.

The Yankees line-up is listed as the following.  I’ll share my thoughts on who the players are as I list the lineup.

  • #1, 2b – My initial guess here is Bobby Richardson.  
  • #10, SS – I’m thinking this is Tony Kubek
  • #7, CF – Here’s an easy one, this is Mickey Mantle
  • #8, C – Yogi Berra (this is obvious)
  • #9, RF – I would think this is Roger Maris
  • #11, LF – Since this looks to be an early 1960’s team, my guess here is Hector Lopez
  • #20, 1B – Is this Moose Skowron?
  • #12, 3B – I reason that this would then have to be Clete Boyer
  • #16, P – And this would be Whitey Ford

To me, it is obvious from the start that the game depicted is from the early 1960’s.  All signs point that way.  I am quite certain that my uniform number knowledge is accurate for Bobby Richardson, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford.  I also think I’m correct on all the others, except #20.  I’m not certain that Moose Skowron wore #20.

Baseball Reference actually lists every single Yankees player by uniform number.  My first step then is to double check my suppositions.

Well, a detective has to admit when he’s wrong.  First, I was correct on seven of the uniform numbers.  I was also correct that Moose Skowron never wore #20.  The uniform number I was incorrect with was #12.  Clete Boyer wore #6. 

I decide to look closer at #20.  I quickly see and learn that in the years that Yogi Berra played for the Yankees, only one player who ever played first base wore uniform #20 – Marv Throneberry.  This is a huge lead in cracking this case!  Marv Throneberry only wore that number as a Yankee in 1958 and 1959.

What I decide to do next is use the Game Log feature on Baseball Reference.  I decided to search Throneberry’s 1958 and 1959 seasons to see any games where he played in Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox.  By my logic, the scoreboard has to be from one of those games.

In 1958, Throneberry played against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on the following dates: July 5, July 6, August 9, August 10 (2 games), and September 3.  I looked each game – at the inning by inning scores of those games.  None matched the scoreboard in the Museum, with the Yankees scoring one run in the bottom of the third inning and two more in the bottom of the fifth inning.  Whitey Ford also didn’t start any of those games.  That seemed to eliminate any game from 1958.

I now decided to look at 1959, quite certain that I had narrowed down my search.  My logic and reasoning thus far I consider to be flawless. 

In 1959, Marv Throneberry played first base at home against the Red Sox on the following dates:

  • APRIL 12  – I’m thinking that this might be Opening Day and that I found it, but, the inning by inning scores don’t match and Whitey Ford didn’t pitch.  Darn!  
  • AUGUST 15 – Now my heart sinks, it’s August already and I’m running out of games… And this game isn’t it…
  • AUGUST 16 (2 Games) – Nor are these games – both ends of a double header…
  • September 18 – Also comes up empty…

And then I come across SEPTEMBER 19, 1959

  • – The Yankees scored one run in the third and two in the 5th…
  • – Whitey Ford pitched!
  • – The rest of the line-up matches! (Although my initial guesses at some of the players were wrong.  The right fielder, since it was 1959, was Hank Bauer.  The third baseman, #12, was Gil McDougald.)

I did it!  This was the game!

But it brings up another question… why this game, of all games, the one displayed in Yogi Berra’s Museum?  I look-up how Yogi performed… and it makes no sense!

In that game, Yogi Berra went 0-for 4 with four ground outs including hitting into a double play.  Whitey Ford pitched a four hitter – that was good.  Maybe Yogi Berra felt this was a great game he called?

I look further.  There was one home run hit in the game.

It was hit by….        Marv Throneberry!

Amazing.

I still had no idea why that was the game that memorialized on the wall in the studio.  And then I thought.. could it have been a special day?  

Further research led me to the obvious conclusion.  On September 19, 1959, the Yankees hosted a special day at the stadium:  Yogi Berra Day.

Being a baseball detective is fun!

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