Bregman Hitless Streak Unusual But Understandable
By John Ventola
Major league baseball streaks of any kind can make a player famous—or infamous.
Mention hitting streak to any knowledgeable baseball fan and the name Joe DiMaggio immediately rolls off their tongue. His unbelievable 56-game hitting streak from May 15 to July 17, 1941 stands as the target—as unachievable as it is with today’s pitching specialization—for all hitters
Pete Rose made a run at DiMaggio’s streak in the summer of 1978 when he went on a
44-game hit streak for the Cincinnati Reds. The switch-hitting Rose was 69 for 178 during his streak, a hot .388 batting average.
Hall of Famer Paul Molitor enjoyed a 39-game hitting streak in 1987 and infielder Jimmy Rollins hit in 38 consecutive games in late 2005, early 2006.
DiMaggio hit .408 (91 for 223) during his magical streak with 15 home runs and 55 runs-batted-in. In the game his hit-streak ended, he walked. He would go on to reach base in
74 consecutive games. Ted Williams, the superstar of the rival Boston Red Sox, hit .406 for the entire season to win the American League batting title (the last major leaguer to hit .400), but DiMaggio was named the league Most Valuable Player.
Joltin Joe also had a 61-game hitting streak in the Pacific Coast League in 1933 for the San Francisco Seals. That still stands as the second longest minor league game hitting streak. Chap named Joe Wilhoit had a 69-game streak in 1919.
The hitless game that ended DiMaggio’s streak cost him $10,000 (a lot of money during that pre-WWII summer). Heinz Corporation offered that amount to him providing he got a hit in that game to promote their Heinz 57 ketchup.
On the opposite side of baseball statistics are the players who became famous for their futility—or bad luck—at bat. Mike Mordacai, a player who brought shame to the designated hitter role, actually was 0 for 47 during a 43-game hitless streak in 1997 thru 1999. Question to be posed, who was the manager/managers who kept sending him up to the plate?
Robin Ventura, who held college baseball’s longest hitting streak when he played for Oklahoma State, and became a solid major league hitter, also suffered through a noteworthy 15-game hitless streak from April 21 to May 9, 1990. Ventura was hitless in 39 official at bats.
Former LSU star shortstop Alex Bregman found himself mired in a five-game 0 for 17
batting slump to start his major league career before singling today for his first major league hit. He went 1 for 5 in a 11-0 spanking by the Detroit Tigers Sunday.. The second overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft will get over the slump hump and become a productive big league hitter. The ability is there. Bregman tore up Double A and Triple A leagues this year before taking the field for the Astros Monday night. He has hit a couple warning track power shots and seems to be getting good cuts. Baseball can be cruel sometimes, particularly when it comes to rookies. One for twenty-two will not define Bregman.
However, that is not always the case. Ted Cox could not pierce the Red Sox starting lineup in 1977, but the young DH made an auspicious major league debut when he hit safely in his first six plate appearances, going four-for-four in his first game and following up with two consecutive hits in the next game.
Chuck Aleno, who played for Cincinnati between 1941 and 1944, started his career with a 17-game hitting streak from May 5, ’41 to May 31. Despite that great start (think they use to call them “a flash in the pan”), Aleno finished his four-year major league stay with a career batting average of .209 with only two home runs.
Bregman can take heed—-it is not how you start, it is how you finish!
In 1961 Louisiana had two outstanding high school hitters. Daniel (Rusty) Staub of Jesuit High in New Orleans and Dalton Jones of Istrouma High in Baton Rouge. The
fledgling Houston Colt .45s made Staub their top selection while Jones, who was personally scouted by Ted Williams, was picked by the Boston Red Sox.
Jones had a decent MLB career, playing on the 1967 AL pennant winners, but Staub went on to have an outstanding career with five teams between 1963 and 1980.
As talented a hitter as Staub was, I can remember going to old Colt 45 Stadium with my dad in 1963 and watching him struggle during his first season. He did not come into his own as a major league hitter until 1965, the year the Astrodome opened. In 1963, Staub hit only .220 and made a couple of trips down to Oklahoma City (The Colt .45s Triple A team).
A career .279 hitter, Staub became the second player since 1900 to play in 150 major league games as a teen-ager. He starred for the expansion Montreal Expos (’69-’71) and the New York Mets (’72-’75) before finishing his 18-year career with stops in Detroit and Texas around a half-year return to Montreal.
Bregman (LSU, but Albuquerque native) and Staub give this blog a Louisiana flair as far as hitting, but on the opposite side of the game (pitching) a former Lousiana prepster holds the record for futility.
Former Baker High pitcher Terry Felton worked his way through the Minnesota Twins
organization in short order. The right-hander was described as having “good stuff” but the Baseball gods did not look down on him. In 55 career games, 48 games as a reliever, Felton posted a 0-16 record, losing all thirteen of his decisions in 1982.
Twins pitching coach Johnny Podres, the pitching star of the 1955 World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers, said repeatedly that Felton had all the pitches, but would make crucial mistakes in key situations. The 0 and 13 season ended Felton’s career, and he went on to become a deputy with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s office.
Streaks are memorable. While they should not define a player, they give a glimpse at times of unusual productivity in their careers. Bregman is off to a shaky start, but now that he has his first hit, this blogger sees a long, productive major league career ahead for him.
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