The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Gene Burd v. History pt.2

with one comment

(…continued from yesterday…)

My first instinct was to check out my hunch about Musial’s size.  Strike one:  Musial is listed at 6 ft., 175 lbs.  He was only an inch taller than Juan Pierre, and they’re the same weight.  It seems perfectly logical to me, then, that any player that size would have the requisite speed to motor all the way around the bases if the opportunity presented itself.  I kicked myself, too, for not remembering that Musial played the outfield.  That should have been testimony enough to his speed.  To my credit, though, Musial only ever stole 78 bases.  So I’ll take a strike on that one, albeit a foul tip.

I was barely into my research and the old man was already inside my head.  I got to thinking that Forbes Field may have been awkward or cavernous; maybe there was a Bermuda Triangle somewhere in the outfield where balls disappeared.  That wasn’t uncommon in old ballparks–for instance, center field at Tiger Stadium was 500 feet at one time, and some balls that flew all the way out there still haven’t been found.  Some quick research showed that though the original fences at Forbes Field were 360′-422′-376′ left-center-right, at the time Gene would have seen Musial, they had been reconfigured to 365′-400′-329′.  That’s a lot of real estate in left field and to the left field power alley, but considering that Musial batted lefty, it’s not likely that he found that territory with his alleged hit.  That was enough for me to think the count is even, one ball and one strike, but my argument doesn’t stand.  Further research uncovered more exact numbers that showed the right field power alley was 408′ (!) and straight-away centerfield was 435′ (the wall was 457′ a little off-center).  That plays right into Musial’s lefty prowess, and looking at a schematic of the field made me think that maybe I could hit an inside-the-park home run on a well-placed shot:

I deserved a strike on that one for doing sloppy research.

I fell to 0-2 in the count and stepped out of the batter box to regain my focus.  I remembered that a lot of what Gene claims is completely legitimate.  I would never doubt that he went to his share of games at Forbes Field.  He grew up forty miles outside of Pittsburgh, and has spoken before of going to games at Forbes.  He has told me about getting detention for going to a home opener when he should have been in school, though I can’t remember where he said he was on October 13, 1960 when Bill Mazeroski killed the Yankees.  I got to thinking that maybe I was in over my head and banking too heavily on my research skills to debunk my old man.  I thought about just giving up.  What’s the harm in letting him have his memory?  Then I came back to reality.  This was family, and any one of them would do it to me if they had half a chance.

So with Gene ahead in the count, I started digging through the stats from every season Musial was active.  I started at 1950 on a whim, thinking that my dad was definitely old enough at that time to remember being at a game, to recognize specific players, and to remember significant events like inside-the-park home runs.  I looked at the hundred or so boxscores of games Musial played at Forbes, but only a few showed him having hit a home run.  Of the dozen or so double-headers, none featured a Musial homerun.  It wasn’t long before I felt as though I had seen enough evidence contrary to Gene’s claim to pull even in the count at 2 balls, 2 strikes.

After two hours of checking the books, I started to worry that maybe my own memory isn’t what I claim it is.  Maybe that inside-the-park job I attributed to Juan Pierre wasn’t what really happened at all.  I share blood with Mike after all, and maybe I’m exaggerating without realizing it.  Maybe my recollection of what happened was what I wanted it to be, not what it was.  In two clicks of the mouse, I jumped over to the Florida Marlins on baseball-reference.com.  I got my reassurance within a few minutes:  On June 13, 2004, Pierre hit an inside-the-park home run off of Craig Dingman on a line-drive to right field in the top of the 6th inning .  Though I thought it happened in 2005, being almost entirely correct is enough to build my confidence and move myself ahead of the old man in the count, 3-2.  I called timeout.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I made my last effort by checking games as far back as the year Musial debuted in the big leagues.  Working backwards from 1950, I found over a dozen more instances of St. Louis playing double-headers at Forbes, but none of them showed Musial hitting a homer in the nightcap.  He hit one on September 3, 1944 in game one of a twin bill, but that that didn’t fit the description dad gave.

Finally, I had backtracked all the way to 1941, the year Musial made his major-league debut as a September call-up.  He premiered in right field in the second game of a double-header against Boston on Wednesday, September 17.  Six days later, on Tuesday, September 23, he played both ends of a double-header at Forbes Field.  When I checked the boxscore for the nightcap, I saw that Musial scored three runs on three hits, including a home run off Rip Sewell with a runner on base in the fifth inning.  The scoring didn’t indicate if the ball was hit into the stands or if it stayed in play, but it was enough to douse any flames of doubt about Gene’s memory.  I had struck out. 

So after a weekend of swimming in a sea of baseball stats, I headed back to the dugout with my head down.  It’s okay, though; I don’t mind wiffing against the old man.  I’m pleased with having worked a full count.  I’m happier still to know that the old man’s memory is holding up pretty well despite his advancing years.  If nothing else, I understand now how Chris can make his phenomenal claim to early-life memories.  He must have inherited that ability from Gene, because when he allegedly witnessed Musial’s feat of power and speed, Gene would only have been four years old.

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Written by seeker70

May 19, 2011 at 7:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. What a great story.

    Andrew Burd

    May 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm


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