Sunday Notes: Bill Haselman Recalls the Brawl That Almost Broke Cal’s Streak

Bill Haselman precipitated a memorable brawl on June 6, 1993. Plunked by a Mike Mussina pitch, the Seattle Mariners catcher charged the mound and proceeded to tackle the Baltimore Orioles right-hander. The melee that followed was a doozy. Tussles involving numerous players took place all around the infield, and when all was said and done, seven players were ejected, and at least four were injured — including one who had played in 1,790 consecutive games.

“It was just a weird situation,” recalled Haselman, three decades later. “Chris Bosio was pitching for us — he’d come back from a broken collarbone — and he threw balls behind Mark McLemore and Harold Reynolds. The first one wasn’t on purpose. The one he threw behind Reynolds [in the bottom of the sixth inning] was on purpose. Reynolds had bunted for a hit against him with two strikes, and he’d also always hit Bosio well [14-for-28 lifetime]. Back then, that’s what you did: you hit a guy. The pitch went behind him.

“We come up in the seventh and Mussina punches out Jay Buhner and Mackey Sasser,” continued Haselman, who is now a coach for the Los Angeles Angels. “I’m up next, and I had an idea of what might happen. I never had any thought of charging the mound — I’d never done it in my life — but for some reason, I did. It was ‘Boom!” Then there was a brawl.”

Haselman had homered off of Mussina earlier in the game, but the erstwhile backstop doesn’t believe that had any bearing on the HBP. Rather, it was because Bosio had thrown behind a pair of Birds. Mussina’s pitch didn’t miss, and that fact that it was a shoulder shot contributed heavily to Haselman’s impromptu mound visit. “I didn’t like it being so high, near my head,” he explained. “That’s why I went out there.”

Haselman doesn’t necessarily regret having charged the mound all those years ago. That wouldn’t be the case had an iconic Oriole not been able to take the field the next night.

“The thing I felt bad about, which I didn’t find out about until later is that Cal Ripken Jr. almost missed a game because of that fight,” said Haselman. “His knee got twisted. Fortunately he was able to continue his streak. I wouldn’t want to be known for it ending.”

Ripken went on to surpass Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak in 1995, then went on to play 501 more games. Ripken’s record — uninterrupted by a doozy of a brawl — is 2,632 games.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Footsie Blair went 5 for 12 against Clise Dudley.

Dud Lee went 3 for 5 against Garland Buckeye.

Chick Fewster went 2 for 6 against Hi Bell.

Lu Blue went 2 for 7 against By Speece.

Daff Gammons went 3 for 3 against Cowboy Jones.

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Mitch Keller is off to a strong start this season. The 27-year-old right-hander has taken the mound six times, and is 3-0 with a 3.53 ERA and a 3.65 FIP. His most recent outing was especially stellar. Keller fanned 10 batters over six innings in Pittsburgh’s 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that he did so with a diverse array of offerings says a lot about his emergence as a quality big-league hurler.

“In the minor leagues, I just threw the ball really hard and had a good curveball,” said Keller, whom the Pirates took in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “I was pretty much a two-pitch pitcher, and now I’ve got six pitches. The execution is a lot higher, as well. So, the evolution has been about growing in pitches — I’ve added to my arsenal — and again, I’m executing them better.”

Keller initially built on his four-seamer/curveball combo by adding a cutter-slider. That was in 2019. He subsequently introduced a sinker and a sweeping slider, and he also throws a changeup, a pitch that “was pretty much non-existent in the minors.”

The reason for adding a sweeping slider was pretty straightforward.

“I was having inconsistent results with my original slider, so I changed grips to make it a sweeper,” explained Keller. “This was last season. We started tinkering with it, and the numbers were pretty good on the TrackMan, so we decided we could use it in a game. About a week later I threw a couple in a game, and it kind of took off from there.”

Per Baseball Savant, Keller’s mix against the Dodgers was 31 four-seamers, 25 cutter-sliders, 18 sinkers, eight curveballs, eight sweepers, and seven changeups. His fastball averaged 94.6 mph and maxed out at 97.4 mph.

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A quiz:

The Cincinnati Reds have 1,228 wins against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the franchise’s most against any team. Against which team do they have the most losses?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

Dick Groat, whose 14 big-league seasons included nine with the Pirates, died earlier this week at age 92. A shortstop who won World Series rings with Pittsburgh in 1960, and with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964, Groat was named NL MVP in 1960 after leading the senior circuit with a .325 batting average.

Dennis Ribant, a right-hander who appeared in 149 games while pitching for six teams from 1964-1969, died this week at age 82. The Detroit native had his best season with the New York Mets in 1966 when he went 11-9 with a 3.20 ERA.

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The answer to the quiz is the St. Louis Cardinals, who have beaten the Reds 1,299 times.

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Nolan Gorman has cooled off after a hot start — the Cardinals infielder is 3-for-19 over his last six games — but he’s nonetheless been a bright spot for a St. Louis team that has won just 10 of 27 games. Looking to establish himself after a largely uninspiring 2022 rookie season that included a demotion to Triple-A, Gorman is slashing .279/.370/.547 with six home runs and a 149 wRC+ over 100 plate appearances.

Gorman was 18 years old and had recently been promoted to High-A Peoria when I first spoke to him in 2018, this for inclusion in an August Sunday Notes column that summer. When I caught up to him this spring, I asked the lefty swinger how he’s changed as a hitter since our nearly-five-years-ago conversation.

“I’ve definitely changed,” Gorman replied. “I mean, it depends on… actually, it doesn’t depend on anything. I’ve changed in many different ways. I’ve been able to come up with a game plan. and I went through some swing changes this offseason to protect the upper part of the zone.”

As my colleague Esteban Rivera noted earlier this month, those changes included eliminating excess head movement and a flatter entry into the zone — adjustments Gorman had cited during our recent spring-training convo. He readily admitted that an inability to handle elevated fastballs was his biggest weakness last year.

“Everyone knew that was a part of my game that had to change, including myself,” said Gorman. “It wasn’t like I needed them to come to me and tell me, ‘Hey, you need to fix this.’ I knew how I was getting exposed, and what I needed to do.”

Gorman had previously made mechanical changes in 2019, these on a visit to Driveline in 2019.

“We worked on using my lower half better,” explained Gorman. “I was very handsy when I was younger — that’s something I battle all the time — and I need to use my whole body. The hands have to play, but at the same time, you’ve got to get into your legs. You’ve got to use your posture — use your positioning — to get off your A-swing.”

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Hiroshima Carp third baseman Matt Davidson blasted a home run that hit a Kirin Beer billboard above the left field seats at Tokyo Dome on Friday, reportedly earning him one million JPY (equal to $7,336) and a year’s worth of Kirin Beer.

Masashi Itoh tossed a two-hitter on Thursday as the Hanshin Tigers trounced the Yomiuri Giants 15-0. The Tigers then logged back-to-back shutouts of the Yakult Swallows, winning 4-0 on Friday and 7-0 on Saturday. Shoki Murakami, who has yet to allow a run in 25 innings, went the first eight frames in the most recent whitewash.

Kenya Suzuki is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA over 19 innings for NPB’s Nippon Ham Fighters. The 25-year-old right-hander has allowed nine hits and one unearned run.

An Woo-jin is 2-1 with a 0.84 ERA over 32 innings for the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes. The 23-year-old right-hander has allowed 16 hits and fanned 46 batters.

Beau Sulser has made three starts and allowed five runs over 20 innings for the KT Wiz. The 28-year-old right-hander is is in his first KBO season after pitching for both the Orioles and Pirates last year.

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The Guardians offense is anything but explosive — the 1927 Yankees they’re not — but they do put a lot of balls in play. Cleveland batters had MLB’s lowest strikeout rate last year at 18.2%, and this season they rank second best at 19.5%. More than anything, that ability to make contact is what stands out about the AL Central club’s lineup.

Alex Cora addressed that quality prior to yesterday at Fenway Park, after which I asked the Red Sox manager a related question: What most stands out about Cleveland’s pitching?

“Through the years, they always find guys,” replied Cora. “What they do in player development is outstanding. Reuben [Niebla] is with the Padres now, but he was very instrumental to their program in the minor leagues. If you look at the guys that have come up throughout the years, they do it right. And they make it simple. They avoid damage. If you look at their plots, from the right-handed pitchers to the right-handed hitters, it’s very similar for everybody — from Corey [Kluber] to [Shane] Bieber, to [Cal] Quantrill, to [Zach] Plesac. They have some great pitching coaches over there. They do an an outstanding job with player development.

“That’s the reason, regardless of what happens payroll-wise,” continued Cora. “Everybody thought when [Francisco] Lindor got traded, ‘Well, it’s going to be tough.’ Well, they got two good players, and they can still pitch. That’s the reason they always compete. On a nightly basis, their starters [and] relievers give them a chance. If their offense does enough, they win ballgames.”

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Sticking with Cleveland, Josh Bell has been the team’s primary designated hitter this season, but he’s not the only Guardian who has seen action at the bat-only position. Five others have as well, and that’s by design. Sans a David Ortiz or Jim Thome-type on his roster, Terry Francona is a believer in mixing and matching.

“If you’re going to have an everyday DH, he’s got to be really good,” the veteran manager told reporters prior to Friday’s game. “Because if you don’t, it handcuffs you in so many other ways. Right now, we can have [José Ramírez] maybe DH once a week and put somebody at third, keeping his bat in the game [and] his legs fresh. If you have that everyday DH that’s clogging it up — they’re not hitting — it can make it tough.”

Francona went on to say that a lot of teams value versatility, and his is among them. Which isn’t to say the Guardians are excelling with the mix-and-match approach. Cleveland’s designated hitters had combined to slash .214/.297/.374 with an 85 wRC+.

That voice in back saying, “Hey, we’ll take that”? That’s coming from Seattle. Almost inexplicably, Mariners DH’s have a 25 wRC+.

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FARM NOTES

The Las Vegas Aviators out-slugged the visiting Tacoma Rainers 18-17 on Thursday night. The two Triple-A clubs combined for 39 hits, including six home runs, and 15 walks. As Rainers broadcaster Mike Curto noted after the game, “People working at Las Vegas Ballpark are convinced that the A’s are going to play two seasons there while the new stadium is built. I’m not sure sure that MLB is prepared for the incredible amounts of scoring that would happen with big league sluggers hitting at this place.”

In a game that was every bit as wild, the Triple-A Iowa Cubs outscored the Louisville Bats 18-16 on Friday afternoon. The teams combined for 42 hits, including nine home runs — seven by the winning side — and there were a dozen walks. Louisville’s Christian Encarnacion-Strand went 5-for-6 and left the yard twice.

Jonatan Clase is slashing .342/.453/.747 with seven home runs in 95 plate appearances for the High-A Everett AquaSox. No. 16 on our Seattle Mariners Top Prospects list, the 20-year-old outfielder has swiped 14 bases in 16 attempts.

Maick Collado is slashing .333/.482/.439 with 21 walks and just nine strikeouts in 83 plate appearances for the Low-A Lynchburg Hillcats. The 20-year-old corner infielder was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Cleveland Guardians in 2019.

Max Rajcic has 22 strikeouts and has yet to walk a batter in 21-and-two-thirds innings for the Low-A Palm Beach Cardinals. Drafted in the sixth round by St. Louis out of UCLA, the 21-year-old righty has allowed 13 hits and three runs.

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Phil Nevin hit the first of his 208 big-league home runs as a rookie outfielder with the Detroit Tigers. I recently asked the now-Los Angeles Angels manager for his memories of the September 3, 1995 milestone.

“I couldn’t tell you the date, but I know it was a day game,” said Nevin, who’d debuted with the Houston Astros in June before being dealt to Detroit in exchange for Mike Henneman two months later. “Albie Lopez was the pitcher and I hit it into the upper deck in right-center field at old Tiger Stadium. I crushed it. Yeah, you never forget your first one.”

Nevin has the ball; what he doesn’t have is video of the blast itself. Not every game was on TV at the time, and as fate would have it, the Sunday afternoon 9-8, 10-inning loss to Cleveland wasn’t televised. Nevin does have Ernie Harwell’s radio call — “I appreciated getting to know Ernie; he was a legend in Detroit” — but the voice of another broadcast icon is even more memorable.

“I have the first home run I hit at Dodger Stadium, with Vin Scully calling it,” explained Nevin. “I grew up listening to him. When I heard Vin Scully say my name for the first time, that was when I felt like, ‘Wow. I’m in the major leagues’ — and I’d been in the major leagues for four years. Vinnie Scully is the guy I went to bed listening to every night.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri looked at how a spinning pitching staff and good vibes have fueled the Pirates to a winning record.

ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle wrote about how the Milwaukee Brewers, fueled by youthful energy, are the most improved team in baseball.

At Sox Machine, Jim Margalus postulated that the White Sox collapse is forcing the front office to consider its own mortality.

Our Esquina’s Manuel Gómez wrote about how Orioles closer Felix “The Mountain” Bautista enters games to “The Wire” whistle, then relaxes by watching anime and documentaries.

Rory Costello wrote about Negro Leagues outfielder Leovigildo Xiqués for the SABR BioProject.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The Colorado Rockies have been charged with 21 errors this season, the most in the majors. The San Diego Padres have been charged with six errors, the fewest in the majors.

The Milwaukee Brewers have 26 Defensive Runs Saved, the most in the majors. The Oakland Athletics have minus-31 Defensive Runs Saved, by far the worst mark in the majors. The Cincinnati Reds are second from the bottom with minus-19 DRS.

Toronto’s Whit Merrifield is 51-for-127 (.402) in 31 career games versus the Red Sox. The Blue Jays are in Boston for four games beginning tomorrow.

LaTroy Hawkins went 15-3 with two saves and a 2.00 ERA in 139 relief appearances comprising 157-and-two-thirds innings for the Twins in 2002-2003. The right-hander primarily served as a setup man for southpaw “Everyday Eddie” Guardado, who made 134 appearances and logged 86 saves over those two seasons.

Lou Gehrig played his final game on today’s date in 1939. All told, “The Iron Horse” played in 2,164 regular season games and 34 World Series games, all with the New York Yankees.

In 1992, Blue Jays East — one of two teams Toronto fielded in the Dominican Summer League — won its first 37 games and went to finish the regular season 68-2. They proceeded to lose in the first round of the playoffs.

On today’s date in 1983, the Double-A El Paso Diablos beat the Beaumont Golden Gators 35-21 in a game that featured 56 hits, including eight home runs, and nine errors. Bob Schroeck got the win in relief.

Players born on today’s date include Mark Saccomanno, a first baseman whose big-league career comprised 10 games and 11 at-bats for the Houston Astros in 2008. The Baylor University product hit a pinch-hit home run off of Pittsburgh’s Ian Snell on the first pitch he saw in the majors.

Also born on today’s date was Joe Strain, an infielder who played for the San Francisco Giants in 1979-1980, and for the Chicago Cubs in 1981. The University of Northern Colorado product’s lone big-league home run came in an 13-inning, 11-7 Giants win over the Montreal Expos at Stade Olympique.

Carlton Molesworth appeared in four games and went 0-2 with a 14.69 ERA for the Washington Senators in 1895, his only big-league season. Moleworth went on to play 17 minor-league seasons as an outfielder, including stints with the Shamokin Coal Heavers, Schenectady Electricians, and Binghamton Bingos.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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sadtrombonemember
9 months ago

Given that the A’s are committed to burning the team to the ground at the moment, they’re drawing 10K fans a game, and they’ve just announced they are going to move so the attendance figure would probably be even worse next year…what are the downsides of playing in that AAA stadium?

The only downside I can think of is they show up and are so terrible they turn off new fans. The pitching for this team is abysmal, so if they play in that stadium and give up 30 runs or whatever it could be torture for fans to sit through. A new ballpark might wipe the slate clean, but I suppose it depends on how embarrassing they are.