Sunday Notes: Torey Lovullo Revisits His Greatest Hits (and a Damaged Axle)

Torey Lovullo didn’t have a lot of game-changing hits over the course of his career. The Arizona Diamondbacks manager finished his playing days with just 60 RBIs in parts of eight big-league seasons as a utility infielder. But he did have a handful of memorable knocks, three of which he recounted in a conversation earlier this week.

The first of Lovullo’s standout moments came in his second-ever game. Called up by the Detroit Tigers in September 1988, he plated a run with an 18th-inning single against the New York Yankees. Adding to the thrill was the fact that the Tigers were in a three-team pennant race with the Bombers and the Boston Red Sox. The balloon burst in short order. Claudell Washington walked off Detroit southpaw Willie Hernandez with a two-run shot in the bottom half, negating Lovullo’s heroics in blunt fashion.

Five years later, the Santa Monica native turned the tables with an extra-inning walk-off of his own. Lovullo had signed with the California Angels — a team he’d grown up cheering for — prior to the 2013 season. On a July afternoon, he made the most of a second chance.

“In the bottom of the 11th inning, [Yankees manager] Buck Showalter walked the bases loaded in front of me and I popped up with one out,” recalled Lovullo. “We ended up going deeper into the game, and in the 14th inning he did the exact same thing [issued two intentional walks to load the bases]. This time I got a base hit. That was a proud moment for me, because I didn’t want it to happen again. A manager targeted me, and I came through.”

Two months earlier, he had an even more memorable performance. Playing at Anaheim Stadium against the Oakland A’s, Lovullo had not one, but three clutch hits — the last of which sent the Angels faithful home happy.

The hits themselves aren’t even the best part of the story. It was Mother’s Day, and not only did Lovullo start the game on the bench, he was standing alongside a freeway just hours earlier.

“I got a flat tire on my way to the ballpark,” explained Lovullo. “There were no cell phones back then, and I was going to be late. Buck Rodgers was the manager, and he had a rule: Do not be late. Even if a Martian picks you up and delivers you to Mars, do not be late.”

Lovullo was living in Dana Point at the time, and his back left tire met its Waterloo at I-5 North at Oso Parkway. Simply changing the tire wasn’t an option; the axle was damaged as well.

“I had to get a flatbed truck to tow the car,” Lovullo told me. “So I called my uncle, who lives in San Clemente, and he and my aunt drove over. They stayed with my car, waiting for the flatbed, while I took their car to the stadium. I also had to find a payphone so I could call the clubhouse to say I might be late. I was a little frazzled when I got there. And then I thought I’d be watching the game, but Damion Easley [got hit by a pitch] and I came in for him in the second inning.”

As Lovullo jogged onto the field to pinch run for his injured teammate, a cheer emanated from the stands. Its reason was a mystery to him. Little did Lovullo know that that his parents had brought along a veritable cheering section. The number of friends and family on hand to see him play was on the order of “15 or 20 people.”

They liked what they saw. Lovullo hit a game-tying double in the sixth inning, a go-ahead single in the eighth inning, and then a walk-off double in the 10th. Needless to say, it was quite the Mother’s Day afternoon for the entire Lovullo clan.

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Much has been written about new Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng in recent days, and for good reason. Her groundbreaking hiring represents a watershed moment in professional sports. Rather than rehash storylines already shared, I’ll simply list some of her past positions and let that accumulated experience speak for itself.

Assistant Director of Baseball Operations, Chicago White Sox.
Assistant General Manager, New York Yankees.
Vice President and Assistant General Manager, Los Angeles Dodgers.
Senior VP of Baseball Operations, Major League Baseball.

Ng broke into professional baseball as an intern with the White Sox in 1990 — this after graduating from the University of Chicago — and was hired full time in 1991.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Dave Winfield went 25 for 61 against Jerry Koosman.

Ken Singleton went 25 for 60 against Dennis Eckersley.

Mickey Vernon went 25 for 59 against Frank Lary.

Harvey Kuenn went 25 for 56 against Ralph Terry.

Mickey Mantle went 25 for 50 against Hank Aguirre.

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Left on the cutting room floor from my recent interview with Dick Hall were his memories of playing with Dick Allen. The two were teammates with the 1967 and 1968 Philadelphia Phillies, Hall a veteran reliever and Allen a supremely-talented, and often enigmatic, third baseman. I asked the now-90-year-old pitcher about the should-be-Hall-of-Famer.

“He could hit the ball so hard,” Hall told me. “You know how guys hit line drives by the third baseman? He hit them past the shortstop. And he hit line-drive home runs that went 400 feet. Another thing is that he was really quick on his feet. They had him at third base those years, and while he could get to the ball quicker than Brooks [Robinson] did, he didn’t always end up on the right foot. Who knows where his throw was going to go? That kind of business.”

And then there were Allen’s outside-the-white-lines quirks. One of them was the occasional quaffing of an adult beverage in between innings.

“He liked his beer,” recalled Hall. “I remember one time I got knocked out of a game and was sitting in the clubhouse. He’s the first batter up in the ninth inning, and all of a sudden he zips into the clubhouse and pops open a beer. He drinks most of it, then runs back out to bat. I remember that episode. And his big interest in life was horses — I believe he ended up being a trainer — but what a powerful athlete. Boy could be play.”

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A quiz:

Bo Jackson won a Heisman Trophy, then went on to play in both MLB and the NFL. One player had done all three prior to Jackson. Who was it? (Hint: He played his college football at Ohio State University.)

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS ITEMS

The finalists for this year’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award, which honors meritorious contributions to baseball writing, are Dick Kaegel, Marty Noble, and Allan Simpson. Kaegel covered the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals, and also served as editor-in-chief for The Sporting News. Noble covered the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. Simpson — a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame — founded Baseball America, and was with the publication for 25 years before moving on to work with Perfect Game.

Johnny Paredes, an infielder for the Montreal Expos and Detroit Tigers from 1988-1991, died of cancer earlier this month at age 58. A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Paredes hit his only career home run — a 14th-inning, three-run shot in an Expos win — in his third big-league game.

Rick Baldwin, who pitched for the New York Mets from 1975-1977, died due to complications of COVID-19 late last month at age 67. A right-handed reliever, he appeared in 105 games and was credited with four wins and seven saves. Per RIP Baseball, Baldwin was a pastor at a church in Modesto, California.

Ray Daviault, who pitched for the New York Mets in 1962, died on November 8 at age 86. A native of Montreal — he reportedly didn’t speak English when he signed his first professional contract — Daviault appeared in 36 games and went 1-5 with a 6.22 ERA.

Les Rohr, who pitched for the New York Mets from 1967-1969, died earlier this week at age 74. A native of Lowestoft, England who grew up in Billings, Montana, Rohr was the second overall pick in the 1965 draft. His big-league career comprised six appearances and 24-and-a-third innings.

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The answer to the quiz is Vic Janowicz. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Janovicz won the Heisman trophy in 1950, then went on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953-1954, and for the Washington Redskins in 1954-1955.

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The Nw York Post’s Joel Sherman recently wrote about how the Hall of Fame should have a category called “Baseball Life,” and if it did, the candidacies of Dusty Baker and Don Mattingly were both enriched this year. I agree with Sherman, having previously championed the causes of Joe Torre (this before he was inducted as a manager in 2014) and Mel Harder.

My belief that Harder is Hall-worthy evokes a related issue: While managers can be inducted, coaches cannot. That needs to change, either by dint of a coach’s wing or — and this would be my preference — Sherman’s “Baseball Life” suggestion.

Harder had 223 wins, a 113 ERA+, and 47.6 WAR. (By comparison, Catfish Hunter had 224 wins, a 104 ERA+, and 37.2 WAR.) Those numbers came in the first half of Harder’s baseball life. The Cleveland Indians legend followed his 20-year playing career with a 20-year tenure as a pitching coach. A trailblazer in that role, Harder tutored the likes of Luis Tiant, Tommy John, and Early Wynn, as well as myriad other hurlers. To this day, he remains the only person to have both played and coached in the big leagues for two decades apiece. That’s a baseball life if there ever was one.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Aramis Ramirez has been elected into the Dominican Sports Hall of Fame. The Santo Domingo-born third baseman played for the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and Pittsburgh Pirates, accumulating 4,004 total bases from 1998-2015.

The Fukuoka SoftBanks Hawks will face the Yomiuri Giants in this year’s Japan Series. SotBank advanced to the championship round earlier today by beating the Chiba Lotte Marines. The Series begins on Saturday.

Ryosuke Kikuchi became the first second baseman in Japanese professional baseball history to go an entire season without being charged with an error. The 30-year-old Hiroshima Carp infielder played in 96 games and handled 461 chances.

Hanshin Tigers reliever Kyuji Fujikawa has retired after 20 professional seasons, 17 in NPB, and three more in MLB. The 40-year-old right-hander recorded 243 saves in Japan, and he pitched stateside with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers from 2013-2015.

The New Zealand-based Auckland Tuatara announced on Friday that they are withdrawing from the 2020/2021 Australian Baseball League season due to COVID concerns. The news came a day after Geelong-Korea announced that they won’t take part in the upcoming ABL season due to logistics issues surrounding the pandemic.

The Doosan Bears will face the NC Dinos in this year’s Korean Series, which begins on Tuesday. Doosan is looking to defend last year’s title, while the Dinos had KBO’s best record this season.

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Willy Adames was just 18 years old when the Tigers dealt him to the Rays as part of a three-team, seven-player swap at the 2014 trade deadline. Tom Moore, Detroit’s director of international operations, was asked about the Tampa Bay shortstop during a Zoom call with reporters following the World Series.

“I would have loved to have had him doing that in a Tigers uniform, for sure,” said Moore. “But, yeah, I’m really excited for Willy to have that experience, especially at a young age. It’s going to do nothing but help him for the rest of his career. Willy is a great kid, so I absolutely loved watching him enjoy that experience.”

The Tigers acquired David Price in the July 2014 deal, shipping away Adames and Drew Smyly to the Rays and Austin Jackson to the Mariners. Price was subsequently swapped at the 2015 deadline in exchange for Matthew Boyd, Daniel Norris, and Jairo Labourt. Adames has amassed 5.6 WAR, and has a 106 wRC+, since reaching Tampa seven weeks into the 2018 season. This year he had a 124 wRC+ and 1.5 WAR.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine explained how the 2014-2015 Kansas City Royals were one of baseball’s great underdog stories.

USA Today’s Gabe Lacques looked at how embattled minor league franchises are awaiting their fate amid a contentious revamp.

Writing for The Athletic, former Detroit Tigers prospect Will Savage smartly expounded on what MLB will lose by shedding minor league teams.

Also at The Athletic, the always-insightful Lindsey Adler wrote about what Kim Ng becoming Marlins GM means for women in baseball.

The first Negro League all-star game was played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1933. Bob LeMoine wrote about it for the SABR Games Project.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

From 1977-1991, Rickey Henderson had 7,776 plate appearances, a .381 wOBA, and a 141 wRC+. From 1977-1991, Jack Clark had 7,776 plate appearances, a .381 wOBA, and a 141 wRC+.

Andre Dawson had 2,774 hits, 438 HR, 314 SB, 1,591 RBI , and a 117 wRC+.
Carlos Beltrán had 2,725 hits, 435 HR, 312 SB, 1,587 RBI, and a 118 wRC+.

A total of 32 pitchers have ended their careers with the same number of wins, losses, and saves. Tom Timmermann (35 of each) and Dave Heaverlo (26) have by far the most. No one else has more than five. (Per stat-geek extraordinaire Aidan Jackson-Evans.)

A total of 20 pitchers finished their careers with one win, one loss, and one save. Of them, Masao Kida had the most appearances, with 65.

In his 1926 rookie season, Philadelphia A’s left-hander Joe Pate made 47 appearances, all out of the bullpen, and went 9-0 with seven saves. Pate proceeded to record six more saves over the course of his career, but was never credited with another win.

Babe Ruth went 78-40 in his four years as a full-time pitcher. He went 5-0 after becoming an outfielder (and occasional pitcher).

Per his New York Times obituary, Green Bay Packers legend Paul Hornung wore No. 5 in honor of his boyhood idol, Joe DiMaggio. The Pro Football Hall of Famer died Friday at age 84.

The Philadelphia A’s purchased Taffy Wright from the Chicago White Sox on today’s date in 1948. A .311/.376/.423 hitter over nine big-league seasons — he missed three years serving in the Army during World War II — Wright made the final out of Bob Feller’s opening day no-hitter in 1940.

Players born on this date include Rolla Daringer, who played in a dozen games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1914-1915. A shortstop, Daringer went 4 for 27 (.148), but he had a .378 OPB thanks to 10 free passes. The Hayden, Indiana native’s 26.3% walk rate is second all-time among players with at least 30 plate appearances. Leon Pettit, who had two hits in 25 at bats, had a 27.8% walk rate.

The first player born in British Columbia to play in the big leagues was Bert Sincock, who pitched in one game for the Cincinnati Reds in 1908. Sincock spent his high school years in Laurium, a village in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, before studying engineering at the University of Michigan.





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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dl80member
1 year ago

Great article, David. Anything that gets me to look up Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio in the same article as Damion Easley and Aramis Ramirez, it’s a good one.