King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The Dodgers winning 17 out of 18 is a 100-year event for a team. Would you have guessed that? Plus: A good (bathroom) read.


Salon Staff
August 16, 2006 8:00PM (UTC)

During the telecast of the Los Angeles Dodgers' 4-0 win over the Florida Marlins Tuesday night, Dodgers announcer Vin Scully was hawking a partial season-ticket package that he said represents fans' last chance to be guaranteed a chance to buy postseason tickets.

"We never would have been talking about that on July 28," he said. "The Dodgers were in last place, seven games out."

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They'd also lost eight straight and 13 out of 14. In less than three weeks since then, all they've done -- as Scully would say -- is win 17 out of 18, including the last six in a row, and now they lead the National League West by three and a half games over the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres.

It's the best run for the franchise since 1899, and isn't that amazing? How can that be?

Since 1900, the Dodgers, also known at times as the Superbas and the Robins, have won 19 pennants and six World Series, plus four more division titles and a wild card. They've played .600 ball in 17 different seasons. And in, according to Baseball-Reference.com and my calculator, 16,732 games through Tuesday, they've never had a stretch of winning 17 out of 18.

Over a century and change, don't you just win 17 out of 18 by accident?

The posters at Baseball Primer helped me with the math and assured me that one streak of 17-for-18 is about what you'd expect to happen since 1900, assuming the franchise is roughly a .500 team over that stretch. The Superbas/Robins/Dodgers/Bums have played .511 ball since 1900.

I bet you could win some bar bets on this.

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Ask your pal -- after first ascertaining that he or she doesn't read this column, which shouldn't be a problem -- how many times the Dodgers have won 17 out of 18 games since 1900. You might throw in a reminder that in the last two months, the Minnesota Twins, a third-place team that's two games from the nearest playoff spot, have put together separate streaks of 19-1 and 12-1.

Of course this is going to continue. The Dodgers are so hot now that they couldn't lose the West if they tried. Right? You don't win 17 of 18 and take a three and a half-game lead, then not win the division, do you?

I don't know, but weren't we just talking less than three weeks ago about how the Dodgers were dead? They'd lost 13 out of 14. Why, the odds of that happening for a roughly .500 team ... Oh, never mind.

Padres? Diamondbacks? Rockies? Giants? Anybody have a streak of 17-for-18 in them? Or even 12-for-13?

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Joaquin Andujar said it best: Youneverknow.

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A good (bathroom) read [PERMALINK]

The big-name stars of those National League-champion 1899 Brooklyn Superbas were outfielder Wee Willie Keeler and pitcher Brickyard Kennedy. Keeler had been one of the stars on the powerful Baltimore Orioles teams that had dominated the league in the mid-'90s, but he was transferred to Brooklyn in '99 by the ownership of the two teams.

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That's right. Two teams, one ownership. That's how they did it in those days. Ned Hanlon and Harry Von der Horst owned a 50 percent interest in both the Orioles and the Superbas. Hanlon was the president of the Brooklyn team and the field manager in Baltimore.

And because Brooklyn was a bigger market than Baltimore, they moved all the best players north.

You can find this information a lot of different places, but one place that landed with a resounding thud at my front door recently was a doorstop of a book called "The Team by Team Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball" by Dennis Purdy.

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The innovation here is that the information is organized -- you'd never guess this from the title -- by team. For each franchise, Purdy offers an essay on its history, mostly off the field, followed by the all-time results by year, historical highlights, several pages of records and notable achievements, including the basic starting lineup for each year, and then minibios of significant players and managers.

It's one of those books with enough narrative that you can read it like a book and enough charts and tables that you can treat it as a reference work. I have a weakness for these things.

So Brickyard Kennedy, né William, got that nickname because there was a big brick factory in his hometown, Bellaire, Ohio. He once pitched both games of a doubleheader. But in 1,163 pages there's no room for a few paragraphs on Willie Keeler.

That's the drawback of the team-by-team format. Damaso Garcia, Ugueth Urbina, Andy Benes and Charlie Moore all get bios as, respectively, "significant" Blue Jays, Expos/Nationals, Padres and Brewers. Wee Willie Keeler: Sorry, pal.

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Play a pretty good second base for a few years with an expansion franchise and you get star treatment. Play Hall of Fame ball for the last powerhouse of the 19th century, and give baseball one of its most famous sayings -- "hit 'em where they ain't" -- and better luck next time.

Keeler's best years were spent in Baltimore, playing for a team that ceased to exist after the 1899 season, when the National League contracted from 12 teams to eight, folding the Orioles, the Washington Senators, the Cleveland Spiders and the Louisville Colonels. http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/SYR/

He did play four good years in Brooklyn and could have been included in the Dodgers section, but what I wish Purdy had done was include a section on defunct teams, or at least significant ones. The Orioles and their long-lost brethren don't need the full treatment, especially if we're talking about such near-prehistoric clubs as the Indianapolis Hoosiers and the Providence Grays, but an essay and some bios of significant players would have been nice.

But that's a quibble. There's plenty to enjoy here, and "The Team by Team Encyclopedia" already has found a home in the friendly confines of the King Kaufman Sports Daily bathroom.

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Previous column: World basketball championships

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