Sunday, September 18, 2011

Card Of The Week September 18

Charlie Finley had a lot of interesting ideas when he owned the A's.  Some of them were good ideas - like playing World Series games at night to increase ratings.  Some were not good ideas - like the orange  baseballs.  One of his more famous failures is the hiring of a world class sprinter named Herb Washington to be a full time pinch runner.  Washington was not a "real" baseball player in that he never played baseball either professionally or in college before signing with Oakland.  His lack of baseball instincts were displayed to the world in Game 2 of the 1974 World Series, when he was picked off first base by Mike Marshall of the Dodgers while representing the tying run in the ninth inning.

It turns out that the idea of hiring a sprinter to be a full time pinch runner for a baseball team isn't original to Finley.  From 1969 to 1971, the Lotte Orions had a former Olympic sprinter named Hideo Iijima on the team.  Iijima appeared in both the 1964 and 1968 Summer Olympics and appeared in 117 games over three seasons for the Orions.  I don't know for sure, but I suspect that his baseball skills beyond his raw speed were not much different from Washington's.  Iijima scored 46 runs in those 117 games and stole 23 bases in 40 attempts (a 57.5% success rate).  Washington scored 33 runs in 105 games and stole 31 bases in 48 attempts (a 64.6 % success rate).

According to this article at the Baseball Analysts, you needed to be stealing bases with a success rate somewhere in the high 70's during the 1970's in the US to be helping the team, so it looks like Washington was not helping the A's.  I don't what the break-even point was in Japan but I suspect that it was somewhat lower - but probably not enough that Iijima was helping the Orions.

Anyway, this little experiment by the Orions was commemorated by BBM with the inclusion of a card of Iijima in the 2008 Lotte 40th Anniversary set (#19):

Given that there really wasn't anyone making cards when Iijima was playing, this may be the only card ever produced for him.

No comments: