With baseball very popular in the early 1900s, the editors of the Improvement Era joined many other publications in the U.S. and published stories about baseball. Often these stories were, like so many other stories in religious magazines, didactic in nature — seeking to make a point about moral choices. And while in the long run these stories could have easily turned off kids as much as taught them morality, they were, nevertheless, part of what readers of Church magazines experienced and read.
The following story is one of many published in the Improvement Era that featured baseball as an element of the story. I plan to periodically republish here some of those stories.
Since he joined the Dodgers last year, Adam Law has seemed to me to be headed to the majors, making his family the 6th three-generation MLB family. And when he performs like he did last week, that possibility seems all the more likely. Law was 14 for 29 (.483) last week, scoring 7 runs, stealing 3 bases and walking twice while earning 2 rbis. And that performance raised his season average to .316 (11th in the California League) and OBP to .391. Law still has a long way to go, but he does seem like he is on his way.
Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney was great last week — better than any other Mormon in the majors. Barney held his own fireworks show, with his bat this time, on July 2nd and was short of hitting for the cycle by a home run. Barney was 8 for 21 last week (.381) scoring 3 runs and earning an rbi, and in the process raised his average for the season by nearly 25 points to .219—closer to his career norm.
Close on Barney’s heels last week was Adam Rosales, brought up from the minors as a backup infielders for the Rangers. Rosales was 3 for 10 last week with 3 rbis. But given Rosales past performance in the majors, it doesn’t seem likely that he will be able to keep up that average.
The idea seems crazy—the Ensign doesn’t publish articles like that, does it? I suppose not. But its predecessor, the Improvement Era, published from 1897 to 1970, did publish articles by non-Mormons occasionally, and those articles even included some without a religious message.
And for baseball fans, he best of these articles might be the following article by Walter “Big Train” Johnson, published just two years before he was inducted into the inaugural class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Sacramento River Cats’ Shane Peterson has been persistent in his performance at the plate this year. Peterson is among the Pacific Coast League (AAA) leaders in most of the major statistical categories, and this past week was no exception. Peterson was 10 for 26 (.385) for the week, with 7 rbis and 6 runs scored, and he leads the league in hits with 104. His numbers in AAA are strong enought that it seems unlikely that he will stay there, but both last year and earlier this year Peterson’s stints in the majors haven’t lasted.
Also notable last week were Jeff Gelalich and Jacob Hannemann. Gelalich was outstanding for the week, hitting 13 in 27 at bats (.481) and scoring 5 runs. He was promoted from the Midwest League (A) to the California League (A+). And Hannemann, who was 9 for 25 (.360) last week and scored 8 runs with 3 rbis, is near the top in the Midwest League in stolen bases and runs and is currently 16th on the Chicago Cubs top prospects list.
The standout Mormon in major league baseball last week was clearly Jacoby Ellsbury, who once again showed the best of what he brings to the diamond. Ellsbury was 8 for 23 at the plate (.348), scoring 2 runs and earning 3 rbis with 2 walks. He improved his average for the season to .348 and still maintained 5th place in stolen bases in the majors.
On the mound the standout last week was Jeremy Guthrie, who notched a win in two outings (totalling 14.1 innings) while giving up just 4 earned runs (2.51 era) and striking out 9. The win puts Guthrie one shy of even and gives him a 3.69 era for the season. Last week’s numbers were good, but while Guthrie’s season numbers maybe mediocre, his advantage is his ability to put in a lot of innings — Guthrie is tied for 10th most innings pitched in the majors. Even if the Royals could find a better pitcher to replace him (a questionable idea), they might be worse off if they needed to use the bullpen more as a result.
Coming back from the mid-season break in the minor leagues, a couple of Mormon pitchers and one Mormon batter had outstanding weeks. The batter was Jacob Hannemann, who started the second half going 7 for 15 (.467). His production for the week included 4 runs scored, 4 walks, 2 stolen bases, 2 home runs and 6 rbis. His season average is up to .250 and he is 8th in the Midwest League in stolen bases.
Yes, Mormon outfielders like Jacoby Ellsbury and Bryce Harper are well-known and exciting to watch, but given last week, maybe fans should give some love to the Mormon pitchers active in the majors. Kyle Farnsworth, Doug Fister and Jeremy Guthrie were all stellar in the games they pitched—Farnsworth and Fister didn’t give up an runs while Guthrie gave up just one run in 6 and 2/3rds innings while striking out 9. And both Fister and Guthrie ended up with a 0.75 WHIP for the week. Fister now has a season era of 2.65.
I’m sure it feels great. You’ve figured out the pitchers and you find your groove, and you are hitting near .500. This past week Shane Peterson and Adam Rosales were there. Peterson was 13 for 27 (.481) and Rosales was 14 for 29 (.483). For Peterson that meant 4 runs scored, 8 rbis, a home run and a stolen base. For Rosales it was 5 runs, 11 rbis, 3 walks and 2 stolen bases. It was like they could do no wrong.
Both Rosales and Peterson are in the Pacific Coast League (AAA), and a week like last week really makes a difference in their numbers — Peterson is now hitting .314 for the season and is all over the statistic leader boards and Rosales’ average is up to a very respectable .290. Both have experience in the majors last year, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them back, given their current performance.
While it might not seem the case, playing well in a backup role is hard. Because the batter doesn’t see as many pitches, its harder to do as well at the plate. So, when a backup player is doing well, that is noteworthy.
In that sense, John Buck’s current performance is great. He was 4 for 10 last week (.400), and his season average is up to .271 (on 59 at bats). Buck has only hit better than that in one season of his 11 year career, so it seems unlikely that he will keep up that level for the rest of the year—especially as a backup catcher. But his performance so far is still great.